HC Deb 02 May 1960 vol 622 cc700-827

3.40 p.m.

Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham)

The Estimates which we are to discuss today cover a wide range of services. The Ministry of Housing and Local Government has grown in importance in recent years, so much so that when we discuss its Estimates we discuss not only the work for which the Minister is directly responsible, but the grants of money to local authorities for education and for a considerable number of other services. The Minister of Education is left with a mere shell of Estimates.

In addition to the major services covered by the Estimates of this Ministry, housing and education, there is a large number of smaller but still important services all of which have their advocates in this House. It may be coast erosion, it may be National Parks, it may be any of a wide variety of subjects. Out of this wide selection I propose to concentrate on two major matters, first, housing, and, secondly, the rating problems of local authorities.

I do not doubt that many of my hon. Friends, and hon. Members opposite, will have remarks to make on those subjects and probably the others covered by these Estimates. We have also to take into account that this is a Scottish as well as an English and Welsh debate. I have no doubt that many of my hon. Friends who represent Scottish constituencies will try to catch your eye, Sir Gordon, and I hope that they will be successful.

I understand that the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Housing and Local Government will follow me in this debate and that his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland will conclude the debate. May I address this remark to the Secrtary of State for Scotland? During the debate a number of points will be made relating not only to Scotland, but to England and Wales. We trust, indeed we shall expect, that the right hon. Gentleman will reply to them, for the two Ministers who are to take part in this debate are not only the heads of their respective Departments but also members of the Cabinet and, as such, responsible collectively for the policy of the Government as a whole.

A few days ago, when I mentioned this point to some of my Scottish colleagues, they, with the pessimism born of experience, expressed the view that the Secretary of State for Scotland was unlikely to reply even to the Scottish points which may be made in the debate. Although that may be, the Committee will regard the right hon. Gentleman as charged with the task of replying for all parts of Great Britain.

I will now discuss the first of the two major problems with which I wish to deal, that of housing. I think I may say that we had a spirited debate on this question on 17th March last and since then there have been two interesting Adjournment debates. One was initiated by the hon. Member for Barons Court (Mr. Compton Carr) and had relation to the Fulham and Hammersmith constituencies, but threw light on the London problem in general. The other was initiated by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Mr. V. Yates) and attention was drawn to the housing problem of that city. Although those debates covered a good deal of the ground, that by no means concluded the argument on housing. Indeed, it is fair to say that the debates raised quite as many questions as they solved.

It seemed to me, looking over the record of the debates, that these points in particular emerged. First, that although housing is a serious problem in many parts of the kingdom, it is becoming increasingly a regional problem. The measures to be applied to it vary from one part of the country to another, and there are certain parts of the country where this problem is particularly acute. I think it fair, without underestimating the housing problem of other regions, to say that it is, if not most serious, at any rate most difficult to handle in those cities where the employment situation is such that they become a magnet for the population—London, Birmingham and, I do not doubt, other cities which will be mentioned in this debate. I wish to consider it first as a regional problem affecting in particular those great cities, and, secondly, as being a financial problem for the authorities, and thirdly, as raising certain specialised social problems.

In the Adjournment debate last Tuesday, when mention was made of the London housing problem, the counsel which the Parliamentary Secretary had to give to the London boroughs was that they should build wherever possible. Perhaps it was a little unfortunate that his advice coincided with the decision of the Minister preventing the Borough of Fulham from building on a place where it would have been possible to build and where the local authority would have liked to have built. But, at any rate, that was the advice which the hon. Gentleman gave, that the boroughs should build wherever possible. I take it the hon. Gentleman had in mind the fact that in such a city the problem is increasingly one of finding somewhere to put up houses at all.

In the Adjournment debate last Friday, when the Birmingham problem was discussed, the Minister was defending a decision he had made to prevent the City of Birmingham from carrying out a considerable project on a particular site. It was significant that the Minister, in attempting to justify his denial of that site to Birmingham, agreed with the local authority fully that if it were not to build there some other site must be found. He recognised as much as anyone that if this aspect of the housing problem is to be solved we have to seek places in which to build well outside the great conurbations.

So far, we are not making adequate attempts to solve this section of the housing problem. In 1955, an estimate was made by the then Minister of Housing of how much provision ought to be made for the problem of overspill, for the problem of accommodating outside the area of one housing authority the population which it cannot properly house within its borders. From a study of the figures, it is apparent that since 1955 the provision made for that problem of overspill is barely half that which was estimated in 1955 to be necessary, and that which the then Minister of Housing hoped to make. In that situation, I think that one of the first questions which we have to ask the Minister is: what is the Government's policy with regard to new towns?

The housing problem of the great conurbations cannot be solved without a considerable extension of new towns. I do not think that that is now denied by hon. Members opposite or by the members of the Government. But their admission of the problem has not so far been matched by any action. It is a story we have repeated before, the contrast between the measures taken for the development of new towns under the last Labour Government and the much slower progress which has proceeded while this Government have been in power. It looks also as if the Government are now attempting to handle this problem by suggesting that the local authorities concerned should build their own new towns, that we should have local authority new towns.

I wish to draw the attention of the Minister to some of the reasons why I do not believe that to be an adequate solution. It is true that the County of London is embarking on a project of that kind, but the County of London is unique in size and resources among local authorities, and even for the County of London it will present a very considerable problem. We must further notice that if a new town is created simply by the enterprise of a particular local authority, in effect it becomes a special and very large kind of out-county estate.

Inevitably the difficulty will arise that with the passage of time vacancies will occur in it. By whom are they to be filled? By the local population, or by more people coming out from the mother city which created the new town? That is a problem already afflicting the L.C.C. It is the cause of some friction between it and surrounding local authorities in which out-county estates are placed. That problem will become far more acute if the general solution were to be found in the creation of more local authority new towns.

Moreover, if local authorities, by their own unaided efforts, are to try to seek sites away from the crowded centres the pressure on them to invade their own green belts will become so strong as to be almost overwhelming. We are driven to a conclusion which, I see, has recently been presented to the Minister by a memorandum prepared by the Town and Country Planning Association. After examining the idea of city sponsorship of new towns, it comments: In any case, very little progress has been made in the face of the many formidable obstacles. If the Government regards this method … that is, the creation of new towns— as a necessary part of the solution, surely it should assume some responsibility for promoting its fulfilment. In particular there is need of strong central guidance in the selection of sites.…The problem of urban sprawl and spontaneous dispersal has become regional in its immediate impact, but no regional planning bodies exist to cope with it. In some parts of the country it raises issues transcending even the immediate region. It seems essential, therefore, that the Government should take the lead in promoting regional solutions to the problem. One of the things we hope to get from this debate is a more positive lead and declaration from the Government of their policy towards new towns.

I now turn to the financial aspect of the housing problem facing local authorities. Here we have to trace the history of what appears to be a deliberately designed policy by the Government to make things more difficult for the local authority and for the ratepayer. I want to trace the steps by which that policy has been carried out. The first concerns the cost of land required for building projects. Many times in this House we have mentioned the fact that the rising cost of land required for building purposes of any sort is becoming an acute social difficulty, but the interesting thing is that every time we debate it it is possible to adduce fresh evidence in support of the seriousness of this problem.

I wish to draw the attention of the Committee to a remark recently made by Mr. K. W. Brand, staff architect employed by the firm of Wates. He commented: Land, except in remote places, is now responsible for one quarter or more of the total cost of building. That is a very formidable figure. It means that whenever a local authority is building for either housing or any other necessary social purpose, it starts with this enormous burden placed upon it.

I shall give another example which illustrates the point about the cost of land in building other than housing. We are all familiar with the work being done on the Cromwell Roard extension and the immense amount of work that has been done in that connection. Up-to-date more has been paid for the land than in the cost of all work so far done on that project.

This is a matter we meet wherever the community tries to solve the problems inherent in having 50 million people in this island. One county is faced with the situation in which the land it requires for education, health or welfare purposes has trebled in price in the last few years. We must recognise that so long as the population continues to grow, and so long as we have a rising standard of life which causes people to desire to live more spaciously, this problem will become more and more acute.

When we want more of certain things, mankind, by skill and energy, can produce more, but land is not one of those things. We are in the position of constantly requiring more land to meet the needs of a growing population and the rising standard of life, but no skill, wit or energy can increase the supply of land. Inevitably therefore, without any effort on the part of the landowner, its value rises. The case we urge from these benches is that where the value of land increases, and that increase is not due to any constructive effort by the owner of the land, that increased value ought to accrue to the community and not to the owner of the land.

There is a variety of financial methods by which that result can be achieved. Many have been suggested at one time or another, such as that some form of capital gains tax should apply to sales of land, or that local authorities should draw part of their revenues from the rating of site values. I do not press the Minister to choose one particular method rather than another. I say to him that if he is concerned to help local authorities in solving their housing problem at reasonable cost, the Government, sooner or later, must select one or other method for getting for the community some part of this increased value which is not the result of any constructive effort by the owner of land.

The interesting thing is that in 1951, when the previous Conservative Government came into power, there was legislation in force to produce just that result, to secure that increases in the value of land of the kind I have mentioned should accrue to the community. What did the Government do? By legislation passed in 1952 they enabled the private owner of land to keep for himself this increase in value if he was selling the land to a private owner. That was the first step. It created, of course, the anomaly that there was a marked difference in the situation of people who were selling land to private persons and those who were selling it or being obliged to sell it to local authorities.

The Government, having taken the first step, could plausibly argue that with justice they must take the second and, by later legislation, we got the complete position that when there are increases in the value of land which are no credit to the owner of it, such increase goes to the owner whether he sells to a private person or to a local authority.

From the point of view of local authorities, that was blow, or burden, No. 1—an increased cost of land for their housing projects. In mitigation, the Government pointed out that the Housing Act, 1958, contains provision for what is known as the expensive site subsidy. I may have missed it in the Estimates, but I do not find that the Estimates are so drawn as to tell us precisely how much of the grants of public money towards housing are accounted for by the operation of Section 7 of the 1958 Act, the Section which deals with the expensive site subsidy. If we are to be told that the expensive site subsidy is the Government's answer to this land problem facing local authorities, we may reasonably ask how big an answer is it? How much money has gone in the payment of subsidy under Section 7 of the 1958 Act?

The second was the blow concerning interest rates. The economic rent of an average council house has risen by 75 per cent. since 1951. That is not because the house is bigger; in fact, it is rather smaller. Of that increase, 90 per cent. is due to increased interest rates. That is one measure of the burden here imposed on local authorities.

If the Government stick to the view that they cannot make any major change of policy on interest rates, will they at least adhere to the policy which they have laid down? I have here a document prepared by the Association of Municipal Corporations which draws attention to the fact that the way in which the policy is being operated is even less favourable to local authorities than the Government themselves declared that it would be. Local authorities were told by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer in October, 1955, that when they borrowed from the Public Works Loan Board they would be allowed to do so at rates reflecting the credit of local authorities of good standing, but that is not what is happening.

The memorandum points out that for loans of more than fifteen but not more than thirty years, the local loans fund is now charging 6 per cent., and for loans of more than thirty years, 5⅞ per cent., whereas if the Government had stuck even to the declaration of their own policy the rate would have been 5½ per cent. On that, the Association comments: In our opinion, therefore, the action taken in increasing the P.W.L.B. rates"— that is, on 30th January of this year— was precipitate. We think there is little doubt that those rates have set the level of the market, which is quite contrary to the intention stated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1955. If the Minister will not consider a radical change in his policy on interest rates, will he at least pay attention to this moderate and specific complaint?

That was the second blow; after the increase in the cost of land there was the increased cost of interest. Then came the third blow—the cutting down of Exchequer subsidies. I want to link the question of interest rates with that of subsidy, because whenever we have urged him to consider more favourable rates of interest to local authorities the Minister has said that that would be a concealed subsidy. If he wants to use the word "subsidy" in that rather extended sense, I will accept it. It is true that both would mean a deliberate showing of favour through public funds to a particular form of activity, namely, housing.

Our case is that housing is one of those activities to which particular favour should fee shown, because the provision of good housing benefits not only the person who lives in the house, but also the community as a whole. It is a social as well as an individual objective and it is, therefore, an appropriate recipient of some kind of Government aid. Our contention is that the Minister should come to the help of council-house building either by lower interest rates or by restoration of the Exchequer subsidy—or by a combination, if he thinks fit, of both those expedients.

I trust that the Minister will not suggest that I am being wildly extravagant. When I remember last Wednesday's debates I am almost ashamed to plead with the Committee for so beggarly a sum as would be involved by comparison with the millions to which the Government were apparently prepared to wave goodbye so cheerfully in the debate last week. If the Minister were to pay on every council house built from now on the subsidy which he pays on certain classes of approved dwellings, he could go on doing that for a decade before he would have parted with as much as the Ministry of Defence threw away on the project which we debated last Wednesday.

I have mentioned the general case for subsidy—that if any branch of activity benefits the community as a whole as well as the individual directly concerned it should be publicly helped. When we have asked for lower interest rates, we have been told that we want to insulate housing from the economic storms which may rage. We say that some activities and some branches of production are more important than others. The Government's attitude, that whenever they think it necessary for financial reasons they should raise the interest rates in general and so strike equally at all types of economic activity, from the most socially necessary to the most trivial, is a misconception of what the country needs.

