§ 44. Mr. Frank Allaun
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs what further assistance, other than by subsidy, he proposes to give to local authorities in order to enable them to increase their 218 house-building programmes, and so relieve the long waiting-lists for council houses.
§ 55. Mr. Awbery
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs if he is aware that the building of houses by local authorities has fallen from 257,000 in 1954 to 145,000 in 1958; what was the main cause of this reduction during a time when there has been a substantial unsatisfied demand for living accommodation; and what steps are now being taken, other than by subsidy, to encourage councils to increase the number of houses.
§ Mr. H. Brooke
Since 1951 more than 2 million new houses have been built in Great Britain at an average rate of some 300,000 a year. This high level has been made possible by the continued growth of private building for general housing needs. As a result, the housing situation in the country has been enormously improved. In these circumstances, though in many areas there is still a strong continuing demand for houses, it was to be expected that the total number needing to be provided by local authorities should decline. Nevertheless, they have continued to build on a substantial scale, and have been told by Circular 60/58 that I am prepared to approve the building of an increased number of houses by individual authorities during the current year.
§ Mr. Allaun
Is the Minister aware that many big councils, such as Salford, are being forced by the increased interest rates and the removal of most types of housing subsidy to confine themselves solely to rehousing slum clearance tenants? Will he therefore consider enabling the Public Works Loan Board to reduce its interest rate below the market rate by a financial grant? If the Government really wanted to do it, they could do it.
§ Mr. Brooke
A question about rates charged by the Public Works Loan Board should be put to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. In my experience every authority can go on building because if it is not able to afford to build at reasonable rents by pooling its existing rents, then it has power to apply for a discretionary grant under the 1958 Act.
§ Mr. Awbery
Can the Minister now give us the explanation asked for in Question 55 as to why there was such a substantial reduction of 100,000 houses in one year?
§ Mr. Mitchison
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the number of council houses being built now is little more than half what it was five years ago? Is he also aware that the total number of houses being built now has fallen? Is he also aware that his slum clearance programme has not been up to what the local authorities could have done by themselves?
§ Mr. Brooke
I find nothing in this Question about slum clearance but, of course, our total housing achievement far outweighs anything that the Opposition ever did.