HC Deb 11 November 1957 vol 577 cc612-738


Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question [5th November]: That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, as follows: Most Gracious Sovereign, We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.—[Lady Tweedsmuir.]

Question again proposed.

3.32 p.m.

Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)

I beg to move, at the end of the Question, to add: but humbly regret the omission from the Gracious Speech of any proposals to deal with the national housing problem, to relieve the hardships and anxiety of tenants or to meet the financial difficulties which the Government's policy is causing to the purchasers of houses and to local authorities. It is a very remarkable fact. Mr. Speaker, that the Gracious Speech nowhere even mentions the housing problem. For the Government and the party opposite there is no such thing, or, if there is, it is not worth speaking about let alone taking any measures about. There are no proposals, unless I am to count the quite minor one of adjustments in the rating system. There is not even a promise that the Government will continue to study the matter, as they are now studying the best way to pinch the clothes which this party may have left on the bank.

The housing problem, I remind hon. Members opposite, is very much there. Some of the Questions on the Order Paper for tomorrow indicate the anxiety of hon. Members, at any rate on my side of the House and, to do them justice, in all parts of the House, about housing matters. The problem is a large one. It is long-lived and still with us and, like an elephant, easy to recognise, but difficult to define.

I go back for one moment to 1955, when there was in preparation a European housing survey which was published in January of the following year and which contained information about this country supplied by the United Kingdom authorities. Without attempting an exhaustive definition of the elephant, I remind the House that at that time it was estimated by an impartial survey that, if we continued to build at the 1954 rate for ten years, we should do no more than keep pace with the increase in married couples and others who required a separate dwelling, eliminate existing shortages, and replace about half of the dwellings which were more than a hundred years old.

Then, and since then, three major steps have been taken by the Government about the housing problem—three paper bags have been offered to the elephant. The first step was that about the time the survey was in preparation the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor in office introduced the Housing Subsidies Act. We shall have to consider what has been its effect so far. About a year later, almost a year ago, the Rent Act, 1957, was introduced and now we are facing a position which means much higher interest rates for loans for houses and a definite reduction in the number of houses to be built.

What has been the effect of the removal of subsidies? We are very far indeed from continuing at the 1954 rate. The 1954 rate was about 309,000 houses, of which 221,000 were built for local authorities. In 1956, the total was down by 40,000 and the local authorities' share was about two-thirds of what it was in 1954. That is a fairly sharp reduction in a couple of years. Moreover, at the present rate of building this year, judged by the first nine months, there will be no increase either in private building or in building for local authorities.

I want to refer to private house building. Of course, in the general decrease the share of private house building has gone up, but nowadays houses built for private owners are not let and do not go to meet the demand for houses to let. Their very increase is a measure of one side of the urgent demand for houses and on the other of the inadequacy of council housing to meet it, an inadequacy due to the restrictions put upon council houses by the removal of housing subsidies.

I want quite shortly to deal with the Government's favourite diversion when taxed with this. They say that it is all right because we have a magnificent slum clearance campaign under way and that all that is happening is that more houses are being built to replace the unfit houses and that, consequently, there are fewer for general need. That just will not do. The total number of houses', including slum clearance replacements, has gone down sharply, to the extent that I have indicated.

This diversion has had the following result: before the slum clearance campaign began local authorities were prepared to clear slum houses on their own at the rate of 75,000 a year, and the then Minister of Housing and Local Government, discounting that a little, anticipated that when the campaign got under way 60,000 houses would be cleared each year. The campaign has not been going too fast. It has made some progress because it is the only form of subsidy, other than the new towns and overspill subsidies—which I shall come to later—which has not been cut.

In 1955, there were roughly 25,000 slum houses; in 1956, there were 35,000, and they are now running at the rate of about 40,000 a year, that is to say, there were 20,000 in the first half year. This was a matter of a five-year programme. We have had two and a half years of it and that is' as far as we have got at present. That certainly is no major contribution.

I am now coming back to the difficulties of local authorities, but I take those figures as a very significant indication of what has happened in connection with the first of these steps—the only one in respect of which we have yet had time to judge the effects.

The Rent Act came into operation early in July, and even the increases up to 7s. 6d. a week only came to fruition, as it were, on 6th October last. The remainder of the increases on controlled property will not necessarily take effect until 6th April at the earliest, and the 15-month period for decontrol will not expire until 6th October next.

It is obvious that it is too soon to see the full effect of this Measure, but we have been talking about inflation—and we shall be talking about it again tomorrow—and I have no hesitation in saying that the Rent Act was a highly inflationary Measure. We understand that a rise in pay is to depend upon production. That Act gave to the landlords, corporate and not corporate, an increase of rent amounting to about £100 million. I do not know to what increase in production that corresponded. What, indeed, does a landlord produce? I suppose he ought to produce some repairs, but successive efforts to get him to do so have not been conspicuous for their success.

In the years between the wars landlords were allowed increases following upon rises in the cost of repairs. The amount of repairs done showed no corresponding increases. In 1954 "Operation Rescue" was introduced by the present Prime Minister and was rightly described by one of my right hon. Friends as a "mouldy old turnip" for the landlords. The intention was to get repairs done, and the Act proved to be a complete failure and has been over-ridden and superseded by the Rent Act, introduced this year.

While we are dealing with inflation I want to get rid of one point, because it seems to me to have been the subject of gross misrepresentation. We propose—and, being an honest party, we publish our intentions and we carry them out. [Laughter.] I do not think that hon. Members ought to be so quick to laugh; I shall have to remind them that in a General Election, two years before the Rent Act, they expressly disclaimed the intention of allowing any rise in rents. I repeat that, being an honest party, we publish our intentions. As a long-term policy we propose to hand over the majority of rent-controlled and tenanted houses to municipalities.

Mr. John Hay (Henley)

That is not inflation, I suppose?

Mr. Mitchison

I hear the hon. Member say, "That is not inflation?"—and it is not inflation. What inflation is there in a local authority taking, on the one hand, the rent of the house and, on the other, paying that or a smaller sum to the landlord—because some of these houses are in a lamentable condition and that may well be due to the landlord—and paying to the landlord the interest on a bond or some form of terminable annuity?

Hon. Members opposite talk about immense capital sums being required. No capital sums will be required. There will be a receipt by way of interest and a payment by way of interest. Capital sums may be required only where there is need to improve the housing stock of this country afterwards—for private landlordism has singularly failed to do it. I do not believe that the tenant of a house takes any objection to that. If he is in a bad house he is willing to pay an increase of rent to have it made better, but what he does object to is being in a bad house and finding that nobody repairs it, and that the means of getting anybody to do so are too complicated, difficult and one-sided—as is the case with the repair provisions in the Rent Act.

We cannot yet fully judge the effect of the Rent Act for the reasons that I have given, but I have come to one or two conclusions about it. The first is that it is taking effect—as I expected it to take effect—on some of the very poorest people. It is quite true that in quite a lot of cases they can go to the National Assistance Board, but that is a poor solution of our housing problems. The result of that is an increase charged on public funds in order to provide the landlord with extra rent. That, in the view of the Tory Party, is not inflation.

Next, it is taking effect on the vast mass of people in the middle, and it is again taking the effect that I and my hon. Friends expected it would take. If rents are put up in respect of men in receipt of pay packets, they are going to ask for a corresponding increase in their pay or earnings. If hon. Members opposite cannot understand that, all I can say to them is that they do not deserve to be here. It is quite simple and straightforward. It was put very clearly by my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Lindgren) when we were talking about housing subsidies. He pointed out that that would be the result—he was then talking about increased rents of council houses and the like—and that there was no way of avoiding it if an increase of that kind were made.

The third way in which the Rent Act has already taken effect is to cause negotiations to proceed between landlords and tenants of decontrolled houses. Again, hon. Members on this side can claim to have foreseen what would happen. The landlord, particularly if he is in a large city like London, has the whip hand every time. The result is that some landlords are using the opportunity to turn the tenants out altogether, because they have other and quite different uses for their houses. And remember, the position in London is that about a year ago the London County Council had about 160,000 people on its waiting list, of which 53,000 were urgent cases. These people had to be told that, regarding general need, all the Council could do was provide for about 700 a year. In those circumstances there is no doubt who is in the better position when we come to what are euphemistically called "negotiations."

Another thing is happening. Some of these houses are, of course, in bad condition. The tenants are forced by circumstances to accept leases which put upon them the full obligation not only of keeping the houses in repair, but of putting them into repair. I know that, technically, it may be said that that is all met by the rent, but it is not the practice. London landlords, and other landlords too, have for too long neglected their duties regarding repairs, and they are seizing this golden opportunity, presented to them by a Tory Government, to shift the whole business on to the tenants of these decontrolled houses.

There is a third thing. This Act has led to great hardship and anxiety. I wish to deal for a moment with the anxiety. This has not been a case of misrepresentation—hon. Members opposite should not say that sort of thing—it has been a case of a very complicated Act; of people at a loss to understand it; of people at a loss to know its implications and possibilities. I am not a bit surprised that the measure of insecurity now experienced by the tenants of decontrolled properties, and others, too, was foreseen, perhaps exaggerated, by the people concerned. I doubt whether there was much exaggeration about it, but that is a matter of looking into the minds of people, and I cannot claim to do that.

One other very real cause for anxiety is still present. So far, decontrol has got down to the limits of £30 in the provinces and £40 in London. I think that the London limit is undoubtedly too low. But, be that as it may, the Minister has taken power to extend decontrol as he chooses, subject to an affirmative Resolution of this House; that is to say, subject to a Resolution carried by a Government majority and providing no full opportunity for discussion, let alone amendment. I am afraid that very many tenants have not yet realised that they are not out of that wood, and that at any moment the Minister may start decontrolling many other smaller houses.

The Minister has stated that he would not do so for a year, and the Parliamentary Secretary has talked about eighteen months or two years. Then there is always the question whether a General Election will come first, or whether the right hon. Gentleman may be so afraid of what he has already done that he will not go on to decontrol further. But those are slender possibilities upon which tenants have to rest their hopes when what is at stake is staying in a home where they may have lived for the greater part of their lives. It is fair to say, therefore, that the Rent Act so far has caused, not only hardship, not only anxiety, not only insecurity, but complete uncertainty among those elected to power as to what is to happen next.

It is in those circumstances that we get some remarkable proposals—this autumn's crop, as it were—from the Government. Two years ago, there was the removal of the housing subsidies; a year ago, the introduction of the Rent Act. Now we get from the Chancellor of the Exchequer that from the present level of houses in England and Wales built by local authorities, which is about 147,000, there is to be a progressive slowing down. We are told that by 1959 to 1960 the provision will be about 80 per cent. of the present level, that is, about 117,000. I wish to examine those two figures.

Let us take, first, the figure for the present level, 147,000. There are about 6,500 houses for Government Departments included in that figure. There are slum clearance replacements to which I have already referred, let us say 41,000 in the whole year. There are about 10,500 houses in the new towns, and what is left over at present for local authority building, that is to say, for general need, is about 89,000. That fits quite well with the forecast made by the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor when the housing subsidies were withdrawn. He allowed 80,000 houses for that kind of thing. Since the figure of 89,000 includes overspill and the other does not, the two tally pretty well.

If the slum clearance programme is to be carried out, if new town building is to continue at its present rate and the total is to be 117,000, what is the result? Leave the Government Departments where they are with their 6,500; they have stuck to that figure for a year or two and it is probably about right. Take the estimate of the then Minister referred to in the OFFICIAL REPORT for 17th November, 1955, col. 804—of 60,000 houses a year for slum clearance. Again, for new towns and overspill, take the Minister's figure of 20,000, and what we are left with out of the 117,000 is 30,000 or 31,000 houses for building by local authorities for general need all over England and Wales.

I say to the Minister, and to hon. Members on both sides of the House who conduct political "surgeries," as we all do, and know of struggles that people have, "Do you seriously consider it is sufficient, or even that it is right, to reduce public housing to that sort of figure?" Let me remind hon. Members that the figure for public housing, including, for this purpose, new towns, and so on, has never been below 100,000 a year since 1948; that is to say, since a year or two immediately after the war when, of course, the question of bomb damage repair played a prominent part.

By the way, if hon. Members opposite think they will make anything out of delving deep enough into the past because they are unwilling to face the present, let me remind them that the 1954 level was reached, of course, but reached for the reason that repairs were comparatively neglected and "Operation Rescue" had to be introduced to try to get the repairs done, and because bomb damage in the rest of it had been cleared by then. This figure ought to be maintained now.

Let us take the local authority figures between 1948 and 1955. The lowest that has ever been reached was 166,000 in 1951. We are now asked to face a reduction not merely to the 80,000 which was the intention of the Government when the housing subsidies were removed, but to between 30,000 and 31,000, which appears to be the result of the figures that I have just given. These are figures about the future.

I should like to extend a helping hand to the Government. I do not think that their figures make the least difference. I do not think that the future is to be governed by limits of that kind. I do not, for that matter, see how the Government propose to bring this change about without interfering with that independence of the local authorities on which, when it comes to questions of the general grant, the Government are so suspiciously keen. What will really happen is quite different. The removal of the subsidies has begun to work already. Now we are faced with 6¾ per cent. borrowing from the Public Works Loan Board and with market rates that roughly correspond. If the removal of the housing subsidies put a check on house building by local authorities, as I am sure it did, the new financial measures will result in council housing grinding to a standstill.

Hon. Members will understand that these things require time to take effect. Arrangements are already made, there may have been approvals, and there may have been contracts. We cannot stop the whole machine like that, but already some of the results are startling. I beg Government supporters to remember not only the London County Council figures which I gave just now, but the fact that that is not a unique position. We were told in a previous debate that in Glasgow—I venture over the Border with trepidation and only for a minute—there was a housing list of more than 100,000. Liverpool, a smaller place, has, I am told, 35,000. I leave it to my hon. Friends to produce their own figures.

Kettering, which is even smaller, has still a formidable housing list, which is not to be met by the building of more private houses. These figures represent people who cannot afford to pay the deposit and borrow at present rates. They need and ought to have houses to rent. That is the position.

I mentioned the borrowing rate that we had forced upon us in September with the increase of 2 per cent. in the Bank Rate, but it is only the last and the sharpest of a number of increases. The rate used to be 3 per cent. in our day, but it went to 4, 5, 5¼ and 5¾ per cent., and then to its present figure. The probable effect is appalling. Let me begin with one of the worst cases.

When we were in power we started new towns for the purpose of relieving the difficulties of big towns, which no longer had the space to build. No new town has been started by the present Government in England or Wales, but they have done other things. We have received the reports of development corporations for the last year, and in every one we find mention of the difficulties caused by high interest rates resulting in increased rents.

Government supporters may ask, "Does that really matter?" Indeed it does. The reports show the effect of these increases. Even when the Bank Rate was appreciably lower, all the corporations were of the opinion that, if the rate increased and the huge rents went up, they would be unable to fulfil their proper function of contributing towards the housing difficulties of London and of making the new communities the sort of places they ought to be.

The rise in interest rates does not come alone. The corporations have had to contend, as have other people, with an increase in the cost of building. It is significant that the corporations were all of the opinion that interest rates were the more serious problem. Giving evidence before the Public Accounts Committee, the Report of which was published in July of this year, Sir Humfrey Gale, who is chairman of one of the corporations and is or was the Minister's special adviser in these matters, estimated that of the increases to be passed to the tenant about 70 per cent. was due to the increase in interest rates and about 30 per cent. to increase in building costs. That was his answer in Question 5,508 in the Report.

The new towns cannot go on like that. The corporations are making desperate efforts to level out rents and keep them down. Some of them are running into the "red" and are in real difficulty. They were all clear in their reports that if the interest rates then prevalent did not go down they could not carry out their job properly. What they will have to say about the recent rise remains to be seen. If the Minister tells me that the development corporations are happy about this, I am sorry. I have the greatest personal respect for him, but I just will not believe that statement.

That is one side of the problem of relieving the difficulties of large towns and of spreading our population better and more effectively. That has troubled people since Cobbett's day, and, more recently, has troubled Royal Commission after Royal Commission. Because the new towns were not contributing sufficiently to a solution of housing difficulties the Government brought in arrangements about overspill in the Town Development Act, 1952. The Minister, who is full of good intentions until it comes to carrying them out, said: …during the next few years an increasing use will be made of the facilities offered."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th April, 1957; Vol. 569, c. 17.] What is the effect of this rise in the interest rate? All the receiving authorities are beginning to get thoroughly anxious. Some have already started to call for arrangements which have been concluded, or practically concluded. The L.C.C. is managing to deal with difficulties in this respect only by making quite exceptional financial arrangements in aid of receiving authorities. Not every corporation can do that and it is not right that they should he called upon to do it. If the right hon. Gentleman does, in fact, want new towns and overspill to be used for their proper and vitally important social purpose, it is he who should reconsider the whole business of financing new towns and financing overspill—and consider it in the light of what is happening now about the borrowing rates.

I mentioned the increasing cost of building houses. I want to refer to the position of local authorities and I ask right hon. and hon. Members opposite to bear in mind that the removal of housing subsidies has begun to have its effect, but the increase in borrowing rates has not yet had time to show itself. All the local authorities at the moment have to face, quite apart from any question of subsidies, a very sharp increase in loan charges attributable to a new house. That sharp increase is due, as in the case of the new towns, partly to an increase in building costs and partly to the deliberate policy of the Government of having higher interest rates.

I am not anticipating tomorrow's debate when, no doubt, we shall hear a lot more about that, but I am looking at the matter for the moment from the point of view of the building local authority or the local authority which, being public-spirited, wants to build in spite of all the difficulties the Government have put in its way.

On 9th July, as reported in c. 175 of HANSARD, the right hon. Gentleman told me that, apart from subsidies, the charges attributable to a new house, taking as nearly as one could a typically three-bedroom house, in 1951, when, unfortunately, a Tory Government were returned to power, amounted to £55; in 1954, to £71; and, in this year, to £100. That increase we may take to be due partly to increases in building costs and partly to the increases in interest. We may suppose that there is no fundamental difference between the position of the new towns as regards the apportionment of those two factors and the local authorities. We may conclude, therefore, that a greater part of the increase is due to the higher rates of interest.

Of course, this will make it quite impossible for local authorities to go on. In my part of the country, in North Northants, there are 14 local authorities. As a result of the removal of the housing subsidies, six of them had no houses at all under construction at the end of September. What is to happen to the remaining eight? For the sake of the people who want council houses, I hope that those authorities will hold on and do all they can, but the Government are making it impossibly difficult for them.

There is another effect. Local authorities have been working—and working increasingly—the facilities provided by the Small Dwellings Acquisition Acts and Section 4 of the 1949 Housing Act. The intentions of the right hon. Gentleman are always so good. On 7th May, he said: I am very anxious indeed for these powers to be used."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th May, 1957; Vol. 569, c. 777.] About 17,500 houses had been acquired last year with the aid of the Small Dwellings Acquisition Acts and about 20,000 with the aid of the roughly corresponding provision in the 1949 Act—a Labour Act, may I remind right hon. and hon. Members opposite, just as the increase in the small dwellings acquisition facilities was also a Labour move.

What is to happen? I can tell right hon. and hon. Members opposite. Those facilities are to be withdrawn. Take an area such as that around London, an area for which this purpose is exceedingly important—I am referring to Middlesex. It has already suspended these facilities. [Interruption.] I heard an hon. Friend behind me say that Bristol has done the like. I am not at all surprised.

Mrs. E. M. Braddock (Liverpool, Exchange)

So has Liverpool.

Mr. Mitchison

I am sure there are others which have done the same. Local authorities which have been trying to help owner-occupiers by giving these facilities will be compelled by the Government, who are very anxious indeed for these powers to be used to cease using them. It is an inconsistency which borders on the miraculous.

I mentioned rents in connection with new towns and I want to say a word or two about them from the point of view of the tenant. It is very difficult to get at an average rent. It is not much use when one succeeds in doing so, because rents vary a great deal, not only in the same place, but also between one part of the country and another. I do not think, however, that we shall be far off the mark if, for a three-bedroom house in a new town, we take 45s. as the inclusive rent.

In its Report, Bracknell Corporation mentioned 34s. exclusive rent and Sir Humfrey Gale, in the evidence I mentioned earlier, said that in Basildon they ranged from 28s. to 38s., and another 10s. ought to be added for rates. If we take the figure of 45s. it certainly will not be an overestimate. I am told that in Harlow for a three-bedroom council house rents are running at about 56s., but I should like to check those figures, because it is not at all easy when trying to find a fair rent and not an exceptional one.

Side by side with that, with the removal of housing subsidies council rents are going up, for all the spreading which councils may be doing. I do not think it unfair to say that about £2 is a corresponding rent for council houses nowadays. I may be corrected if I am wrong and no doubt every hon. Member will have his own views and his own local knowledge on a matter of this sort.

Now we come to the question of what is a fair rent. I would remind hon. Members that until the Housing Subsidies Act was introduced housing subsidies were calculated in this way. It was estimated that a fair rent was 10 per cent. of the average earnings in manufacturing and other industries. That figure was defended by the present Financial Secretary to the Treasury. If we take that as the right figure and take the figures I have given, it seems to follow that those who have to pay £2 5s. a week rent in new towns ought to be getting an income of £22 10s. a week. Those who pay £2 a week ought to be getting £20 a week.

Mr. Robert Jenkins (Dulwich)

I think that the House would like to know from where the hon. and learned Member got the figure of one-tenth. I have always understood that it was one-fifth. He may be able to give us supporting information or advice from which he gets one-tenth, but I thought it was one-fifth.

Mr. Mitchison

The hon. Gentleman will find that that was, in fact, the way in which the housing subsidies were calculated. If he looks at the first debate on the Housing Subsidies Bill, he will find that I quoted and gave the references to the observations made by the present Financial Secretary to the Treasury in a previous debate, in which there was an argument whether it was 6d. too much, or 6d. too little, or something of that kind. I then defended it as a reasonable proportion. I say to the hon. Gentleman, for whom I have a considerable respect, that there can be various views about this. One may say that one-tenth is too little, but let us see what the actual figure is.

The present figures of earnings—that is to say, those issued in April of this year—are £12 1s. 6d. for an adult man, and, for a man and woman together—and that is the fairer figure to take, because women, too, can be tenants of new town and council houses—£10 4s. 7d., which gives us roughly the one-fifth which the hon. Gentleman has in mind.

I want to say two things to the hon. Gentleman. First, I quite definitely consider that one-fifth is much too much. Secondly, he must bear in mind that very many people for a long time past have certainly been paying much less than one-fifth, and that if we put up their rents so as to be getting one-fifth we are doing just what my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough warned us about in previous debates. In fact, they would ask for more pay in order to meet it, and that is what happens.

There is a third point which I would put to the hon. Gentleman, and which I had intended to put to the House. We on this side take the view that council housing is a social service, and that it should not merely provide for those who cannot afford any other houses, but that it ought to be a form of housing the community. It is for that reason that we wish to see it extended, but if right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite take the view that council housing is only to meet cases of need, can they really justify in a case of need one-fifth of the average earnings? The man in question, if he is needy, will not be earning the average income, or, if he is, he will have special calls on it which make him the case of need which they have in mind.

Therefore, I suggest to right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite that, whatever may be the abstract figure, quite clearly the figure that is proposed now is much too high if they wish it to apply to needy cases, because in needy cases it is obviously too high.

I mention these rents because I am quite certain that we have not seen the end of this business. The right hon. Gentleman, when questioned about rents, and particularly the rents of council houses, takes refuge in the jungle of differential rent schemes. I am not going into that jungle after him just now. I merely say to him that differential rent schemes will not make anything like the sort of difference that is required, and, whether they are good or bad, will not even make any large contribution to the problem.

If the right hon. Gentleman says to the local authorities, as he did say recently, that he looks at them with a cold and frosty eye unless they have been able to find somebody who can pay a bit more, or ought not be in a council house at all, I say to him that he will not do much in that way and that it will not work. I put this to him, and this is my one venture into the jungle of differential rent schemes. They always seem to me to involve not merely borrowing the O. & M., as it is called, from the Treasury, but also borrowing M.I.5 from the War Office to find out what everybody in the place is doing and earning, and that just will not function.

I think I have said enough to make clear that there are financial hardships at present, and that because of the rise in the Bank Rate, in view of the difficulties of local authorities, on which I have a word or two to say in a moment, it is perfectly clear that these rents are going to increase further, not through any fault of the local authorities, but because of the Government's own policy.

I must deal shortly—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—I quite agree—with the financial difficulties of local authorities, and I will do so in deference to the applause of hon. Gentlemen opposite. First, it is clear that if we add 1 per cent. to the borrowing rate of a local authority, even as regards a £1,700 house—and I think that is a fair figure—built by a local authority, we are adding about 10s. a week. If we add 2 per cent., and that is the extent of the rise in the Bank Rate, it will add £1 a week. That is why I have said that these rents are bound to go up further.

There is another aspect of the matter. Over £300 million of housing loans were sanctioned in 1956–57. One per cent. extra on that amount of borrowing comes to £3 million, and that is quite a tidy figure. It will be very hard for local authorities which now have to face up to renewing some of the money they borrowed many years ago but at lower rates. I take only two instances. Birmingham has just under £5 million which was borrowed at 2¾ per cent. which is due for repayment either this year or early next year. It will mean a 3d. rate for Birmingham. Leeds has about £4 million borrowed at 3 per cent. and due for repayment in July, 1958. This means that Leeds will have to face a 5d. rate purely in respect of renewing that one loan.

We are getting even the new town development corporations saying, in their reports, "Cannot we borrow on short-term?" We are getting the local authorities running round the City of London, advertising in the newspapers and taking all sorts of entirely unprecedented steps to try to get the money they need. If we say that the Public Works Loans Board is the answer, we must look at it mere widely than that. This is capital required for a social service of the highest importance, yet a local authority will have to compete with a number of other calls on capital, no doubt worthy in their way, but none more urgent or more important than this. The local authorities, having to face rates of 6½ or up to 7 per cent., and perhaps even more in some cases, find that this is making things quite impossible for them.