I do not suggest that any activity should be completely cushioned, but I believe that some activities, of which housing is one, deserve preferential treatment even if general financial policy requires a raising of the interest rates. The Government themselves, in certain fields, accept that view. One of the points which we have debated in housing debates is improvement grants, some of which enable private landlords to improve their property with money which comes partly from the ratepayer and the taxpayer. We by no means object to that. Indeed, we should rather like to see private landlords making greater use of that provision.

But what was the justification given for that by the Parliamentary Secretary in the debate on 12th March? He said: It pays the community to modernise these houses.…—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th March, 1960; Vol. 619, c. 1498.] He is quite right. That is why we are prepared to help the private landlord with public money. But what goes for the private landlord ought also to go for the provision of houses by local authorities.

The Government, however, have cut away the Exchequer subsidies except for certain specified classes of houses. That has been the third blow. First, the Government enormously increased the financial burden of house-building by their action over the value of land. Secondly, they increased it by their action over interest rates. Having thus piled up a burden, the Government then, by withdrawing the Exchequer subsidy, said, "As far as we can manage it, this shall be a burden on the ratepayer rather than on the taxpayer". In other words, it is a burden distributed in a less fair rather than a fairer way among citizens in the community.

It is out of this that the question of rent rebates, of which the Minister is so fond, has arisen. In my view, and, I think, in the view of most of my hon. Friends, a local authority faced with this situation, with its burden increased and its subsidy cut down, will be obliged to adopt rent rebate schemes as the fairest way of apportioning the burden among its citizens—those who live in council houses, on the one hand, and those who do not, on the other hand. But let us note that that is what they are doing. They are not solving the housing problem. They are not lightening the total burden. They are doing their best to share it as fairly as possible among the citizens—to share a burden which ought never to have been created in the first place and, secondly, should have been shared by the taxpayer as well as by the ratepayer.

Having mentioned regional and financial problems, may I mention one or two special social problems connected with housing? The Government take a great interest in housing for the elderly, and I will give the Minister full credit for his concern in this matter. He points with pride to the fact that the proportion of the total building by local authorities going to meet the needs of the elderly has been steadily growing. That is gratifying, but we must notice that what the elderly are getting is a growing proportion of a diminishing total. If the elderly now get nearly 30 per cent. instead of 7 per cent., they get it out of a total which is only two-thirds of what it was when the previous Conservative Government came into power in 1951 and only half what it was a few years ago.

If the Minister is concerned for the elderly, will he consider sometimes how the Rent Act can affect them? There are quite a number of elderly people who, by virtue of the fact that they are elderly—their children have grown up, married and left them—are left living in property which is larger than they want and larger than they can manage. What is their situation if they move? They move into an uncontrolled tenancy. They probably pay the same rent for accommodation half the size of what they were living in. They know that it will be only a few years before they are asked for further rent increases. This is one of the causes of under-occupation at present—the immobility caused by the dread of moving, which, in its turn, is caused by the operation of the Rent Act.

One particular problem I want to mention is that of houses to let. In the debate on 17th March, the Parliamentary Secretary said: My right hon. Friend"— that is, the Minister— hopes very much that private enterprise and housing associations…will increase their rate of building to let".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th March, 1960; Vol. 619, c. 1499.] We all hope that. Hope deferred maketh the heart sick. Can the Minister give us now definite figures of the comparative provision of housing to let by local authority building and private building respectively? It would throw a very striking light on the whole nature of the Government's policy, which is to discourage municipal and to encourage private building.

I want to mention one other problem, but I do not wish to do more than mention it. Perhaps some of my hon. Friends will wish to develop it. Apart from letting, the other solution to many people's housing problems is home ownership for those who can afford to take it. However, some of them are owners of their houses, but not of the ground on which it stands. One of the things which would help home ownership is for the Government to announce their intention to introduce legislation to reform the law of leasehold.

I have spoken a good deal of the financial problems, but the financial problems of housing are only some of the financial problems that beset local authorities as a whole and are reflected in the other major part of the Minister's Estimates. The other major part is the general grant to local authorities, which is the reverse side of the medal of local rates. We all know that rates have been rising and will go on rising. The last time we debated this subject, in February, I mentioned that between the financial years 1952–53 and 1959–1960 the amount paid in rates per head of the population rose by as much as 75 per cent. in county boroughs and by as much as 80 per cent. elsewhere. Since then the most recent rate increases have been announced by local authorities.

I have here a memorandum showing the rates recently declared by the 83 county boroughs in England and Wales. They show an average increase of 11¼d. in the £. Those that are under Labour control show an average increase of a trifle over 11d. in the £, and the others show an increase of about 11¾d. in the £. That is not a sufficiently significant difference from which to draw any positive conclusion. I merely mention it as having a significant negative conclusion, that the rise in rates cannot be shrugged off by any hon. Member opposite on the ground that it is due to Socialist extravagance. It is a general problem facing local authorities as a whole.

We know that some of the causes of it are unavoidable—for instance, the rise in salaries and wages and the inevitable costs of certain services. Some of it, as I have already developed, is unnecessary and is related to the terrifying rise in the cost of land for local authority needs. Some of it, more gratifyingly, is due to the expanded services which the Government's policy keeps pressing on local authorities without, at the same time, pressing into their hands the resources with which they can meet those demands. That is the size of the problem. Those are some of its causes.

Remedies, admittedly, are not easy to seek, but I think that the Minister should give attention to these points. First, the general direction of policy on this question ought to be towards an increase in the proportion of the cost of local authority administered services which is borne by the Exchequer rather than falling on local rates. That is the opposite of the Government's present intention.

Recent articles in The Guardian by the City Treasurer of Manchester remind us that the Government declared their intention when the Local Government Act was passed to decrease the proportion of the cost of the services that was borne by the Exchequer. In view of what is happening to rates and of the growing burdens on local authorities, it is much to be hoped that that policy, which the Government have not yet operated, will not be put into operation, but rather that we shall move in the reverse direction.

Secondly, it is time to proceed to the full rerating of industrial property. Thirdly, we must consider some provision for the rating of site values. I wonder if I detected, when I mentioned that subject earlier, a slight affirmative nod of the head from the Minister.

The Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs (Mr. Henry Brooke) indicated dissent.

Mr. Stewart

I feared not.

Mr. Brooke

In any case, it would involve legislation, and I understand that we are not at liberty to discuss legislation on a Supply day.

Mr. Stewart

I am not quite sure, Sir Gordon, but under the present rules of the House I think that we are able to make the most timid and limited reference to possible legislation.

The Chairman

That is correct.

Mr. Stewart

That means that the Minister cannot get out of it that way. Indeed, others have suggested far more drastic remedies, including provisions for a local Income Tax. I am far from convinced on that, but I do believe that the whole question of the sources of revenue open to local authorities needs a far fuller inquiry than it has received for some time and something far more satisfactory than the cavalier treatment that was given to certain suggestions when the Government produced their White Paper concurrently with the text of the Local Government Act, 1958.

I will now quote what the City Treasurer of Manchester said in the conclusion of his articles in The Guardian at the end of last month. He did not advocate any great new departures, but he did say this: We must make the best of what we have by abolishing de-rating and by regular and frequent revaluations. We need to add a measure of site-value rating and some charge on empty property. Let us see how far the Minister might be prepared to go in that direction.

The review of the Ministry's work which the Estimates provoke suggests to us that, although the right hon. Gentleman and his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland are plodding on in double harness, there are certain great issues which they are showing an increasing failure to grasp. They seem to have no clear policy on the need for dispersal of the population and the solution of the housing problem of the great cities. They do not seem sufficiently to have appreciated the need for an adequate supply of houses to let. They are allowing the problem of what is, in effect, profiteering in land to go on unsolved. They have not considered with a seriousness commensurate to the size of the problem the financial relationship between central and local government, at a time when the costs of local services are rising and there is a constant demand for those services to be expanded. It is my hope that, in the course of the debate, we shall be able to approach a little nearer to the resolution of those issues.

4.20 p.m.

The Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs (Mr. Henry Brooke)

I appreciate the thoughtful manner in which the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) has spoken, and the care with which I know he has studied the subjects now under discussion. Frankly, I had thought that we might be in for a Motion of censure—[HON. MEMBERS: "You are."] In that case, I have seldom heard a Motion of censure more mildly moved. The hon. Member for Fulham mentioned that others of his hon. Friends might range more widely and find different matters to criticise. Well, we shall wait and see. I am prepared to defend myself on this subject, to which the hon. Member has called the attention of the Committee.

To judge from the hon. Member's speech, the Opposition have chosen for their targets for tonight, housing—on which, when in power, they were always ineffective—and the general grant, on which they have always been wrong. Before dealing with the hon. Member's detailed points. I think that I am entitled to seek to place the general issues of housing in their wider setting, because one needs to consider, before weighing up the criticisms he has voiced what has been achieved since a Government determined, and competent, to press forward with housing came to power in 1951.

Up to that date, 980,000 houses had been built in Britain since the war. Since that date, under Conservative policy, the number built is 2,480,000—two and a half times as many—

Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, West)

Twice the period.

Mr. Brooke

If the hon. Member and his colleagues think that the period is twice as long, then, on grounds of arithmetic, they hardly qualify to take part in this debate. The figure I have quoted goes up to 31st March, a month ago; and I have little doubt that by today we have passed the 2½ million figure.

In other words, out of every seven post-war houses, five were built under Conservative Governments and only two under the Socialist policies which, presumably, the Opposition would wish to reimpose. It is a striking fact that of all the houses in Britain, from Land's End to John o' Groats, old and new together, nearly one-sixth have been built since that day in 1951 when the country rejected Socialism. No wonder that it has gone on rejecting it ever since.

Despite the criticisms which the hon. Member for Fulham has levelled against us, the fact is that since October, 1951, enough new houses and flats have been built to rehouse the whole population of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Hull, Nottingham, Bristol, Leeds, Sheffield, Cardiff and Swansea, Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow, Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester—15 great towns and cities.

That is the achievement which the Opposition today is seeking to censure. Of course, they cannot match it. If they think that they could have done better—they, with their bias against private enterprise building, which held them back so severely—frankly, not one man or woman in the country outside their own ranks agrees with them. Indeed, I am not sure if this is the one topic on which they even agree among themselves, but perhaps the debate will show.

Thanks to Conservative policies, the present outlook—barring anything completely unforseeable—is that we shall complete well over 300,000 houses again this year. At the end of March, which is the latest figure I have, in England and Wales there were 31,000 more houses under construction than there were a year ago. Private enterprise houses under construction were up by 18,000, and houses being built by local and other public authorities were up by 13,000. All in all, it was the highest March figure since 1956.

I am entitled to call attention to these facts, because anyone not knowledgeable about them and listening to the speech of the hon. Member for Fulham might easily get the impression that housing was at a standstill. I think that I know why the Opposition asked for a debate on local government matters this week. I detect a chronological linkage with the municipal elections but, this year, the local government elections are falling at an unfortunate time for the Labour Party. In view of the figures I am giving, it might be better were the Opposition to withdraw this censure Motion—should it be a censure Motion—and we could all go home. But I am quite ready to go on.

I know that some hon. Members wish to speak about Scotland. May I say, in passing, that, as I believe the hon. Member for Fulham recognised, there are certain difficulties in seeking to cover all the local government services in England and Wales and in Scotland in one debate. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State fox Scotland and I will do our best, but I submit to the Committee that it does not make for a tidy de-bate. We have to cover a great deal of ground. Naturally, the Committee would like to hear an English Minister answering English questions, and a Scottish Minister answering Scottish questions. However, it is the choice of the Opposition that we should do it in this way, and the Government are prepared to take on all comers.

Let us take slum clearance. The only two slum clearance drives in British history, as the Committee knows, have been under Conservative Governments. One is on now. I must confess that I feel thankful that within the three and a quarter years that I have been Minister more than 170,000 houses unfit for human habitation in England and Wales have been closed or pulled down, and half a million people who were living in them have moved into good, new homes.

Slum clearance is going ahead resolutely and unceasingly. In England and Wales last year, the number of unfit houses closed or demolished was a record. Is that what the Opposition want to censure us for? By the end of next year, quite a number of housing authorities will be able to report that they have no slums left—they will have finished the job. Four months ago I asked all local authorities which would not have finished the job by then to send in to me their further proposals, and these are now coming in.

It is the early towns of the Industrial Revolution, towns such as Oldham, Merthyr and Batley, and the big cities like Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool, that have the slums, that will take longest to clear. These are the places I have in mind—

Sir Leslie Plummer (Deptford)

And London.

Mr. Brooke

London has a very large housing problem, but a relatively small slum problem. I was about to speak of London, because it is the big cities, London included, that have a grave housing problem still, and I was glad to hear the hon. Member for Fulham say that, increasingly, housing was now becoming a regional problem. I want to proceed with my speech on that basis. Step by step we intend to tackle this problem, which is still so severe in certain built-up areas.

Over and above the identifying of houses unfit for human habitation, which it is the duty of every housing authority to do, I have very much in mind the problem of the larger houses in multi-occupation—houses which, though not technically unfit, can harbour living conditions just as bad as slums. I have certainly seen houses of that character.

I have not forgotten what other of my hon. Friends said in our last housing debate about the value of improving the information available to people with housing worries to help them perhaps to find new ways through their problems themselves.

