§ The following Question stood upon the Order Paper:
§ 45. Mr. FRANK ALLAUN
To ask the Prime Minister if he will undertake a personal tour of some of the industrial towns and cities to see the bad housing conditions in which millions of British families live.
On a point of order. I submit to you, Mr. Speaker, that this Question is out of order, should not have been accepted by the Table and should not be called. The Question contains the statement that millions of British families are living in bad housing conditions.
I refer you, Mr. Speaker, to page 358 of Erskine May, under the heading, "Examples of inadmissible questions":In the light of these general rules the following types of question have been ruled out of order:(1) Questions … containing arguments, expressions of opinion, inferences, or imputations.I submit to you, respectfully, that this Question contains the expression of opinion that millions of British families are living in bad housing conditions, which is an argument which certainly cannot be acccepted on this side of the House and which contains an imputation against Government policy which is not called for. I submit to you, Sir, that the Question is out of order and should not be accepted by you.
§ Mr. Speaker
I am obliged to the hon. Member. I regret that I could not hear him when he wanted to say something 1246 to me in the Chair just now owing to being occupied on other matters. I hold that the Question is in order, on the basis that the assertion there made is one of fact and not of opinion. It is an assertion of fact for which the hon. Member who puts the Question on the Order Paper accepts responsibility.
§ 45. Mr. Frank Allaun
asked the Prime Minister if he will undertake a personal tour of some of the industrial towns and cities to see the bad housing conditions in which millions of British families live.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Macmillan)
I am glad to say that housing conditions in industrial areas have been materially improved in the last eight years. I am of course aware that a great deal still remains to be done.
As the hon. Member knows, I have during my Premiership visited a large number of industrial towns and cities in this country, and I hope to continue this practice.
§ Mr. Allaun
Would not such a visit show that thousands of families have been waiting fourteen years and that in 1959 six million households are without a bath? Does the Prime Minister realise that most people cannot afford to buy their own house, that their hopes are receding because the councils have been forced to halve their programmes since 1954 by the Government's high interest rates, and that cheap housing loans are vital?
§ The Prime Minister
There are a large number of questions of fact in that supplementary question which I cannot accept. We can debate these matters, and we frequently do. Some years ago I used to take part in those debates. It is surely common knowledge that, by an enormous national effort, a very great deal has been done in the housing sphere, probably greater than in any country in the world. We have a right to be proud of that. There are arguments as to what would be the best method of concentrating our efforts now. I think that concentration on the slum clearance programme is the right method. There have been only two serious slum clearance programmes in our history, both of them under Conservative Governments.
§ Mr. Manuel
Is not the Prime Minister aware that housing authorities everywhere are having to cut their programmes appreciably because of high interest charges and subsidy reduction? If he really wants to make a step forward in slum clearance he will need to get interest charges reduced and the subsidy restored.
§ The Prime Minister
Slum clearance programmes are, of course, covered by special subsidies for that purpose.
§ Mr. Popplewell
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the Prime Minister's statement that only two really effective slum clearance drives have been conducted, and that those have been conducted by Conservative Government, would not the Prime Minister correct that statement and draw attention to Arthur Greenwood's Act, which was the finest slum clearance Act of any in prewar days?
§ The Prime Minister
But it did not last long enough to be of any success. However, I have made a statement of fact from which the hon. Member must make his own deductions.