It is not only affecting them, but another class of people which I have not yet mentioned, but which I will do briefly now.

Mr. Hay

Hear, hear.

Mr. Mitchison

These are the owner-occupiers, the darlings of the advocates of a property-owning democracy, but property owning entirely out of one's own money is rather difficult these days, and these people, in 99 cases out of 100, have to borrow in order to buy their houses. They have to borrow, partly under the Acts I referred to just now, which are to be suspended as a result of Government policy, and partly from building societies.

The building societies are doing their best to resist those rises, but they are beginning to crumble away already. They cannot go on for long, or they will not get the money to lend to people. They are having to restrict their loans considerably. Both in facilities and the amount they have to pay by way of periodical repayment and interest to the building societies, owner-occupiers are suffering very severely as a result of this latest development in Government policy.

I suggested that owner-occupiers ought to be the pets and darlings of hon. Gentlemen opposite. We have great affection for them, too. We want to help them, and we have done a lot to do it, not only through the Acts I have just mentioned, but in other ways, such as the improvement grants which were introduced in the Housing Act, 1949. I say quite seriously that the difficulties of all these people, at a time when the operation of the Rent Act is making it much harder for them to do anything but buy a house, are such that they find themselves hard hit indeed.

I shall be accused of barren criticism if I curse the Government as I have cursed it, and as I propose to go on cursing it, and do not, al the same time, make one or two suggestions as to what they might do. I do not expect them to embark on any enlightened policy; they are far too hidebound by their prejudices to contemplate an extension of municipal housing, and, indeed, it looks as if they want it to cease altogether. But even within the limitations of their prejudices, there are one or two things which they might do.

As regards decontrol under the Rent Act, the Government really might give tenants more protection. They have none now. I notice that the Liberal Party passed a resolution in this sense quite a short time ago. I agree with it. We asked for this to be done in the Amendments we suggested to the Rent Act. There are many ways of doing it. We adopted in one case, with some alterations, an Amendment which had been put down by an hon. Member opposite. The "Margate Mutineers," as I called them at the time, had this sort of point in mind. I hope that they will carry on the mutiny, and with success. I hope that the Government will do something to give tenants a measure of relief in this respect.

Secondly, the Government might undertake—they can do it here and now, and I will applaud them—not to use their powers of further decontrol. They have done quite enough mischief already and caused quite enough anxiety. Let them recognise the facts and cease any threat of using what are, after all, unprecedented, and, I believe, somewhat unconstitutional powers.

There is another thing they might do. There are cases of hardship not only resulting from decontrol, but resulting from increases of rent. There would be no harm in giving a tribunal, probably a rent tribunal, power to deal with these cases. Again, we suggested that by way of Amendment, and it was turned down.

I could go on, but I will confine myself to two more suggestions, which relate not to people but to the institutions which provide for people. If the rate of interest is to be raised as it has been, and if it is riot meant to be a purely temporary measure, a matter of a month or so, surely it is time to reconsider the removal of the housing subsidies and to give them back to local authorities. After all, they were removed at a time when things were difficult enough already, but not nearly as difficult as they are now. Lastly—here, perhaps, I stand a better, if a faint, chance of carrying the right hon. Gentleman with me—the whole business of the finance of new towns and overspill is now in a terrible muddle and is leading to some very unfortunate results; in fact, it is preventing the social purpose for which those institutions were intended. Is it not time to reconsider the financing of both new towns and overspill?

As hon. Gentlemen opposite very properly indicated, I have taken a good deal of time, and I apologise for having done so. I say to right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite that this really is a very serious matter indeed. What they are doing at present is to frustrate the type of social experiment I spoke about just now, which they themselves recognise as necessary for dealing with the big housing problem. They are preventing local authorities from carrying on the business of building council houses, which was begun after the 1914 war because Government after Government, and the people generally, recognised that private building of houses and private landlordism could not do the job. It was a positive contribution. Rent control was, perhaps, a more negative one. I say to right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite. "For heaven's sake do not stop it now."

These things take time to stop. They take time to start again. There is a certain inertia in the human race and, sometimes, even in local authorities. If right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite do what they are threatening to do now and let the whole business of council housing grind to a standstill—I repeat the phrase—they will not only be doing harm which is capable of being stated in general terms, but they will be doing harm to the people who come to their "surgeries" day after day, time after time, to people who have been waiting for years for houses, young people, who will never get them now if these things are done.

The Government will be doing harm to those who have been living in unfit houses, the relics of the London of Dicken's day, relics of the old slums even if they are not actually and technically slums. They will be doing harm to those people who deserve our particular help and protection so far as we can give it. For a temporary purpose, they will be doing a harm which will last and will be difficult indeed to undo.

I beg right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, as human beings charged for the moment with the government of the country and responsible for these people, not to push to the full extent these three iniquitous steps, the removal of housing subsidies, the introduction of the Rent Act, and the interest rates now being imposed, which will make it impossible for local authorities to carry out their job.

4.39 p.m.

Mr. James McInnes (Glasgow, Central)

I beg to second the Amendment.

My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) should be congratulated on the exhaustive survey he has made of the housing problem. He has covered all its aspects, involving not only local government and private enterprise but also those relating to new town development corporations. Since he has dealt with the situation largely so far as England and Wales are concerned, I propose to take this opportunity of dealing with the situation in Scotland.

I am disquieted and dismayed at the Scottish housing figures that I have been able to get hold of. I am seriously perturbed at the continual decline in Scottish house building that has taken place since 1953. Between 1953 and the present day there has been a continual decline in England and Wales of approximately 7 per cent. Put another way, the yearly number of houses built there has dropped from 279,000 to 260,000. An analysis of the Scottish housing situation shows a fall from 40,000 to 30,000, or a drop of 25 per cent. in the last four years.

That is bad enough, but I am seriously alarmed by the speech of the Chancellor on 29th October. If I understand him correctly, Scotland, as usual, is to get the axe right in the neck. The Chancellor said: As to house building by public authorities, it is expected that rather more than 150,000 houses will be completed in 1957–58 in Great Britain. There will be a progressive slowing down so that by 1959–60 the provision will be about 80 per cent. of the present level. He then went on to say: In Scotland, as in England and Wales, there will have to be some rephasing of invest- ment plans, but Scotland will get her fair share of the…total investment which I have outlined."—[OFFICINC REPORT, 29th October, 1957; Vol. 575, c. 54.] The implication, clearly, is that there is to be a cut of 20 per cent. in local authority house building, including, of course, house building by the Scottish Special Housing Association, and the new town development corporations in Scotland. I wonder whether the Secretary Of State is Conscious—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—perhaps he is—of the fact that, in Scotland, public authority building is practically the only form of house building that is taking place there—

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. John Maclay)

It might be helpful to hon. Members and the House if, with my right hon. Friend's permission, I made a point at this stage. There must be some misunderstanding of the words quoted by the hon. Member. The position is that there will be no deliberate reduction in the rate of tender approvals as a result of the recent statements. The downward trend which began after the peak year of 1953 is expected to continue, but I will give full details later, when I speak.

Mr. McInnes

I do not know that the right hon. Gentleman's intervention has in any way clarified the situation. It does not matter whether it be tenders approved or tenders not yet submitted by local authorities. What I am now concerned about is not merely the 20 per cent. cut that the Chancellor said would take place, but the fact that there has already been a decline of 25 per cent. in Scottish house production in the last four years.

I want to emphasise the difference between the situation in England and Wales and that in Scotland. As I had just said when the right hon. Gentleman intervened, practically the only type of house building being undertaken in Scotland is that being done by public authorities. Of every 1,000 houses built in England and Wales, 750 are built by public authorities and 250 by private enterprise. Of every 1,000 houses built in Scotland, 930 are built by public authorities and only 70 by private enterprise—and, indeed, of those 70, one could almost say that 69 are for sale. Therefore, the position there is far more serious than in England and Wales.

I arrived at that conclusion by interpreting the Chancellor's speech—and if my interpretation is wrong, the right hon. Gentleman can correct me—to mean quite clearly that the 20 per cent. cut will fall exclusively on houses built by local authorities, including the Scottish Special Housing Association and the new town development corporations. One can therefore appreciate the dismay and anxiety caused in Scotland by the Chancellor's statement.

I want now to analyse the position as it will be by 1959–60. If there is to be a drop of 20 per cent. from now until then, it will mean that Scotland's housing output will drop from 40,000 to 21,000—a reduction of about 47½ per cent. in four or five years. That is a tragedy for a country which has, in my opinion, been rightly regarded as the worst-housed country in the whole of Western Europe. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman will deny that assertion. If he does, he will only find himself in conflict with his own Minister of State, who himself has frequently asserted that Scotland holds that unenviable position.

Before the House rose for the Summer Recess, it passed an Act known as the Housing and Town Development (Scotland) Act. We violently disagreed with the financial provisions of that Measure, but I do not want to deal with them this evening. I want rather to deal with the speech made by the Joint Under-Secretary of State when, during the Committee stage of the Bill, he said, on 7th May, that the Government, to deal with Glasgow's vast overspill problem—the problem of dealing with 300,000 people—had hoped that in a ten-year plan their target would be to provide 15,000 houses within Glasgow's boundaries, either on new sites or in central redevelopment; another 15,000 in the overspill areas of other local authorities; and another 20,000 houses in two new towns.

That, said the Joint Under-Secretary of State, would be 50,000 houses in ten years to accommodate 170,000 people: This will leave an estimated 180,000 people who must, sooner or later, be housed outside the Glasgow boundaries."—[OFFCIAL REPORT, Scottish Standing Committee, 7th May, 1957; c. 811.] I ask the Secretary of State for Scotland: do those figures stand today in the light of the Chancellor's statement, or have they been thrown overboard? Are they no longer applicable to the overspill problem in Glasgow?

I think of the catalogue, as it were, of housing problems that confront Scotland the—problem of Glasgow's 300,000 overspill, the problem of attempting to deal with over 300,000 applications in the hands of Scottish local authorities. In the four Cities of Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen we have approximately 200,000 people waiting for houses, many of whom have been waiting for twenty-five or thirty years. I think of the slums there are all over Scotland. The figure for slums could be estimated at 200,000 houses.

In view of a wastage of 11,000 houses each year in Scotland, and the increasing population which will take place over the next thirty or forty years, I can say with some degree of accuracy that, if we intend to tackle Scotland's needs along the lines which the Government have now indicated, Scotland will, at the end of the twentieth century, still be faced with a housing problem ugly in its nature and soul-destroying in its effect.

My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering made considerable reference to rents, interest charges and to the position of the owner-occupier.

Mr. Mitchison

May I take the opportunity of apologising to the House for an arithmetical slip which, I am sure, did not escape anyone's notice. One per cent. on a £1,700 house is between 6s. and 7s. a week, not 10s. I do not think that it affected the argument, although it may be 3s. or 4s. less forceful.

Mr. McInnes

I was not going to take the opportunity of correcting my hon. and learned Friend.

I, too, want to deal with the situation arising from the Government's policy. I will take a house at the same figure as that referred to by my hon. and learned Friend—a house costing £1,700. I do not want to go into the details of the annual charges which a local authority has to meet towards the redemption of the capital expenditure on that house. I want to deal exclusively with the question of interest charges.

I find that in 1951 the annual repayment of interest charges on a Louse at £1,700 was £54 19s. 2d. The annual repayment today on a house costing the same figure, but at the present rate of interest, is £101 13s. 3d. That is an increase of £46 14s. 1d., almost, as my hon. and learned Friend said, £1 a week. We have also to add the reduction which has recently taken place in housing subsidies. In Scotland, the average, prior to the recent Act, was £42. This has now been brought down to £24, a reduction of £18, so that a local authority, as a result of the increase in interest charges and the decrease in housing subsidies has now to meet an added annual expenditure of £64 14s. 1d. That is approximately 25s. per week on every house.

How are the local authorities to meet that? I hope that the Secretary of State will take the opportunity now, or as soon as he possibly can, to tell us how local authorities are to be expected to provide and rent houses at reasonable rentals when they are faced with an additional burden of 25s. per week in respect of every house they build.

When we turn to the situation in the new towns, the position is even worse. As recently as this morning I received information in respect of a new town. I find that the deficit with which a new town is faced on each house it builds, as a result of Government policy, is £94 per annum. That is an intolerable burden, but no doubt the Treasury will have to meet that deficit. If the Government continue with the same policy as they have been pursuing during the last two or three years, it looks as though local authorities themselves will not only be faced with an annual deficit of £94 but will be compelled, as one or two have already indicated, to stop house building altogether.

That is the decision of one or two Tory-controlled local authorities. If that develops all over Scotland, it will indeed be a tragedy for that country by reason of the tremendous housing problem with which local authorities are faced. I hope that we shall have an opportunity of hearing from the right hon. Gentleman, and perhaps in great detail, what the Government's solution will be to the problem that confronts Scotland.

5.0 p.m.

The Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs (Mr. Henry Brooke)

The very first thing I know about Scottish housing problems is that they are distinctive and different from those of England and Wales for which I am responsible. I hope, therefore, that the hon. Member for Glasgow. Central (Mr. McInnes) will not think me discourteous if I refrain from replying at once to the specifically Scottish points in his speech. It would be presumptuous of me if I were to trespass north of the Border and, as I think the House knows, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland hopes to have an opportunity to speak later in the debate.

The hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison), in rather more restrained language than he used to favour me with in the long debates on the Rent Bill, has moved an Amendment which makes reference to proposals to deal with the national housing problem. Of course, the Government brought forward their proposals to deal with the national housing problem six years ago, under the premiership of my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) and through the agency of my right hon. Friend the present Prime Minister. So dissatisfied were the new Conservative Government of that day that the target of 200,000 houses a year which the Labour Government had thought was enough—in their own words— to deal with the national housing problem that we set our sights 50 per cent. higher. We took 300,000 as our figure, and every year since 1953 we have surpassed it.

The hon. and learned Member's argument appears to mean that we are now deserving of censure if we should let the rate of new house building fall back towards the figure which was already thought quite good enough six years ago, when the whole housing position was far worse than it is today.

To put all this into historical perspective, let us cast our minds back to 1945 when, owing to the cessation of all house building during the six years of Hitler's war, we faced in this country a most tragic housing situation. Since then a total of 2¾ million houses has been built. Six years of Socialist government produced just under 1 million new permanent houses. Six years of Conservative government have produced more than 1¾ million. Is that the ground on which the Opposition wish to censure us today?

Under our policies between 5 million and 6 million people have been moved, in six years, into new, modern homes. I know how hard it is to visualise these enormous figures, but the fact is that the people who have been able to get new modern homes during these last six years of Conservative government are equal to the populations of Glasgow, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield, Bristol and Cardiff all put together. Is this achievement to be the ground for a censure Motion against us?

We did not wait six years to make proposals. We took action and our major change from the inadequate policy of 1945–51 enabled a real start to be made with slum clearance for the first time since the end of the war. There have only been two great slum clearance drives in lour country's history—in 1934–39 and from 1955 onwards—and both of them have been under Conservative Governments.

Mr. B. T. Parkin (Paddington, North)

Who created the slums?

Mr. G. Lindgren (Wellingborough)

Tory landlords.

Mr. Brooke

Last year, 36,000 houses unfit for human habitation were closed or pulled down and their occupants re-housed. Ever since we came to power, in 1951, house building has accounted for between one-fifth and one-quarter of the total capital investment of the whole country. Housing was given a special priority because of the grave situation when we took over the reins of government. Quite clearly, this rate of house building could not be needed for ever. We realised that from the start; but the 1951 situation was so serious that for some years it demanded a specially high rate of building.

Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman a question? The right hon. Gentleman's argument is that this was a carefully-thought-out policy of increasing the target by 50 per cent. He knows well enough that it was because somebody shouted out at a Conservative Party conference, "Why not make it 300,000?" There was no plan at all, and it has muddled the whole of our finances ever since.

Mr. Brooke

Maybe Labour Party policy is determined by what somebody shouts out at a party conference, but ours is not. Ours is carefully thought out and planned, and it is also, unlike Labour Party programmes, carried into effect.

Although there is still a severe shortage in some places, particularly in London and the big cities, over the country at large local authorities have found that they have built enough to satisfy urgent needs or that they are within sight of this. The number of these authorities is increasing all the time. In other places authorities are finding their building programmes contracting through shortage of sites. Blitzed sites have been rebuilt and their areas are now fully built up.

Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham, North)


Mr. Brooke

London is the most obvious case. In these circumstances, there is no doubt at all that housing can make a contribution to the Chancellor's anti-inflationary measures.

The pattern of housing need over the country is nothing like so widespread as it was six years ago. I have heard wild allegations of all building coming to a stop—"grinding to a standstill" is the phrase which has been most used this afternoon.

Mr. Mitchison

I referred to council house building. That has been slowing up under the Tory Party and will grind to a standstill if this goes on.

Mr. Brooke

I said that the hon. and learned Member had been restrained in his language. Not everyone has been equally restrained in his forecast. The truth is that we shall continue with a very large house building programme. I am taking as my aim that in the financial year 1959–60—

Mr. Lindgren

The Tories will not be in office then.

Mr. Brooke

—local authorities and new towns in England and Wales will complete 100,000 houses.

In all that I am going to say I shall be speaking of England and Wales, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland will deal with the Scottish aspects.

House completions in 1959 are clearly governed by starts in 1958. I do not expect or propose that we shall reckon on all local authorities slowing down their programmes at the same rate. That would be entirely wrong because, as I have pointed out, some authorities still have a great unsatisfied housing need in their areas, whereas other authorities are within sight of the end of, or have already found that they can stop, building for general needs.

What I am sure is that all local authorities should review their housing programmes. Most of them are already doing so. Most of them are already deciding how they will reduce their programmes in the light of a 7 per cent. Bank Rate and a 6¾ per cent. Public Works Loan Board rate.

Mr. Cyril Bence (Dunbartonshire, East)

They have been compelled to do so by a 7 per cent. Bank Rate.

Mr. Brooke

This is part of the Chancellor's policy. If any hon. Member thinks that nothing should be done to check inflation, let him say so.

Mr. Parkin

Did the right hon. Gentleman foresee this when he introduced the Rent Bill?

Mr. Brooke

I want to give the House the information I can within a reasonable time and then to sit down, because I know that a number of hon. Members on both sides of the House wish to take part in the debate, and time is getting on.

I have today sent out a circular to local authorities explaining the principles which, in my view, should govern their reviews. Housing is essentially a local problem and I have no intention of depriving local authorities of their freedom to decide their own housing priorities in the light of local circumstances. That is to say, I am not presuming to say whether, contrary to their own judgment, they ought to give first priority to slum clearance, or to overspill building, or to building for general need. That is a matter for them to decide. It may be necessary in some cases to set an overall limit on the number which a particular authority can put into tender next year, but I do not want to adopt a rigid allo- cation system for every authority such as there used to be. I hope that we shall get on without anything of that sort.

Subsidies will continue for slum clearance, for overspill and for one-bedroom houses and flats, which are the kind old people need. I feel sure that local authorities will realise the need for continuing to press ahead with slum clearance if they have many unfit houses to be demolished.

Mr. E. G. Willis (Edinburgh, East)

With a 7 per cent. Bank Rate?

Mr. Brooke

A slum clearance drive is well under way. In reply to the hon. and learned Member for Kettering, I would point out that when local authorities sent in their programmes none of them ever suggested, obviously, that they would start off with a bang by clearing 75,000 unfit houses and rehousing their occupants all in the first year.

Mr. Mitchison

I accept the right hon. Gentleman's correction, but if he is to keep up to the figure of 375,000 which they gave, that will leave even fewer houses built for general need.

Mr. Brooke

I am saying that it should be for the local authorities to decide what are their priorities, but this drive for slum clearance is well under way and I think that it would be the view of the whole House that it should continue. I am sorry to say that there are still families living in war-time camps. To rehouse those people qualifies for the slum clearance subsidy, too. Those camps ought to come down and the land ought to be derequisitioned.

Where overspill arrangements have been made I hope they will go forward. They are very closely linked with slum clearance for the big cities. I especially want local authorities to keep in mind the needs of old people and to apply an increasing share of all their new building to old people's bungalows and flats. Almost at once I intend to send out a new circular to local authorities about various ways of meeting old people's needs.

The hon. and learned Member referred to private building. Private building is, of course, much more directly influenced by interest rates than is local authority building. It has not always been so, but most private houses nowadays are built for sale. The builder and the purchaser are both under the credit squeeze, as well as being subject to high interest rates. Consequently, these restrictive financial conditions have a direct effect on private building.

There is a contrast between the position of the private builder and the local authorities. The local authorities mostly have behind them a large pool of housing put up in past years, in some cases much of it before the war. The local authorities can pool all of their rents so that the effect of any alteration in interest rates is masked.

Mr. C. W. Gibson (Clapham)


Mr. Brooke

This means that even at present rates local authorities can afford to go on building wherever it is needed.

Mr. Gibson

For how long'?

Mr. Brooke

if the reintroduction of general need subsidies is advocated—I think it was advocated by the hon. and learned Member—or if the hon. and learned Member urges artificially low interest rates on housing loans, which, of course, would amount to a concealed Exchequer subsidy, then my reply is that up to the present only one authority in seven is operating a differential rents scheme. That means that all the rest must be paying out public money in subsidies to tenants who do not really need them.

The hon. and learned Member quoted new town rents of 45s. a week and suggested that local authority rents were now running at about 40s. so that there was not much chance of local authorities increasing their rent revenue for their housing revenue accounts. I think it may surprise him to know that last year the average rent for a three-bedroom council house in a county borough was as low as 14s. 1d. It is quite true that probably in the last year that figure has risen on the average by 1s. or 2s., but it shows how ridiculously small is the average existing level of municipal rents in the big towns as a whole.

Moreover, if a local authority cannot build and let at reasonable rents, there is special provision, as the House knows, in Section 5 of the Housing Subsidies Act, 1956, under which a local authority can apply for a special subsidy if either unreasonably high rents or unreasonable high rates would otherwise be incurred. On private building, as I say, the effects of the credit squeeze and high interest rates are much more direct. The Government does not intend to go back to that weary system of not letting anybody build a house unless he has a licence.

Mr. Albert Evans (Islington, South West)

The question of rents is important. We are concerned about the problem in the new towns and the problem for the big local authorities. Would the Minister deny the reports of the new town corporations that inclusive rents at present are running at about 50s. a week'?

Mr. Brooke

I am aware that the new towns are having difficulties with their finances. They have said that in their reports to me. The main reason for that is that all their houses have been built within the last ten years or so when building costs were relatively high. They are in a completely different position from the ordinary big local authority, much of whose building work was done before the war.

If I do not pursue the hon. Member's point and the hon. and learned Member's references to the new towns, that is not because I seek to evade the subject but because, during this Session, we shall need to bring forward a further new towns Bill to increase the borrowing limit, which will, I trust, afford opportunity for a debate on new towns policy. Therefore, if the House agrees, it seems to me that it 'would be better if we concentrated on the larger housing questions. I assure the House that before too long there will be an opportunity for a debate on new towns policy.

Up to the present, private building has kept up strongly at a high rate in face of the interest rates that have been current during the past year. Nobody can foresee with certainty, but it may be that for the next few years, building in England and Wales will be shared roughly half and half by private builders and public authorities; but I am not making a prophecy about it. What I am doing is watching it all. I am watching the figures both for public authorities and for private builders.

The Government are not prepared to exempt house purchase from the credit squeeze, either by arranging artificially low rates of interest to purchasers or by offering direct grants. We have got rid of a general needs subsidy out of the public sector and we believe we were right to do that. It would be inconsistent now to introduce for the first time an Exchequer general needs subsidy for the benefit of the private owner.

Arrangements exist already whereby the purchaser of a house need not deposit more than 10 per cent. or even, in certain circumstances, 5 per cent. of the cost.

Mr. Herbert Butler (Hackney, Central)

Not of the cost, but of the valuation.

Mr. Brooke

Yes, of the valuation. I accept the hon. Member's correction. For my part—I say this because some people seem to take a contrary view—I think it desirable that anybody who is committing himself to house purchase should show that he has been able beforehand to save at least 5 or 10 per cent. of the amount that he will ultimately have to pay. People can buy their houses—[Interruption.] I am addressing myself to points which have been raised in the Amendment—either through a building society mortgage or by an advance from a local authority.

Mr. Lindgren


Mr. Brooke

Perhaps the hon. Member will listen to what I am about to say.

Mr. Lindgren

The Minister is misleading the House.

Mr. Brooke

Most of the building society mortgage contracts contain a variation clause, so that if a person enters into a contract with a building society when the interest rates are high he does not necessarily have to pay those high rates throughout the contract, and vice versa. There is, however, nothing of this same kind at present available in the local authority sector.

Mr. Lindgren


Mr. Brooke

I am just going to speak about the local authority field. Advances by local authorities carry a fixed rate of interest.

Mr. J. A. Sparks (Acton)

Local authorities are not advancing loans.

Mr. Brooke

When interest rates were low, those fixed rates of interest were thought to be very attractive to borrowers, and those who succeeded in borrowing to buy their houses at 3½ per cent., and will still be paying 3½ per cent. throughout the currency of the mortgage, no doubt consider themselves fortunate. But now that interest rates are high—

Mr. Sparks

They cannot get the money.

Mr. Brooke

—the fact that there is no possibility of variation in the rate of interest on a local authority advance may deter people from making applications to housing authorities. For that reason—

Mr. Lindgren

Will the Minister allow me to intervene?

Mr. Brooke

I wish to continue my speech.