I am also examining one by one the real overspill problems of the big cities. When I say "real" I do not mean to suggest that overspill is a myth; I mean to say, with what I hope every hon. Member will agree, that some of the figures estimates for overspill in the past were probably exaggerated. If we are to tackle this in a realistic way we want to take as close a measure of the problem as we can. For London we shall be examining it in relation to the L.C.C.'s proposal to build a new town at Hook. We must look at that and we must also look at possible alternatives. There are still many thousands more houses to be built in the eight London new towns.

Mr. Albert Evans (Islington, South-West)

The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the new town to be built for the London County Council at Hook. Can he tell the Committee what active steps he is taking to assist the L.C.C. to go ahead with that projected new town?

Mr. Brooke

I am taking a very close interest in What is happening in this matter. As the hon. Member knows, the London County Council has not yet put forward to me any definite proposal about Hook and, therefore, there is nothing technically in front of me about Hook at the moment. It is open to the London County Council, if it so wishes, to put in a definite proposal to me at any time. When I said that we must look at that and also look at alternatives, I chose those words rather carefully because I recognise that Hook might come to me for decision one day; and I did not wish even to seem to be prejudging that matter before I had heard all the pros and cons.

What I was saying was that though there are still many thousands more houses to be built in the eight London new towns, and although town development schemes for Londoners are going forward at Swindon, Bletchley, Haverhill, Thetford and a number of other places, we certainly shall need still more house building outside London if we are to abolish the overcrowded squalor which every London Member knows.

For Birmingham, as I explained to the House in the Adjournment debate on Friday, I am not only meeting shortly Birmingham City Council representatives, but I have also initiated discussions with the neighbouring counties to see where the housing and industry could best go; and I am sure that it should not go to Wythall and break into Birmingham's own green belt. I am ready to give similar help to each one of the big cities that cannot clear all its slums and rehouse all its people within its own boundaries.

I am sure that each problem needs individual attention. I am sure also that it is our duty to work out the best solution in co-operation between the Ministry and the city councils. Fortunately, there are not more than about five cities in the whole of England and Wales where the overspill problem is difficult. The hon. Member for Fulham suggested that it was those cities which were acting as a magnet because of high employment. I do not think that that is exactly the right criterion. One of the cities that certainly has an overspill problem, in my judgment, is Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and I doubt whether Newcastle Members would claim that that was anywhere near the top of the list in prosperity and magnetic quality at present.

Mr. Edward Short (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central)

It is at the top of the list in the country in magnetic quality, if not in employment.

Mr. Brooke

I think that Newcastle-upon-Tyne is a very pleasant place. As the hon. Member knows, I was there a few days ago and my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary was there as recently as Friday. But I think the hon. Member for Fulham, when he spoke of magnetic quality, was speaking not so much aesthetically as industrially. I am sure that we must tackle each of these urban overspill problems in a realistic way.

I cannot help mentioning, in passing, that some towns and cities make it harder for themselves, and far harder for the people on their waiting lists, by heavily subsidising out of the rates council tenants who are sufficiently well off not to need subsidy. These are the people who, in a great many cases, could afford to buy a house for themselves, partly thanks to the stimulus which Her Majesty's present Government have given to house purchase. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Instead they are being paid by the local authority to keep more deserving people out of council flats and houses.

When I mentioned the stimulus to house purchase there were some timid jeers from the benches opposite. [HON. MEMBERS: "Not timid."] Very well, my reply will not be timid either. To show how home ownership is going ahead under a Conservative Government, the building societies, in 1959, advanced for house purchase on mortgage £530 million—an all-time record. To be added to that is the £50 million a year which the local authorities advance to house purchasers.

The Committee may be interested to know that councils have begun to take advantage of the power which the Government's House Purchase and Housing Act gave them for the first time last year to make 100 per cent. advances. I know of about 2,000 advances up to the full 100 per cent. that have already been made under that new power.

Mr. James Dempsey (Coatbridge and Airdrie)

What was the rate of interest?

Mr. Brooke

The interest rate is related to the Public Works Loan Board rate. It is most striking testimony to the country's prosperity under a Conservative Government that there is this enormous demand for house purchase. Under that 1959 Act the Exchequer also lends money to building societies to finance advances for buying pre-1919 houses.

Mr. J. B. Symonds (Whitehaven)

What rate of interest is charged in respect of pre-1919 houses?

Mr. Brooke

The Building Societies Association at the moment, so far as I am aware, has approved a 5¾ per cent. rate of interest.

Mr. Symonds

The Minister said that under the 1959 Act the Exchequer can lend a certain amount to building societies to enable them to lend for the purchase of pre-1919 houses. At what rate of interest has the money been lent to the building societies?

Mr. Brooke

I had not at that moment come on to that point. I was just dealing with these advances from the Exchequer to the building societies. That £530 million which I have already mentioned was the sum which the building societies themselves had advanced for house purchase.

The present rate of interest, so far as I recollect, is 5¼ per cent., but I will check it and, if I am wrong, I will tell the Committee.

Mr. James McInnes (Glasgow, Central) rose

Mr. Brooke

I beg the Committee's pardon. The present rate is 5 per cent.—

Mr. Symonds

That is the point. The Minister has answered my question.

Mr. Brooke

May I go on?

The rate of interest which is charged by the Exchequer is 5 per cent., and it is lent by the building societies to house purchasers at a margin of ½ per cent. As I was about to tell the Committee, progress under the Act, which has now been operating for rather more than nine months, has been that, at the end of the first nine months, 66 building societies had entered the scheme and about £24 million of the £100 million authorised by the Act had been committed. So the scheme is going well. It is obviously proving popular. The advances are being taken up to stimulate the purchase of these older houses for which it was hard, until recently, to get an advance.

Mr. William Baxter (West Stirlingshire)

Can the Minister tell us what is the rate of interest charged by the Public Works Loan Board to local authorities, so that we may make a reasonable comparison between that and what is charged to the building societies?

Mr. Brooke

The Public Works Loan Board rate for ordinary housing, which is on a 60-year basis, is 5⅞ per cent.

Mr. Baxter

What are the building societies being called upon to pay?

Mr. Brooke

The reason for the difference between the two rates was fully debated when the House Purchase and Housing Act was before Parliament last year. Quite frankly, there is no direct comparison possible between them. The fact is that the new Act is being extremely successful and, in addition, the public demand for mortgage advances from the building societies on the ordinary building society funds is running at a very high level. The local authorities, too, as I have said, are advancing £50 million a year.

Mr. B. T. Parkin (Paddington, North)

Before the Minister leaves the subject of house ownership, will he deal with the very difficult problem presented by the houses which he has already mentioned, the older houses in multiple occupation which are not really suitable for ownership and management by one of the tenants at present in them?

Mr. Brooke

I said that this was very much in my mind. I cannot, at the moment, see my way through the problem. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will agree that it would be a mistake to hold up slum clearance to try to get on too quickly with this separate problem of houses in multiple occupation. I am anxious for local authorities to go on as fast as they can with slum clearance.

Meanwhile, I am considering whether any additional steps need to be taken to help them to come round in due course to that other problem, which occurs only in a relatively small number of cities where there are big houses in multiple occupation, a problem with which he and I, as London Members, are very familiar. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will appreciate from what I have said today that I take the matter very seriously. In my opinion, there are many people living in such houses whose conditions are just as bad as, if not worse than, those in what are technically slums.

Mr. Parkin

The right hon. Gentleman appreciates that what he has been saying about loans for house purchase offers no comfort at all to the occupants of that type of house?

Mr. Brooke

Probably not, but there are even some of those who, if facilities for purchasing older houses were brought to their attention, might even now be able to take advantage of them. But I do agree, fundamentally, that the problem of the house in multiple occupation is a very tough nut to crack. It occurs only in certain places, but, undoubtedly, we must go on and tackle it.

I have been interrupted a good deal, and I should like now to give the Committee some information about the new standard grants. Before the recent Act, houses in England and Wales were being improved with grant at the rate of 35,000 a year. In 1959, thanks to the new Act, the figure leapt up to nearly 80,000. I am on record as having said that I should be disappointed if, for 1960, it was not 100,000. One hundred thousand, of course, means 25,000 a quarter. I am glad to say that, in the first quarter of 1960, the number of houses approved for grant was 28,000.

I can hardly think that this is what we are being censured for, although I can understand the Opposition being jealous of our greater speed. Under their 1949 Act, the total number of houses approved for grant in the five years from 1949 until we brought in better legislation in 1954 was only 6,000, and we are now having four and a half times that number improved in three months. But I am not satisfied.

Mr. Symonds

Will the Minister tell us how many of the 80,000 belong to owner-occupiers?

Mr. Brooke

If I am allowed to continue my speech, I shall deal with all these points in due order, and, perhaps, we may proceed more quickly.

I said that I was not satisfied with the figure of 100,000. I want grants to be taken up faster still. To answer the hon. Gentleman's question—I was going to deal with it—it has been alleged by hon. Members that only owner-occupiers are taking advantage of this scheme.

Mr. Dempsey

In the main.

Mr. Brooke

That allegation certainly has been made. It is not true.

Mr. A. C. Manuel (Central Ayrshire)

It is in Scotland.

Mr. Brooke

Since 1st January, I have had the details collected from England and Wales. The details show that, of all the private houses approved for grant in those three months, 30 per cent. were rented and 70 per cent. were owner-occupied. I am doing everything I can, by publicity in different parts of the country, to encourage both landlords and owner-occupiers of these older houses to apply for grants. The modernising of older houses which have plenty of life left in them is an essential part of a practical housing policy.

As the hon. Member for Fulham was good enough to grant me, we have managed to stimulate building for old people. The hon. Gentleman sought to minimise what we have done by saying that we could claim a growing proportion of a diminishing total. To satisfy him, I will quote today not percentages but numbers. One-bedroom houses and flats mostly designed for the elderly were going up, under the Labour Government, at the rate of about 10,000 a year. Now the figure is well over 20,000. It will before long, I hope, be 30,000.

As I have said, I have been making a point of visiting new schemes for old people designed by vigorous local authorities in different parts of the country, and, also, I have opened some excellent schemes carried out by voluntary bodies. I was in Plymouth last week. Before that, I saw another scheme in Penarth. Before that, I was in Oxford. What I saw in all these places was excellent.

There are, however, still not enough local authorities giving really up-to-date study to the needs of old people. We are bringing out a new booklet from the Ministry this summer to help them, and I hope that it will be read with care and acted upon. Building for old people is doubly valuable because thousands and thousands of old people are living in houses which are too big for them and which become a burden to them. Frankly, I could not understand the suggestion of the hon. Member for Fulham that the Rent Act had immobilised them there. They certainly were immobilised before the Rent Act, because there was no possibility of their obtaining any other unfurnished accommodation at all and the rent of the biggish houses which they occupied was controlled at a low level. A house like that would do for a whole family if only there were somewhere attractive, convenient and well-suited for the old people to move to. That is what I want housing authorities to be thinking about more and more.

I have sought to set in perspective the housing situation as I see it today. In so doing, I have answered a number of the points raised by the hon. Member for Fulham. If I now go on to the financial aspect, the other matter which the hon. Member raised, it is not because I wish to run away from housing—we are proud of our record—but because within a limited time I want to cover as much ground as I can.

The hon. Member for Fulham attacked the Government on their handling of local government finance. He conveyed to the Committee, as I thought, the belief that the general grant was inadequate, and that local authorities were being left to carry excessive burdens. The point which the Opposition always seem to overlook or to ignore about the scheme for the general grant and the other financial changes embodied in the 1958 Act is that local authorities in England and Wales are £10 million a year better off because of that Act. If the Opposition try to blame the 1958 Act for this year's rate increases, they are barking up the wrong tree.

The fact is that, although we planned to make sure that local authorities gained £10 million a year through that Act, we had been better than our word. It looks to me as if this year they are likely to gain more like £15 million than £10 million. Is there any question of censuring us for that action of helping local authorities still further?

Mr. Harry Gourlay (Kirkcaldy Burghs)

It is stated in the White Paper relating to the general grant that it is the view of the Government that the opportunity should be taken to make some reduction in the level of Exchequer grants. The Minister is claiming that local authorities are £10 million better off. How does his statement square with what is stated in the White Paper?

Mr. Brooke

If the hon. Member will continue to read that White Paper, which has been overtaken by many events since it was published, he will find that it was made perfectly clear that the Government's scheme was designed to leave local authorities £10 million a year better off. What I am saying to the Committee now is that, so far as I can judge, this year local authorities will gain from the Government's action, not £10 million, but £15 million. We have been so fair to local authorities that I have an idea that my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, West (Mr. Eden), whose name I see on the Order Paper, thinks that we have been too generous.

Let me explain what has happened with regard to the general grant and how the grants have been calculated. The amounts of the general grant in the first General Grant Order, the one approved by the House in December, 1958, were based on the local authorities' own estimates of their expenditure for 1959–60 and 1960–61, increased to take account of the expansion of education and other services that the Government desired. I know that the Opposition have a theory that the local authorities' estimates were low because they were drawn up at a time of restrictions on capital expenditure. I can only say that this theory is not shared by local authorities, who, after all, ought to know.

The Committee may be interested to hear that, on the evidence so far available to me for 1959–60, it looks as if the actual expenditure of the authorities may turn out to be less than the estimates. In other words, the estimates that were put in were not too low, as the Opposition alleged, but too high. Last autumn, when the Burnham award and other pay increases added more to local authorities' expenditure than they could be expected to bear unaided, the Government introduced a new Order to increase the general grant.

