HC Deb 02 June 1960 vol 624 cc1617-8
21. Mr. Allaun

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer to what extent it is the policy of Her Majesty's Government to spend a smaller proportion of the country's financial resources on building council houses this year compared with last year and with 1954, respectively; and what methods he proposes to use to achieve this purpose.

Mr. Barber

The number of local authority houses completed in 1960 should be appreciably higher than in 1959. The fall in local authority house building since 1954 reflects the Government's successes in overcoming the housing need in many areas away from the big cities, and also in encouraging house ownership.

The level of local authority house building is taken into account in considering the total of all public sector capital investment.

Mr. Allaun

Is it not the fact that this proportion was deliberately halved between 1954 and last year, that the proportion this year will be very much the same, and that this results directly from the Government's policy of increasing interest rates and removing most types of housing subsidy? Does not the hon. Gentleman's reply, which shows a manifest ignorance of the situation, also show that the Government are not putting first things first?

Mr. Barber

Perhaps I may first take up the hon. Gentleman's remark about ignorance of the situation. He refers in his Question to the Government spending on local authority housing a smaller proportion of our financial resources this year as compared with last year. The fact is that the estimated expenditure on local authority house building will be greater this year than last year; that the proportion of the total public sector investment to be spent on local authority house building will be greater this year than last year, and that the estimated number of completions will be greater this year than last year.

As to the hon. Gentleman's reference to 1954, I am sure he would be the first to admit that he has taken the best year since the Conservatives came into office —235,000 completions of local authority houses in 1954—and that, I think, one can fairly compare with the best year under a Labour Government—1948 —when the number was only 190,000.

Mr. H. Wilson

Is it not a fact that the hon. Member himself, for his standard of reference, chose the worst of many years, namely, 1958? Is it not a fact that in 1958 the number of council houses was lower than at any time for very many years, lower than under the Labour Government?

Mr. Barber

I think the right hon. Gentleman misunderstood me. I was referring to the three years mentioned in the Question.