Mr. Lindgren

On a point of order. Can you guide me, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, as to the action that a Member may take when a Minister is deliberately misleading the House? [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] My point is that the Minister has suggested that local authorities are now operating the Small Dwellings Acquisition Act. Nine out of ten local authorities have notified that they are making no further loans under the Act.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Charles MacAndrew)

The hon. Member got in the point he wanted to make by means of what he called a point of order, which I think is very dishonest.

Mr. Brooke

The statement by the hon. Member that nine out of ten local authorities have given notice that the-are not operating the terms of the Small Dwellings Acquisition Acts or the Housing Acts for these purposes of advances is totally untrue. I hope, therefore, that we shall hear less about misleading the House.

What I am seeking to do is to put before the House the legal position and the powers which local authorities have. For the reason which I have been explaining, I am prepared to consider proposals by local authorities to vary their schemes-for making advances under the 1949 Housing Act so that they may, in future, like building societies, charge a variable rate of interest. For technical reasons, this is not possible under the Small Dwellings Acquisition Acts, but, in fact, most authorities now use the Housing Act to make these advances and an authority can, without any difficulty, change from the one code to the other.

Mr. Lindgren

They are not lending money.

Mr. Brooke

The hon. and learned Member for Kettering devoted a considerable part of his speech to the Rent Act. The Rent Act came into operation on 6th July. The earliest date that any rent increase for a controlled house could take effect was 6th October. For decontrolled houses, the standstill period does not end till 6th October, 1958. The Bill was amended in Committee to give fifteen months instead of six months for negotiating new agreements, which must last for three years at least, and negotiations are taking place on a wide scale.

The hon. and learned Member said that he knew that for decontrolled houses the standstill period ran until October, 1958, but if he were to read some of the allegations that appear in print from time to time of people already being evicted under the Rent Act, he would appreciate that many people do not know it.

Mr. Lewis

Will the Minister look at the case, of which I can give him details of an old lady who, on 7th October this year, at the age of 99, received notice to quit on her 100th birthday, with no alternative? Does the Minister not think that that is a wicked thing to do to an old lady of 99?

Mr. Brooke

I certainly saw a case referred to in the papers the other day of an old lady of 99 who, it was said, received notice to quit. What happened, in fact, was that the house stood in the name, not of the old lady, but of her son. The landlord had no idea that an old lady was living in the house—[HON. MEMBERS: "Really!"]—and the moment that he received this information he gave an immediate assurance that the old lady could continue undisturbed; and she told the reporter of the local paper that she was very happy.

Mr. Lewis

While thanking the Minister for that information and thanking him for agreeing with me that that was a terrible case—[Laughter.]. This is not a laughing matter—surely he will agree that, whether or not the notice operates, to get notice to quit at the age of 99 is a terrible shock. If, as is the case, I can give the Minister details of similar instances in which landlords have not been as decent, will he take action on them?

Mr. Brooke

The hon. Member can certainly send me any cases he likes, but his first effort is not a very successful one.

Mr. Willis

That is not an answer to the question.

Mr. Brooke

The tenants of many London blocks of flats who a few months ago were being scared by false stories that they would all be evicted if the Bill went through are now mostly finding new agreements being offered to them at lower rents than they had been led to fear. Of course, there are cases where the landlord wants to regain vacant possession either because he needs the house for his own use or because the tenant has been unsatisfactory or because he thinks it best to sell.

Fewer notices to quit by next October would have been issued but for the Labour Party's Brighton Resolution threatening the taking over of all rented property by the local authorities on indefinite terms. My advice to house owners is not to take fright. If they do take fright and do rush to sell as soon as possible they will feel foolish when the Conservatives have won the next Election.

Mr. Parkin

Will the Tories put up rents after the next Election?

Miss Alice Bacon (Leeds, South-East)

The right hon. Gentleman is in a bit of a muddle. Our policy refers to rent-controlled rented houses. What hon. Members have just been complaining about is notice to quit houses which are decontrolled.

Mr. Brooke

I think the hon. Lady must decide whether she and her party are in a bit of a muddle because at one time they talked about bringing under control the houses which were controlled at the beginning of 1956.

As I said, I advise house owners not to take fright. The one thing that is known for certain about Socialist pledges is that they are seldom fulfilled.

Taking the country as a whole, the evidence so far available suggests that the number of decontrolled tenants who will definitely be obliged to find a new home by October of next year will be quite a small percentage of the whole. Meanwhile conversions are going on all the time—[An HON. MEMBER: "To Socialism."]—and well over two hundred thousand new houses and flats will be finished and ready for occupation by next October; and, of course, as I have repeatedly pointed out, if decontrolled tenants have to leave their present homes because the owner wants to sell or wants to let to someone else, that someone else must be giving up his present home elsewhere, which will then become vacant.

Meanwhile no tenant who receives a notice to quit by October next year should assume that this necessarily means the landlord is not willing to make a new agreement. If the tenant wants to stay he should approach the landlord or his agent and ask on what terms a new agreement would be possible. It is already often being found that negotiations can be opened. Indeed, I am told some landlords have been advised that their legally correct course is to start by serving notice to quit as a preliminary to negotiating. All I can say is that is not my reading of the law.

I advise people not to accept at face value some of the hardship stories they may read about—and I have replied to the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Lewis) on the one case which has been raised today.

Mr. Percy Shurmer (Birmingham, Sparkbrook)

The Minister has just told us the number of flats and houses which will be available by next October when the evictions take place, whether the number of evictions is large or small. Will he send details of that information to the City Council of Birmingham, where 66,000 people are on the register, and where tenants are receiving notices to quit and are being offered for signature agreements on terms which are beyond their means, so that they have no alternative but to accept eviction? Will he have them informed what houses there are available for them? There are many who have been on the register in Birmingham for years. What arrangements is the Minister making with the local authorities so that accommodation can be provided for people who are evicted?

Mr. Brooke

May be the hon. Member will have an opportunity to make his speech later, if he catches your eye, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and I am sure Birmingham City Council will be interested in his views. I intend to give my own views and suggestions.

On the day the Rent Act became law I sent out a circular to local authorities drawing attention to various ways in which they could help. I told them they could help first by making loans or by giving grants for the conversion of larger houses so as to make more rented accommodation available. That was one of the main purposes of the Rent Act, because it was known that though there was much overcrowding there was also much under-accommodation of those large houses which could not be converted as long as the sitting tenants, though they did not need the whole of the property, were completely protected by the Rent Acts. Secondly, I said the local authorities could help by making loans for house purchase to tenants who might have to move. Thirdly I suggested that they could help by arranging for transfers between private lettings and council houses so as to secure better use of existing accommodation.

Of course, the Rent Act itself is already increasing the unfurnished accommodation which is coming on to the market to let, and that is what everybody is longing for. This will continue unless Labour Party resolutions and threats bring it to a stop. The worst of all the disastrous effects of rent restriction has been the way in which the Rent Acts have dried up the market in houses to let and made it virtually impossible for any owner to obtain vacant possession to let unfurnished again. That whole incentive to landlords to sell with vacant possession has now gone because the Act enables them to let unfurnished at reasonably economic rents.

I must warn owners of property that if they all refuse to relet and decide to sell they will be cutting their own throats because there certainly will not be enough buyers. I am fairly certain that some small landlords, not very familiar with the property market, and maddened by the fact that for years the law did not allow them to secure enough rent to cover their outgoings on their property, may imagine that they can now make up the losses of the past years by holding out for high prices or high rents even though their own agents could tell them that they cannot possibly expect to get the figures they are asking. I advise any landlords of that kind not to ignore their agents' advice, because the agents know the market better than they do.

Nobody has ever suggested that the evil of rent restriction could be remedied without causing the slightest hardship to anybody. But I firmly believe that in the eleven months between now and next October practically everybody who finds he has to move will manage to find other accommodation. Most people when they have to move on a change of job, for instance, have far less time than eleven months to look around, and yet they manage.

The people to whom we need to give special consideration are the old people. Because of their age, and maybe their limited means, and maybe their state of health, it is the old people who most often need help whenever it is a question of having to make a move. I am proposing to give special attention to this in the circular which I have mentioned, which I intend to send to local authorities, suggesting what actions they should take to increase and encourage the making available of more accommodation for old people.

The houses remaining controlled under the Act, of course, outnumber the rented houses and flats that are to be decontrolled by about six to one. In the case of the 4¼ million houses in England and Wales which remain controlled under the Act, there is practically no evidence of the Act creating hardship. I can tell that from the correspondence reaching my office, as well as from the almost entire absence of comment throughout the whole of the Press. Here, too, the cases where there might have been the greatest risk of hardship are those of the old people. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance told the House just before the Summer Recess, on 1st August, that the National Assistance Board would meet the full amount of any permitted increase in controlled rent—

Mrs. Harriet Slater (Stoke-on-Trent, North)

It is not doing so.

Mr. Brooke

—and any reasonable increase where the rent was not controlled, except where accommodation was shared with a son or daughter or other person in employment who could afford to meet some of the increased rent. On every order book issued by the National Assistance Board there appear the words: Let the Board's officers know if your rent is altered. In furtherance of its policy, I understand that the National Assistance Board has authorised a higher payment in 164,000 cases where rent has been increased.

Mr. Lewis

Subsidies for the landlords.

Mrs. Lena Jeger (Holborn and St. Pancras, South)

Is it not a fact that there are many thousands of elderly people who, although they are very hard up, are just above the National Assistance scale and have no National Assistance book? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the very great distress which has been caused to old people in that category? What is being done to help them?

Mr. Brooke

I have a further communication in draft to send to the local authorities.

Mr. Lewis

Send it to the landlords.

Mr. Brooke

It is a communication about the provision of houses for old people generally and about the problems of old people.

Mrs. Jeger

That is no answer.

Mr. Brooke

I think that the hon. Lady was not speaking about National Assistance Board cases but about people who were not applicants for National Assistance.

Mrs. Jeger

I am speaking of the unbearable increase in rent for elderly people who are not in receipt of National Assistance, and nothing that the right hon. Gentleman has said indicates that he has any proposals at all to help them.

Mr. Brooke

If the hon. Lady is arguing that in remedying all the faults of the Rent Restriction Acts we should somehow have exempted from new legislation every house where there was somebody over 65 years of age, that was a matter which was discussed in Committee and an Amendment was put on the Order Paper and was rejected. That was the decision of the House. These difficult cases have to be sympathetically handled on their merits. I have said that I regard the situation of the old people as the aspect of the whole field which needs the greatest care and attention.

Mrs. Braddock

Why is the right hon. Gentleman being so hypocritical?

Mr. Brooke

The hon. Lady should know me better than to call me hypocritical.

When the Rent Act was before the House, we were told by the Opposition that local authorities would be flooded out by applications for certificates of disrepair. I have had no complaint of this sort from anywhere.

Mr. Shurmer

The right hon. Gentleman should go to Birmingham.

Mr. Brooke

This has been because the provisions which we put in the Act are working smoothly, and people faced with rent demands are notifying their landlords on Form G, and the landlords are either doing their repairs or undertaking to do them. So far, the number of applications for certificates of disrepair in most places have turned out to be quite small. When the hon. Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Shurmer) takes part in the debate, perhaps he will tell the House how many applications for certificates of disrepair have been received by Birmingham City Council. All the allegations about people being deprived of their rights by being unable to obtain Form G turned out to be a storm in a teacup.

Mr. Shurmer

The Labour Party circulated the forms free of charge.

Mr. Brooke

The hon. and learned Member for Kettering asked about further decontrol and he suggested that there might be people whose tenancies were still controlled but who were in daily anxiety lest they find an order promulgated that would decontrol their houses. I said in the course of the debates on the Rent Act, and I repeat, that no question of making any further decontrol order arises until there has been time to see how the situation settles after this Act. That, obviously, cannot be before October next year. Indeed, the hon. and learned Member for Kettering said that it was too early to see the effects of the Rent Act. Therefore, he answered his own expressed anxiety out of his own mouth.

Mr. Mitchison

Not quite. People sometimes look more than a year ahead when they have lived the greater part of their lives in a house. If the right hon. Gentleman could see his way to give an undertaking not to use these powers until after the General Election he would relieve a great many people, because there is not much doubt what the result of the General Election will be.

Mr. Brooke

The hon. and learned Member may have private information not vouchsafed to me about the date of the next General Election, but I have said that there is no question of contemplating making a further decontrol order until there has been time to see how the situation settles after the working out of this Rent Act.

The House will understand and appreciate that I am watching very carefully the operation of the Rent Act and indeed of the whole housing situation throughout the country. I should like to thank, and I believe that hon. Members on both sides of the House would wish to join with me in thanking, the Citizens Advice Bureaux and the local authorities—

Mr. Lewis

And the Labour Party for bringing the forms out.

Mr. Brooke

—and all those other people who have been giving excellent services in helping to relieve anxieties and letting people know where they stand. I include in that category all those who have been giving scrupulously correct advice.

I have no intention of amending the Rent Act, which I believe to be right and which history will prove to be right, but, as the House will see, I am taking the trouble to issue guidance to local authorities as to further ways in which they can help if they find local difficulty arising in their areas; and it is always the elderly people whom I have most in mind. The slowing down of new house building, of course, has no practical effect on the position between now and next October, because practically every house that can be finished by that date has been started already.

I have lived with this housing problem ever since the war, because from 1944 to 1954 I was a member of the Minister's Central Housing Advisory Committee and since 1950 I have represented a London constituency, and it is in London, by common consent, that the housing shortage is most acute. I am certain from all my knowledge that the Government's policy is realistic. Action had to be taken on rents. I believe everybody agrees on that, and the Opposition's absurd policy of turning 5 million families compulsorily into council tenants at unlimited rents is not only inflationary, but, as far as I can see, completely friendless.

We have done more than any other Government towards helping people to have a decent home of their own. As a Government we shall not be content until that is true of everybody and until all the slums are down. When, however, it is a question of either putting some brake on new house building, or letting inflation go unchecked, I know the whole country will say that honest money should come first. As the Chancellor of the Exchequer said last Tuesday week: If prices in a country continue to go up; if the value of money used in everyday transactions continues to go down; if savings are eroded and thrift of little worth—that is the way to disrupt society."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th October, 1957; Vol. 575, c. 50.] Our policy is to stop disruption. I ask the House to reject the Amendment, and I ask the Opposition to pause and think before once again on housing policy events prove them to be wrong.

Mr. Mitchison

Before the right hon. Gentleman sits down, there is one point he has not answered and I wish he would answer it now. It seems to me that an extra £100 million of rent to the landlords is a highly inflationary step. The right hon. Gentleman has not commented on that.

Mr. Brooke

My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer pointed out that during last year wage increases amounted to £900 million, which was more than the total amount paid in rents and rates.

5.52 p.m.

Mr. C. W. Gibson (Clapham)

I have listened to many speeches by the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Housing and Local Government, but I do not think I have listened to one which contained more brass-faced impudence than the one we have just heard, and I hope the Minister will listen to what I am about to say.

How can a Minister, unless he is brass-faced, quote the figures which the right hon. Gentleman quoted about the number of houses built immediately after the war without saying a word about the hundreds of thousands of houses that were repaired, and which were a first priority not only to the Labour Government of that time but to the Tories in the House? The hon. Gentleman the Member for Henley (Mr. Hay) seems to think that this is funny. He should have been in the position of many hundreds of thousands of families and then he would have known what a terrible life they were living. So we gave first priority to such houses in our building work, and, therefore, it was not possible to build new houses too. The right hon. Gentleman knows this, because on occasion he has tried to use that fact against me in debate in the London County Council.

Then the Minister boasted about figures. Those figures were made up in exactly the same way as the ones I used to quote to him on the L.C.C. They are right, but they are nothing for him to boast about. How can the Minister expect to be treated seriously when he says that the Opposition's proposals for municipalisation of rent and properties mean unlimited rents? He knows that is undiluted class war by the Tory Party and that it is incorrect, because I assume that the right hon. Gentleman has at any rate read the document containing those proposals.

I do not understand how the Minister can talk as he has talked this afternoon, when we are supposed to be discussing the Gracious Speech, which contains these words: My Ministers will continue to promote the social welfare of My people. The social welfare of the people of this country is being crushed by the things which this Government have done. I mean the people who are hardest hit. Those who are well-off are getting tax remissions, they are getting savings in all sorts of ways. I mean the poor devil with less than £9 a week, who is to pay more in National Insurance contributions, is having his rent doubled and is meeting increased costs for foodstuffs, which are higher in price now than they have ever been in the history of this country. Can that be called caring for the welfare of the people? Is that caring for the millions of old-age pensioners? The hon. Gentleman the Member for Henley may smile, but it is not funny, and I hope he will have to go through it one day.

Mr. Hay

I am not smiling at that; I am smiling at the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Gibson

It is nonsense to say that those people will get compensation by an increase in pensions. It is pure humbug for a Minister to talk, as the right hon. Gentleman has done today, about his anxiety for the social welfare of the lower classes. I know that the right hon. Gentleman thinks that those who do not belong to his social circle are really of no account, but one day he will learn differently. Everything which this Government have done has belied that sentence in the Gracious Speech, everything. The conditions of the wage earners of this country, let alone those on pensions and small fixed incomes, are not as good as the Tory newspapers are trying to make out.

We still hear a great deal about the terrific wages which people are supposed to earn, yet the last issue of the Report on National Income and Expenditure shows that this is bunk. There are millions of people in this country who are working a full week but who do not receive £9 a week as their wages. Yet how can a man receiving £9 a week, with a family to look after, small or large, afford to pay the increases in rent which the Rent Act will impose on him?

The right hon. Gentleman says that out of their increased earnings they can afford to do so. All I can say is that he does not know what he is talking about. The highest-paid craftsman in London is a carpenter or bricklayer. His wages are less than £10 10s. a week, unless he works overtime or does piece-work, and most cannot do piece-work. How can such a man afford to have his rent roughly doubled and also find another 2s. a week for increased National Insurance contributions? He will soon find his wife grumbling about the impossibility of getting all the goods from the shops that she wants. How can she keep him strong and healthy to build the houses which the hon. Gentleman is now stopping?

I will give a few illustrations of what the Rent Act means from my own experience in my constituency. These are not the worst cases, neither are they the best, but just a batch which I came across when I looked for something to quote. I meet my constituents every Friday, and each Friday since the Rent Bill came on to the Floor of the House of Commons I have met many people who wanted to know how it would affect them. There have been increases by 19s. 6d., 19s. 11d. and 32s. 9d. plus rates. One good lady showed me a statement on which her rent had been increased from £2 16s. 1d. for a rather large house to £6 9s. 4d. When I said during the Committee stage that the Rent Bill would raise rents 100 per cent., the Minister became angry and said it was not true. That is a great deal more than 100 per cent., and the poor woman will have to pay or go out. She has not been evicted yet, but the threat of eviction is being held over her head.

I have another case of a decontrolled house for which a woman was paying £13 12s. 6d. a quarter. I agree that for the type of house it was a reasonable rent, but that has been changed to £12 10s. 0d. a month, and she has been told that she must either pay it or go out in October. There is nothing the poor woman can do except pay the rent increase, an increase from £54 10s. to £150 a year. That is an increase of 200 per cent. and yet in the White Paper explaining the Act the Minister said that vast numbers would not pay more than 5s. per week and very few would pay more than 15s.

The Rent Act has had a tremendous impact on all working-class families, and the threat of eviction is being used in cases where houses are to be decontrolled, and sometimes in cases where they are not to be decontrolled but where the landlords are trying to take advantage of the ignorance of the tenant. I know of a case where a man was served with a notice which appeared to be correctly made out. I discovered that that landlord had served two notices on the two tenants in the same house asking each for a 7s. 6d. increase. I understand that he can ask for only one 7s. 6d. increase for the whole house. I worked it out that the man could be charged only an extra 3d. per week, and the man told the landlord that that was all he was legally compelled to pay.

I do not say that that practice is widespread, but a number of landlords are trying to take advantage of the ignorance of their tenants. I read the other day that London property companies are charging at least double or two and a half times the gross rateable value of houses which are decontrolled. I do not know whether the Minister knows what that means. I have a case of a woman living alone in Kensington whose rent will now been £395 a year. She says that that is unreasonable, and I am not surprised. She will have to cut her standard of living to pay that rent or leave the house.

The Minister is continually denying that such cases occur, and in the House and at public meetings he is saying that everything is working out for the good of the people as a whole and that everybody can afford to pay these rent increases. The very opposite is the case. The Act is making such an impact on the people that inevitably there will be demands for wage increases next year. How can they be avoided when men earning £10 a week—a high wage in the London area, which has the highest wages in Britain—and who have one or two children have to pay anything from 25s. to 40s. a week rent without their standard of living suffering? A man would be a traitor to his family if he did not try to alter that by demanding an increase in pay.

It is not true that that is inflationary. Inflation is caused, not by wage demands, but mostly by gambling on the Stock Exchange and other places, and by rising prices which wages have to chase. I know that Tory propagandists do not like that, but all economic history shows that wages follow prices, not that prices follow wages, just as when there is a slump it is nearly always the building trade which is the forerunner. To trot out this Tory argument is merely an effort to blame somebody else for the misdeeds and difficulties of the Tory Party and to help Tories to forget that our gold reserves are now lower than ever in our history and infinitely lower than when the Labour Party left office. There are still difficulties with the international balance of trade, and in some circles we are still very unpopular abroad. I regret that situation, but I am sure that it will not be altered until we have a new Government which can be more trusted abroad.

How is the situation affecting local authorities? The Minister spent much time discussing the way in which local authorities could spread their rent bills. I do not know what he would say if he were living in a pre-1914 municipal house, with all the inconveniences of that kind of house compared with what is built to- day, and were asked to pay another 5s. a week in order that someone living in a modern house could have his rent kept down. I am sorry that the Minister seems to think that there is a joke in this. He ought to know that some of us are very serious about these problems and that for us they are live, human problems. We are not "up in the air" about them. We experience them every day of the week and live with them.

Government policy is switching the burden of the cost of housing. In 1938–39, 61 per cent. of the cost of housing was borne by the Exchequer and 39 per cent. by local authorities. This year, 53 per cent. was borne by the Exchequer and 47 per cent. by local authorities. In other words, there has been a switch of 8 per cent. of the cost of housing from the Exchequer on to the shoulders of ratepayers. The Minister will find those figures in this week's L.C.C. agenda, where they are printed to illustrate an argument made there. In addition to that, there is a 7 per cent. Bank Rate.

All this makes one wonder how some local authorities have kept going even as long as this. In spite of what the Minister says, it is the case that many local authorities have stopped general building. Some are talking about stopping slum clearance building because of the tremendous cost. In the London Star on 6th November two cases were quoted—I like to give the Minister up-to-date information. The Star said: Thurrock Council, who have a waiting list of over 3,900, has decided not to build any houses during the next financial year other than those arising from demolition, slum-clearance and for old people…the council have tried to borrow £500,000 in the open market and have been able to raise only ten per cent. Thurrock is not a tiny but a reasonably strong council, and yet it could not successfully borrow in the open market. Other councils with rateable values infinitely less than those of Thurrock are in a much worse position. The Star said: Camberley Council building has been suspended through the credit squeeze and the waiting list of 447 is being closed. That is happening all over the country, and if the Minister denies that, then he is not being properly informed. I do not have the Ministry's facilities, but I am able to find all these cases in the newspapers.

That is an illustration of the way the housing programme has already slowed down, and the position will deteriorate when the policies now being pursued are carried through.

My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) spoke of the new towns. Every one of the new town corporations is complaining of the high interest rates and the difficulties of getting capital and being able to let houses at rents which people will be able to afford. Unless there is a change in this policy it is inevitable that building in new towns will stop. Then, I suppose, we shall have to wait until a new Government comes in. In view of all this, I am compelled to ask what becomes of the statement in the Gracious Speech that the Government are concerned about the social welfare of the people. It seems to me to be pure humbug.

Not only local government people are worried about this business; the building industry, especially the employers, are worried. I shall not make a long speech about it, but I want to quote from what is regarded in the industry as a responsible journal, the National Builder, which said, in an editorial in an October issue: It will take some time for the dust created by the sharp increase in the Bank Rate to settle. But, it seems almost certain that employment and production will be dampened down this winter…For some months now the Government's credit restriction policy has had the effect of reducing the amount of work on builders' order books"— we warned the Minister about that some months ago— and this latest development, if sustained, seems bound to add to their difficulties. So in the building industry we have declining order books; we have trouble about raising the necessary capital for building, and we have a punitive rate of interest. Is there any wonder that this week the Secretary of the Bricklayers' Union has reported that he is now paying out more unemployment benefit to the members of his union than he has done in any week since the war—and it should be remembered that in the building industry it is the bricklayer who goes first. If the bricklayer stops work all the other trades are bound to stop work, because they cannot work until the bricklayer has done his job.

The Bricklayers' Union tells me that it is finding that the numbers of men coming on to its unemployment register are increasing steadily week by week. I hope that that will stop; I hope that they will all get back into jobs. But it will not do so if the policy that the Minister has been supporting here this afternoon continues to be followed; it will grow worse.

It seems that we are now going to see exactly the same kind of trouble that occurred in the 1920s and 1930s, and it will have the same result. It seems that if the same conditions are produced one gets the same results. With all the good will in the world on the part of the Government for the poor devils who are going to suffer, if no action is taken to help them in their suffering we are in danger of going downhill to a serious slump. The evidence that I have given of what is happening in the Bricklayers' Union is confirmation of that.

Mr. Mitchison

Is my hon. Friend aware that the latest Ministry of Labour figures showed the biggest loss of employment in the building trades, and that the Federation of Building Trades has warned the Government that it expects 50,000 unemployed in the spring?

Mr. Gibson

I was tempted to quote what Sir Richard Coppock said about it. He is responsible for the whole of the operative side of the building industry. I think that my point has been made, however, that the danger of a recession—as the Americans call it—and a roaring recession at that, a diving downhill recession, is close at hand unless we can change this absurd economic policy of cutting down capital development of all kinds indiscriminately, and especially cutting down the building of homes without which it will not be possible to get the wealth producers who want to live in those homes in the mood to produce the wealth that we so badly need.