This was not to finance new services, but to help towards the increased cost of the existing services, principally pay increases which could not have been foreseen when the original Order was approved. Quite properly, the 1958 Act made provision for that. Again, the Government asked the local authorities to estimate their increased costs, and we agreed and accepted their estimates in every case except one. In that one case the local authority calculated wrong and we pointed out that its estimate was too low.

I say all this because we have heard so much in the past from the Opposition about the dangers and the iniquity of the general grant scheme. I think that it should be on record that we have operated this scheme generously rather than otherwise to local authorities. We have accepted their figures, and where we thought that they had calculated too unfavourably to themselves we have corrected the figure in their favour.

After what has been said about the Government, I think that I am entitled to ask when the Opposition propose to withdraw all that they said at the time of the 1958 Bill to the effect that the general grant was just to be used as a device for cutting down Exchequer assistance to local authorities. The allegation was that as soon as the Act was on the Statute Book any upward adjustments of the general grant would lag behind the increase in the cost of the services that the councils have to bear. Nowadays we are hearing a variation on that theme to the effect that the general grant is to blame for rate increases this year.

I want to analyse that for a moment because these are serious subjects and I am sure that the Opposition would wish in a debate like this to get the facts. The Institute of Municipal Treasurers and Accountants, a very respected body, has just announced that the average rate increase in county boroughs this year is about 5 per cent. I think that that is in line with what the hon. Member said about the increase being just over 11d. in the £. It is in line with my own calculation at the Ministry. All our information indicates that the average increase for other types of authority, besides county boroughs, is also about 5 per cent.

That means that, if the general grant has gone up by less than 5 per cent., the Opposition will be proved right and their allegations justified. The truth is that the general grant has gone up from £402 million last year to £429 million this year—in other words, not by 5 per cent. but by nearly 7 per cent. Once again, that is another bit of Socialist thought and argument that has gone wrong, and I am entitled to bring it to the attention of the Committee.

Mr. M. Stewart

That is not quite a fair comparison between a rate poundage and a total sum of money. What is at issue is the total amount of money spent by local authorities that has to come from the rates and the total that is to come by grants. What the Government's White Paper stated at the time of the 1958 Act was that it was the intention of the Government to reduce the proportion from the Exchequer. Is that still the Government's intention?

Mr. Brooke

I think that there will be another general grant Order this year, and that is a point which we can discuss then. I tell the Committee quite frankly that our policy has been to make sure that local authorities are better off, thanks to the 1958 Act. We have more than fulfilled that, and this year, despite what the hon. Member says in trying to wriggle out of his difficulty, we have increased the general grant by a larger percentage than the increase in rates.

I know that cases will be quoted in the debate of local authorities which have been losers and not gainers. Of course, there were some losers. One could not bring in a radical reform like this without anyone being affected. The essential fact is that for every council that is a loser there are two councils which are gainers. I realise that there are a few local authorities which think that the present formula for the distribution of the general grant is treating them unfairly. That formula is not immutable. Each general grant Order can be amended and adjusted if it is proved not to be working fairly.

A new general grant Order covering 1961–62 and 1962–63 will be due to come forward next winter. I have, as the Committee will realise, been very careful not to prejudge what the Order will contain. I would advise hon. Members opposite, who think that they have me in a dilemma, not to put too much weight on the argument, because what I am doing today is to be extremely careful, not to give any indication ahead of matters which, by Statute, have to be discussed with the local authority associations before any Order is laid before the House. Between now and then, in consultation with the local authority associations, we shall be going into all the figures afresh, including the figures in the formula which are said by some local authorities to be unfair to them.

I must say that I believe, after two years' experience of the general grant and the accompanying rate deficiency grant, that there will be few people who would want to go back to the far more complicated and less just system of percentage grants and Exchequer equalisation grants. [HON. MEMBERS: "Give them a chance."] I will give them a chance, but I am under no pressure whatever in that sense from the local authority associations, and they, if anyone, should be in a position to know where the best interest of their members lies.

Rates have gone up this year primarily because the services have been developing. Education is the outstanding case. The Government are deeply committed to educational advance. I had imagined that the Opposition were, too. But education advance costs money, and unless the Exchequer meets all the excess with 100 per cent. grant some part is bound to fall upon the rates. If the Opposition want 100 per cent. Exchequer grants, let them say so. I must warn that it would mean, of course, the end of local autonomy. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Why? Because he who pays all the piper's salary will very soon be calling all the tunes. As long as I am Minister of Housing and Local Government I am determined to make sure that this detailed financial control from Whitehall shall not be imposed, that the job of local government shall be a worth-while one, and that the local authorities shall be genuine partners and not agents of the central Government.

It is the experience of all who have taken part in local government that 100 per cent. Exchequer grant leads to a detailed control which is deadening to those trying to do the job. I do not want all power to pass to London. I do not want the Ministry of Housing and Local Government to run every council and I do not want Curzon Street to run every school and Savile Row every clinic. But the figures which I have quoted show that the taxpayers of the nation, through the general grant, are paying their fair share; and the debates on the Budget have shown how heavy that share is.

The general grant for England and Wales, as I have said, was £420 million last year and is £429 million this year. That is over a period when the retail price index has stayed steady. So that is a genuine increase to meet development of the services, not an increase merely to offset inflationary price increases. Are the Opposition calling for 100 per cent. grants and all the loss of freedom that they would entail? Or do they want to halt all development of local services? They must make that choice.

It is simply not true that the main cause of rate increases is the Government's monetary policy. I do not dispute for a moment that the anti-inflationary measures of 1957 affected local authorities like everyone else. The hon. Member for Fulham may laugh at this, but in the Government's view one cannot give local authority services a kind of divine insulation from measures that are necessary on national economic grounds.

Interest rates are higher here today than they were, and higher throughout most of the rest of the world. But loan charges are no more than a fraction of the total rateborne expenditure, and the new loan charges coming into payment every year are but a fraction of that fraction. The main cause of the higher rates is the development of education and the other services, and the cost of development has to be shared between rates and taxes.

What the Government's monetary policy has done has been to keep prices quite stable these past two years, something for which local authorities, remembering the inflation of prices all through the time of the Labour Government, have cause to be grateful.

Mr. Manuel

The right hon. Gentleman is dealing with the cost of expanding education. Surely he appreciates that the interest rate on building which is now double what it was in 1951, when money was coming from the Public Works Loan Board at 3 per cent., has as heavy an impact on educational building as on local authority building. The right hon. Gentleman must take that into the reckoning of increased educational cost.

Mr. Brooke

What I was saying was that throughout the period of the Labour Government the interest rates were kept artificially low, that that fact encouraged inflation and that building costs and others were rising all the time. There is very little to be gained by paying a low rate of interest if the cost of every building put up is rising every year. That is what the Conservative monetary policy has saved local authorities from.

The Opposition have chosen the ground for today's debate, but so far they have fought over only part of it. The hon. Member for Fulham said that his hon. Friends would raise other local government issues. I shall be interested to hear them. I have repelled his attack on housing and finance, and I am ready to challenge the Opposition over the rest of the ground. I understand that the Opposition want a general debate about local government.

Let us take a few items. What about clean air, a policy not initiated at all in the time of the Labour Government? What about water and sewerage, vital local government services? Before I sit down I would like to tell the Committee a little about water and sewerage.

Mr. Manuel

Just tell the truth.

Mr. Brooke

I will tell the Committee why the Opposition have not mentioned water and sewerage. Capital expenditure on water schemes in the last year of the Labour Government amounted to £12½ million. It is now running at the rate of about £29 million a year—more than double. Does this look like the stagnation and frustration with which we have been charged by the Opposition in our handling of the local authorities?

There is no reason why, on an occasion like this, the Government should not choose some of the subjects which the Committee should debate as well as those on which the Opposition may think the Government are vulnerable. I realise, of course, that the Opposition may not care for that, but there is no power which they can use to stop the Government and my hon. Friends from doing so.

Take sewerage and sewage disposal. Capital expenditure was £12 million in the last year of the Labour Government and is now running at the rate of £40 million a year—three times as high. At long last we are beginning to overcome the disgraceful pollution of our rivers and some of our rivers have now become fit for fish where there have been no fish since the first days of the Industrial Revolution.

I always wish that I could think of something romantic to say when opening a sewerage works. That is one of the duties which falls to the Minister of Housing and Local Government. It is an extremely interesting one, if not the pleasantest. It could hardly be as appropriate an opportunity as this to say how unwise it is to be tempted into attacking a good record when one's own record is worse. Whatever anybody pelts at a good record fails to stick. It goes down the drain, where, in due course with much else, it will be dealt with by the purifying forces of nature, just as misconceived Socialist arguments will be faithfully dealt with by the local government electors next week.

The Chairman

I should like to correct a Ruling which I gave earlier in the debate in answer to the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart). The position is that incidental references to legislative action are now permitted on the Motion to move Mr. Speaker out of the Chair before going into Committee of Supply under Standing Order 17. I find that the old rule still applies when the House is in Committee of Supply, but that it does not apply on the Adjournment. I am sorry; I made a mistake.

Mr. M. Stewart

I am obliged, Sir Gordon. I am sure that the Minister is even more obliged, because that gives him a better get-out than he had before.

5.11 p.m.

Mr. Laurence Pavitt (Willesden, West)

I sometimes think that this place is out of this world—usually after I have heard a Ministerial speech from the Front Bench opposite. I have listened with great care to the Minister boasting of his fine record and I have been trying the whole time to relate it to the kind of things that I come up against in my daily life.

The Minister has given us broad figures of his 2½ million houses and has made comparison with the record of the Labour Party. We hate to say it again, because we have heard it so often—these arguments have been deployed time and time again—but from 1939 to 1945 we did have a war, and we suffered tremendous bombardment. In my area, the Labour Government had a very good record in replacing homes that were knocked down in London during wartime, and repairing war damage. There was a terrific programme of that kind.

When, however, we are given the broad perspective and we have these figures and these averages—I shall devote myself mainly to housing, with which I am mostly concerned—I feel rather like the man who was once killed with averages. I am 5 ft. 7 in. in height. The Minister has given us these broad figures of what is happening in housing throughout the country. It is like the man who tells me that the river has an average depth of 4 ft., but when I go to cross it I find that, because I am 5 ft. 7 in., I am likely to be drowned. I am drowned in the figures which the Minister has given when I try to relate them to the problem.

In my constituency of West Willesden, in spite of the Minister's record, there are 10,000 people on the waiting list, which closed in 1957. Since then we have had an average of 2,500 applications a year from my area for houses in new towns. This shows that since 1957 there has been no drying up of the demand. Yet the Minister comes to the House of Commons and, in one of the most complacent speeches I have heard for a long time, would have us believe that all that my 10,000 constituents must do is to sit back and wait and the millenium is just around the corner.

We are asking for decent living conditions. In Willesden, the housing department has the heartbreaking task of 9,000 interviews per annum, as it has done for the past ten years. Hon. Members, on both sides, who conduct their advice clinics on Fridays or other evenings will have had the same difficulty as I have had in relating the Minister's speech to the heartbreaking job that we have when we tell people that we are sorry, we can give them reasons but we cannot give them houses; we can give them words or write a letter, which will have a House of Commons heading at the top and will look dignified, but that they do not have a cat's chance in hell of getting a house in the next ten years, whether or not they are on the waiting list.

The Minister speaks of his record in slum clearance and most local authorities have tried to grasp this problem. My local authority certainly has done. But the problems of slum clearance, or derequisitioning, and of "prefab" clearance, with which many of us are faced, mean that the people who have been on the housing list since 1945 still cannot get a house. Of the 10,000 to 11,000 people on the housing list in my area, we are able to house four, five or six families per annum. How, therefore, is it possible for us to go to the country and describe this as a proud record of housing achievement? I cannot make such words ring true in my constituency.

We have the problem of overspill. We need additional accommodation and West Willesden has a proud record in redevelopment schemes and redevelopment areas. Every time that we start a redevelopment area, however, we must take people out of the slums to put them somewhere else and, again, back goes the family on the housing list.

The Minister's constituency is not far from mine, just across the Edgware Road. It is not far for him to come. I should like him, not to address a public meeting, but to give some of the answers to my constituents who come to me with their problems. I have watched families who are being broken up and all 1 can say to them is that I have the statistics and that 2¼ million or 2½ million houses have been built. I can show them all the facts and figures, but I cannot show them a three-bedroom house anywhere. I should like the Minister to consider some of the human stories beyond the statistics. It would be well to have a little more heart and a little less doctrinaire Tory policy from the Government Front Bench.

The other day, I sat stunned by the eloquence of the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance. By the time he had finished his speech, I almost felt like going round to my old-age pensioner constituents tolling them that they should give back a little of their pension because they were doing so well. Again, however, that did not match up with What is happening to old people in my constituency.

In Willesden, there are 600 broken families. The children are in care homes and the families are broken up because there are no houses and no homes to put them in. Is that the way we preserve family life, or do we preserve it only for the people who can put down the money for a mortgage with a building society?

Mr. Frank Allaun (Salford, East)

If only people who buy them are to get houses, this means that 20 million people whose income is less than £16 a week will have no chance. This is the effect of the Government's policy. It means that people with less than £16 a week, who, in many cases, would break their backs by taking on the burden of a mortgage, must lose their chance of getting a house.

