HC Deb 01 April 1958 vol 585 cc1007-8
26. Mr. Sparks

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs why the number of new dwellings completed by local authorities is continuously falling.

28 and 29. Mr. Lewis

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs (1) whether he is aware that in 1951 a local council-built house averaged 900 square feet with a ceiling height of eight feet as against the present-day standard of 800 square feet and seven feet six inches, respectively, that in 1951 63 per cent. of all council-built houses had three or more bedrooms as against 47 per cent. at the end of 1957, and yet only 137,584 of these smaller houses were built by local authorities in 1957 as against 141,587 of the larger type of house which were built in 1951; what was the reason for the reduction; and what action he proposes to take to restore council-house building to its 1951 level;

(2) if he is aware that in 1957 fewer houses were being built to rent than there were in 1951 and 1948; and, as there will be an urgent need in October, 1958, for such houses built to rent, what action he proposes to take to encourage the building of these types of houses so as to equal the building figure of 1948 and 1951.

Mr. H. Brooke

I would refer the hon. Members to the speech I made during the Debate on the Address on 11th November, when I drew attention to the striking improvement in the housing situation since 1951, and explained why it is now necessary, as an anti-inflationary measure, to slow down the housing programme.

Mr. Sparks

Is the Minister aware that there is very little improvement in the areas where the housing problem is most acute? In view of the heavy housing lists which exist in almost every city and town in the country, and the slowing down of the housing programme, which will accentuate the housing problem, will he reconsider the matter with a view to encouraging local authorities in those areas to expand rather than contract their housing programmes?

Mr. Brooke

The first task is to combat inflation. If that can be done, nobody will be happier than I to see housing go full speed ahead; but the sort of areas to which the hon. Gentleman has referred are exactly those areas where the principal difficulty is shortage of sites.

Mr. Lewis

Will the Minister look at my two Questions and examine the figures there, which are taken from his official housing returns? Do not those figures show that his Ministry and he are now responsible for building fewer houses, smaller houses, and houses which are costing more, at a time when he is evicting people from rent-controlled houses and there is an urgent need for houses of the very type to which I have referred? Should not he now institute a programme of increased house building and get things back at least to the 1948 or 1951 level? Does the right hon. Gentleman deny the figures in his own reports?

Mr. Brooke

I had noted what was the source of the hon. Gentleman's figures. I am thankful to say that, since we have had a Conservative Government, we have built 50 per cent. more houses than the Labour Government did.

Mr. Mitchison

But is not the Minister aware that, as a result of his policy, the number of council houses being built is falling?

Mr. Brooke

Yes, that is perfectly true. I said that the first duty is to combat inflation. The hon. and learned Gentleman may not have noticed that, even so, more than 300,000 houses were built last year, and the figures under the Labour Government were strangely different.