I want to see greater production all round. I want to see our factories and machinery used to the utmost to produce more and more of the wealth which we know is necessary in order properly to establish the kind of life which the ordinary workman should live. But if we go on on the line upon which we have been travelling in the last few months we are headed for a slump. However much the Prime Minister may say he does not want unemployment or a head-on fight, unless this policy is changed we shall find ourselves in an economic battle which will inevitably result in broken heads.

6.15 p.m.

Mr. John Hay (Henley)

I must admit that when I first heard that the Opposition had chosen to put down as one of their Amendments in the debate on the Address the subject of housing, I was a little startled. If there was one subject with which we were surfeited in the last Session it was housing. I see that the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) smiles. We remember with some pleasure the long debates we had about the Rent Bill and other aspects of housing policy, Now the Opposition apparently want to come back to the subject, and so we will again have to try to teach them some of the economic facts about housing.

The Amendment which the House is invited to accept regrets that the Gracious Speech does not contain any proposals to deal with the national housing problem, and goes on to regret the fact that there are no proposals: to relieve the hardships and anxiety of tenants or to meet the financial difficulties which the Government's policy is causing to the purchasers of houses and to local authorities. We need to look at each of those three propositions and to judge whether there should he proposals in the Gracious Speech on all three points.

First, there is the question of the "national housing policy." I want to make two observations about that. It is true to say that the experience of all of us in the last three or four years has been that the housing problem is much less acute than it was a few years previously. I regard as a very good barometer of housing problems the postbag, which I, like every other hon. Member, receive. When I look back to the years when I first came to this House—in 1950, 1951, 1952—and remember the number of letters that I got about housing matters and compare them with what I get today, I regard it as a fairly good indication that some progress has been made towards a solution of the national housing problem.

My constituency is one of those represented, on the local authority level, by Conservative councils throughout the whole length and breadth of its area, and they have made remarkable progress in their housing programmes. They have built a large number of new houses, and they are the sort of authorities which I am sure my right hon. Friend had in mind earlier, when he said that progress of this kind was being made and that the need is much less than it used to be in a number of places.

I now want to turn the attention of the House to the extent of the housing need. It seems to me that in all the speeches made by hon. Members opposite this is the one thing which is not discussed. It is all very well to talk about slowing down the house building programme, about the possibility of it "grinding to a standstill", and about hardships and anxieties being caused to tenants of privately rented houses, but none of those points has any relevance unless we examine the extent to which the nation has already made progress with building and maintaining sufficient houses for the population.

It is obvious that we cannot go on indefinitely blasting along full speed ahead, building new houses at a constantly increasing rate, with all the consequent expense which it causes, unless there is a constant and continuing need for it. That is the touchstone for the whole matter. Unless we realise that the extent of the housing problem is less today than it was in 1950. and infinitely less than it was in 1945, none of this debate makes any sense. The plain fact is that since 1950 very large numbers of new houses have been built and large numbers of older houses have somehow been kept in repair and not pulled down. This has contributed to the solution of the housing problem.

I start with the year 1953 for my analysis. In that year, the Government issued a White Paper entitled, "Houses—The Next Step." That gave the number of houses then available to meet the housing demand in the country, and said there were 14 million houses and flats in Great Britain of which 7¼ million were rented from private landlords. Since then, every year at least 300,000 new houses have been added to that total. Indeed, right down to the end of last September, the last month for which we have any figures, we can see that since 1953, 1,225,000 new houses have been erected. In addition to that,—it may be a comparatively small figure, but I think it significant—there have been about 10,000 new dwellings produced by conversion, and the figure is growing. These conversions have been carried out with the aid of conversion grants.

That is the gross figure, and from it we have to deduct the number of houses pulled down or closed because they were unfit. When we examine the figures again, we find the total in England and Wales is 177,400 houses demolished or closed, and for Scotland, 17,400, making a total of 195,000, or thereabouts. Even if we deduct 195,000 from the grand total of new houses built and conversions which have created new housing accommodation, we are still left with over 1 million more houses now than at the end of 1953. That is 15 million houses compared with the 14 million houses that we had when "Houses—The Next Step" was published.

This is for a population which, although it is growing at the moment, is by no means increasing as fast as the output of new houses. We have still a population of about 50 million people in England, Wales and Scotland. In my opinion, it makes no sense to go on talking as if the population were increasing at exactly the-same rate as that of new house building, because the demand is just not there. If we went ahead with this policy of new building regardless, it would not be long before we found ourselves with new houses owned by local authorities and standing empty because—

Mr. Mitchison

The hon. Gentleman is trying to define the elephant. I wonder whether he would deal with the estimate made in 1956—taking all these matters into consideration as he will find if he looks at it—by the European Housing Survey, that 1 million houses were needed for new family demands and 1 million to deal with existing shortages; and that if we went on building at the rate we were building in 1954, we might have met those two demands and would have replaced only half the houses over a hundred years old? That was the information supplied by the United Kingdom authority.

Mr. Hay

That sounds a bit "phoney" to me. I have not heard of it before. I am working on figures published in papers and booklets available to us, and also. I should say, to a certain extent on common sense. That seems to me essential.

It was this situation which gave rise to the Rent Act which has been so much criticised. Even with the slowing down of council house building to a figure of 80 per cent. of the previous year, as the Chancellor said in his speech the other day, we shall still have about 120,000 houses a year being provided for what I call the public sector. I should like the opportunity to analyse and break down the figures given earlier by the hon. and learned Member for Kettering. I work out that 80 per cent. of 150,000 is 120,000, or thereabouts, and I say that 120,000 houses per year being built in the future under the Government's new programme, with the new restrictions in force, will still be more than the rate of building carried out for the public sector between 1945 and 1950.

Mr. Thomas Fraser (Hamilton)

It is not.

Mr. Hay

I have come to the conclusion that the extent of the housing problem today is very often greatly exaggerated. I do not think there is any need, as the Amendment asks, for the Government to come forward with a lot of new proposals to deal with it. The right policy has not only been formulated by `the Government, it has actually been passed by Parliament and is being actively enforced. It is a policy which, I think it is correct to say is based on five major points. First, a continuance of new building both in the public and private sector at levels which the country can stand economically and which are necessary to meet the demand that exists.

Secondly, a policy which places a good deal of emphasis upon the necessary redeployment of housing occupation in this country. This was the fundamental idea behind the Rent Act. We all know and remember from our debates on the Act that there is a great housing misuse in this country. There is a necessity to get rid of under-occupation, and the objective of the Rent Act in getting rid of rent control over so large a field was to assist this redeployment, as I call it, this taking up of valuable accommodation which at the moment is being under-used.

The third point of the policy, as I see it, is the maintenance of existing houses in reasonably good repair by a system of fair and economic rents. I do not think there is any doubt that the new system of rents, although in many ways liable to bear hardly on one individual or another, is fair when we consider the broad mass of the people. Next, the policy of the Government continues the fullest possible support for the system of improvement and conversion grants which have been making a concrete, if not spectacular, contribution to the improvement of housing standards during the last two or three years. The last point is the continuance, so far as the nation can afford to do so, of the Policy of slum clearance.

I think this a policy which hon. Members opposite ought to help and not to hinder. If their professions of sympathy with the people mean anything and if their belief that the social conscience of the nation reposes in their breasts is genuine, they should help such a policy, which is at least realistic and based upon what the nation needs and can afford.

I turn now to the second critical point in the Amendment, where reference is made to hardship and anxiety of tenants. I could make a lot of the point that much of the hardship and most of the anxieties are due to the Opposition who have not hesitated to play politics with this matter—

Dr. J. Dickson Mabon (Greenock)

Do not be silly.

Mr. Hay

When we see the leaflets which are pushed through our letter boxes, we begin to wonder whether that is not the correct assessment of the situation.

Certainly, even if hardships and anxieties exist, it is clear that they could hardly arise from decontrol in the private sector, because, as has already been said in this debate, the ultimate measure of eviction does not occur until October of this year. Many people may be misinformed and may not fully understand the situation, but I believe that the big majority of tenants of houses which are being decontrolled by the Rent Act understand the situation and are coming to reasonable arrangements with their landlords.

Mr. Lewis

Take the case of a person who has lived in a house for forty or fifty years and has reached the age of 70 or 80, or of 99 in the case which I have already cited. Does not the hon. Member know that it is a terrific shock to receive a notice to quit at the age of 99 and a terrific hardship and worry. It is no good telling that person to negotiate. Worry has been caused, even though there are twelve months in which to negotiate an agreement.

Mr. Hay

Unfortunately, Parliament cannot enable everybody to avoid worries. Life is full of worries. Hardship is one thing and anxiety is another. Many people may he caused anxiety if they receive a notice to quit, even though the back of the notice contains in large print the fullest information about their rights. Hardship has not yet been caused to anybody, because nobody has yet been evicted, and cannot be evicted until October of next year. Anybody who pretends to the contrary is garnishing the truth somewhat.

Incidentally, to meet the situation there is an increasing flow of new lettings coming on to the market. Hon. Members should read not only the small advertisement columns in the London evening papers every night, but should look at the local newspapers. They will find a larger and larger number of unfurnished houses and flats to let without premiums or long leases for which large sums might have been demanded. This has been going on now for several months. I see it regularly and have watched it carefully. I have not the slightest doubt that the flood of new lettings will increase.

Mr. A. Evans

I am very surprised at what the hon. Gentleman says. I represent a London constituency, part of a borough containing more than 200,000 people. The local papers have not carried a single advertisement for unfurnished accommodation for probably four or live years.

Mr. Hay

I suggest that the hon. Gentleman has another look. I think he will find that the newspaper is carrying far more nowadays than he imagines.

On the subject of the Rent Act, I was startled that the hon. and learned Member for Kettering did not have more to say about the celebrated resolution which was passed at the Labour Party Conference at Brighton. I thought a peg on which he would hang this debate would be that phrenetic resolution that the Labour Party would repeal the Rent Act immediately it came into power, would give tenants security of tenure and would throw the whole problem of rents upon rent tribunals. What the members of the Labour Party Conference were told the resolution meant and what the resolution would really mean are entirely different. I have no doubt that in the minds of those who proposed the resolution was the idea that rents will go back to what they were before. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] They will be disappointed.

Miss Bacon

Since I am one of the persons to whom the hon. Member is referring, may I say that an amendment on the lines of the hon. Gentleman's suggestion was turned down? In fact, I stated quite categorically that it would not be possible to undo all the harm that had been done by the Tories.

Mr. Hay

The whole point is that what the conference expected was that repeal of the Rent Act would mean that rents would go back to what they were before.

Hon. Members


Miss Bacon

The hon. Member is quite mistaken. The resolution of the National Executive was passed unanimously, and an amendment on the lines which he has just been speaking of was withdrawn.

Mr. Hay

And great, I have no doubt, was the disappointment of many of those who supported it.

Dr. Mabon

Be a man and withdraw.

Mr. Hay

It is quite clear that what the conference meant by this extraordinary resolution was that the Labour Party will reimpose rent control and will give the rent tribunals the job of adjudicating on all the privately-let houses in the country. What that will mean in terms of administrative problems and administrative costs I really cannot think. This is the party's short-term policy. Its long-term policy is contained in the booklet "Homes of the Future" and proposes that the municipalities should grab all the privately-rented accommodation in the country. That will mean for tenants no security and no ceiling to their rents. Neither of those two things can exist under a municipal tenancy.

Mr. Parkin

The hon. Member cannot have read the pamphlet.

Mr. Hay

We now know from the hon. and learned Member for Kettering something which none of us knew before when we came into this Chamber this afternoon: there will be no compensation for landlords. The hon. and learned Member said, and his words were extremely carefully chosen, that the party proposes to issue some kind of scrip or document, some bonds or some receipt, which will be irredeemable and, frankly, will be worthless.

Dr. Mabon


Mr. Hay

What a prospect it is for the country, what a policy it is, and what a party it is that is putting that policy forward.

I turn to the question of financial difficulties, about which the Amendment speaks, as affecting private purchasers and local authorities. I do not think that private purchasers of new or old houses have a very great deal to worry about. It is worth remembering that the great majority of those private purchasers are clients of building societies. Despite the rise to 7 per cent. in the Bank Rate, the level of building-society interest rates has remained remarkably steady at about what it was before that increase was made. The Building Societies' Association has given very sensible and wise advice to its member societies. It said that it was a bit too early to decide whether the figure for the Bank Rate would be long-term or permanent and that the societies ought to be chary of raising their interest rates too soon. That was very helpful advice. The consequence is that the great majority of private borrowers from building societies have not had any serious increases in their rates.

Local authorities have a clear course to steer; they have to fit their house-building programmes to two conditions. The first is the amount of capital available in the country for investment in house building, and the second is the extent of the need of the population for new houses. The latter point I have already dealt with, and I should like to say a word about the first point.

If the credit squeeze is to have any effect at all it must be extended throughout the length and breadth of the national economy. Once we started making concessions to this or that section and making exceptions, the whole point of the operation would fail. At once anomalies would be created, and invidious distinctions would arise between one kind of service and another, and one type of person and another. It is right that local authorities should bear their full proportion of the burden of the credit squeeze with everybody else.

As my right hon. Friend said earlier, housing has taken in recent years between one-fourth and one-fifth of the total national investment. Since the gross amount of money available for investment has to be limited to fit our resources if we are to defeat inflation, is it not right that local authority house-building programmes, however much local authorities want to go on with them, must be trimmed and somehow kept in step with the reductions that are being made in other directions? It is vital. I sincerely hope that the Government will keep this point firmly in mind.

Mr. T. Fraser

The hon. Member was saying that local authorities, in their housing programmes, should bear the same reductions as the rest of the economy. He has also said that local authorities are to suffer a 20 per cent. reduction in house building in the next two years. Does he imagine that there is to be a 20 per cent. reduction in total production in the next two years?

Mr. Hay

I should certainly hope not; I should hope that it would be exactly the other way round. The whole point of the credit squeeze is to ensure that money is not wasted on unproductive things which lead to inflation. I believe the long-term effect of the credit squeeze will be to increase production, although we start by reducing the total amount of investment.

Over the whole field of housing the Government do not deserve any kind of blame for the policies they have already declared to the nation, and for which they have obtained the support of Parliament. I think they deserve congratulations. I would urge the Minister and the Secretary of State for Scotland to carry on with these policies and not be deterred by silly or ill-informed criticism, and not to be driven from the course they are following by political chicanery such as we have been listening to this afternoon from the other side of the House, but to carry on in the best interests of the nation as a whole.

6.42 p.m.

Mr. John Dugdale (West Bromwich)

The hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Hay) seems to know as little about the housing shortage as he does about Labour Party policy, and that is remarkably little, as has been shown by my hon. Friends who have interrupted him from time to time. His speech and that of the Minister were monuments of complacency. "Everything is all right. There is no trouble at all."

My hon. Friend the Member for Clapham (Mr. Gibson) has explained the difficulties in London. We understand that, apparently, there are few difficulties in Henley, very few difficulties, I imagine, in Hampstead, very few difficulties in Bromley, and probably very few in Monmouth. In all those places, where, quite plainly, there are no difficulties at all, knowing the hon. Members who represent them, I suggest they might impose a self-denying ordinance and say that there should be no further houses built there. That would seem to be one contribution which might be made, but there are places like London and the Midlands, about which I want to speak particularly, where there are very grave housing shortages.

I want to confine my remarks mainly to the Midlands, because I think that there is a particularly serious problem there. I do not say that it is more serious than in London, but it is very serious. In the Midlands there has been a great deal of prosperity since the war. There has been full employment most of the time and, as a result, people have come in from all over England to find work. They have come not only from England, but from Scotland, Wales and across the seas from Ireland, India and Jamaica. Very large numbers have come to the Midlands, but although those people may find work there, they also need to find homes and, unfortunately, there are no homes for them.

I want to give the example of my constituency, not because it is worse than others, although I think it is as bad as many others, but because it illustrates in a small way the problems of many other places. There are 90,000 people in my constituency, West Bromwich. Of those, 6,000 families are having to share a house with another 6,000 families; that is, 12,000 different families are each sharing a house. That does not seem to show that there is no shortage of housing. It shows a very serious state of affairs. I do not know whether the hon. Member for Henley has had the experience of sharing a house—

Mr. Hay

indicated assent.

Mr. Dugdale

If he has, I am sure he will agree that it gives rise to very great difficulties and much nervous strain for the families sharing the house. It is bad for the children and bad for the parents. It is particularly bad in cases in which there are newly-married couples when one of whom has to share one's parents' house and the other has to share the other parents' house and they can only see each other from time to time. That does not seem to be a satisfactory state of affairs, but it is a state of affairs which exists in many parts of the country.

Quite apart from the 6,000 people I have mentioned who are living with 6,000 others in the same houses, there are 4,000 families living in slums. What is the solution of the Government for both these problems? So far as I understand, their solution for overcrowding is to let private enterprise do what it can. It may well be that the hon. Member for Henley could afford to buy a house for himself. I admit frankly that I could do so myself and pay the mortgage rates, but very many people cannot do so. Very few in my constituency, if any, could afford to do so. They will be even less able to do so if those rates go up much more.

Whatever has been said by hon. Members, I think there is every possibility that they will go up following the rise in the Bank Rate, perhaps not at once but eventually. It will be even more difficult then for people to afford to put down the necessary money for the mortgage and continue paying, for perhaps twenty years, at least £3 a week. I do not think that many families in my constituency could afford to do that.

I have said that the Midlands are prosperous today, but it should be remembered that before the war there was serious unemployment there and only eighteen months ago there was a severe recession of trade and considerable un- employment and short-time work. People are not willing to commit themselves to a definite payment of £3 a week for twenty years knowing that they may have to face unemployment and be unable to continue the payments. We cannot depend on the building societies. As the Labour Party intends, we have to depend on local authorities, which produce mainly houses for rent.

I now turn to the question of slums. What is to be done about them? Even in Henley there may be some slums. Anyone who has visited slums, as we all have, is amazed at the courage of the people who live in them and try to make real homes of houses which it is almost impossible to improve. They hang up curtains and put in carpets and little ornaments in an endeavour to make real homes of them, but they are classed as unfit for human habitation. That is a condition of affairs which, in 1957, I should have thought, we ought not to allow to continue, but apparently the party opposite is quite content for it to continue.

Hon. Members opposite say that we should continue the slum clearance programme, but, at the same time, the Government make it quite impossible—by raising the Bank Rate—for local authorities to secure the necessary money. It would be far better to say, "You shall not go in for a slum clearance programme" than to say, "We want you to clear the slums," and, at the same time, take every step to make it impossible for the slums to be cleared. That is a policy which is both dishonest and cowardly.

Today, we talk mainly of facts and figures. One side gives one set of figures and the other side gives another set, but behind those sets of figures are real people, whom very often we forget. Those people are suffering great hardship. It is, none the less, real suffering because it is silent and unspectacular. It is for us in this House to stand up and speak for them because they cannot speak for themselves. In their name my hon. Friends and I say that this Government must either build the houses which are needed or get out and make room for those who will.

6.50 p.m.

Lieut.-Colonel J. K. Cordeaux (Nottingham, Central)

I cannot help feeling that the right hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. J. Dugdale) is hardly fair in taking the line that he does with us about clearing out unless we can provide the houses for the people, and unless we can clear the slums. After all, the only party in this country which went in for any slum clearance at all is our own.

Mr. T. Fraser


Lieut.-Colonel Cordeaux

I am talking about the first slum clearance scheme. In those days before the war, we may have called it a National Government, but at least it was a Conservative-dominated Government, and, after all, we were clearing people from the slums at the height of that programme at the rate of about 1,000 a day.

Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)


Lieut.-Colonel Cordeaux

The figures are there for everybody to see, and if the war had not intervened we should have completed that slum clearance scheme in about two years.

Mr. Ross

Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that at the end of that slum clearance drive there were more slums in Glasgow than when it started?

Lieut.-Colonel Cordeaux

I am taking the figures of the country as a whole. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will find that they are correct.

I think that all hon. Members on both sides of the House will agree that if, when we came into power in 1951, we had accepted the Labour Party's target figure of 200,000 houses a year as being the number that could be built each year, we should by now have had about 1¼ million people not housed who are, in fact, now housed. Nevertheless, we still have with us, in spite of the advances that have been made by our house building programme over the last six years, a shortage in houses. We have only to look at our housing lists, and it is to one of the results that stems from that housing shortage that I should like to call the attention of the House tonight.

I refer to the racket that is going on in quite a number of towns in the letting of furnished or so-called furnished, accommodation. We in Nottingham have not such a serious housing problem as have many of the large cities. We are very proud indeed of what we have accomplished in housing, but, for certain reasons, that particular evil is still prevalent in the city. I should like to quote two current examples from my own constituency to show what I mean. They concern some of the human beings to whom the right hon. Member for West Bromwich referred.

First, there is the case of an ex-Regular soldier, who served for twenty-one years in the Regular Army, and won the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal. He is now one of the lower paid weekly wage earners as a Post Office cleaner. When I discovered this man, he was living with his wife and three children in three so-called furnished bedrooms in a derelict house in Nottingham. The total furniture of these rooms altogether consisted of three beds, four wooden chairs, one washstand, one chest of drawers, one table two and a half feet square, one wall mirror and what was once a sofa. That was the entire furniture of the three rooms. It was incredibly aged, rotten and broken. I would not attempt to describe it, except to say that if one had sent the lot to an auction, even one of those dealing with such rubbish, one could not have, got more than 30s. for it. As regards the rest of the house, in one of the three bedrooms there was a crack in the wall, through which one could obtain a view of the street. The floor was so rotten that one could almost pull it up, and, in fact, quite recently one of the tenant's feet went through the floor. When he complained to his landlord, the response of the landlord was to give him an old pair of trousers with the instruction to stuff them into the hole.

The tenants also had part use of a kitchen-scullery furnished, if I may call it so, in exactly the same condition as the rooms I have described. They also had part use with some Jamaican tenants of an outside lavatory, which was not even in the backyard of the house, of which the door would not close and to which only recently a seat has been added. No crockery, bedding, carpets or curtains were supplied.

That is not really half the story, but my powers of description are totally inadequate to indicate the utter squalor in which these people are living; but hon. Members have, no doubt, seen such places in their own constituencies. It was well described by the solicitor representing the tenant before the rent tribunal when he said: In my submission, animals are stabled in better conditions. For this accommodation, these unfortunate people were paying £4 12s. a week to a certain landlord, Mr. E. Sougra, of 63, St. Ann's Well Road, Nottingham.

The other case is that of an ex-miner who had worked in the pits until 1946, when he was injured by a fall of roof and lost one eye and suffered other serious injuries. When I discovered him he was living with his wife and five children in two so-called furnished rooms. The total furniture consisted of two single beds, one with the springs broken and the mattress ripped from end to end, one chest of drawers, two aged cupboards and two extraordinary old pieces of junk that I could not define as any sort of furniture at all. There was no kitchen or bathroom; no bedding, no crockery, carpets or curtains were supplied. There was an outside lavatory shared by four other tenants, and for that this family were paying £3 per week.

I know that it may be said that such people have their rebedy in the rent tribunals, and the two people about whom I am speaking adopted that remedy. In doing so, they were in a very small minority. In fact, in the City of Nottingham, since the beginning of 1955, that is almost three years, only 41 appeals have been made to the rent tribunal. People may well think, from that figure, that the evil is much less prevalent than I believe it to be, because no local authority or anybody else has any record of the number of furnished lettings which there are in the area under its jurisdiction. In fact, I am certain that the people who do finally pluck up their courage to go to the rent tribunal form an insignificant minority of those who are being exploited in this way.

Mr. A. J. Irvine (Liverpool, Edge Hill)

For the sake of the record and to make the picture more complete, can the hon. and gallant Gentleman say to what figure the rent tribunal reduced the rent in the first case which he mentioned?

Lieut.-Colonel Cordeaux

I intended to mention that later in my speech.

The reasons why tenants are so reluctant to take this remedy which is open to them are two: ignorance and fear. Some people cannot face the official processes that are needed for taking this action, The very sight of form R.F.1 or R.F.3A is enough to finish them off, but many people do not, in fact, know that any notice given by the landlord to evict them after they have applied to a rent tribunal cannot take effect until after the tribunal has given its decision. In addition, the tribunal can and almost certainly will give them three months security of tenure, and if they apply again they can probably get further security of tenure afterwards.

Nevertheless, even the people who know this have cause for fear, because if any landlord of that kind suspects that they intend to apply to the tribunal he will do his best to get them out straight away. If they make their application in time and he does not succeed, then the landlord will use every single method he can to get them out as soon as he can afterwards. When, eventually, they are turned out, these unfortunate people are unlikely to find anywhere else to live, because the landlords who ply this disgusting trade form a very close ring and anyone who is known to have been to a rent tribunal is unlikely to obtain that kind of furnished accommodation anywhere else.

Let us take the example of the two men to whom I have referred. The first, whose rent was reduced from £4 12s. to 25s., received a notice by hand from his landlord, the same day that the rent tribunal had informed the landlord that the appeal had been made, telling him that the landlord had just sold the house because of domestic trouble and was flying back to India with his family. The landlord said he had sold the house to somebody else who intended to live in it and that the tenant must clear out within a week. Fortunately, the tenant had advisers, who told him that the threat was completely empty, but not everybody has such advice. I shall be interested to see when the landlord does, in fact, fly back to India.

In the second case the landlord tried to get rid of the tenant as soon as he went to the rent tribunal. He did not succeed in that and the man spent the next three months, under his security of tenure, tramping the streets trying to find other furnished accommodation. Having failed, he asked for another three months' security. The landlord succeeded in evicting him after only one month on the plea that his family was just coming over from India and that he wanted the house for the whole of the family. The reference again to India will be noted. I shall be as interested to see when that family arrives from India as when the other landlord makes his journey in the opposite direction. As two tenants have moved into another room since the events I am describing, I fancy that it will be a much longer period than the landlord led the tribunal to expect.