Mr. Pavitt

I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention.

That is the kind of case which, as hon. Members opposite know, we get in our "surgeries" each week—for example, the bus driver earning £600 a year with overtime, who wants to get married, or, if he has recently married, is living with his parents, but cannot possibly get a house because of the restrictions. We have seen the breaking up of families when people live too close to or on top of each other. The youngsters want a home of their own, but they cannot get one and there is friction with their in-laws. They cannot start married life in the right way and they never get a chance of happiness. They come to me with their human problems, as they do to hon. Members opposite. All that we need is living room in which we could solve the problem, but the room does not exist.

On the housing list in West Willesden there are 1,600 families who axe overcrowded as statutorily defined. If a man and his wife and six children under the age of 10 have three rooms, they are not statutorily overcrowded. Hon. Members can, therefore, imagine the plight of the 1,600 people on the waiting list who are within the statutory definition, when we are housing only five or six families a year. What kind of chance have they of ever getting decent living conditions?

Another of the human problems has been raised on other occasions by my hon. Friend the Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin). The 1949 survey showed that the national percentage of shared accommodation was 15 per cent. In Greater London, the figure was 25 per cent. In West Willesden, it was 55 per cent. This means that more than half of my constituents are living in shared accommodation. Again, I should like the Government to consider this problem in human terms—for example, the shared kitchen, or lavatory, or hall. Who is responsible for what?

I suggest that if Mrs. Khrushchev and Mrs. Macmillan had to share a lavatory or to share a kitchen and live under the same roof we should have a great deal of difficulty to start getting the peaceful coexistence at the Summit Conference we are hoping for this month. The kitchen has not yet been built which is big enough peacefully to hold two women. This is the kind of problem which we are asking the Government to go into. We ask them to give up quoting huge figures and reciting platitudes and get down to considering the position in its human content.

I have a further problem which also occurs in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Paddington, North. In my constituency we do a remarkable job on racial integration. One in nine of the people coming from the West Indies comes to West Willesden, and we have got together in the community a special organisation consisting of coloured and local inhabitants to build together integration. In industry there is magnificent integration. In factory after factory, as I go round, I find white and coloured people working side by side. As I have said in this House before, the captain of the cricket team at Ascot's came from Jamaica. But in housing, where we have a coloured landlord and a white tenant, or a coloured tenant and a white landlord, we have a tremendous problem trying to get those people to live in harmony with one another and to solve this problem.

What I am seeking from the Government, what my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham is seeking, is much wider and far bolder action than any which the Government have yet put forward, instead of all their talk about their proud record of building on sites which had been cleared—or the way had been cleared—in the days of the Labour Government. This Government always speak in terms of property owners, and we wish them to speak less in terms of property owners, and more in terms of the ordinary people, and less in terms of their doctrinaire approach that it is only private enterprise which can possibly get the results we want.

The Tory Party has fought past elections on a policy of creating a property-owning democracy. Youngsters come to us anxious to make a home, yet faced with the greatest difficulties in becoming property owners. I give it to the Minister, that it is better this year than it has been, but just a few years ago the Prime Minister had his own local difficulties which led to the right hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. Thornecroft) resigning.

When we go back over the history of housing loans in my area we find that in 1955 to 1956, when we were seeking to give aid for owner-occupiers, we had 217 applications which led us to lend out through the local authority £250,000. Then came the credit squeeze. As a result, the following year, in 1956 to 1957, there were 16 applications. The credit squeeze continued, and in 1957 to 1958 there were six applications. The total amount loaned was £1,318. This was the direct result of the financial policy of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite.

This was the effect of their policies upon housing, and that is the type of thing about which we in this Committee are anxious, and we are anxious that we shall have no repetition of that in future. Surely, if the Government can find money when it is necessary—we have argued about this when discussing the steel industry—for people like Colvilles, they can find money for the local authorities through the Public Works Loan Board at least at the same rate as that given to the building societies.

A theme in the opening speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham today, a theme which will run throughout the debate, was that we cannot look at this problem globally, that the housing problem, like the unemployment problem, is very often, in an affluent society, a problem of specific areas. We have these black spots which need special treatment, which need special facilities, which need special cheap money. Will not the Government look at this kind of problem from the same point of view as that from which they looked at the unemployment problem?

Could we not have a local housing Bill which would permit certain facilities, certain contracts, certain initiatives locally, not only through the local authorities, although primarily through them because they constitute the best instrument for housing, but through all agencies which could help? Why cannot we have in West Willesden, for instance, special facilities, special rates of interest which would enable something to be done which would give some hope of better housing in our own lifetime—not just for our great-grandchildren? We on this side of the Committee, as the debate will show, are well aware of the problem, because these are our people, this is the kind of thing we face day in, day out.

I invite the Minister to see it at first hand. I give him an open invitation. He has not far to come across the Edgware Road. I invite him to come to Willesden, and, following that, to give us some vigorous action which will enable people, especially the young married people with family responsibilities, to live in homes of their own, to live in happiness ever after, thanks to the Minister of Housing.

5.25 p.m.

Mr. John Eden (Bournemouth, West)

I have put my name to an Amendment on the Paper, That item Class V, Vote 3 (Exchequer Grants to Local Revenues, England and Wales), be reduced by £5. I have done that to draw particular attention to Vote 3, and I want more especially to draw attention to Subhead A, the general grant being paid to local authorities. I was very glad that both the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) and my right hon. Friend devoted a part of their speeches to this subject. I appreciate that this has taken the form so far of a general debate on housing and local government affairs, but, after all, the debate arises on the Motion on the Civil Estimates, and it is essentially a debate on the Estimates and the first opportunity we have had in this Committee of examining, in as much detail as we can go into, the Estimates put before us of the expenditure of my right hon. Friend's Department in the coming year.

This Subhead A is far and away the largest sum of money in the Estimates being put forward by my right hon. Friend. In making investigations as to how this sum has been arrived at reference of course was at once made to the General Grant Orders of both December, 1958, when the first Order was introduced, and December, 1959, when there was a subsequent Order for grant increase. It is by reference to those Orders that the reasons for the figure of £429 million can be found. I will not myself enumerate any further all these details, because the information on this, in reference to the total sum, has already been given—when the Orders were presented, and in the reports and speeches of my right hon. Friend and of my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary.

I just want it confirmed that I have got it correct, that what my right hon. Friend is asking for now in these Estimates, in the total of £431½ million, is made up of the remaining 10 per cent. of the aggregate grant for the year 1959–60 and 91.25 per cent. of the aggregate grant for the year 1960–61. While we have had the breakdown of these figures to the extent that they are to be applied to each county authority and county borough council, we have had no detailed breakdown at all of the way in which the local authorities are intending to administer these funds.

The Memorandum referred to in the Estimates, that of my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, gives in Tables 11 (b) and 11 (f) no further information about any detailed breakdown of these figures. I suppose that that is because this is part and parcel of the intention of the House of Commons to give greater freedom to local authorities in the expenditure of the money that is made available to them. It is perhaps part of the main purpose of the Local Government Act, 1958, itself.

Paragraph 5 on page 4 of Command 209 of July, 1957, the White Paper on Local Government Finance, begins with the words: A main aim of the proposed changes has been to increase the independence of local authorities in the raising and the spending of their money so far as it is practicable to do so. That is good and that is the affirmed intention of the House of Commons.

But, if that is so, I want the more especially to draw the attention of the Committee to the words in paragraph 11 on page 5 of that same White Paper, which read: This"— that is, this greater freedom— will make it more than ever important that they should fully explain their policies to their own electorate, and should ensure that their ratepayers can readily understand the financial effects. That is very important, particularly when, in the general grant services to which I have drawn attention, the local authorities are spending in total over £700 million, of which 55.6 per cent. is to be found by direct taxation from the Exchequer.

The local authorities are now spending a substantial sum of money and we have said from the House, through the Local Government Act, 1958, that we are going to give them very much greater freedom in the spending of that money. We are therefore in one sense committing ourselves to granting local authorities this substantial sum of money and in another, as taxpayers, to a very great extent dissociating ourselves from any close scrutiny of the way the money is spent.

It is true that as ratepayers we would have the responsibility to investigate these matters more closely, and with the May elections coming I hope that ratepayers throughout the country will do this because it is one of the most important and vital of issues. It is all the more important today, as a result of the grant system under the 1958 Act, that people should examine closely as ratepayers the expenditure of their own representatives on the local authorities of the substantial sums of money now being placed at their disposal, and which the local authorities are being encouraged by the House of Commons to spend with much greater freedom and without nearly so much scrutiny by the House.

Ratepayers in every constituency should ask themselves whether they are getting value for money. Let them do some of the close scrutinising which we have done in the past and I hope will try to do in the future when supplementary and other Estimates are submitted to us. I would ask my right hon. Friend to tell us what steps are being taken to ensure that local authorities are giving as much information as possible about their expenditure to their ratepayers, either when they send in their demand notes or in some other form.

Local authorities should give much more information to the ratepayers of their own volition, to show much more clearly how the money has been spent and what has been the effect, under each individual item of expenditure, on the rates which they are demanding. This could be done to a much greater extent than it has been done in the past. I am sure that all hon. Members will agree that it is up to the local ratepayer to exercise the very great responsibility which he has in questioning not only the way in which the money has been spent but also the desirability of such expenditure locally.

Mr. McInnes

The hon. Member is aware that every ratepayer has a right to go to the local authority and peruse the accounts of the respective departments. In addition, on rate demand notices the local authority reveals to the ratepayer the various services and the cost of those services. Therefore, it is entirely a matter for the ratepayer. The information and all the facilities are provided by the local authority.

Mr. Eden

I appreciate fully what the hon. Member has said, and I have already said that this is up to the ratepayer himself. He certainly has the right, but few ratepayers exercise that right. Therefore, since few do so as ratepayers, a large number as taxpayers complain of the high cost of Government expenditure.

This is a very important factor in the total of Government expenditure. The expenditure of the general grants now runs at £400 million. This is not a sum that can be brushed off, but we as taxpayers are committed to it by its having been accepted by the ratepayers. I therefore want more and more ratepayers to exercise their right to scrutinise this expenditure under all these headings and ask themselves whether it is necessary and desirable that expenditure on all these items should take place.

I have in mind in particular the subject of education. I am by no means satisfied that we are getting value for money in our education services. A great deal of close scrutiny should be made of local authority educational policy generally. I shall not pursue that matter now, although I hope to do so on some other occasion. I believe, however, that I should be in order if I were to do so now, because under Subhead A of this Vote we are dealing with the general grants to local authorities, and 85 per cent. of the cost which comes under the heading of these services is represented by expenditure on education.

It seems to me, therefore, on an occasion such as this when the Committee is examining the Estimates of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, that since 85 per cent. of the largest of those Estimates deals with education there should be at least a representative of the Ministry of Education on the Front Bench during the debate. It is unfair in many ways to saddle my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government and his Department with the burden of this very substantial sum of money in his Estimate when to a great extent it is the responsibility of the Minister of Education and the result of policies to which the House of Commons has already agreed.

Mr. H. Brooke

May I answer my hon. Friend? He asked me what steps the Government have taken to carry out what was visualised in the White Paper on Local Government Finance. If he will examine the terms of the 1925 Act he will find that that Act requires that expenditure under different headings should be made public. I have subsequently, since the passing of the 1958 Act, prescribed by regulation the way in which local authorities must set out on their rate demand notes the main figures for the ratepayers. I entirely agree with my hon. Friend, of course, that it is then up to the individual ratepayer to take a more active interest than in many cases he has taken hitherto.

Mr. Eden

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. The lack of interest is demonstrated by the appallingly low percentage of the ratepayers who go to the polls when they have the opportunity to do so. Many, in fact, take no interest at all in local authority affairs. Yet, I am sure that I am not in any way different in this experience from other hon. Members when I say that a very substantial part of the correspondence I receive should be directed to local councillors, because it deals essentially with local authority matters.

It seems to me that, with the extent of the money which is being spent by local authorities today on behalf of the ratepayers, it is essential that individual ratepayers should exercise not only what is their right but what I would regard as their first duty to inquire into how this money has been spent and whether it is necessary to go on increasing this expenditure.

We are very readily paying lip-service all the time to the various local authority services and there are many services which I think, along with other hon. Members, call for increasing expenditure. There are, however, some which I should like to see curtailed or at least the need for them questioned locally. I am referring particularly to education, because I am not satisfied that we are getting value for money throughout on that score.

We cannot just assume that these services must automatically go on increasing year by year. If we do that we have to find more and more money to finance these services year by year. I hope that my right hon. Friend, when he prepares the next Order, which will shortly become due and which will have to be submitted for the consideration of the House, will assure us in the presentation that he has very closely examined the estimates of expenditure put before him by local authorities and that, in so far as the formula by which the general grant is determined will allow him, he will then assure us that he has tried to cut out all unnecessary items of expenditure which directly concern his Department of Housing and Local Government and also where they do not, as in the sphere of education and health.

