HC Deb 17 November 1959 vol 613 cc968-70
13. Mr. Cleaver

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs how many small dwellings, especially for old people to rent, have been provided by the Birmingham City Council during the past five years.

Mr. H. Brooke

Local authorities do not normally notify me how many dwellings they let to old people, as the selection of tenants is by statute a matter entirely for them. But I understand that in the past five years Birmingham City Council has let about 1,000 new dwellings to old people.

Mr. Cleaver

While thanking my right hon. Friend for his reply, may I ask if he is aware that this is a totally unsatisfactory quantity in view of the fact that there are a large number of old people anxious and willing to exchange their larger houses for more limited accommodation, thereby relieving the housing situation in the city?

Mr. Brooke

If Birmingham City Council receives offers from old people who are ready to sell their houses to the council in return for being provided with more suitable accommodation, for my part I am ready to agree to the council buying them.

Mr. Turton

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that the Birmingham authority and other authorities know the extent of this need?

Mr. Brooke

I am quite sure that Birmingham and many other authorities know they have a very great need which it will take a long time fully to satisfy.

14. Mr. Gurden

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs what is the planned number of small dwellings for old people to be provided by the Birmingham City Council during the next two years.

Mr. H. Brooke

I understand that it is likely to be about 450.

Mr. Gurden

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many of the old people are already living in council houses which are too large for them, particularly in cases where a family has moved away possibly leaving a widower or a widow on his own in the house? May I secondly ask what steps my right hon. Friend has taken to stimulate a Socialist-controlled council which has already expressed a wish to do something for old people but has done very little?

Mr. Brooke

Yes, I am aware of the first fact, and I am very anxious that exchanges should take place in similar circumstances. With regard to the general problem in Birmingham, I have said that Birmingham faces a very considerable housing problem not only for old people but for slum clearance as well, but the initiative rests with the Birmingham City Council in dealing with it.

Mr. V. Yates

Is the Minister aware that in Birmingham there are 45,000 houses considered to be unfit for human habitation, that this is one of the most serious problems facing the country, and that in those houses live old people as well as young people? Will he take every step to urge on local authorities to solve, and to assist them in solving, that tremendous problem?

Mr. Brooke

Yes, in reply to the previous question I told the House that I recognise that Birmingham has a very large slum-clearance problem as well as its need to provide for old people.