I have said that in both cases of which I have been speaking the landlords were Indians and I want to make some comment about this type of landlord. I will not cloak my meaning by saying that quite a few appear to be people who have immigrated here from overseas Commonwealth countries, but say straight out that I am afraid that in Nottingham quite a lot of this unpleasant work is the business of Indians.

Many of these landlords have more than one or two houses. I know of a man who has at least five or six, and in one of those houses seven families are living, each in one room. The rooms are all furnished in the same style as the rooms which I have described, and no doubt from the same junk shops as supplied the furniture to the other houses. Each of those families is paying either £2 or £2 5s. a week, or about that, for the room. Every one of these cases is a case of gross overcharging and exploitation, yet none of these people has yet plucked up courage to go to a rent tribunal.

This question of what I might call the multiple landlord brings me to a sugquestion which I want to make. I suggest that the Furnished Houses (Rent Control) Act, 1946, might be amended so that whenever a landlord is compelled to reduce the rent in any case by a certain percentage, for example, 30 per cent., he should be required to give the full particulars of all his other lettings of furnished premises. He should be required to give them as required on Form R.F.3A to the rent tribunal which, in the ordinary way, would pass them to the local authority concerned, and the details would then he entered in the local authority's register of rents. The local authority could then inspect any of those premises which it wished to inspect and, as it is entitled to under Section 2 (1) of that Act, it could refer any of the cases to the rent tribunal. Incidentally, I feel that an inspection of such local authorities' registers would be a matter of considerable interest, at least, to the Inland Revenue.

I know that there are obvious objections to my suggestion, but I would ask my right hon. Friend whether he could look into this question of the renting of furnished accommodation and consider whether some action of that sort is desirable to protect these tenants. Of course, as I said at the beginning of my speech, the trouble has become less; the great house-building programme which we have carried out in the last six years has made the situation better. We hope that in due time the Rent Act, in making all possible use of existing accommodation, will help still further. Whatever transpires, however, there will he a shortage of houses for some time, and as long as we have that shortage of houses there will be a danger that this sort of exploitation will continue.

It has often been said that the influx of people from other parts of the Commonwealth and British territories overseas to work in this country, which was mentioned by the right hon. Member for West Bromwich, might cause trouble in this country if ever employment became less full.

Mr. Dugdale


Lieut.-Colonel Cordeaux

I am about to finish.

I think that any such trouble would be very small compared with the resentment which would be felt if people in this country got the impression that even a small minority of such men from overseas had come here not to work, as the right hon. Gentleman said, but to live as parasites by exploiting our people.

Mr. Dugdale


Mr. Speaker

Mr. Probert.

Mr. Dugdale

On a point of order.

Mr. Speaker

Does the right hon. Gentleman wish to ask a question?

Mr. Dugdale

I simply wanted to ask the hon. and gallant Member for Nottingham, Central (Lieut.-Colonel Cordeaux) whether he was aware that I was not among those who said that it would cause trouble if people from overseas came to this country.

Lieut.-Colonel Cordeaux

I accept that.

7.8 p.m.

Mr. Arthur Probed (Aberdare)

I am sure that all my hon. Friends wish that the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Hay) had been in his seat listening to the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Nottingham, Central (Lieut.-Colonel Cordeaux). Had I spoken immediately after the hon. Member for Henley I should have been tempted to follow him into the realms of fantasy. He dealt with generalities. I am sorry that he is not in his place, but I must get this off my chest; he can take it as a tribute from me that his speech reminded me of the speeches made from the Government Front Bench by the present Financial Secretary to the Treasury. The Financial Secretary used to tell us about the general position; everything in the garden was lovely, he said.

I thank the hon. and gallant Member for Nottingham, Central for bringing us back to realities and I make this further comment to the hon. Member for Henley: I should like him to convey the speech which he made this evening to the 100,000 families in Glasgow who are now so desperately waiting for houses. Moreover, I should like him to visit my constituency, in which over 2,000 families are desperately waiting for houses, and face them one week-end with the same remarks.

Nevertheless, I do not wish to be deterred from the comments 'which I intended to make. During the debate references have been made by my hon. Friends to the problems of the large cities, such as Birmingham, London and Glasgow. I represent a Welsh constituency. The same sorry story as my hon. Friends have told is evident in the large cities of Wales, Cardiff, Swansea and Newport.

May I direct my few remarks to the smaller authorities, which so far, I think, have been rather neglected? In my constituency there are two authorities with populations of about 40,000. Here, again, we find the position is absolutely desperate. As I said earlier, 2,000 families in my constituency are urgently waiting for houses. I certainly do not know what I shall tell them this weekend, after this debate.

As my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) said, it is a little too early yet to assess the full consequences of the increased Bank Rate, but from conversations with responsible people it is obvious to me that not only my local authority but those all over Wales will soon realise that they have but a choice of two courses to adopt. They can either restrict house building to a very low figure or abandon it altogether. They are on the horns of a dilemma, because either course will have serious implications, of which I do not need to inform the House.

My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering has already said that many authorities are now facing conversion of existing loans that are falling due. As an example, I have here details of what is happening at this very moment to a neighbouring authority of mine. By 1st December, 1957—in a few weeks' time—it has to convert a 3½ per cent. debenture issue of £345,924. It has succeeded in borrowing from the Public Works Loan Board for a period of 30 years at 6¾ per cent. It is very remarkable, but I was informed by the official concerned that, in present circumstances, he was very pleased indeed to have that facility.

That is indicative of what is happening. What is the effect of that conversion from 3½ per cent. to 6¾ per cent.? To that authority it means, in annual interest charges alone, an increase of between £8,000 and £9,000 per annum. That is an incredible increase for a small authority to bear. Of course, the burden will have to be shared by the ratepayers of the neighbouring authorities, which are also concerned.

I have here a report which appeared in the Aberdare Leader on 9th November, 1957, referring to the Mountain Ash Urban District Council, a local authority in my constituency. It says that the Council: …have instructed their Clerk…to write to the Minister of Housing and Local Government 'protesting against the increase in the rates of interest on loans which local authorities are obliged to incur.' The resolution…'drew attention to the serious effect'"— and I want the Minister to note this: 'which the increase would have on the Council's slum clearance scheme and other programmes of work.' The rates of interest were given as follows: loans for not more than five years. 7¼ per cent.; loans for more than five years but not more than fifteen years, 6¾ per cent.: loans for more than 15 years, 6¼ per cent. A letter was read from the Ministry of Housing and Local Government inquiring when the Council would be forwarding their cheque…for the purchase of the temporary bungalows in the urban area The Clerk was instructed to reply that in view of the present high interest on loans to local authorities the Council could not see their way clear at the present time to raise a loan for the purchase of these bungalows. That is the effect on one local authority in my constituency.

We have had continual reference from the Minister to old people's houses. This evening, my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch) has handed me a circular issued by the Bedwas and Machen Urban District Council—and I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman, now that he represents the interests of Wales, will be able to refer to these names—dated 29th October. I will have to read it rather rapidly. It says: I have been requested to inform you the reasons why the Council have had to suspend, for the present, their house-building programme. The Council had planned to build 68 one-bedroomed bungalows in the area for aged persons and others, and tenders for 14 bungalows at Bed was and 18 bungalows at The Thomas were under consideration when notification was received of an increase in the rate of interest on the loans required to finance the project…to £6¾ per cent An increase of 1 per cent. per annum on loans for a period of 60 years on the cost of a bungalow of, say, £1,375 would amount over that period to £767 and this would increase the weekly rent of the proposed bungalows by 5s. 1d. per week. In view of this the Council have very reluctantly decided to postpone the erection of these bungalows until such time as the rates of interest are more favourable but are proceeding with all preparations for their erection so as to be in a position to commence building when this happens.

Mr. H. Brooke

I wonder if the hon. Member would tell the House why that local authority pursues the very backward policy of apparently seeking to load the whole of the cost of all new houses and bungalows it built on to the rents of those houses and bungalows? The wiser housing authorities now work a rent pooling scheme.

Mr. Probert

The right hon. Gentleman has anticipated something with which I intended to deal. I do not know what policy this local authority adopts, but I shall certainly refer to authorities that adopt that system. The indication is that many local authorities throughout the country are now engaging on short-term loans in anticipation of a change of policy. I would say that if they are waiting for this Government to change their policy they have "had it," to use an R.A.F. expression. However, many are hoping for the return of a new Government, and that, of course, means a Labour Government.

Speaking at Harrogate, the right hon. Gentleman said: I have no sympathy with a local authority which says it cannot go on building in conditions of a 7 per cent. Bank Rate if it has not yet reviewed all its rents and made sure that people are paying what they can reasonably afford, and that nobody is getting a subsidy. I will not repeat what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Clapham (Mr. Gibson) about the low wage earners, but I make no apologies for quoting here, as quickly as possible, some figures that I have obtained front one of my local authorities showing the effects of the Government's policy over a number of years. My council—the Aberdare Council—does apply a rent pooling system. I will first give the effects, but will not, at present, with all respect to the Minister, give the figures of the rents which have been reduced by a pooling system.

I must first point out that conditions in my area are different from those in other areas. The Minister will understand me when I say that the site works are pretty hefty. I have here comparable figures for houses built in 1946–48 at £1,393 and at the present time for £2,000. In 1946–48 the P.W.L.B. rate of borrowing was 2½ per cent.; the Exchequer contribution was £16 10s.; rate subsidy was £5 10s., and the inclusive weekly rent required was 17s. 7d.

In 1952–53 the rate of interest went up to 4¾ per cent., the cost of a house went up to £1,903 and the rent went up to El 10s. In 1953–54 there was a drop in the interest rate to 4 per cent. The Exchequer contribution was £26 14s.; rate subsidy, £8 18s., and the rent was reduced to £1 9s. 6d. I should now like the right hon. Gentleman to know the two following figures. In 1956–57, the house cost £1,966 and the Exchequer contribution was £22 1s. When the rate subsidy was £7 7s. the rent required at that time was £2 4s. 7d. In 1946–48 the rent was 17s. 7d. and it went to £2 4s. 7d. in 1956–57. What is the position today? On a house of £2,000, the loan from the P.W.L.B. is 6¾ per cent., the Exchequer contribution is nil, the statutory rate subsidy is nil, and the inclusive rent required is £3 8s. 3d. If ever there was an indictment of the Government's housing policy these figures show it.

I promised to give the right hon. Gentleman the effect of the pooling of rents. In 1946–48 the rent was 17s. 7d. and because of the pooling system it became 15s. 7d. I would say that this council has been one of the most successful councils in the country on the pooling of rents. The figures will show, I think, that its average rents are the lowest but one in the whole of the country. In 1952–53, when the inclusive rent required was £1 10s., the council was able to peg the rent to 18s. 11d. In 1953–54, when it was £1 9s. 6d. it was able to peg the rent to £1 0s. 4d. In 1956–57, the rent was pegged from £2 4s. 7d. to £1 2s. 10d. What is the position today?

The council has on the stocks at present just under 200 houses. The inclusive rent required is £2 8s. 3d. per week, which is scandalous. By pooling the rents the council will be able to make the rents £1 10s. 10d.—but what is the consequence? Every council house tenant in my area when he sees 100 or 200 houses going up knows that it will mean inevitably an average increase in rent of 4s. per week.

I do not want to delay the House, but I should like to refer to some figures which I obtained, because I think that they are very illuminating. There are hon. Members opposite who are under the illusion that much of the increased cost of houses is the result of the increased cost of labour and materials. What I sought from this particular treasurer was information showing the effect on a house which cost £2,000 in 1946–48 and the effect now on a house at the same price, due to the financial and fiscal policies of the Government. I will give the figures very briefly.

In 1946–48, a house which then cost £2,000 would have an increased rent of £1 5s. 2d. At present the rent of a house of the same type costing the same amount of money, because of the increase of charges and because of the taking away of the Exchequer subsidy has jumped from £1 5s. 2d. to £3 8s. 3d.; in other words, over £2 3s. per week, as a result of the financial policies of the Government.

Mr. H. Brooke

I have listened carefully to the hon. Gentleman. I wonder if he can help me by making it clear whether he is commending to the House that we should now return to the artificially low rates of interest which were one of the disastrous causes of inflation in the years after the war?

Mr. Probert

I do not accept the implication in the last part of the right hon. Gentleman's question. I certainly agree to a return to those low interest rates, and I would commend to the Government that at least for the young people they should see if they cannot give interest-free loans for houses. I make no apology for giving the details as they affect my constituency, and the effect on the pooling of rents.

I want to refer to another quotation which the Minister may know something about. We have heard a lot about differential rent schemes. I do not advocate them. I have here a quotation from the Western Mail, dated 25th October, 1957, relating to the largest city in Wales, the capital of Wales, Cardiff. The local authority since July has applied a rent rebate scheme, but up to July, for the last three years, it had applied a differential rent scheme. Whereas the rent arrears in 1954 were £4,000—I mention this to the right hon. Gentleman particularly—at present they have gone to over £200,300. If that is the consequence of a differential scheme, I do not think that it is worth advocating—a jump of over 50 times.

We have heard a lot about a property-owning democracy. I believe implicitly in each person owning his own house. I have always believed in it and I have no reason to change that point of view. I am extremely proud that the Labour Party, in its latest policy, has expressed itself wholeheartedly on that point. One reason why I believe in it and I quoted these figures to the right hon. Gentleman when we were considering the Rent Act in Committee—is that over 40 per cent. of my constituents own their own houses. But where is the encouragement in the Government's policy for young people to own their own houses?

What the Government have done is to change hope for despair and the only hope for most of the young people in my constituency is to go to a job which will provide them with a house, but that is certainly not possible within my area. I do not want to refer to the low wage earners—a subject which was dealt with by my hon. Friend the Member for Clapham (Mr. Gibson). I conclude with these remarks.

During the last few months we have had three White Papers on local government reform, local government finance and all that. Of course, in the Gracious Speech, there is an indication that the Government are to deal with these matters. I should be out of order in discussing them now, as I fully appreciate, but I would say in passing that the reason for the introduction of those White Papers is obvious to all of us. It is that local government is in a state of collapse. While I do not subscribe to the remedy which the right hon. Gentleman is proposing, I know full well that at present local government is concerned with primarily three things—housing, public health and education. That is what has come to local government in this century.

Education will certainly feel the pinch, and housing is now feeling it. If any one of these three services collapses, I say respectfully to the right hon. Gentleman that local government, which has been the pride of this country for the last ten centuries, will also collapse.

There are many other matters with which I should have liked to deal, but I will conclude with a quotation from Julius Caesar: The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones. I say this quite kindly to the right hon. Gentleman: I just do not know of any single instance where any good has come out of the legislation which he has introduced in this House. It will not be the Government that constitutional historians will blame for the collapse of local government; it will be the right hon. Gentleman. We are facing that position now. The evil will certainly live after him. If he has done any good—and I know that he himself has a kindly spirit. but we are talking in a political sense—it will be buried with him. If the collapse of local government comes as a result of the Government's Measures on housing, education and local government, then he will bear the burden.

7.30 p.m.

Mr. Donald Sumner (Orpington)

I shall not detain the House long, because I know that there are other hon. Members who want to speak. I want to refer briefly to two aspects of a subject which is of wide range, so I hope that the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. Probert) will forgive me if I do not follow him in what many of us on both sides of the House thought was a very able speech, whether we agree with much or little of what the hon. Member said.

I take as my text, as it were, some words in the Amendment, the hardships and anxiety of tenants", and I shall go on to give an account of what took place at a meeting only last week in my constituency. It supports what my right hon. Friend said about the effect of the Labour Party's policy declared at the Labour Party's Annual Conference. My right hon. Friend's comments were received with some scepticism by the Opposition, and I do not suppose that what I have to say on this matter will be very well received, but perhaps right hon. and hon. Members opposite will forgive me.

If the Amendment has any sting, it is in its tail. I myself am by no means complacent about this situation. It has been suggested today that complacency is to be found on this side of the House, but I am concerned about the present position not so much of existing purchasers but of the would-be purchasers and particularly of the young people wanting to own their houses at the present time, the young people of whom the hon. Member for Aberdare spoke.

Of course there is anxiety amongst tenants. It is felt by anybody, whether an old lady of 99 or a young person with a family, who receives a notice to quit. There is anxiety, first, as to what the thing means; there is anxiety whether it will be possible to make a contractual tenancy to rent again; anxiety whether it will be possible to buy; anxiety lest it should mean that the tenant must get out.

What one wants to do is to try to relieve that anxiety and remove it. That is best done through the best use of the standstill period, which was fifteen months and is now just under a year. It is only by getting landlords and tenants to come to terms now that we can best relieve the anxiety and avoid any chaotic climax in October, 1958.

I had recently a meeting with estate agents and others who handle property in my constituency. Admittedly, my constituency does not feel the full burden of the Rent Act because it is a highly residential district, but it feels some of the burden, and one has one's constituents coming to the constituency "surgery" with their housing problems. There are not so many of these in my constituency as one would get in many another constituency, but there are some; some genuine, some not so real. So one hears of the problems of one's constituents.

I thought it would be not unuseful to have a look at the other side of the picture, so to speak; so estate agents and others who handle property in my constituency were good enough to come to a meeting and say what they thought about the situation. I know that they may be acting for landlords, but they do not do so entirely, by any means.

I asked them whether they thought the Act would achieve its object without real hardship by October, 1958. They were not quite unanimously but certainly overwhelmingly of the opinion that it would, provided two conditions were fulfilled; provided, they said, that it would go on in its present form, and that everybody would have confidence that it would go on.

I know that they were looking at the question in a locality where it is fairly easy, but they are not stupid, and can see outside their immediate environment. They said that those concerned must be sure that it would get under way right away and would continue smoothly. I repeat that they said provided that those concerned felt that the thing would go on and remain in force in the future.

Then they said what I had no idea they were going to say, and what there was no reason why they should say so far as I was concerned. They said, "Now, since the Labour Party, at its conference, has declared the intention of recontrolling, we are advising landlords not to relet but to sell." And that is what landlords are doing. The landlords are now saying, "We are not going to be caught again. We are getting out. We are selling." That may be very wrong of them. I am not concerned with considering whether it is or not. That is, in practice, what is happening.

Another thing which is happening—and it is rather absurd it should be, but people do not always understand these things, and particularly tenants, with whom over the years I have had many dealings—is this: the tenants are sitting still, encouraged by the absurd belief that they can go on sitting it out, instead of trying to negotiate. So the very person one wants to help, the person who cannot afford to buy, who wants a chance of getting a contractual tenancy, is not being offered it, but is being encouraged by the rather absurd belief that he had better try to sit it out until he is protected again, instead of taking a real chance of negotiation.

Mr. Denis Howell (Birmingham, All Saints)

In the absence of the hon. Gentleman's hon. Friend the Member for Solihull (Mr. M. Lindsay), who has been faced with this problem, I would draw the hon. Gentleman's attention to the fact that his hon. Friend has said that he has advised a large number of would-be owner-occupiers in his constituency who, in his opinion, have been unreasonably treated, to sit it out.

Mr. Sumner

I did not hear my hon. Friend, whom the hon. Gentleman has quoted, but it shows that one of the advantages of being on this side of the House is that each of us on this side can have his own views. I am expressing my view—though, indeed, I am not expressing my view at all, but the view of people whose day-by-day business this is.

Now I come to the last part of the Amendment. I am not at all happy that we are doing enough for people who want to purchase their houses, doing enough to ease the situation for them. Because—let us face it—we believe it to be necessary to the point of inevitability, we have taken away security from a group of tenants in order, in the general interest, to get rid of stagnation. One cannot get away from it, however, that security of a home is something to be valued so highly that we should fail in our duty if we did not try to replace it, not by the old means, but by new ones.

No one who has ever been in the position of wondering whether his tenancy was to be determined can doubt what security means. We should delude ourselves if we believed—nobody has ever really believed it—that privately owned rented houses would ever by themselves be numerous enough—at that saturation point—to give security to unprotected tenants. It would take too long to go through the history of how they came to be built. Suffice it to say that they are virtually not being built any longer for private letting.

Security will be achieved by the provision of council houses, though they in themselves offer only a limited form of security. It will be achieved by owner-occupied houses, which offer true security in its full sense. Much has been said about the provision of council houses. It is a big subject which I shall not attempt to go into now.

I am a little disappointed that we did not hear something more encouraging for would-be purchasers. Building societies and local authorities, through the advances that they have been able to make, have played a great part. The Minister mentioned that local authorities would be enabled probably to go on playing that part by means of advances, but nothing has been said about the more general position. Whatever one says about the economic position, we should face the fact that those who would purchase their houses are finding it extremely difficult even to start doing so. This is particularly unfortunate at present, because if there ever was a time when we should make it easy it is now, when houses are being freed.

We are under a very real duty to provide another form of security. I know the difficulty, but I believe that a great many difficulties are made to be overcome. I do not think that any are insuperable. I am not so stupid that I cannot see the difficulty of creating a fund at a more favourable rate for a particular group of the community. There are, of course, real economic difficulties, but we should try to overcome them rather than recite them, because it is so vital that we should do so in the interest of the security of the individual in his own home and in the interest of our own belief that a man should be enabled and helped and encouraged to own his home.

7.42 p.m.

Mr. William Hannan (Glasgow, Maryhill)

The hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Sumner) seemed to me to be at variance with some of his hon. Friend's speeches. I think that most of my hon. Friends would agree with the hon. Member when, as I understood, he said that private investment in houses to let will be a disappearing feature of housing in future. He went on to speak of the value of owner-occupation of houses. My hon. Friends would agree with both those statements. They were a pleasant change from other speeches, particularly those of the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Hay) and the Minister of Housing and Local Government, which were completely contrary to the facts. Some of their statements appalled me and my hon. Friends who represent constituencies in the North. They were completely at variance with reality.

The Minister started to make some political capital and completely evaded the situation as it obtained after the war when factories and docks had to be rebuilt and bombed houses had to be repaired. All these facts were completely forgotten in his anxiety to make a political point. I would remind him that the Financial Times said that: If Mr. Macmillan is as successful in not building houses in 1956 as he was in building them in 1952–55, the coming year may well see the problems of 1955 solved. As to the number of houses built, an editorial in The Times in 1953 said: At the end of the year 1951, Mr. Macmillan had inherited 226,000 unfinished houses started under his Labour predecessors. Thus, regardless of completions only some very singular bungling could have prevented the completion of at least 250,000 houses. Moreover, the proportions and sizes of houses have altered since the present Government came into office. Eighty-nine per cent. of the houses built in 1945–50 comprised four-and five-apartment houses, whereas only 11 per cent. comprised three-apartment houses. From 1951 until the present day only 46 per cent. have been four- and five-apartment houses whereas 54 per cent. have been three-apartment houses. More houses will be obtained out of the same amount of materials if the houses are made smaller and the ceilings are lowered.

The Secretary of State for Scotland must, and I hope will, direct his attention to some of the facts and figures which we must repeat to the House, revealing the housing situation in Scotland. A series of Acts have been passed all of which, from our point of view, are calculated to shift the burden and the cost of housing from the Government to local authorities and from the local authorities to the tenants. There are 1½ million houses in Scotland and 400,000 of them have not even an inside lavatory or water closet and 503,000 of them are one or two-apartment houses.

Forty-four per cent. of Glasgow's population live in one- and two-apartment houses compared with only 2 per cent. of the population of Birmingham, 2 per cent. of Manchester and 3.4 per cent. of Liverpool's population. I make no apology to hon. Members from constituencies south of the Border for once again emphasising this disparity. Out of their own experience they will know the terrible conditions that prevail in some of their own cities, but I am sure that if they will forbear with some of us who have listened to quite unreal speeches they will understand our anxiety. The small house is the curse of Scotland. It has led to overcrowding that has in turn left Scotland with a heritage of tuberculosis which happily in more recent times has been overcome.

The housing conditions of Scotland have contributed and are contributing to the unhappiness, marital and otherwise, of countless thousands of our people. I will not dwell on the statistics which are already on record for the House, but in 1954 the Government introduced the Housing (Repairs and Rents) (Scotland) Act ostensibly to overcome some of these conditions. The argument was then advanced that if owners received some increase in the rents that would mean in turn that the houses would be kept in proper repair. Despite this, however, and despite the great need for houses, there were 2,950 houses vacant in Glasgow in 1956.

It was part of the Government's case for the 1954 Act that higher rents would induce property owners to offer houses for rent rather than for sale. That is the theory that is being expounded even tonight, but in fact the opposite is happening and I prophesy that next year there will be more houses for sale and not for renting. I ask the Secretary of State for Scotland and those who have been talking some of this airy-fairy nonsense whether if they had money to lend for mortgage they would advance money on mortgage on some of the houses that are for sale in Glasgow—single-apartment houses which are rat-infested. Who would advance money for the purchase of such houses? Yet that is what the Government are expecting will happen. Figures disprove their case. Despite the confirmed, acute housing shortage, the obsolescent dwellings which will be offered for sale will not be occupied because people are reluctant to spend money on property of that kind.

In 1953 there were 1,891 vacant houses in Glasgow, in 1954 there were 2,319, in 1955 there were 2,633 and in 1956 there were 2,953. The number of houses being closed by demolition orders is now in the region of 2,000. These are being closed because they are dangerous or unfit. In 1954 there were 799 such houses, in 1955 1,418 and in 1956 there were 1,958.

Do I need to remind the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, who represents a constituency close to Govan, what happens there every other week? Every other week there are reports of staircases falling in and of chimney heads falling on the top of people, who are in danger of being killed as a result. The hon. Gentleman has inspected some of them. When tenement houses of this type become vacant, is it any wonder that people become suspicious? Despite what was promised under the 1954 Act and the recent Rent Act, people will not rush to engage in the purchase of this property even in order to get accommodation.