My right hon. Friend on the 8th December, 1958, when introducing the General Grant Order, referring to the estimates of expenditure submitted by the local authorities, said: We made few reductions in them. Later, he said: ..in the end the total reductions below the local authorities' own estimates amounted to not much more than half of 1 per cent.; we accepted the local authorities' own total estimates with hardly any change. Immediately following that, in the same debate, my right hon. Friend did one better than that. He went on to say: It was not solely a matter of making reductions, but also a matter of making increases. It was apparent to us that in some respect the local authority estimates were too low, in which case we added something."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th December, 1958; Vol. 597. c. 37–38.] I quite accept that, given the circumstances of 8th December, 1958, it was understandable and reasonable that my right hon. Friend should 'have taken a pride that he had not further reduced the estimates. He was beleaguered by hon. Members opposite who feared that there would be reductions. Hon. Members opposite committed themselves in speech after speech calling for increased expenditure and no reduction of expenditure, and it comes ill from them to criticise my right hon. Friend and, when it comes to the Budget and the Supplementary Estimates, to complain about the high cost of Government expenditure. They have persistently called for increased expenditure on all these services, as they did in the debate on 8th December, 1958.

I hope that my right hon. Friend will not try to follow a policy which says, "Anything that they can do, we can do better". We can do better by reducing expenditure and getting value for money. I want my right hon. Friend to say that he has most carefully examined these items, heading by heading and item by item, to see whether reduction in expenditure can be made, and I want him to take greater pride in that than in saying that it is not reduced at all. I would particularly draw his attention to the House of Commons Paper No. 15, his own Report, on the first General Grant Order, dated 25th December, 1958. In paragraph 3 (c) was given the third of the requirements which the Minister should take into consideration when fixing the annual aggregate amount of the grant to be prescribed. In parenthesis, may I say that I regret that it was the third consideration because, in my opinion, it should be the very first consideration of my right hon. Friend? Paragraph 3 (c) said that not only should he consider the need for developing these services but also … the extent to which, having regard to general economic conditions, it is reasonable to develop those services. I would urge that in consideration of the general grant to local authorities my right hon. Friend should give his first consideration to the general economic conditions of the country, and that, in doing so, he should give what support he can to his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in urging on local authorities policies which will assist in the reduction of taxation on the individual, be he taxpayer or ratepayer.

5.47 p.m.

Mr. B. T. Parkin (Paddington, North)

The hon. Member for Bournemouth, West (Mr. Eden) will appreciate my own disappointment that he has not dealt with the subject of housing. Some years ago, he and I went up and down the same basement steps. He has seen inside the same dubious tenement houses and looked at the same shared lavatories. I would have wished that he had been speaking this afternoon on that subject. I have heard him trying still to believe some of the slogans which his party put about some ten years ago, announcing how easy it would be to cut down Government expenditure. We appreciate the zeal and persistence which the hon. Member is still devoting to trying to find out how that can be done.

I naturally wish that he had carried with him some recollections of his contact with the social problems of London. We could have seen him pegging away with the same ferret-like persistence and determination to try to get a solution to some of the other problems which are proving so intractable. I like to think that had he been speaking of housing, he would not have been speaking in general terms and with a doctrinaire approach to a solution which, if it comes, will take a long time.

Today, it is quite useless to cover proposals which were put forward by my party and which were not accepted by the electorate. I am sorry that the Minister took a little time again to cover some of those old arguments. I have no desire to do so, although the time will no doubt come when we shall be able to discuss them again in some form or other.

The general philosophy behind the approach of hon. Members opposite was enunciated at the time of the Rent Act and the election, but they, too, have been unable to pursue their own policy to a logical conclusion, so we shall never know who was right and who was wrong. I know that the Parliamentary Secretary was very confident and quite exuberant when, as a prospective candidate and a candidate in London, he spoke about the beneficial effects of the Rent Act.

He will never know whether he was right or not, because political circumstances made it impossible for the Tories to go all the way, even though they had spoken of the tremendous advantages which would accrue from mobility resulting from decontrol. Of course, they could not try it. They could not completely sweep away rent control, so they will never know and we shall never know who was right. What we should now be doing is to concentrate on the interim measures which we should be taking to deal with some of the intractable problems which still exist, and this afternoon I shall concentrate on the multi-occupied houses in London.

Here we have a sort of traffic snarl-up which can be untied only a few at a time. Members on both sides of the House are over-excited or over-depressed by the total figures. One party says that it has done wonders and that x-millions of people are rehoused every year and that the populations of many cities who did not want to be rehoused are being rehoused. The other party says that the situation is appalling and that we cannot cope with it and that 150,000 people have been taken on to the London County Council housing list and that the L.C.C. has gone through the arithmetic and reviewed the plan several times and every time has come to the depressing conclusion that the problem cannot be solved and that we should build x new towns outside London.

Yet someone has to do something now to stop the social rot which is going on and on. We have got to get rid of this sweeping under the carpet and all this arrogance and complacency which I find all over the place. I am not accusing anybody in particular about their standards or achievements, but many forget that we are dealing with a small section of the community. I want to give an example which I gave on a previous occasion, the example of a family housed in an ex-workhouse in London, part of the L.C.C.'s short-stay accommodation. That family has now been in that short-stay accommodation for five years and is condemned to stay there for another three years.

From time to time, I am told by my friends that we must not debase our own standards. That is a very great temptation. But do they think that it is suitable to accept a solution which results in a family having to stay for eight years in short-stay accommodation, in one room? When I put that question, I am then reproached by being told that I am putting an unfair gloss on the situation. Of course I am, but in the sense that that accommodation was never intended for housing.

London County Council is getting its legitimate welfare work silted up because of these families which should never be regarded as problem families. This family is not a problem family. The husband is a normal energetic working man earning £14 a week. There are, I believe, fewer than 300 such families in L.C.C. short-stay accommodation and there are 28 London boroughs, so that on the average that gives me ten such families for Paddington and five for my constituency. Cannot I suggest a way in which those five families can be housed? I am sure that this is a case for persistent, methodical salvage work, family by family.

Which family first? The time has come to look again at the priorities and the needs. When I was considering which people had the greatest need, I scribbled down three categories. I am not sure that the highest of those categaries, at least in the great cities, should not now be the young married couple with their first child. It is they who have no hope of any position on any list. They have to pay the highest rents for furnished or unfurnished accommodation. They are trying to get their first household equipment and the wife who has been accustomed to bringing in an income of her own is not now working because the first child has arrived. Also she has no family allowance.

There are large numbers of such families, and year by year their number grows. Some of us came to the House of Commons in 1945 for the first time, having been selected just before the war as bright young people. Now we are old. Some of these families, with no hope of getting on any waiting list, are now middle-aged. This is a category which we should study again.

Then there is the problem of the large family. Why do we not have the courage to face up to that problem? There is something suspect about it. One is not supposed to talk about the problem of the large family, because someone mutters that it is something to do with Irish Catholics, or that one is asking that they should have priority over other families.

Can we not study the problem calmly? Those who choose to have large families always assure us that it is a very good thing and that they like having large families. They always assure us that all the disadvantages are outweighed by the joys of having a large family. That must mean that in all respects such families have chosen to have a material standard of living lower than those who have fewer children. I am sure that the toys get passed on, that the clothes get passed on and that the beds are stacked in bunks at almost any income level where there is a large family.

Why should we not accept that and find an instrument for housing such families which offers some sort of compromise? Must we be hide-bound by this ridiculous situation? I have found it in my constituency where a family with two children on one floor of a tenement house has been rehoused in priority to a family with five or six children on the ground floor, the argument being that in the size of flat available the council could not break its own rules, although it would have been a much greater help if the larger family had been rehoused.

We must appreciate that the large family is unwelcome to the private landlord and that it has to pay more—proportionately much more—for its accommodation and that it is nearer the edge of social disaster and collapse, for reasons which would not apply in its natural habitat. Such a family living in the country, poor though it might be, would not have to have the psychiatric social worker always on the doorstep. That problem has to be solved by some instrument as yet not devised.

Thirdly, there is the problem of the older people. I know that the Minister has given a good deal of time to the problem and a good deal of encouragement to local authorities building special accommodation for the aged, but there are other aspects to be considered. The biggest single by-result of the Rent Act—and I am not sure that those responsible for it appreciated or intended it—has been the appalling result of removing all security from people once they have removed. I hope that it is possible for the Minister to have second thoughts about that. I hope that if there is further decontrol he will think very carefully about whether there should not be some security, some guarantee that when a dwelling is let the tenant will not be liable to be evicted unless alternative accommodation is offered.

There is hardly anyone under retirement age who can remember a time when one did not at least have security of tenure. For forty years the people of this country knew that they had security of tenure of their dwellings, however humble or inadequate those dwellings were. It is terrible to present old people with a situation where they might be insecure if they move.

As I understand it from Ministerial speeches, the problems in the London area are accepted as these—overspill, under-occupation, lack of mobility, misuse of vacant property through higher rents following higher prices, and, I would add, lack of security which discourages mobility.

I hope that the Minister appreciates that one does not get over the overspill problem by pretending that people do not exist. Before he comes to his final balance sheet about slum clearance, I hope that he will look at some of the appalling cases of eviction by local authorities of people who have the misfortune not to hold rent books. This is a matter which can arouse great feelings, and it aroused great feeling in my constituency. I am sure that hon. Members will appreciate the position if, in clear sunshine one afternoon, one sees a family where the husband has gone off to seek a room with his parents while his wife is taking the children off to an L.C.C. home because the local council will not rehouse them as they are not rent book holders of the house which that council bought ten years before. I am sure that if hon. Members saw that happening they would realise the problem that exists.

If one sees, as I have, married couples having to live apart, although one of them had been born in the house from which they were being turned out, because they did not hold a rent book at the time that the council acquired the property, one realises what happens. The council simply says when it comes to rehousing for demolition, "Only rent book holders." One may get a better-looking figure but one will not get a successful slum clearance scheme if one works on those principles.

We will have to look again at the number of people we have to rehouse on the same territory in London because London needs most of those people. It does not need all of them, and on other occasions I have said my piece about those who could be better housed and given better work elsewhere, but in London there is need for accommodation for all the lower-paid service people. Since the Rent Act the balance between those who pay higher rents and those who pay lower rents has altered, and decontrol is altering it still more. All these workers will have to look to their employers for increased wages to met the increased rents that they will now have to pay.

That leads me to the next point about misuse. We think that we cannot get sufficient mobility because people cannot have security, but the problem that we have in an area like mine is that there is nothing between the very low controlled rent and the very high rent which a speculating landlord who has purchased the house can demand for furnished accommodation. That was the point I was making to the Minister about house ownership. It is lamentable that these houses fetch very high prices because a speculator can get them paid for in a short period, but they are not the sort of house that we ought to talk a working chap into buying, because they have problems of maintenance apart from the fact that he might find himself the landlord of an old girl upstairs with whom he does not get on. One cannot say, "Go to the local authority and get a 100 per cent. loan" for those tricky propositions. The future of the house or of the tenant is not suitably assured by that.

There ought to be a way, even coming to terms with the Rent Act, with increased prices, and increased rates of interest, whereby an ordinary working family could get accommodation where they would be paying a sum which would provide a fair profit at amortisation of the price of the house, instead of which they are asked to pay about twice that.

I know that the Parliamentary Secretary, if he replies, would like to tell me that the solution lies, at least partially, in housing associations, but there are certain questions which I should like to ask, for the record, and if the Parliamentary Secretary is not going to reply, but knows the answers, I hope that he will whisper them to the Secretary of State for Scotland. I am grateful to him for his goading—

Mr. Manuel

The Secretary of State for Scotland?

Mr. Parkin

No; I do not know anything about him. I am referring to the Parliamentary Secretary. I am grateful to the Parliamentary Secretary for his goading on this subject, and for his very useful non-Ministerial help.

It ought to be possible for a housing association to take over a number of these houses that have been described, to turn the tide and to hold the position so that the accommodation is available for the sort of people who are in need of it and who are high on the housing list. Let him put on a false beard and go to the local authority to find out the snags. The first snag is that under present schemes there is no provision for lending money to a housing association so that it might acquire and let a house. One has to put in a proposition that one is going to convert it. If one converts and reconditions part of it, that will not do. One has to convert and recondition the whole of it. One might think that these are committee points and that I ought not to occupy the time of this Committee with them, but, on the other hand, they have formed an important part of the Minister's propaganda for the solution of this problem in London.

I should like him to undertake to do this. The easiest way to get loans from local authorities is to be a private developer, because the terms are most flexible. The various schemes under which money can be lent to a housing association have a number of provisions which make it impossible to apply them to this problem to which I am asking the Minister to apply his mind. If he will give an assurance tonight that he will look again at the schemes which he has approved, and will say that it is his intention that housing associations should be enabled to play their part somewhere between the private element and the local authority element, I am sure that a great deal of good will result.

Will he tell us something about the problem of mixed user which is bedevilled by doctrinaire considerations? There is a feeling that a local authority ought not to be an owner of shops and offices, and one ought not to impose on a private developer the absolute duty to build flats on top of houses and shops. I know that there have been discussions about this. This is not a new question, but we shall keep on raising it until we get an answer.

I hope that tonight we shall get some answers which will at least encourage people in the London area to accept that the problem can be dealt with in the interim period only piecemeal, only by our going to see the cases in the areas with which we are concerned.

6.10 p.m.