In passing, I mention that applications for certificates of disrepair in Glasgow have doubled in the past year. If the Secretary of State will inquire, he will find that people are so suspicious of what is happening that, when they are asked for an increase in rent, they assert their rights and ask for a certificate of disrepair.

In his recent speech the Chancellor of of the Exchequer said that housing would need to be rephased. This is a euphemism for a slash or cut in housing. I will not use any polite words. It is cruel, criminal and cynical, a betrayal of the aspirations of thousands of people and of the election promises of the present Government. Now, when all the available housing sites in Glasgow have been taken up, as my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. McInnes) has said, the Government have not made sufficient efforts to deal with the 300,000 overspill population in that area.

Now I come to interest charges. Strangely enough, I asked the City Chamberlain to give me figures covering the same points as those made by my hon. Friend. In order to be as brief as possible, and in order not to bore the House with too many figures, I will give only three. Incidentally, one hon. Gentleman opposite spoke about the inflation caused by the Labour Government. How many times did the rate of interest alter under the Labour Government? Once. It has changed eleven times under this Government. I should have thought that this would have been a sufficient indication that a third effort to halt inflation by increasing the Bank Rate would not alter the facts of the situation. Priority and planning in the language of the present Government are dirty words.

In 1951, when the rate of interest was 3 per cent., on a house costing £1,700 the interest alone amounted over sixty years to £1,985. The total cost of that house over this period was therefore £3,685. In 1953, when the rate of interest was 5½ per cent., the interest on £1,700 amounted to £4,145 and the total cost of such a house over the same period was therefore £5,845. In present-day circumstances, if the capital cost of such a house remained the same, the interest would amount to £5,324, and the total paid by local authorities over sixty years for the house would be £7,024.

This is a travesty of the decent handling of our great housing problem, and the tendency will be to put local authorities in the position of having to decide whether to build houses or to defer doing so. It is unfair of the Government to put local authorities in that situation. Local councils are earnestly seeking a way out of their problems, and are trying to provide the best conditions possible for the people for whom they are responsible.

I want to quote a case, because some lion. Members would not believe the alteration that would take place in rents in Scotland as a result of the recent Act. I have here, as an example, details of a four-apartment house with a bathroom, built fifty years ago. Not new—

Mr. McInnes

A new house for Scotland.

Mr. Hannan

In Scotland there are 610,000 houses out of a total of 1½ million ranging from 80 to 140 years old, so that my hon. Friend is quite right—this is a comparatively new house. There are eight houses in the row, but this one is inhabited by three old-age pensioners. It will not be sufficient for the Secretary of State, as it was for the Minister of Housing, to dismiss this case as his colleague dismissed the other one.

The previous assessed rental of the house was £50. It is reduced by the amount of the owner's rates—which, as Scottish Members know, was the result of the Valuation and Rating (Scotland) Act—to £26 rent. Under the Rent Act, the rent is increased to £65. On top of that, the tenant will now be asked to pay the prevailing Glasgow rates of £1 6s. 8d. on the frozen valuation of £50. This means £66 on top of the £65 rent, making a total of £131 as against £50 plus the occupier's rates. This is a real case of hardship for three old-age pensioners, whose rent now goes up from £1 a week plus occupier's rates to £131 annually.

The Minister of Pensions announced increases last week, but the Secretary of State knows that those increases will not be sufficient to pay even the increased rent.

My hon. Friends have mentioned the circumstances of old people. The Secretary of State may know of a case in Portobello where after 34 years in the same house an old lady of 88 was not even given the opportunity to pay a rent increase, but was told that she had to buy or to quit. The easy answer to that is that she has time to make her decision and to look round for alternative accommodation. However, what will be the state of that old lady's mind in the meantime? Yesterday, an Edinburgh legal firm admittted that a trust which owned the property was not to be wound up and one of the firm's representatives said: These things are not easily explained. I do not think I should say any more. The Secretary of State, or better still the Solicitor-General for Scotland, could explain. They were responsible for piloting the Act through the House and they made a contribution to the circumstances under which old people have to live.

Glasgow Corporation has provided me with an example which shows that in the recent applications for help and assistance, because of anxiety about the Act, there is evidence of worry and potential hardship to old people. I was told that the Corporation believes that the pressure on its services need not arise until later next year when the full effect of the Act will be felt. I can quote the case of an old couple in their late seventies who have been tenants of a house for fifty years with a rental of just over £40 a year. Unless they are willing to buy the house, they will have to quit by the end of October, 1958.

Even factors have privately admitted to me that this phase of the decontrol of houses is the most cruel feature of the Rent Act. There are political differences between us, but they have expressed the honest opinion that while increases in rent were necessary, decontrol of houses should have been avoided. It is still not too late and I add my plea to the appeal of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) that once again the Government should study this legislation which will cause untold hardship and anxiety to countless old people and others throughout the country.

I protest at the absence of proposals in the Gracious Speech to deal with the infamous conditions in which thousands of our fellow citizens are condemned to live. I protest further at the worry and anxiety brought upon many aged and widowed by the abolition of rent control. I protest at the attack on our vital social service. The Government were elected on a false prospectus in the first place. They legislated for a legitimate gamble in Premium Bonds and they participated in an illegal gamble in Suez last year, and they have now given the local authorities the unenviable task of collecting the debt from house tenants. "Planning" and "priorities" are dirty words to them. Let the Government clear out before they do any further damage to the social fabric which we have created and let them leave something for us on which we can build for the future health and happiness of our people.

8.4 p.m.

Mr. J. C. George (Glasgow, Pollok)

Nothing is more easy today than to pick a few cases from the many which come before us in difficult constituencies to illustrate the great hardship and unfairness caused by the Rent Act. However, it is far too early to take a balanced view of what will result from the Act. In my constituency I probably have a higher proportion of houses affected by decontrol than any other constituency in Scotland. I have been handling hundreds of those cases and giving weeks of my time to dealing with them.

I know that there has been very great anxiety and I have come across many heartrending cases. However, I have not spent my time shouting about the landlords in public, but trying to co-operate and to get concessions. I am satisfied that the majority of landlords in Glasgow are trying to operate the Act absolutely fairly. Among the landlords there, as among hon. Members here, some are not as good as others, but we are making progress and I do not intend at this stage to shout about the iniquities of the Rent Act. While I well know the anxieties which have been caused, I shall work quietly and busily to reach an amicable solution for all concerned. That is my outlook.

I have had the mathematics of the argument put before me, as they have been put before the House today—200 per cent. increases, and so on. I went to see some of the people who own property in Glasgow and I investigated the mathematics. I had to admit, when I had studied the figures, that those property owners were approaching the problem in a reasonable fashion. I had suspected that they were trying to get returns based on present-day values. I should have strongly objected to that, but I found that that was not the case.

What they are doing is to take the average of the price which a house would fetch in the market today—very much below the highest since the war; indeed, property has become difficult to sell—and the cost of building the house. For example, if a house would bring £600 today and cost £250 to build, the average would be £425. I cannot fault that valuation. On that £425 landlords are asking a return of 6 per cent. I cannot fault that. They are asking a sinking fund of 3 per cent. and I cannot fault that.

Property owners in Glasgow are approaching this matter on a sound basis, as they were bound to do, knowing that the eyes of the country were upon them and that their actions were under the microscope. I have thoroughly investigated the mathematics employed and I cannot raise any serious objection. Where I have found landlords not operating the scheme suggested by their association, I am trying to intervene as quietly as possible and I am making some progress.

Another aspect of the matter to which I give my personal attention was where tenants are being told to buy a house or to quit in a year's time. During the passage of the Rent Act, I said that that was bound to happen, and I spoke against the Bill because I felt that Glasgow was not ready for it. I have not changed my view. It was a Bill for Britain and its English provisions were sound.

Landlords who are issuing notices to tenants to buy or quit and who are giving them only fourteen days in which to make up their minds are acting against the spirit of the Act. Landlords who are issuing those pre-emptory notices and alarming people with them should think again and try to do a little to lift the name of "landlord" from the low level at which it rests today, I have been successful, in one case, in reducing increases of £140 per annum to £90 per annum and concessions in others. What I am prepared to do is to work to get satisfaction for all within the terms of the Bill and I believe that that can be done.

There is another aspect which causes me concern. One of the ideas of the Act was that more houses would come on to the market. That is what the Minister thought, and the Secretary of State for Scotland hoped that it would take place—but it is not taking place. Houses which are becoming vacant today are having "For sale" notices put on them. That is the wrong spirit, and I appeal to landlords to work to the spirit of the Act. If they will do that many of the hardships can be removed. By letting those houses which fall vacant they can provide a way out for people who cannot afford to buy their own. Nobody over 80 years of age has any ambition to be an owner-occupier. The question must be looked at not purely in the light of mathematics; human considerations must be brought to bear in connection with these hard cases, of which there are plenty in my constituency.

I now turn to the speech of the hon. Member for Maryhill (Mr. Hannan). I was surprised at it. I always respect the hon. Member and I usually enjoy his speeches, but not for one second did he compliment the Corporation of Glasgow upon its remarkable housing performance. Every word he said condemned the position of Glasgow, and held it up as being beyond anything which could be encountered in Britain or in Western Europe. Glasgow Corporation has done a remarkable job. Let us say so. It has made great contributions towards improving housing conditions in Glasgow.

Mr. Hannan

I think the hon. Member knows that the whole tenor of my remarks was directed not at the Corporation, but at private ownership of tenement buildings, and the terrible results caused by the Act in respect of them. I agree that Glasgow's record of house building is magnificent.

Mr. George

I accept the hon. Member's remarks. He did not take time to say so in his speech, but the Corporation will know that the picture he drew of Glasgow was not a true one. The city has improved its housing conditions substantially in the last ten years.

I admit that there are parts of Glasgow today which are no credit to this country; indeed, the Secretary of State for Scotland showed his full awareness of the position when he described the conditions in Glasgow on 18th May. He said that 700,000 people were living in three square miles, and in an average density of 400 per acre. He also said that 12,000 were huddled together in tenement blocks covering no more than 18 acres. There is a complete awareness of the position in Glasgow. We have nothing to be ashamed of in our housing record, although I would that we could do more in the future.

All this afternoon I have listened to complaints from hon. Members opposite about the high rate of interest and the penalty which it is inflicting upon local authorities. Hon. Members opposite are railing against the high rate of interest, and also against the steps—a 20 per cent. reduction in building—taken to cure it. They cannot have it both ways. We know that the infliction of the high rate of interest will usher in the day when we can reduce the rate of interest.

Mr. Willis

That is what the Government have said every time it has been increased.

Mr. George

The fact is that the high rate of interest will be temporary and will lead, if everyone co-operates, to a falling of the interest rate in years ahead. Success has yet to be seen, but that is the purpose of the action. Hon. Members opposite cannot logically rail against a high rate of interest and, at the same time, against the cure applied for its reduction—the new financial policy.

I now turn to the speech of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. McInnes). We have had very many housing debates. We had one recently. The result is that hon. Members who have spoken today made the same speeches that they made a month or two ago. We have heard them over and over again. We have heard all about the lavatories and the outside stairs falling down—[HON. MEMBERS: "It is still true."]—and we have been once more charged by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Central with failing to deal adequately with the housing problem. Of course, we have not dealt with it as adequately as we would have liked, but we have nothing to be ashamed of in our record.

The hon. Member said that the rate of building had fallen from 40,000 to 30,000, and that it would fall to 20,000 if the English percentage decrease is applied to Scotland. But 40,000 was the peak year, and 30,000 is still being exceeded. In 1956, it was nearly 32,000, and we are building at the rate of nearly 32,000 this year. If the 20 per cent. reduction were applied to Scotland we should still be building at a rate nearly equal to the best which occurred under the Socialist Government.

Let us look at the record and see whether there is anything in it for which to revile ourselves. In six years of Socialism local authorities built 89,000 houses. [HON. MEMBERS: "Because of the war."] I know all the difficulties. I appreciate them and I make allowances.

Mr. Willis

Then state them.

Mr. George

Local authorities built 89,000 houses in those six years the Scottish Special Housing Association built 15,000, and private owners, 6,500. I admit that there were difficulties in the early years. They were not normal years, and we could not expect a normal output. What have we done in six years? As compared with 89,000 built by local authorities under the Socialists, the figure under a Conservative Government is 145,000.

Hon. Members

Smaller houses.

Mr. Ross

Is the hon. Member counting the 32,000 temporary houses built under the Labour Government, or is he not?

Mr. George

I do not think that at this stage the hon. Member would care to consider those 32,000 houses. I was referring to permanent houses. We built 145,000. If we did not build any for the next two or three years we would still be ahead of the performance of the Government of hon. Members opposite.

The question of private building was raised by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Central. He compared what was being done in Scotland with what was being done in England. Let us look, first, at what is being done in Scotland. During the six years of Socialist Government 6,500 houses were built for private ownership, and during the last six years 17,500 such houses were built.

Mr. McInnes

For sale.

Mr. George

But still they allowed somebody to come off the housing list, and gave somebody else the opportunity of getting accommodation. Last year, we built 4,500 for private ownership.

The figures of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Central are generally impeccable—

Mr. Willis

The Government did not build houses for private owners.

Mr. George

I am now dealing with the figures supplied by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Central, comparing building for private ownership in England and Scotland. In this case, I suggest that the hon. Member's figures were very far wrong. He said that out of every 1,000 built in England, 970 were built by local authorities and 30 for private ownership. I am sorry, I have given the wrong figures. Nevertheless, the hon. Member's figures are wrong. He said that in England 750 houses were built by local authorities and 250 for private ownership. That was a proportion of 3 to 1. That is not so. The position in England is much better than that.

Mr. McInnes

The hon. Member has been quoting the position from 1945 up to date. If he will apply this same principle to the figures that I gave in respect of building by private enterprise and local authorities respectively, from 1945 to 1957, he will find that my figures are absolutely correct, because they are taken from the Government's own publication.

Mr. George

I accept that as being over a period, but I took the hon. Member's statement to mean that he was trying to calculate the effect of a 20 per cent. reduction in Scotland as against its effect in England.

The position in England is that for every seven houses built by the local authority, there were six built by free enterprise. In Scotland, the proportion is only 1 to 5½. The point I wish to make is that if six private houses were built in England for every seven built by the local authorities it follows that there were six private houses in Scotland for every 30 built by the local authorities, and that is a very great difference.

The application of the 20 per cent. cut will have a different effect in the two countries. In England, it would mean that overall building would fall by 11 per cent., but the same cut applied in Scotland would mean that overall building would fall by 17 per cent. That is something to which I ask my right hon. Friend to pay attention in the future when these matters are discussed. We have a right to claim a fair share and to obtain that we must consider the relative effects on the two countries.

The hon. Member for Maryhill railed about the burden placed on local authorities by high rates of interest and by cuts in subsidies. The hon. Gentleman knows the cure. We do not believe that local authorities look upon a particular percentage rate of interest at any given date. It is what they pay on their loans as a whole which counts, and that figure has moved up but little over the whole of Scotland. The answer is that they should pool subsidies. The cure for the whole situation in Scotland is that fair and just rents should be charged for all council houses, and nowhere does that appertain more than in Glasgow. The time has come when the Corporation must look into its housing affairs in justice to the whole of the citizens.

8.22 p.m.

Mrs. Joyce Butler (Wood Green)

The hon. Member for Pollok (Mr. George) and the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Hay) suggested that we are spending too much time discussing housing. Surely, if the Government's housing record is as good as they declare, hon. Members opposite should welcome every opportunity to expound it. We on this side of the House would be failing in our duty as an Opposition if we did not take every opportunity to draw public attention to the serious failings in the Government's policy in this respect.

The Minister and other hon. Members opposite suggest that because so many houses have been built there is no real housing need today. I do not think that it is unfair to put what they have said in that way. It is not enough to talk about the number of houses built. Many houses built since 1951 are smaller than those built between 1945 and 1951. I assure the Minister that many of these smaller flats and houses, some with one bedroom and others with two, are already overcrowded. There are young couples in houses built since 1951 whose families have grown and now they are in urgent need of more accommodation. The only real test of housing need is not the number of houses built, but the number required set against the number which have been built.

Local authorities are faced with a great many problems today which did not confront them in the earlier period when a Labour Government were in office. There is the problem of finding alternative accommodation for people occupying requisitioned property and people in prefabs erected on open spaces. There is the problem connected with the programme of slum clearance imposed on them by the Minister. In almost every slum clearance scheme more houses are required to rehouse the people from those areas than the number actually demolished. There are urgent medical cases, families with T.B. and other illnesses, which must have other accommodation. If the position is as good as the Government maintain, how do they explain the fact that practically every local authority housing waiting list is much the same year after year? Many families have been on the local authority lists since 1945 or before. They have no priority, but in my submission they include some of the most heartbreaking examples it is possible to find. Some families have been on the list for 10, 12, or more years. Their present accommodation may consist of two or three rooms, compared with those people who occupy one room and are given high priority. These people see their children growing up in such circumstances and one can imagine their hardship when they have adolescent children of opposite sexes housed in a couple of rooms and a kitchen. The present policy of the Government offers no hope of other accommodation. We talk about juvenile delinquency, but the miracle is not that we have so much, but that in such conditions there is so little. We should congratulate the parents who do such a fine job for their families while living in these hopeless conditions.

The Government's policy sounds the death knell to their hopes. They will never get a decent home. The wages they receive are too low to enable them to buy and they can look for help only to a local authority which is faced with cuts and other financial difficulties and can manage to rehouse only cases of the most urgent priority.

A number of families affected by the Rent Act also look to local authorities to provide them with homes. I have in mind two families. One family lives in a house which is not a slum house although it is sub-standard. Their accommodation is over the £40 rateable value limit and their landlord has agreed to let them stay in the premises, if they pay a rent of £4 5s. 0d. a week. They have to do all the repairs and the house is in a shocking state. They cannot possibly meet such a rent. In another case where the house is a little better, the landlord has offered to accept a rent of £5 5s. 0d. which, with the rates, makes a total of £6 2s. 1d. The present rent is 27s. 6d. plus rates.

Those families cannot hope to pay those rents. They would like to buy houses but as fast as they try to save for the deposit they see interest rates go up and the prices of houses increase. They therefore go to the local authority and say, "Put us on the housing list", but their position there is hopeless and they do not stand a chance. There the position rests at the moment. I urge the Minister, although he has said that he will not make any amendment of the Rent Act, to see whether it is possible for cases where extortionate rents are being asked to go before the Rent Tribunal for fair rents to be fixed.

There is the problem of families faced with eviction. The Minister has said there will be a possibility of houses becoming vacant to let into which such people can move. I have not seen any "To Let" notices in my constituency or any advertisement of houses to let in my local newspaper, for the simple reason that there are not any.

I have information about an old lady of eighty. She lost her right arm many years ago and later lost her husband. She has been given notice to quit next October. She has managed to keep an independent life by taking in a young woman lodger. She is active, healthy and independent. Next October, she will have no alternative but to go to stay with one of her sons, neither of whom has any spare accommodation. He will put up a bed in the living room, where she will sleep, and that will be her life. Her independence will be gone. She may be very quickly brought to her end because she has had to give up her home, with all that it means to her. That is probably what will happen. She has applied to the local authority for accommodation, but it already has a long waiting list of elderly persons.

The Minister has said that he is writing to local authorities to tell them how to help elderly people. If he had anything worth while to say I am sure that he would have announced it to the House tonight. I can tell him that the only way to help local authorities in this respect is to increase greatly the subsidy for elderly persons' accommodation. The present subsidy is quite inadequate. He could also do what he refused to do in the Rent Bill Committee—make it possible for people who face eviction next October, if they have found no alternative accommodation, to go to the county court and plead for an extension of time.

The Minister has said that there will be premises to let. If there are to be a great many premises to let, which I very much doubt, it seems to follow that they will not be available until 6th October next year. At the same time many tenants will be given notice to quit on 6th October. Perhaps they could be given a few weeks' or months' extension of time to tide them over, until they see whether or not premises are becoming available to rent. If they are all turned out on 6th October, what are they to do while they are waiting for the "market to settle," the shocking term which the Minister used to describe the effect of the evictions which will take place under the Rent Act? Even if the right hon. Gentleman will not do these things now, I hope that he will not close the door but will do something of this kind later on when he sees how matters are going.

I have a letter from a constituent who has been faced with the necessity of either getting out next October or buying the house in which he lives. He is not able to borrow money to purchase the house. His wage as a gas fitter is £9 3s. 4d. per week. He cannot find any building society to lend him money because of that low wage. What is that man to do? He is willing to buy the house but he cannot borrow the money. He says: I think that the present Government should be asked to look into this matter, not on paper but from the people it is supposed to serve, the average man; otherwise things will he in a poor way in the next eighteen months. I am asking the Government to look into the matter and see what they can do to help people who cannot find any means of ensuring a home over their heads after next October.

It has already been said that local authorities find it impossible to continue to lend money because of the difficulties confronting them. Here again the Minister could help by enabling them to lend money without deposit on 100 per cent. mortgages and borrow the money from the Public Works Loan Board, instead of being informed, through the Board, that they have not borrowed enough on the market and so cannot get money from the Board. He could also take steps to charge them a reduced rate of interest for this essential public service.

I would draw the Minister's attention to a court case which may have a serious effect on many people and may increase the number of evictions. I refer to the decision of the Stourbridge County Court in July to the effect that, because under paragraph 21 of the Sixth Schedule to the Rent Act, a semicolon has been replaced by a full stop at the end of the paragraph before the proviso, it will no longer be necessary for the court to decide who will have the greater hardship, landlord or tenant, in a case in which the landlord wants to get possession for himself or for members of his family.

There are Questions on the Order Paper about this for tomorrow, but I mention it now because I have a little more time in which to deal with it than I shall have tomorrow during Questions. As the Minister knows, it is a matter of great concern in my constituency because we have many hundreds of cases in which landlords are in part possession of houses and are seeking an opportunity to evict tenants and get full possession for themselves.

The Government must not shut the door on some kind of policy to deal with all these and many other cases which will come before them in the next few months. They must at least look on the possibility of a large number of homeless families and consult with local authorities as to what should happen to these people. It simply is not civilised in this year of 1957 for the Government to be pursuing a housing policy which runs the risk of putting families on the street without any alternative accommodation. I have listened to what has been said from the benches opposite tonight, but I have not heard a single word which convinces me that that will not happen, unless the Government do something to prevent it.

Those of us who know anything about housing are more heartsick now about the housing situation than we have ever been, because we are without hope today. In whatever direction we look we cannot see any hope of an improvement in the situation. That is the position to which this Government have brought us in this year of grace. We ask them to accept our Amendment and do something to restore the faith of the people in the Government of the country and in their housing, policy.

8.37 p.m.

Mr. T. L. Iremonger (Ilford, North)

I hope that the hon. Lady the Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Butler) will acquit me of any discourtesy if I do not follow her in her remarks. She and I represent very different types of constituency, my constituency being one in Metropolitan Essex. I think that our experiences, therefore, are somewhat different, but I think that mine are none the less important and representative.

I want to take this opportunity of drawing the attention—briefly but urgently—of my right hon. Friend to something which worries me very much indeed. I am very worried about the difficulties of old people finding accommodation. A great many old people are at the moment having to change their places of abode. Three or four years ago I was worried about everybody, especially about younger people with families, who came to see me, but now the building of 300,000 houses a year, on average, has really had an effect and I no longer find that young people and people with families come to me with housing problems. Their numbers have fallen off almost entirely. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Hon. Members opposite may say, "Oh"; I dare say that if I were in their constituencies I should find a different position, but I can only tell the House of the experience in my constituency, which, I think, is not without significance.

Three or four years ago I was worried by the number of people with young families who came to me with their difficulties, but they do not come now. Hon. Members are entitled to put upon it any interpretation they can. I only see what I see and make what interpretation I can of it.

Now, I am finding increasingly, and it worries me very much, that old people have to move and are in a state of desperate anxiety about where to go. That worries me now as much as the other problem worried me before, and I think that in their housing policy the Government ought now to concern themselves primarily with the difficulties of old people. I think that they are the new depressed classes, and are the people to whom public relief should primarily be directed.

We should ask the Government for prompt and generous relief from public funds, from the taxpayer and possibly from the ratepayer—although I am no: at all sure about that—to relieve the difficulties of these old people. I suggest as a figure, as a cockshy, that £25 million a year should be devoted from the taxpayers' money to this object. It would, in fact, in the case of my own borough, be equivalent to one-half of the Exchequer contribution under the Housing Acts, the Exchequer contribution being roughly £50 million annually. In the case of my borough, it would be half of £75,000, that is to say, £37,500 a year, and I should like to see that sum devoted in my borough to trying to help the old people with their serious difficulties.

Mr. R. J. Mellish (Bermondsey)

On this side of the House, we are all intrigued by the statement which the hon. Gentleman has made that, for one reason or another, his constituency does not seem to have the problem of young married couples seeking accommodation. I accept what the hon. Gentleman has said, because he speaks from his own personal knowledge, but I should like to ask him whether his borough has a housing list and, if so, who are on that list? Are there any old people on it?

Mr. Iremonger

I can only repeat what I have said. From my own experience of the number of people who used to come to see me and who were obviously in desperate anxiety then, and now, I say that the emphasis has changed to the extent that the young people have disappeared from my "surgery", and that the old ones are coming more and more. I say that the hon. Gentleman can draw from that what conclusion he likes

The hon. Gentleman is quite entitled to ask whether we have a housing list. Of course we have, but as a matter of fact, as all hon. Members know, housing lists are not always all that they seem on the face of it. I merely speak from my own experience and from what is worrying me, and I say that I am not so worried about the earlier problem, but much more worried about this one now.

I may be wrong in that, but I should like to point out that, in suggesting that we should devote £25 million a year more to the needs of housing old people, I am not, in fact, suggesting that there should be an increase in the total amount of Government expenditure by this amount. I do not think that that would make sense at this time in the context of any financial or economic policy to which I could possibly subscribe, but I do suggest that we should make a fairer, more sensible and more modern distribution of the taxpayers' money.

It is whimsically called the Exchequer contribution, but actually is the taxpayers' money. It is not money we are to get from the Government; it is money we are to ask some of our people to give in order to provide benefits for their neighbours. If it all came out of the Government we should be entitled to ask for an indefinite amount for everybody, but in present circumstances I do not feel inclined to say that we should ask for that amount from the taxpayers. I think that the £50 million we are taking from the taxpayers under these Acts at present ought to be looked at again.

We ought to look again at the Housing Acts of 1919, 1924, 1946 and 1949, because in all these Acts the entire incidence of the Exchequer contribution and the burden we add to the taxpayers is based upon the social philosophy of 1919, which, in the context of its time, I think was right. It was devoted, as social philosophy should be devoted, to helping the poor and depressed at the expense of the richer and more prosperous. The poor and depressed at that time were the labouring poor.

That was the policy which came from Victorian, humanitarian and reformist thought and which I think properly led the Legislature, in the ensuing twenty or twenty-five years, to devote public money to providing housing for general needs. But I do not think that it is right now. The picture has changed entirely, and I wonder whether that approach makes sense today

The borough which I represent runs a rent rebates scheme. All rent rebates schemes are open to objection and argument. I daresay that none is perfect. Ours, I think, is fair. I should like to explain the result which our scheme is having, because I think the figure is significant when we are trying to decide whether the social policy under which we pay the Exchequer contribution makes sense at the present time.

Of the £264,000 which is paid in rent by council tenants in the Borough of Ilford, only £17,000 is repaid by way of rebate under the rebates scheme. That suggests to me that in the country public money is being devoted to provide a social service—housing—to people who are being subsidised on an entirely random basis by their neighbours. I wonder whether that is right. It may be right, but it does not make sense to me. I think it would be better to select, as they were rightfully selected in 1919, those of whom we could positively say, "These people need financial help from their neighbours." We could give them that help.

The whole principle and basis of local authority housing seems to me to be wrong and repugnant in the economic circumstances of today. I find that old people, the kind of people of whom I am thinking as now requiring and demanding reliefs through money which in the House we take from the taxpayer—old people who I think ought to be given that relief—are asking me why people should be living in these council houses when they have televisions and motor cars, I am not saying that this is a particularly inspiring attitude, but one has to understand it. I hear from them the old story about television aerials and cars parked in front of these houses.

Mr. Parkin

And coal in the bath.

Mr. Iremonger

The hon. Member does me an injustice. I am not speaking at that mean and petty level. I am telling him what one section of the community, members of which are in need of help, is saying as criticism of the kind of social help which we are giving to another section of the community. It is a perfectly valid criticism. When the hon. Member said "Coal in the bath," he was attributing to me thoughts which I think the House as a whole will acquit me of entertaining.

These old people say, "We desperately need more help than we are getting. We desperately need help, in particular, in finding somewhere to live which will be suitable and convenient to us and at a price which we can afford to pay." They point with indignation at people who are receiving £50 million worth of taxpayers' help and the statutory amount of ratepayers' help with their housing and they say, "It is not right." I must say in all honesty and frankness that I cannot fault their line of thought.

I believe that the social philosophy behind the 1919 and those other Rent Acts is now wrong. We ought to face the actual economic and social realities of today and recognise that the poor and depressed are no longer the same people that were poor and depressed in 1919. Others have taken their place, but they are not being helped enough. I say that they should have £25 million a year—[An HON. MEMBER: "Old-age pensioners."] That is debatable, but it is the particular problem of housing with which I am concerned. I do not honestly think that increases in the retirement pension would solve our problem because, for that, we want more than money. We want organisation to be put into it, and we can best help there by putting the money into the hands of the local authorities and asking them to help in a way that I shall propose.

Of course, the whole trouble is the characteristic dilemma of our present times. We are bringing to bear the perfectly sound principles which were formed in our minds by the slump mentality on to problems of boom that we have not had to face before. And boom does have its problems. We should be frank and honest, and recognise that in times of boom those who need help to the tune of £50 million a year of taxpayers' money are not all wage earners, but are the old and the retired.

An hon. Member opposite implied that we should increase retirement pensions. I said that I did not think that that would meet the case, and I will try to explain what I mean. I suggest that the cost should be paid for by the taxpayers' contributions under the Act being withdrawn from the local authorities to the tune of half, and those in genuine need of protection, those who are vulnerable should be protected by fair and, I think, locally-worked-out rebate schemes. The public subsidy should be devoted to the needs of old people.

Instead of local authorities having the Exchequer contribution for general housing needs I should like to see them have it for the specific purpose and duty of providing hostels and housing for old people. What I had in mind is this. My own borough has no more land on which to build any more old folks' flats. It is at its wits' end to cope with the old people applying to it. There are in the borough a fairly large number of houses that the authority could well acquire and convert, not into hostels but into old peoples' flats.

I do not, however, think that mere flats are enough. We should be able to provide these old people with private-roomed flat accommodation in large houses in which there should be a caretaker, who would be something more than a caretaker but rather less than a social worker; someone there to give the old people timely help in case of need—the kind of place in which one would feel happy for one's own parents to be. That, I think, should be the object to which this very large sum of public money, taxpayers' money should be diverted, instead of to the totally unnecessary and quite morally and socially unjustifiable Exchequer contribution for general housing needs.

It might not be inconvenient for the House if I now made one or two very brief comments—very brief, as, I believe, the right hon. Gentleman opposite is planning to rise at 9 o'clock. [Interruption.] I hope that I am not wrong in that assumption. Hon. Gentlemen opposite seem to have the impression that I am talking out the debate, but the fact is that I would rather like to say one or two more things. I assure the House that I do not want to be unfair. I should like to tell the House what my experience of the effect of the Rent Act has been in my own constituency.

I have found that the tenants of controlled property who have had their rents put up have been very surprisingly well prepared to accept it—

Mrs. Harriet Slater (Stoke-on-Trent, North)

The hon. Gentleman assured us a little while ago that he no longer has young people coming to his "surgery." I imagine that they have given up all hope because they feel that he cannot do anything for them. However, before he starts to give us his opinion of the Rent Act, may I ask him how many people have come to him for advice on how to deal with the landlords in the situation that confronts them?

Mr. Iremonger

I am coming to that. I said that I would like to explain exactly what was happening in my constituency. I do not think that the question need have been asked of me, as though it had been an arrow aimed at me; it is my intention to say exactly that.

I have found that the tenants of controlled property are surprisingly well prepared to accept it. The comment which I get and which comes back to me is, "Well, we have been getting away with a very low rent for a very long time." Although it may disappoint hon. Members opposite, that is exactly what I have been hearing. I have had no case of a controlled rent tenant whose rent has gone up and who has complained to me about it.

Mrs. Slater

There must be something wrong.

Mr. Irewonger

There may be something wrong with my constituents; I know that hon. Members opposite think that there must he something wrong with constituents who return a Conservative Member. The fact is that they are fellow countrymen of hon. Members opposite as they are fellow countrymen of mine. That is their view and I represent it to the House. If hon. Members opposite do not like it, I can only say that I cannot please everyone.

With regard to decontrolled property, the hon. Lady asked me how many people had come to see me. I should say about one dozen. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] That is the fact. I am sorry if it is not the figure which anyone would like me to give, but it is the fact. About a dozen people have come to see me and they have had notice that they must quit next October. They are anxious and frightened at the prospect. The advice that I give them is that they should not panic now. Of course, it is a shock to get notice to quit and, naturally, it looks as if they will not get anywhere to go; but if they are to get anywhere to go, and we have staked our political reputation on the fact that they will—[Interruption.] This is the time for right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite to make hay, and they are doing so, but they will find, in a year's time, that all this has rather fizzled out. I am perfectly certain that the advice which I give to my constituents who come to see me about this matter is right and that within a year's time they will find a very different situation.

I have made a careful survey of all the professional interests concerned with the letting of property, and the general view is that property is already beginning to come more and more on to the market. This is an example of what is happening. People who put advertisements for unfurnished accommodation into the local paper before the coming into effect of the Rent Act never got a reply. Now people are putting advertisements in and they are invariably getting replies. That has been checked up by contact with advertisers in the local paper and that is the beginning of the solution that is to come.

Those who advised me on this made this reservation. They said that clients were prepared to make the conversions which would make the Act work, but they had been having very serious second thoughts since the threat had been put upon them of having their property put once more in the position in which it was before by the Labour Party, and that they would not be able to get rid of undesirable tenants. That is what is deterring people from making the conversions which, I believe, will solve this problem.

If the Act does not work it will be, I believe, largely because of the dishonest political threat which has been made by the Labour Party. Frankly, I do not think even that will deter owners of property from putting them into the market and enabling tenants to rent it.

Mr. Niall MacDermot (Lewisham, North)

Does the hon. Gentleman not realise that under the existing Rent Act, indeed, under the previous Rent Act before this year's Act, a landlord has the power to get rid of an undesirable tenant, if, by that term, is meant a tenant who either does not pay his rent or is a nuisance or an annoyance to his neighbours? What does the hon. Gentleman mean by "undesirable tenants" of whom the landlord cannot get rid?

Mr. Iremonger

The hon. Gentleman cannot be as naive as he makes out.

9.0 p.m.

Mr. Thomas Fraser (Hamilton)

The hon. Gentleman the Member for Ilford, North (Mr. Iremonger) made a very interesting speech about the plight of old people. I have no doubt that a great many of us had a lot of sympathy with what he said, but he completely spoilt his speech by going on for ten minutes saying nothing important and keeping other hon. Members on this side from participating in the debate.

Mr. Anthony Fell (Yarmouth)


Hon. Members


Mr. Iremonger

As the hon. Gentleman has referred to me, perhaps he will let me explain, if he misunderstood me, that what I said was that I hoped it would not be inconvenient if I sat down at five minutes to nine o'clock instead of going on much longer. I spoke for much less time than a great many of his hon. Friends, and I would not have troubled to waste any wisdom on keeping someone else out for a few minutes.

Mr. Fraser

My point was that the hon. Gentleman had much less to say than any hon. Friend of mine who might have spoken if there had been a little more time.

I do not know what is to happen in the Division Lobbies tonight, but I have no doubt that the argument from this side of the House up to this moment has won hands down. The speech of the Minister was disgustingly complacent. I have known him in this House for a long time, and I have listened to him speak from both the back benches and the Front Bench and hitherto I thought him an honest man. Today, the weakness of his own case was manifested at once. His opening speech was a complete distortion of history.

The right hon. Gentleman started dealing with the number of houses built in six years by the Conservative Government and the number of houses built in six years by the Labour Government. He completely ignored the fact that the Labour Government took over in 1945 with no building labour force, when the brickworks' owners had had compensation to keep their brickworks on a maintenance basis, but had pocketed it and not kept up the brickworks, so that there were not any bricks. The right hon. Gentleman ignored those things. He ignored the time it took to build up the labour force and to get the materials necessary to build houses. He ignored the work which was undertaken on war damaged property. He ignored the factory building which was undertaken. He ignored all those things. He gave the impression that somehow or another the Labour Government had for some years prevented the local authorities from building houses. Did the Labour Government ever prevent his local authority from building houses? Never.

Mr. H. Brooke

The Labour Government maintained an allocation system in those days. The facts are that the Labour Government, in 1951, six years after the end of the war, built fewer than 200,000 houses, and that two years later we built over 300,000.

Mr. Fraser

I said I used to think that the right hon. Gentleman was an honest man. He has already forgotten that there was a war in 1950 to 1951 and that building materials were hard to come by. The right hon. Gentleman, who was interested in local government at that time, was well aware of the difficulty, not which the Government but which the local authorities had, in getting building materials to carry out their housing programmes. Of course there was a system of allocating. Of course we avoided the misuse of building materials and building labour on any inessential building, to obtain the building resources of the country for use by the local authority of which the right hon. Gentleman was a member, and of the other local authorities. We went ahead with other building projects.

The right hon. Gentleman then talks about houses since 1951 and compares them with houses built before 1951 as if he were discussing the same thing, but he is not. He completely ignores the whole of the temporary housing programme and the war damage. He talks about houses since 1951 as if they were the same as houses before 1951, whereas they have been about half the size. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I have the Scottish Housing Return before me and I find that 81.8 per cent. of the houses built between 1945 and 1950 were four-five apartment houses whereas in 1956 four-five apartment houses accounted for only 28.3 per cent. of all the houses. [HON. MEMBERS: "Now laugh."] The houses have been about half the size.

If the right hon. Gentleman had endeavoured to make a fair comparison with what was done under the two Governments he would have sought to make some allowance for the immediate post-war difficulties and would have taken into account the number of apartments completed. That is the test. He would have found then that not so much had been achieved under his Government after all.

Mr. Willis

They were smaller apartments, too.

Mr. Fraser

And the Government do not build any houses. The houses are built by local authorities and by private enterprise.

The Minister went on to misrepresent the Labour Party's policy, which incidentally the Labour Party never hesitates to put before the electors. We on this side of the House have already put our housing policy before the electors. It will be adopted by them when they have the opportunity, and the sooner the better. We shall then put it in the Gracious Speech and we can debate it, but today we are debating something quite different.

The right hon. Gentleman, in misrepresenting the Labour Party's policy, called attention to the municipalisation of houses leading to unlimited rents. The scare, of course, is "high rents." In another part of his speech the right hon. Gentleman said that one-seventh of all local authorities had differential rent schemes but the remaining six-sevenths did not and subsidies were therefore being given to people who did not need subsidies. At that point in his speech he was criticising local authorities for not charging enough rent and was accusing them of adopting a low-rent policy while at the same time he was trying to scare people by saying that they must not have housing municipalisation otherwise rents would go sky high. The right hon. Gentleman should decide on which leg he wishes to stand.

The Minister further talked about negotiations proceeding on new rents for decontrolled private enterprise houses. Some of his hon. Friends have expressed concern today about the plight of those people who have difficult landlords. No one on this side of the House has ever said that every landlord is necessarily a had landlord, but we have heard one or two hon. Members opposite on the subject, notably the hon. Member for Pollok (Mr. George) who said he had been terribly busy for several weeks negotiating on behalf of his constituents in hundreds of cases.

The Minister, of course, advised us earlier in the proceedings on the Bill, that is during its Third Reading, that no tenant given a lease for three years should sign it without getting professional advice. He should consult a solicitor, he should get the advice of a surveyor, he should get the advice of all kinds of professional people. But these people have only fourteen days in which to make up their minds, and that is not very long in which to have all these consultations. In any case, as the right hon. Gentleman has heard from many of his hon. Friends today, a large number of these people are not in a strong financial position, and they are unwilling to run post-haste to professional persons to advise them as to whether they should negotiate a rent with a landlord. Of course, the position is such that there is no negotiation, since the tenants have to accept the rents offered by the landlord.

Many of my hon. Friends for London constituencies have given instances in the course of the debate of hardship in their own constituencies, and some of my hon. Friends have given me letters from their constituents bringing out other details. I have just read a letter stating that an old man of 67, who previously was paying rent and rates of £110 has been told that the rent and rates will be £325 or he is out on his neck. That man can negotiate on £325 if he likes, but the owners have made it clear that they will not accept one halfpenny less.

I do not have houses of that kind in my constiuency which, I am glad to say, now consists largely of local authority houses. A few years ago it consisted almost entirely of working-class houses, very largely old colliery rows, and so on, but in recent years they have given way, fortunately, to local authority houses. There are not many houses over £40 valuation in my constituency, but I have received letters from Glasgow people who have written to their Tory Members of Parliament, and also to me in case the Tory Members did not take much interest in them.

In particular, there are two Glasgow Tories who have been taking an interest in their cases. One is the hon. Gentleman the Member for Pollok who said that the Rent Act should never have been applied to Scotland anyway because we were not ready for it. The other is the hon. Gentleman the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. J. Henderson) who was here only ten minutes ago. Neither is here now, but they have both been giving categorical assurances publicly to their constituents that they would do their utmost with this Government to have the Act amended. They have not been repeating in this House this afternoon and this evening the speeches they have been making publicly in their constituencies. That is a pity, because it would help the constituents more if they would come here and say what they feel about the Act.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State himself will have not a few of these houses in his constituency of Craigton. I do not know if he follows the example of his hon. Friend the Member for Pollok and negotiates with the landlords on behalf of his constituents, but it is clear that the constituents of the hon. Member for Pollok would be in a sad state if they did not have him to look after their interests, negotiating for them as he does with the landlords.

I do not know whether the Joint Under-Secretary is also negotiating, but he will have had brought to his notice many examples, mainly of people who have not the opportunity of negotiating a three-year agreement at an increase of 50 or 60 per cent. of the rent. He will have many more cases of people who have been told that owners are not interested in negotiating a new rent but propose to sell their houses when they can get possession.

The Minister said that the Rent Act was already increasing the amount of accommodation becoming available. It has not yet started, but it will increase the amount of accommodation becoming available on 6th October, next year. It is bound to do that by giving landlords the right of eviction, but the amount of additional accommodation will be in exact proportion to the number of evictions and that will be how the accommodation will become available. We do not know whether the houses will then be sold or let at extortionate rents, but we do know that people are afraid that at exactly the same time there will be many with no chance of getting a tenancy of a lower rented house and no chance of getting a house from the local authority because they are not on the list.

People are afraid that when the time comes, if they are to have a roof over their heads, they will have to go back into very much the same type of house, but at a very much higher rent than the landlords now dare to mention as a rent to be negotiated. The Minister must know that that is the position. If it is not, he ought to have told us how this accommodation is to become available without people being badly hurt in the process. His hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Mr. Sumner) and his hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, North were very concerned about old people in particular who were under the threat of being turfed out of their houses in eleven months' time.

My hon. Friends have spent part of the time discussing the plight of local authorities through the Government's housing and financial policies. My researches over the week-end have shown me that a great many local authorities, at least in Scotland, have now borrowed up to the maximum permitted 15 per cent of their borrowings on short term. They have now reached the point beyond which they are not permitted to borrow on short-term and they therefore have to borrow at long-term rates of 6½ or 7 per cent. The right hon. Gentleman can make what case he likes about how much the housing programme will run down in the next eighteen months or two years, but many local authorities in Scotland, including some large local authorities, during the last week or two, have been discussing whether to proceed with more building after their existing programmes are completed.

It will probably be a year or eighteen months before they complete their existing programmes, but authorities which have been building houses constantly since 1919—but for the period of the Second World War—are now considering stopping building in the belief that the alternative is to increase rents too much and to undertake to pay 7 per cent. for sixty years. That is more than they can stand and they believe that it will be better to stop building until interest rates come down when they will be able to borrow on long-term more cheaply.

I know that the Government say that local authorities ought not to worry unduly about high interest rates. The Minister said today—and the Secretary of State has said it several times—that all they have to do is to increase rents of existing houses. Both the Minister and the Secretary of State have commended differential rent schemes. The differential scheme that has been most discussed in Scotland in recent months is that which was introduced by Dumfries County Council. The Council proposed that there should be a ceiling of rent and rates of £2 15s. a week for every local authority house, irrespective of its size and location. Some of the houses are temporary, prefabricated ones, and others are five-apartment houses, built of red Dumfriesshire stone. That does not matter—the maximum in rent and rates is £2 15s. a week and the minimum is £1 a week.

In addition, within the minimum of £1 and maximum of £2 15s. a week tenants pay one-seventh of the total income of the family. It is not the income of the tenant, but the income of the whole family. I have been told that the average which Dumfries County Council is getting is only 30s. a week. If that figure is correct it means that the income of the families occupying council houses in Dumfriesshire averages £10 10s.

Mr. Gibson

That is the national average.

Mr. Fraser

That is the national average wage per worker, but in Dumfriesshire £10 10s. is the average income of the whole family—and yet the County Council charges up to a maximum of £2 15s. a week even for a prefabricated house.

Is this what the Government want? Do they want other local authorities to follow the example of Dumfriesshire? We should know. This is the only example we have of a Scottish differential rent scheme since the Government's new policy was introduced, and if the Government want that let them say so. I can say that if this policy were adopted elsewhere in Scotland there would be such an awful row that the Government would have to step in and do something about it. [An HON. MEMBER: "They might get the sack if they did."] The housing return shows that a good many local authorities in Scotland have already stopped building. There are 172 small burghs in Scotland, 85 of which have no houses under construction at all at this moment. Local authority house building is not being replaced by private enterprise building, however, because 96 of those authorities have no private enterprise building going on either. No one will say that the housing problem in those areas has been solved—at least no one will say it and believe it himself if he has visited the smaller local authorities of Scotland.

As the Minister mentioned, the Chancellor has forecast a considerable reduction in house building. The Chancellor said that it would come down to 120,000 in two years, and the Minister said that it would be down to 100,000 in two years' time—referring to local authority and development corporation houses. I wonder how many houses the Secretary of State thinks will be built in Scotland in two years' time. Will he answer the question asked by hon. Members on both sides? Is it possible for the Government to estimate the reduction in local authority building? If it is, can they estimate the reduction in private enterprise building—or is there to be no reduction, or is there to be an increase, to compensate for the reduction in local authority building?

We do not know. If the Ministers are not going to exercise control or power over local authorities and are yet able to make a forecast of what will happen in the field of public enterprise house building they must be equally able to forecast what will happen in the private sector. If this means that housing is just bearing its fair share of the economies which are being effected, how many building trade workers will be on the dole? The Minister, when referring to the number of houses built between 1945 and 1951, was not able to tell us whether any building trade workers were on the dole. We wonder how many will be on the dole as a result of this reduction in house building operations, particularly if this is merely housing bearing its share of the economies effected overall by the Government.

I should like to know whether the Secretary of State can say anything about the building of new towns and town development to take Glasgow's overspill. I hope that my hon. Friends from London will bear with me when I say that we have heard a lot about London's overspill of about 340,000 people. But Glasgow, a city with a population of a little over 1 million, has an overspill of over 300,000. Eight new towns have been built to take London's overspill population, and town development arrangements made with a good many other authorities. Glasgow has no new towns. East Kilbride has taken some, but only a little of the overspill. Now we have an area designated and a corporation appointed to take the overspill population of Glasgow. It has 98 houses in the course of erection to take 300,000 overspill. What will happen now about Glasgow's overspill problem? Are we to get the new town of Cumbernauld and other new towns?

Will there be any burghs or county councils in the West of Scotland mad enough to borrow money at 7 per cent. to provide arrangements to deal with Glasgow's overspill? Of course not. It is unthinkable that any local authority would be quite so foolish. But will the Secretary of State tell us whether thought has been given to the terrible housing problem in the West of Scotland? Although there must have been some easement of the housing position in some parts of Scotland, there are many other parts where there has been no noticeable change. There must be an improvement somewhere because now we have more houses. House building has improved and proceeds at a greater pace than the population has increased. But people are always fixing their sights a little higher and are more conscious of this problem today than they have ever been.

I have been working out some figures, with which I do not think I should trouble the House in detail now, because of the shortage of time; but I find that the annual burden on the average local authority house in Scotland has increased by £60, or 23s. a week, as a result of steadily rising interest rates. I quoted this figure to the Joint Under-Secretary of State last week and he said he had not done his calculations as quickly as I had. I throw it out again now to the Secretary of State. The average local authority house costs £60 a year more since 1951, or 23s. a week more, as a result of increases in interest rates. Were the local authorities to charge the rent of £39 recommended by the Secretary of State, they would be left with a deficit of £75 per house.

The Minister and the Secretary of State say in an airy-fairy way that it should be spread over all the local authority houses. But if the tenants of those houses are all paying an economic rent, why should this burden be passed to them? Why should not the rest of the community make a contribution? About one third of the houses in Scotland are municipally owned. If there is to be a deficit, why should it be borne by one third of the population and not the whole lot? I cannot see the justification for this at all.

There is not time for me to deal with the many points that have been raised in the debate, some of which I wanted to discuss further. Local authorities are in very real difficulty. They are building houses that are far too small. I gave the smaller proportion of large houses now being built by local authorities; I should tell the House that, according to the Housing Return published the other week by the Government, 2.6 per cent. of the tenders approved in 1956 were for houses of less than two apartments, which means one-apartment houses, and 11 per cent. were of houses of two apartments.

Therefore, although dreadful figures were quoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Hannan) of the worst overcrowding by far in the West of Europe, 10.7 per cent. of the houses approved to be built in Scotland in 1956 were of one or two apartments. That happens in circumstances in which the working party appointed by the Secretary of State for Scotland to report in 1956 told him that in the four cities where most of our people live the number of houses needed for the homeless and the overcrowded was substantially higher to replace the unfit houses than in the cities of United Kingdom.

Local authorities, tenants and owner occupiers are in difficulties. I hope that the Secretary of State will be able to reassure them. That I very much doubt. We are supposed to be a democracy. In this House it has often been said that in a political democracy the Government governs with the consent of the electors. That appears to be no longer true. Irrespective of what the Secretary of State is able to say, the Prime Minister would be rendering the greatest service to the people of this country if he would ask them what they think of the Government's economic and financial policy.

9.34 p.m.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. John Maclay)

The hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) finished his speech with about as unwise a remark as the remarks with which he started it. If my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister took the hon. Member at his word, the hon. Member would find that the country is firmly behind this Government which has courage to do things that it knows are essential for the country. I would remind right hon. and hon. Gentlement opposite that there was an occasion in 1951 when their party had not the courage to do what was necessary for the country, and they ran away. I will leave that point now.

I said that the hon. Member for Hamilton has been unwise in his opening remarks, because I am sorry that he chose to accuse my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government with dishonesty in a speech. [Interruption.]

Captain Richard Pilkington (Poole)

Will the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Lewis) keep quiet?