Mr. James Watts (Manchester, Moss Side)

I want to say a few words about slum clearance and housing conditions in Manchester. Arrangements are going extremely slowly, and it is important that we should have flats built on the sites of the areas which have been cleared. Between 1951 and 1959 no less than 2,539 houses were demolished, but only 464 have been rebuilt on those sites, and another 284 started. It follows from this that a vast area is still vacant. In 1939, which was the year of the last big review, 65,000 houses were unfit for human habitation. I feel sure that that number has now been almost doubled. I should say that at least 120,000 houses are now unfit for human habitation.

On 2nd December a resolution was moved in the Manchester City Council asking that an inspection should be made of a blitzed area in my constituency, but the council turned down that resolution and the area has not been visited. The House of Commons allows Members to bring up matters of grave import affecting their constituencies, and to air constituency views, and I want to mention one terrible thing that has happened as a result of this neglect, where an owner of a house could not be found.

I was asked to visit a house where one of the ceilings was about to fall in. As a result of a telephone message by me, various officials arrived the next morning, but by the time they had got there the ceiling had fallen in upon a child's bed. Fortunately, this happened during the day, otherwise the child would have been dead. This is the kind of thing that is going on all over the city. Much more serious regard must be paid to slum clearance in Manchester.

I am not making a party speech, but I am supported in what I say by an article which appeared in an evening paper some time ago, written by the hon. Member for Manchester, Cheetham (Mr. H. Lever), for whom I have a very sincere regard although I disagree with him on all matters of politics.

The corporation has refused to inspect this blitzed area. The remaining buildings are rickety, and the conditions are appalling. This, together with the overcrowding which exists throughout the city, leads to crime among the young people. In the evenings the grown-up children are encouraged by their parents to go out, because the parents want a little rest. These children go out and get into trouble and commit crimes. Houses must be built on these derelict sites.

I now turn to a more controversial matter. I support my right hon. Friend when I suggest that corporation subsidising of all those who live in corporation flats and houses, without regard to means, is a most foolhardy experiment. This corporation subsidy amounts to £362,000 a year, which is the product of an 8.3d. rate. That is what is being taken from the ratepayers and given to all corporation tenants, regardless of the incomes of those tenants. Not only is that very unjust to the people who do not live in corporation houses; it is also wrong that the poor ratepayers who live in corporation houses should subsidise the richer ratepayers who live next door. The Minister, by way of an Order or by legislation, if necessary, should restrict such subsidies to cases of hardship and need, rather than allow them to be based upon an entirely unjustified generalised distribution.

Hon. Members opposite will correct me if I am wrong when I say that in cities like Manchester slum clearance has not been arrested because of the removal of subsidies from new houses. It would take all the builders in the world a long time to clear the slums of Manchester. At least 120,000 houses are unfit for human habitation; the figure is probably nearer 200,000. Therefore, since the subsidy for slum clearance, as distinct from the housing subsidy, has not been abolished, the building that has taken place will not make any difference to the question of slum clearance, because if every available building worker were employed it would take ages to make a hole in this problem.

I do not wish to dwell on the appalling conditions, troubles and difficulties which exist in these slum houses. Every hon. Member knows of these problems. There is not one hon. Member who does not visit people in these conditions week after week. I appeal to my right hon. Friend to supervise the actions of local authorities. I beg him to urge them to build multi-storey flats on cleared sites and to watch very carefully the haphazard arrangements which allow subsidies to be given to corporation houses irrespective of the needs of the tenants.

6.20 p.m.

Mr. Edward Short (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central)

The hon. Member for Manchester, Moss Side (Mr. Watts) said that 'he was not making a political speech, but he has attacked his own local authority, a large, progressive local authority which is doing an excellent job in the face of enormous problems resulting from years of neglect and landlordism. This is typical of the attitude of the Tories. They cannot even support their own local authorities. They are willing to play politics with anything in a most irresponsible way.

Mr. Robert Cooke (Bristol, West)

Would the hon. Member—

Hon. Members

Sit down.

Mr. Short

The Minister opened his speech by saying that he was not quite sure about what hon. Members on this side of the Committee were trying to censure the Government. I hope that by the time I sit down the right hon. Gentleman will be in no doubt about what I want to censure the Government about. I apologise to the Committee, because the speech which I am going to make is, from now onwards, entirely about domestic matters. I think that it will illustrate the basic problem which faces many big county boroughs, the problem of a shortage of land which has been aggravagated by ministerial decisions in favour of private developers. That is the problem, but I shall discuss it in terms of my own local authority.

Before the war the corporation purchased 500 acres of land in the urban district of Longbenton, outside the city boundary. After the war, of that land 220 acres was sterilised because of the coal beneath the surface. From that time onwards, from 1945, there has been the constant problem of a shortage of land and the local authority has never been able to plan ahead. Now the city is nearly land-locked. This has led to a contraction in the housing effort and an inability on the part of the corporation to plan its housing effort in a long-term manner. This has led to the use of sites which, in the normal way, would not be used as building sites. One in my constituency was a quarry not many years ago and it was 50 feet deep. It has been filled in, and upon that site have been built flats which were extremely expensive because it was necessary to build them on concrete rafts. There is now no land at all left within the city boundary, except that gained from slum clearance.

Since the war, 37 per cent. of our corporation housing has been built outside the city boundary. Virtually all the land which the city now possesses and which can be used for housing—apart from the land gained from slum clearance—is 182 acres on a site called the New-biggin Hall Estate, some miles away from the city. I give the figures because they are very important to my case. Of these 182 acres there are 36 acres which cannot be used because that land is sterilised for some years. This site will allow the corporation to build 3,360 houses.

This is the problem in terms of need. On our normal waiting list there are 9,142 families, while on the slum clearance list we have 5,729. I have deducted 30 per cent. from the figure; in other words, this figure represents only 70 per cent. because I realise that some of the slum clearance families will also appear on the normal housing waiting list. This makes a total of 14,871 dwellings which are required.

What can we build? If we take the land available, all the land we can get from slum clearance schemes and the other land which is now available—I have told the Committee where it is—and if we take the land which we hope to acquire, we can build only 8,847 houses, which means that we have over 6,000 houses to provide in the next ten years or so for which there is no land at all; the actual figure is 6,024.

This figure of 6,000-plus is based on 77 per cent. of our housing being in the form of multi-storeyed flats of 10,12 and 15-stareyed blocks; in other words, it is based on a high density figure. At one of the inquiries last year when the Minister turned down an application for a big piece of land which the local authority had hoped to get, the city architect said in his evidence: … full account has been taken not only of the greatly increased number of dwellings which such blocks will provide in the redevelopment of slum clearance and other areas, but of the considerable increase in the number of housing units which will be obtained by the erection of fifteen-storey blocks on cer- tain sites now being cleared of temporary houses, the increase in this case being in the ratio of 6½ to 1 over the dwellings displaced. It should be noted, however, that the above figures have been prepared on the assumption that planning permission will be obtained in all such cases for development at a high density, and it therefore follows that if planning permission should be refused in respect of any scheme forming part of that programme, the number of families representing the balance of housing need to be met will be increased. I mention that—and I apologise for reading that long quotation—because in one of our big schemes the Minister is objecting to this kind of density. This is the Sycamore Street scheme. I am sorry that the Parliamentary Secretary is not now present in the Chamber, because he paid a fleeting visit to this scheme on Friday of last week. If the Minister persists in his objection to the density in this scheme it means a considerable increase in our land need. The Committee may be interested to know that this scheme is a complete redevelopment of the famous Scotswood Road area of Newcastle which is known throughout the world because of the song "The Blaydon Races." I believe that the scheme which we have put to the Minister is one of the most imaginative ever devised, certainly the most imaginative which I have seen in Britain, Europe or America. It is a truly magnificent scheme, but the Minister is objecting on the ground of density.

Why is the right hon. Gentleman doing this? There is no real reason to object on social grounds, so far as I can see. This scheme has been gone into very carefully. For two years we have had a Labour-controlled council in Newcastle, and it has made a much biggex impact on the slum clearance programme than any other council in a similar period. This council has worked miracles in a number of areas in the city. What is the Minister up to? Is he trying to embarrass a Labour-controlled council by these silly, piddling objections to this great scheme?

We have a land deficit in Newcastle which prevents us from building 6,000 houses. One would have thought that in such circumstances the Minister of Housing and Local Government would have gone all-out to assist the city corporation in the acquisition of land for building. But what has he done?

The Corporation is faced with this deficit, even after using the high density figure to Which the right hon. Gentleman is objecting, and having made use of every inch of land outside the city. And what has the Minister done? In three recent appeals which were made to him he found against the corporation and in favour of private developers.

The Hillheads scheme would have given us 2,124 houses, but the Minister gave that site to a private developer. The Allandale Road scheme would have given us 210 houses. Here I must make clear that there was no private developer involved. In the opinion of the Minister it was a question of amenities. I live not more than half a mile from that site, and in my opinion the amenities of the area would not have been affected at all.

A fortnight ago the right hon. Gentleman gave a decision against the corporation which prevented the building of 200 houses at Kenton. In the last two instances which I have quoted, the 410 houses involved are included in the figures I gave for land available, which means that now I have to deduct another 410 houses from the figure I have given, and add another 400 houses to the deficit of 6,000 houses so that now the deficit is 6,434 houses. I have here the report, and in the last decision the Minister went against the advice of his own inspector, who had advised that the private developer involved should not get the land. Rut the Minister went against the advice of his inspector.

Mr. W. Hamilton


Mr. Short

I have here a copy of the letter from the Minister to the private builder.

Mr. E. G. Willis (Edinburgh, East)

Jobs for the boys.

Mr. Short

Because of the intervention of this Minister there is a deficit of 6,434 houses in Newcastle. Had we got the Hillheads site, the first of the three which were turned down, this deficit would have been reduced by one-third. In his decision on that, the Minister said: With regard to these areas"— that is, other areas which might be available— the Minister expressed no firm opinion at present One of them is affected by the North Tyneside Town Map which is now before him for consideration. The other is a project about which he has had up to now little information. He can only refer here to the Inspector's opinion of their prima facie suitability and say that the Corporation's claims against any objections that might be made will necessarily be strengthened by the fact that they have not succeeded in this case The Minister said that, and the next two appeals that came to him he turned down, one against the advice of his own inspector. What does the Committee make of a Minister who acts like this?

Mr. Hamilton

It is party politics.

Mr. Short

It is party politics with a vengeance.

In addition to this obstructionism by the Minister, the local Tories are playing party politics. They are objecting to two sites which have now to go to inquiries. One is the St. Cuthbert's Road site for 97 houses and the other the Benfield Road site for 12 houses. The local Conservative Party is trying to write off these 109 houses and inquiries are pending on the two projects. It will be very interesting to see what decision the Minister gives on them.

Mr. Willis

He will support the local Tories.

Mr. Short

It will be interesting to see whether he will support the local Tories in their obstructionism.

Mr. H. Brooke

What I am seeking to do is to get Newcastle redeveloped aright. I think that my decision on all these compulsory purchase orders has been correct. I fully recognise that Newcastle has a serious redevelopment problem in the future, although I think that it probably has enough land to go on with. Newcastle is one of the cities where I am anxious to make personal contact and in due course to have a talk with the city council when the facts and figures have been clarified, for I could not accept all the figures which the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Central (Mr. Short) has given.

Mr. Short

I challenge the Minister now to tell me of one figure which is not correct.

Mr. Brooke

If I remember correctly, the city council produced a number of figures about housing need which take no account of relets.

Mr. Short

I have before me the city slum clearance plan and in ever column there are relets—in every single column. In one column it states, "Completions 224, relets 200." In the next column there is, "Completions 352, relets 200." What is the Minister talking about?

Mr. Manuel


Mr. Short

That last appeal which went to the Minister a fortnight ago had nothing to do with relets, but was a question of planning. Another dealt with the Allandale Road site, and he turned it down after objection by a number of property owners. This had nothing to do with reletting.

In addition to the obstructionism of the Minister and the local Tories, we have other difficulties. At present, there is an appeal before the Minister relating to 100 acres at Kenton, but, as a fortnight ago he denied us the 15½ acres site there, we have not much hope of getting the other 100. We have a site in the famous Jesmond Dene which we cannot develop because it is to be re-zoned. There is a big site at Long-benton with which we cannot get on because it is in an urban district and we have to get approval of the urban district council.

Because of the Minister's attitude and the disgraceful supplementary attitude of the local Tories and the difficulties connected with other sites, our deficit of 6,434 may well become very much bigger. The Minister, in his decision on the Hillhead site about a year ago, made great play about land which was to become available under the North Tyneside District town plan in the village of North Killingworth. Northumberland County Council put forward alterations to the development plan, under the title, "North Tyneside District Town Map".

I wish to tell the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary, who appears to be taking an interest, what the position is. They say that we can solve our problems with the new North Killingworth plan, which allocates 268 acres for the city's housing needs. If the Minister agrees to 89 acres which will be required for schools, shops, churches, and so on, the amount will be reduced to 179 acres. That means 3,222 dwellings, which is the maximum density, at 18 per acre. That is the density to which the Minister objects on the Scotswood Road site. Even if he agreed to the maximum density we should still have a land deficit of 3,200 houses for which there is not an inch of land anywhere.

I suggest to the Minister that about the year 1964 the housing lists of Newcastle and throughout the country will go up rapidly because then we shall have the marriage bulge. We have had the bulge in the primary schools, it is now in the secondary schools, and from 1964 onwards it will be a council house problem. So this deficit of 3,200, which is the minimum, even assuming that everything goes right, may well be doubled by the middle of this decade. In face of the Minister's attitude, this problem seems quite intractable.