Mr. Maclay

It is very interesting to notice that when one points out some obvious facts to the party opposite hon. Members opposite react in the way they have reacted. What I want to make clear to the hon. Member for Hamilton is that the charge of dishonesty against my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government was really the resort of someone who knows he has not a valid case to make. That is the usual thing one finds. I confess that at times I have been tempted to accuse hon. Members opposite, in this House or out of it, of dishonest arguments. I have nearly always succeeded in stopping myself in time because I have realised that it is the easy way of escaping something one does not like. I resent very much that charge against my right hon. Friend in respect of what was a perfectly effective speech, which hon. Members opposite did not like.

The speeches we have heard from the benches opposite throughout this debate and speeches we have heard outside the House have consistently implied that the Government over a long period have been singling out housing for particular attack. People have talked of the reduction of subsidies and speakers have sought to show that the Rent Act is nothing more than a transparent effort to enable landlords to exploit their tenants.

At the same time throughout this debate it has been very clear from some of the speeches that the tight control over rents in recent years has been such that landlords have not been able to put their houses into decent condition. That has come out in a contradictory way through many of the speeches made today, as will be seen if the OFFICIAL REPORT is carefully studied.

We have heard discussion about increases in the Public Works Loan Board rate of interest. All this undoubtedly provides hon. Members opposite with good debating points, but I ask them to preserve a sense of perspective. In his speech my right hon. Friend showed—conclusively in my view—that the suggestions made of a systematic attack on housing are utterly untrue.

Before I go on to deal with questions raised in the debate, in view of some of the speeches which have been made, I will touch again on some points which have been covered already. The Government have nothing whatever to be ashamed of in their housing policy, and we are not ashamed. At the risk of setting the animals roaring again, I say the record of housing output during the period since 1951—

Mr. Ross


Mr. Maclay

It was a slip of the tongue. The fact is that 1¼ million new permanent houses have been built in that period and, as my right hon. Friend indicated, a very great deal has been done over and above that to improve the condition of existing properties and to increase the total pool of housing accommodation. We are not suggesting that there is no housing problem left. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Certainly not. Indeed, the Government have always acknowledged that there is a difficult problem in many areas and a particularly difficult problem in certain areas. Here, taking the matter in Scottish terms, I am thinking especially of Glasgow, about which I shall say a word later. It is essential to view these housing needs which have not yet been satisfied against the background of the major advance made in the last six years and also against the background of the present economic state of the country.

The seriousness of the country's financial position has been very fully discussed during the last few days. It would be utterly out of keeping with our present state of difficulty and the means of remedying it if housing were treated differently from other services and insulated completely from the impact of the Government's necessary financial and economic measures. We have to look at housing in the context of the economy as a whole. As a Government, we would be failing in our duty if we adopted any other approach, however attractive and however tempting it might be for us to seek to treat housing in a different way.

In turning to the position in Scotland, I will be picking up many of the points made by hon. Members opposite, particularly the hon. Member for Hamilton. Much of what was said in my right hon. Friend's general statement has its relevance to Scotland, but, as is so often and properly the case, there are differences of very considerable importance, and it is these with which I should like to deal now.

As the House knows, the housing subsidy structure is quite different in Scotland. It now rests on the provisions of the Housing and Town Development (Scotland) Act, passed last Session. That Act came into force on 17th July. Of the 33,000 houses under construction at the end of September this year, nearly 20,000 will attract the subsidy at the old rates under the earlier legislation. I mention this because we have as yet insufficient experience of the new subsidy provisions to warrant comment on their working, or, indeed, to give a basis for estimates about the effect on the housing programme.

Let me say at once that the Government do not at present contemplate any deliberate reduction in the rate of tender approvals in Scotland, and that, as hon. Members will know, means that there will not at present be any specific cut in the housing programme. I say at present because, quite clearly, we must—and this is our duty as a Government—keep the position under review, but I would repeat quite definitely we have no deliberate cut in mind at the present stage.

I will now explain what, in fact, is happening. The peak year in Scottish housing was 1953, when the number of houses completed was 39,500. I am speaking now about all providers—private dwellings and local authority houses. Completions are now running at the rate of over 31,000 houses. Since 1953, there has been a gradual fall in the number of completions. In 1956, the number was 31,900. The figures I am quoting, I repeat, include all permanent houses in Scotland. In 1957, I fully expect the number of completion to be very much the same. This reflects the relatively large number of additional houses for which the local authorities tendered in advance of the recent subsidy changes.

In 1958 and later years, the indications are that the downward trend to which I have referred will continue, and while, obviously, it is not possible at this moment to give any absolutely firm forecast. I would expect that the run-down will bring completions in 1959–60 to about 24,000 houses; that is, including approximately 4,000 by private building.

Mr. McInnes

What the right hon. Gentleman is telling us, in essence, is that between 1953 and 1959–60 there will be a reduction of 16,000 houses a year in Scotland; in other words, a reduction of approximately 35 per cent.?

Mr. Maclay

The hon. Member must consider the figures as he likes. What I have made clear is that because of specific conditions which hon. Members have seen coming, because I have been questioned about them often enough—the run-down—we are not making any specific cut at this particular time. [Laughter.] Do not let hon. Members opposite laugh this off too much. In some areas local authorities have reached or, are very near, the end of the current programme, but, while the programme as a whole is running down, the output of houses is being maintained or increased in those districts where the need is greatest.

Thus, I fully expect that in the industrial belt the present rate of building will be maintained and I am confident that the redevelopment of Glasgow's central areas, by far the most urgent problem in Scottish housing, will proceed, coupled with the necessary building outside the city in new towns and elsewhere to deal with the displaced overspill population. I can properly repeat that Glasgow is the dominant problem, and our aim is the building of houses under overspill agreements and for town development to enable the total output of houses for Glasgow people to be kept up to the recent level of 5,000 a year. I think that should reassure the hon. Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. McInnes) on one point which he put to me.

Mr. McInnes

That is, 5,000 houses for 300,000 people.

Mr. Maclay

The hon. Member asked me whether we should maintain the figure of 50,000 over ten years, and I am telling him that that is our intention.

Mr. McInnes

In other words, sixty years to wait.

Mr. Maclay

I said 50,000 in ten years.

In connection with overspill, the Corporation is in touch with a number of local authorities which have indicated their interest in sharing in Glasgow's overspill population and industry. While the stage has not yet been reached of formal overspill agreements, I have every reason to believe that early progress will be made. At the moment I know of eight town councils and three county councils which are interested and are in some stage of discussion on this matter.

In dealing with the whole problem, the new towns at East Kilbride and Cumbernauld have a major part to play. Their building programmes will not be interfered with by any specific cut, and I fully expect that a very considerable rate of progress will be achieved and maintained over the next few years.

Several hon. Members opposite said that the position in Scotland suggests that the effect of the Government's policies was to impose a crushing burden either on local authorities or, alternatively, in the rent of tenants of local authorities. They talked of the revision of the subsidy structure and of the effect of the increased rate of interest on borrowing by local authorities. I listened carefully, but I heard no new arguments this evening. I heard many arguments on this subject during the debates on the Act which we passed recently, and I heard nothing new tonight.

I am not seeking to minimise the difficulties with which the housing authorities and other public authorities have to contend and I do not deny that the increase in the interest rate means an increase in the annual charges in paying off the capital cost of new houses. One can go into very interesting calculations about that. Some have been made by the hon. Member for Hamilton and others, but there is no time for me to follow that argument.

I do not accept the suggestion that the increase in the rate of interest makes it impossible for local authorities to carry on building or that it compels them to charge rents beyond the means of the tenants. This is ground which we covered very fully in the proceedings on the Housing and Town Development (Scotland) Bill last Session, and at this stage I do not want to go over everything that we said during those debates. I am very firmly of the view, however, that most local authorities in Scotland which still have a considerable housing problem should be in a position to carry on if they apply to the best advantage the relatively large pool of Exchequer subsidies which they are already receiving on existing houses. I could not follow the argument of the hon. Member for Hamilton—that which he used just before he concluded his speech—when he said that this was not a reasonable thing to do. Surely, if an authority has a large pool of subsidies covering a big range of houses, it is reasonable that it should employ that pool as usefully as it can and thereby equalise the burden on everybody. If that is done local authorities should be able to continue building.

Indeed, I am bound to say that there is scope for a more rational approach to the problem of rent levels. It is satisfactory to note that recently a number of local authorities in Scotland have announced reductions of rates reflecting, among other things, an adjustment in rent levels. I am quite sure that there is much scope for this.

It is probably fair enough to say that in some areas it was only when rents were separated from rates, on 16th May last under the Valuation and Rating (Scotland) Act, 1956, that some authorities realised how small was the actual amount of rent that they are receiving. Having listened to the debate this afternoon when English hon. Members were arguing about the level of rents, I will now give some very striking figures. For example, there are some areas where the net rent of a four-apartment local authority house is no more than 2s. 6d. or 3s. a week.

That is really an amazingly low figure, and I will call in evidence one other figure which hon. Members representing Glasgow constituencies have doubtless had brought to their notice during this week-end, because it comes in the report of the debates of the Corporation of Glasgow. The man who was convener of the housing sub-committee of Glasgow Corporation made the following statement. I do not want to embarrass him in any way by going into any more of the details of what went on last week, but this is a very interesting statement in relation to what I say. He said: Of the corporation's houses, 30,000 had annual rents ranging from £6 14s. 11d. for two apartments, to £8 9s. 4d. for four apartments. He added: No man is earning much less than that in a week. Those were annual figures.

Against that background, I do not think that it is fair to say that there cannot be some reasonably substantial increase in rents in Scotland. I do not want to get into the whole 10 per cent. of income argument touched on by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison), but if there is a reasonable approach to this question of what is a proper rent, and if we use this figure of £39 that has been referred to, a much higher figure will be seen to be justifiable,

The Working Panty on Housing Subsidies which reported in Scotland on 31st July, 1956, calculated that in the spring of that year the average remuneration of all wage and salary earners was over £450. Since then the figure must have risen to about £480, and a very simple calculation shows the 10 per cent. of that sum is well over £39.

I do not want to carry that further, for lack of time, but I repeat that in all our approach to the rent problem in Scotland in the coming months—and years perhaps—the figures I have quoted are relevant. I say that it is helping no one, that it is causing dissatisfaction and worry and concern if, when there are relatively small increases of rent, they are continually referred to as percentage increases. If a rent of 2s. 6d. a week goes up to 5s. a week I agree that it is a 100 per cent. increase. It sounds pretty terrific, but is 2s. 6d. a week a big increase of rent in the conditions of today? I only quote that as an example—

Mr. T. Fraser

But is £2 15s. a fair rent in Dumfries today?

Mr. Maclay

It would not be proper for me to go into that question because, as I think many hon. Members know, the case of the Dumfries rent is sub judice in the courts at Edinburgh.

I have very little time left to deal with all the other matters, as I should like to, but I have, of course, listened with the greatest interest to all the arguments about the Rent Act. My hon. Friend the Member for Pollok (Mr. George) spoke very frankly and freely about what is happening to some decontrolled houses. He also stressed, and with this I entirely agree, that it is much too early to draw any positive conclusion from what has gone on so far.

On the other aspects of the Rent Act, I think that hon. Members will know that there has been very little complaint about the increases made possible by the Act. I am talking here of Scotland, because of the way the debate has gone. On the whole question of decontrol, I would say that I am quite convinced that the great majority of landlords in Scotland are behaving very reasonably indeed. There are exceptions and I say to those exceptions that in their own interest I certainly hope that they will approach this problem with humanity and intelligence.

It was mentioned earlier in the evening that there are at this moment a substantial number of houses in Glasgow which are empty. That has two kinds of significance. It could mean that in time it might not be so easy to sell, and I hope that it will be realised that we are taking a difficult line on the decontrolled houses.

From all the evidence that I can get—and this is a point which the hon. Member for Maryhill (Mr. Hannan) was making—it is clear that in recent months many houses held vacant pending the enactment of the Rent Bill were thereafter put in the letting market, and also that a good many that would formerly have been sold on becoming vacant are being kept in the letting pool. In that respect the Act is undoubtedly having a beneficial effect.

In the short time before I sit down, I cannot avoid saying this. The Amendment which we are discussing is really a very surprising one, coming from the party opposite. It could not be less appropriate or less relevant. I will have a go at the figures about which we were having such trouble with the hon. Member for Hamilton. I will give the Scottish ones and my right hon. Friend may give the English ones. But let us remember in consideration of all these housing problems that the best pre-war figure was 26,500. The best figure that was produced in the Labour Party's days post-war was 25,850 permanent houses. [Interruption.] If the hon. Member wants the figures for the whole period during which the Labour Party were in office and we have been in office, they are 109,000 plus 32,000 against 203,000 which we built.

It is not good enough to point to the number of apartments and say that is the explanation—or to the size. Even allowing for that, the figures I have given are ample evidence. My right hon. Friend was attacked hard for using comparisons of this kind. Let hon. Members remember that we had not a very large amount

of war damage to houses to repair in Scotland, except in Clydebank and Greenock. There could be no comparison with the damage done in England.

There is still another point. The decision of the Labour Party in 1950 is, of course, well known—that they must hold completions to about 200,000 houses a year. It was not a question of what was physically possible. It was a deliberate decision. Remember the scorn which was poured upon us when we said that we could build 300,000. It is not good enough to try to get out of facts of what has happened in the last six years with the alibis which hon. Members opposite have tried to produce this evening. It is with confidence that I ask that the Amendment be rejected.

Question put, That those words be there added:—

The House divided: Ayes 256, Noes 313.

Division No. 1.] AYES [9.59 p.m.
Ainsley, J. W. Delargy, H. J. Hoy, J. H.
Albu, A. H. Diamond, John Hubbard, T. F.
Allen, Arthur (Bosworth) Dodds, N. N. Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Donnelly, D. L. Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)
Awbery, S. S. Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwch) Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)
Bacon, Miss Alice Dye, S. Hunter, A. E.
Baird, J. Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. Hynd, H. (Accrington)
Balfour, A. Edelman, M. Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J. Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse) Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)
Bence, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.) Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly) Irving, Sydney (Dartford)
Benn, Hn. Wedgwood (Bristol, S. E.) Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.
Benson, G. Edwards, W. J. (Stepney) Janner, B.
Beswick, Frank Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.) Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.
Blackburn, F. Evans, Edward (Lowestoft) Jeger, George (Goole)
Blenkinsop, A. Fernyhough, E. Jeger, Mrs. Lena (Holbn & St. Pncs. S.)
Blyton, W. R. Fienburgh, W. Johnston, Douglas (Paisley)
Boardman, H. Finch, H. J. Jones, Rt. Hon. A. Creech (Wakefield)
Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G. Fletcher, Erio Jones, David (The Hartlepools)
Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S. W.) Foot, D. M. Jones, Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)
Bowles, F. G. Forman, J. C. Jones, Jack (Rotherham)
Boyd, T. C. Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)
Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N. Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)
Brockway, A. F. George, Lady Megan Lloyd (Car'then) Kenyon, C.
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Gibson, C. W. Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.
Brown, Thomas (Ince) Gooch, E. G. King, Dr. H. M.
Burton, Miss F. E. Greenwood, Anthony Lawson, G. M.
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R. Ledger, R. J.
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Grey, C. F. Lee, Frederick (Newton)
Callaghan, L. J. Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)
Castle, Mrs. B. A. Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly) Lever, Harold (Cheetham)
Champion, A. J. Griffiths, William (Exchange) Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)
Clunie, J. Hale, Leslie Lewis, Arthur
Coldrick, W. Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley) Lindgren, G. S.
Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead) Hamilton, W. W. Lipton, Marcus
Collins, V. J. (Shoreditch & Finsbury) Hannan, W. Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Harrison, J. (Nottingham, N.) MacColl, J. E.
Cove, W. G. Hastings, S. MacDermot, Niall
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Hayman, F. H. McGhee, H. G.
Cronin, J. D. Healey, Denis McGovern, J.
Crossman, R. H. S. Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis) McInnes, J.
Cullen, Mrs. A. Harbison, Miss M. McKay, John (Wallsend)
Dalton, Rt. Hon. H. Hewitson, Capt. M. McLeavy, Frank
Darling, George (Hillsborough) Hobson, C. R. (Keighley) MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)
Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.) Holman, P. MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)
Davies, Harold (Leek) Holmes, Horace Mahon, Simon
Davies, Stephen (Merthyr) Howell, Charles (Perry Barr) Mainwaring, W. H.
Deer, G. Howell, Denis (All Saints) Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)
Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfd, E.) Probert, A. R. Swingler, S. T.
Mann, Mrs. Jean Prootor, W. T. Sylvester, G. O.
Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A. Pryde, D. J. Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Mason, Roy Pursey, cmdr. H. Taylor, John (West Lothian)
Mayhew, C. P. Randall, H. E. Thomas, George (Cardiff)
Mellish, R. J. Rankin, John Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)
Messer, Sir F. Redhead, E. C. Thornton, E.
Mikardo, Ian Reeves, J. Timmons, J.
Mitchison, G. R. Reid, William Tomney, F.
Monslow, W. Rhodes, H. Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn
Moody, A. S. Robens, Rt. Hon. A. Usborne, H. C.
Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.) Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Viant, S. P.
Morrison, Rt. Hn. Herbert (Lewis'm, S.) Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon) Watkins, T. E.
Mort, D. L. Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.) Weitzman, D.
Moss, R. Rogers, George (Kensington, N.) Wells, Percy (Faversham)
Moyle, A. Ross, William Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Mulley, F. W. Royle, C. West, D. G.
Neal, Harold (Bolsover) Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir Hartley Wheeldon, W. E.
Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon) Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E. White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)
O'Brien, sir Thomas Short, E. W. White, Henry (Derbyshire, N. E.)
Oliver, C. H. Shurmer, P. L. E. Wigg, George
Oram, A. E. Silverman, Julius (Aston) Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.
Orbach, M. Silverman, Sydney (Nelson) Wilkins, W. A.
Oswald, T. Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill) Willey, Frederick
Owen, W. J. Skeffington, A. M. Williams, David (Neath)
Padley, W. E. Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke, N.) Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'tillery)
Paget, R. T. Slater, J. (Sedgefield) Williams, Ronald (Wigan)
Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley) Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.) Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)
Palmer, A. M. F. Snow, J. W. Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)
Pargiter, G. A. Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)
Parker, J. Sparks, J. A. Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Parkin, B. T. Steele, T. Winterbottom, Richard
Paton, John Stewart, Michael (Fulham) Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Peart, T. F. Stonehouse, John Woof, R. E.
Pentland, N. Stones, W. (Consett) Yates, V. (Ladywood)
Plummer, Sir Leslie Strachey, Rt. Hon. J. Younger, Rt. Hon. K.
Prentice, R. E. Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall) Zilliacus, K.
Price, J. T. (Westhoughton) Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)
Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.) Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E. TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Mr. Popplewell and Mr. Pearson.
Agnew, Sir Peter Bryan, P. Errington, Sir Eric
Aitken, W. T. Bullus, Wing Commander E. E. Erroll, F. J.
Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.) Burden, F. F. A. Farey-Jones, F. W.
Alport, C. J. M. Butcher, Sir Herbert Fell, A.
Amery, Julian (Preston, N.) Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A. (Saffron Walden) Finlay, Graeme
Amory, Rt. Hn. Heathcoat (Tiverton) Campbell, Sir David Fisher, Nigel
Anstruther-Gray, Major Sir William Carr, Robert Fletcher-Cooke, C.
Armstrong, C. W. Cary, Sir Robert Forrest, G.
Ashton, H. Channon, Sir Henry Fort, R.
Astor, Hon. J. J. Chichester-Clark, R. Foster, John
Atkins, H. E. Churchill, Rt. Hon. Sir Winston Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)
Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M. Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.) Fraser, Sir Ian (M'cmbe & Lonsdale)
Baldwin, A. E. Cole, Norman Freeth, Denzil
Balniel, Lord Conant, Maj. Sir Roger Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.
Barber, Anthony Cooke, Robert Gammans, Lady
Barlow, Sir John Cooper, A. E. Garner-Evans, E. H.
Barter, John Cooper-Key, E. M. George, J. C. (Pollok)
Baxter, Sir Beverley Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K. Gibson-Watt, D.
Beamish, Maj. Tufton Corfield, Capt. F. V. Glover, D.
Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.) Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne) Glyn, Col. Richard H.
Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.) Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Godber, J. B.
Bennett, F. M. (Torquay) Crowder, Sir John (Finchley) Gomme-Duncan, Col. Sir Alan
Bennett, Dr. Reginald Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood) Goodhart, Philip
Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth) Cunningham, Knox Gough, C. F. H.
Bidgood, J. C. Dance, J. C. G. Gower, H. R.
Biggs-Davison, J. A. Davidson, Viscountess Graham, Sir Fergus
Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Grant, W. (Woodside)
Bishop, F. P. Deedes, W. F. Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R. (Nantwich)
Black, C. W. Digby, Simon Wingfield Green, A.
Body, R. F. Dodds-Parker, A. D. Gresham Cooke, R.
Boothby, Sir Robert Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA. Grimond, J.
Bossom, Sir Alfred Doughty, C. J. A. Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)
Bowen, E. R. (Cardigan) Drayson, G. B. Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A. du Cann, E. D. L. Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.
Boyle, Sir Edward Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond) Gurden, Harold
Braine, B. R. Duncan, Sir James Hall, John (Wycombe)
Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.) Duthie, W. S. Hare, Rt. Hon. J. H.
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H. Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir David Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.)
Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West) Harris, Reader (Heston)
Brooman-White, R. C. Elliott, R. W. (N'castle upon Tyne, N.) Harrison, A. B. C. (Maldon)
Browne, J. Nixon (Craigton) Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)
Harvey, Sir Arthur (Macclesfd) Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.) Remnant, Hon. P.
Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.) Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral) Renton, D. L. M.
Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.) Low, Rt. Hon. Sir Toby Ridsdale, J. E.
Harvie-Walt, Sir George Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.) Rippon, A. G. F.
Hay, John Lucas, P. B. (Brentford & Chiswick) Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)
Head, Rt. Hon. A. H. Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Robertson, Sir David
Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel McAdden, S. J. Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)
Henderson, John (Cathcart) Macdonald, Sir Peter Robson Brown, Sir William
Henderson-Stewart, Sir James McKibbin, Alan Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)
Hesketh, R. F. Mackie, J. H. (Calloway) Roper, Sir Harold
Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W. McLaughlin, Mrs. P. Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard
Hill, Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton) Maclay, Rt. Hon. John Russell, R. S.
Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe) Maclean, Sir Fitzroy (Lancaster) Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.
Hill, John (S. Norfolk) McLean, Neil (Inverness) Schofield, Lt.-Col. W.
Hirst, Geoffrey Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.) Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.
Hobson, John (Warwick & Leam'gt'n) MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty) Sharples, R. C.
Holland-Martin, C. J. Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Harold (Bromley) Shepherd, William
Holt, A. F. Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax) Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)
Hope, Lord John Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries) Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood)
Hornby, R. P. Maitland, Cdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle) Soames, Christopher
Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P. Maitland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark) Spearman, Sir Alexander
Horobin, Sir Ian Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R. Speir, R. M.
Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Dame Florence Markham, Major Sir Frank Spence, H. R. (Aberdeen, W.)
Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire) Marlowe, A. A. H. Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard
Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives) Marples, Rt. Hon. A. E. Stevens, Geoffrey
Howard, John (Test) Marshall, Douglas Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)
Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral J. Mathew, R. Steward, Sir William (Woolwich, W.)
Hughes-Young, M. H. C. Maude, Angus Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm
Hulbert, Sir Norman Maudling, Rt. Hon. ft. Storey, S.
Hurd, A. R. Mawby, R. L. Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)
Hutchison, Michael Clark (E'b'gh, S.) Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C. Studholme, Sir Henry
Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'gh, W.) Medlicott, Sir Frank Summers, Sir Spencer
Hyde, Montgomery Milligan, Rt. Hon. w. B Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)
Hylton-Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Harry Molson, Rt. Hon. Hugh Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Iremonger, T. L. Moore, Sir Thomas Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)
Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Morrison, John (Salisbury) Teeling, W.
Jennings, J. C. (Burton) Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles Temple, John M.
Jennings, Sir Roland (Hallam) Nabarro, C. D. N. Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)
Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle) Nairn, D. L. S. Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)
Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Neave, Airey Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)
Joynson-Hicks, Hon. Sir Lancelot Nicholls, Harmar Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, S.)
Kaberry, D. Nicolson, N. (B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'ch) Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. P.
Keegan, D. Nugent, G. R. H. Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.
Kerby, Capt. H. B. O'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.) Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)
Kerr, Sir Hamilton Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. W. D. Tilney, John (Wavertree)
Kershaw, J. A. Orr, Capt. L. P. S. Tweedsmuir, Lady
Kimball, M. Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.) Vane, W. M. F.
Kirk, P. M. Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Weston-S-Mare) Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.
Lagden, G. W. Osborne, C. Vickers, Miss Joan
Lambert, Hon. G. Page, R. G. Wade, D. W.
Lambton, Viscount Panned, N. A. (Kirkdale) Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)
Lancaster, Col. C. G. Partridge, E. Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Derek
Langford-Holt, J. A. Peyton, J. W. W. Wall, Major Patrick
Leather, E. H. C. Pickthorn, K. W. M. Ward, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Worcester)
Leavey, J. A. Pike, Miss Mervyn Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)
Leburn, W. G. Pilkington, Capt. R. A. Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold
Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H. Pitman, I. J. Webbe, Sir H.
Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield) Pitt, Miss E. M. Whitelaw, W. S. I.
Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T. Pott, H. P. Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.) Powell, J. Enoch Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)
Lindsay, Martin (Solihull) Price, David (Eastleigh) Wills, G. (Bridgwater)
Linstead, Sir H. N. Profumo, J. D. Wood, Hon. R.
Llewellyn, D. T. Rawlinson, Peter
Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G. (Sutton Coldfield) Redmayne, M. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Mr. Heath and Mr. Oakshott.

Main Question again proposed.

Several Hon. Members rose

It being after Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.

Debate to be resumed Tomorrow.