The local city council has made tremendous efforts in the past few years. It has made a bigger impact on slum clearance than has any former council. I apologise for not being able to accompany the Parliamentary Secretary when he visited Newcastle on Friday, but I had to go to a very sad funeral. He will have seen what has been happening at Scotswood Road. A miracle has been performed there and in other parts of the city in the last few years.

In slum clearance work the council has told all slum dwellers in which six months they will be rehoused. I have held crowded meetings throughout the city at which the chairman of the housing committee, the local vicar, doctors and everyone interested in the problem have spoken. The people have been told exactly when they will be rehoused, provided the Minister "plays ball". The council has made tremendous efforts. It has tackled the "prefab." sites. It was extremely unpopular to turn people out of "prefabs.", but we did so to get another 810 sites. We have also carried out two surveys of all the estates in order to reduce under-occupation. The local authority instituted an exchange scheme for this purpose. It has put into operation a great operation "Revitalise", about which I am sure the Parliamentary Secretary was given some information last week and under which a large number of houses will be restored and revitalised.

The only "encouragement" which the authority is given in this task is a series of what I believe that grossly biassed decisions against council house building. These are not only grossly biassed, but also grossly unjust. I will tell the Minister why. He has referred to the unemployment position in Newcastle. I was joking when I spoke of this before, but I am not joking now. There is a great deal of uncertainty in the north-east of England. The coal mining industry is contracting at an alarming rate—and many of the people I represent are coal miners Shipbuilding is contracting, and we cannot see any prospects of an improvement in that industry. There is no Government policy for shipbuilding. Ship repairing is in an even worse position. Those are the three basic industries in the area.

People are working short time, but they are up to their necks in hire purchase. In those circumstances, how can the great mass of the people in central Newcastle think of saddling themselves with a twenty years' mortgage? I do not think that 10 per cent. of the people in my constituency could think of buying a house.

In four wards in Newcastle people are living in appalling conditions. There is the Stephenson ward, which the Parliamentary Secretary visited; the St. Nicholas ward; the Elswick ward, and the Westgate ward. People are living there in the most appalling conditions, in squalid, decaying, unsafe houses, with no baths, no indoor toilets, no individual toilets. I told the House a few months ago about a house in which seven or eight families were sharing one toilet, and I described it as the worst house in England. I understand that the owner of the house wrote to the Minister and objected to my remarks, stating that he was not receiving £7 a week from the house, but only £5.

I could take the Minister to streets in which there is nowhere for the children to play. There is nothing more pathetic than seeing young children, after school, playing in the rubble and the dirt on squalid streets. There is no light. There are no flowers and there is not a blade of grass anywhere in those areas—only squalor and decay everywhere.

What does the Minister say to these people in those wards? In effect, his decisions are saying, "Buy a house or stay where you are."

Mr. H. Brooke

There is no reason whatever why the city council should not continue building at a steady level. I am ready to discuss with the council its further needs of land when its present land is exhausted.

Mr. Short

Has the Minister a magic wand which he can wave to bring land out of the air? There is no land left. He is dissipating the land which is available by his decision. What he says is sheer poppycock. It is a pity that the Parliamentary Secretary did not say this to the people living in the Scotswood Road area when he was there on Friday—"Buy a house or stay where you are"; because that is what his policy means.

This Minister will never be forgiven for the Rent Act. In my constituency tens of thousands of people are living in sub-standard property, with no modern amenities of any kind, and are paying exorbitant rents. The Minister will never be forgiven for that. He will never be forgiven for depressing the standards of living of the people without improving their houses. I do not know of a single house which has been improved in amenities because of the Rent Act. The spouts may have been painted and window panes may have been put in, but I do not know of a single house in which amenities have been installed because of the higher rents.

I believe that a Minister of the Crown has a duty to hold the balance fairly between all sections of the community. He has a duty to hold the balance between, on the one hand, potential owner-occupiers and landlords and, on the other, potential council house tenants. I do not think that he is holding the balance fairly. I believe that what he has done in Newcastle is to distort our housing problems to the point at which the council may have to say to him, unless he co-operates, "Take the job and do it yourself". He has a common law duty, as a Minister of the crown, to hold the balance fairly between all sections of the community.

I take such a serious view of this that I believe that we may reach the point at which we must ask for a judicial inquiry into some of the decisions which the Minister has given. He is obviously not holding a fair balance between all sections of the community concerned in these decisions. The bias which he has shown recently—in his decisions—against the people I represent is nothing short of disgraceful. I think that he is debasing the central Government's connection with local government by this bias, and that the sooner he goes the better for Britain.

6.46 p.m.

Mr. Leonard Cleaver (Birmingham, Yardley)

I am sure that if any hon. Member has read the housing returns for 1959 and has listened to my right hon. Friend's report this afternoon on the progress made during 1960 he cannot accuse the Government of indifference to housing and he cannot do other than congratulate them on the success which they have achieved. Many hon. Members might like to alter the way in which the problem is being approached, but no one can take away from the Minister the success which he has already achieved. If those millions of people have been rehoused in new houses under his policy, we can only imagine what the situation would have been if he had not taken the action which he has taken. From that point of view we should congratulate him on what he has done.

This increase in building, as the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) has said, has shown up the black spots in housing throughout the country. We have a housing problem—no one can deny that—but as I intend to ask the Minister to approach it from the point of view of the black spots, I am sure that the situation will be alleviated even more.

I agree with the hon. Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin) and my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Moss Side (Mr. Watts) that there are urgent housing problems in our cities, and I am sure that it is the wish of hon. Members and of the Minister himself that these problems should be tackled energetically. It was said in the past that the pavements of London were paved with gold. The 1960 version is that many of the pavements in Birmingham and Coventry are paved with gold. In other words, if the prosperity of those big cities is taken into account and the ability of many people to contribute towards their housing—

Mr. Willis

What do they do now?

Mr. Cleaver

They are getting on quite all right and are doing extremely well. We are extremely pleased that they are getting on so well.

The present housing problem is a city problem. There is a slum clearance problem affecting Birmingham, Moss Side, London and other cities. As hon. Members know from the debate which took place on Friday, on the recommendations of the inspector the Minister has disallowed the Wythall scheme, but we are in agreement with that because I think it only fair to our people that we should preserve our green belt. Those who will benefit from that preservation are the workers who live in it and those who can get into it at week-ends without great expenditure of money. They would be unable to do that if we increased the conurbation of the city.

This raises the question of subsidies. It is true that in our city we have a problem amounting immediately to about 14,000 houses, and it is right that attention should be paid to housing that surplus population as soon as we can.

Mr. Victor Yates (Birmingham, Ladywood)

Surely the hon. Member is not suggesting that the problem is one of 14,000 houses in Birmingham? That is what it may be in twenty years' time, but today it is much more serious.

Mr. Cleaver

I understand that the overspill section of the problem will involve about 14,000 houses. The overspill problem is admittedly urgent, and admittedly there is also a need to clear the slums, and we should make suggestions to the Minister on ways in which the problem should be approached. The inspector has not approved the Wythall scheme. The hon. Member for Fulham suggested the solution of creating new towns. That is a possibility, but I think the Committee will agree that building a new town is a very lengthy business and also extremely costly. I agree with the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Mr. V. Yates) that our problem is urgent and that we need action taken as soon as possible. On the other side of the green belt, there are local authorities who, if we approached them in the right way, could be persuaded to accept some of our overspill.

The problem, however, does not end there. We have to see that those authorities are; properly financed to accept the overspill. I know that a slum clearance grant of £28 is available, to which our city is prepared to add £8 per house for ten years, but I am informed that that is not always enough for some of the weaker local authorities to tackle the overspill problem. Their first difficulty is that they do not necessarily have the resources to carry out the building programme. They want skilled technicians and engineers to help them with drainage, roads and the like. If the Minister approached the problem by helping local authorities in this way, he would facilitate the acceptance of overspill from our city.

Mr. A. Evans

What the hon. Member has said about the financial difficulties under the Town Development Act has been pointed out to the Minister time after time in the House of Commons, but he has declined to help financially with projects under that Act.

Mr. Cleaver

My view is that the cities have a special building problem and we should like my right hon. Friend to consider it as a special black spot problem in building. The result would be helpful. The local authorities whom we should approach would welcome the increase in rateable value that would accrue from overspill schemes. A pilot scheme of this nature certainly would relieve our existing heavy over-congestion.

My first suggestion to my right hon. Friend the Minister is that he should approach the black spot building problem of cities in a similar way to the Government's approach to the problem of local unemployment. The Government have their powers and they have money which could be spent in this way. Such a plan would alleviate the problem for the cities.

That would not, however, end the problem for a city like mine, or for Manchester, or for anywhere else where its operation would be appropriate. Once the waiting list for accommodation had been alleviated, we should not allow the waiting list automatically to increase. If we were to build the number of houses which we require and simply allow the register to build up again, we should be as badly off as we were before. As in the case of certain other cities, this prosperous centre of ours in the Midlands is a magnet for labour and industry, not only from all over the country, but from all over the world. I cannot see how we shall ever solve this building problem unless we take action to stabilise the register at an appropriate time.

In dealing with this problem, we must remember that a great many people can afford to pay an economic rent for their housing. Such a method should be accompanied by a realistic rebate scheme. There is no need to condemn every rebate scheme as inhuman if it can be reasonable. Our object is to ensure that the subsidies which are given by the central Government are absorbed by the people who need them. We do not want subsidies to be paid to people who can afford to house themselves in the ordinary way.

We should not automatically rule out house purchase as not assisting the housing problem. If we can get as many people as are desirous and willing to buy their own houses to do so, the general problem would be alleviated and more subsidy would be left available for those in need. I should take a poor view if the building societies were to put up their interest rates yet again.

In considering the economic side of the problem, we should bear in mind two facts. One is that when a house is put up and the money is spent, that might be termed inflationary. When the occupier makes his repayments, however, he is the opposite of inflationary and he is serving the community in a sensible manner. I should like the contracts which are entered into by people who buy their houses on mortgage to stabilise the rate of interest and not allow it to fluctuate every time the Bank Rate goes up or down.

There was a suggestion by the hon. Member for Fulham that in certain areas the rates had risen by only 11d. or 11¼d. in the £. In my city, they have gone up by 2s. 6d. It is incumbent on all who administer local government to do their best to keep the rates down, because they bear hardly upon the poorer sections of the community. I hope that my right hon. Friend will not ease up—he has not suggested that he will—in any way in a progressive and far-reaching view of the housing problem. I am sure that if he carries on in the way he has done he will have the support of this Committee and of the people.

6.57 p.m.

Mr. James McInnes (Glasgow, Central)

The hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Mr. Cleaver) will not expect me to follow him into the details of the problems he has raised concerning Birmingham. If he were in my position, I should not expect him to follow me into the problem of Glasgow, with which I propose to deal.

The only thing about which I disagreed with the hon. Member was when he expressed the opinion that this Committee should congratulate the Minister. Congratulate him on what? I have been here since the start of the debate and every speech has condemned the Minister in one way or another. The hon. Member for Manchester, Moss Side (Mr. Watts), my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Short) and other hon. Members have pointed out to the Minister the difficulties with which they are confronted. When I listened to the Minister this afternoon, I got the impression that there was no such thing as a housing problem in Britain and that everything had been solved. Then, however, hon. Members started to raise questions about the black spots.

Mr. Cleaver

Would the position be infinitely worse if the Government had not built the houses and had not rehoused the population in the way they have done?

Mr. McInnes

The Government have not built a single house. The houses have been built by the building trade workers and local authorities.

Coming from Scotland, I appreciated the figures and comparisons that the Minister gave us this afternoon. The only person in the Chamber who could feel positively embarrassed with the figures was the Secretary of State for Scotland, who is confronted with a problem that is unique—in fact, without parallel—in the whole of Western Europe. I refer to the massive problem of Glasgow's housing.

Glasgow has built 115,000 municipal houses—and still has a waiting list of 120,000 applicants. It has an overspill problem involving 300,000 people. In 1953, the city not only made the Government aware of the extent of its overspill but told them that by the end of 1960 it would not have a single site on which to build a house. We have heard of the Newcastle-upon-Tyne position, and I will tell the Committee of Glasgow's position in a moment or two.

What have the Government done to tackle Glasgow's great social problem? In the seven years since 1953, they have designated one new town; they have asked another new town to accept Glasgow overspill, and they enacted the Town Development Act of 1957. How many people have been overspilt from Glasgow since 1957, when the Secretary of State took that action? Six hundred families have gone to three new towns, and 300 families have been dealt with under that 1957 Act; 900 families dealt with in three years, against a total of 300,000 people affected. What a miserable, shocking contribution towards relieving Glasgow of such a tremendous burden.

In 1954, Glasgow built 6,460 houses in the one year. Last year, it built 3,058 houses—a reduction of 60 per cent. in one year. In 1960, it does not expect to build more than 2,500. There is a shocking position. Does it fit in with the right hon. Gentleman's statement that, within two years, a local authority's house building programme, as a result of the inaction of the Secretary of State for Scotland, should drop from 6,400 to a little more than 2,000?

What is the effect of that on the building industry? Glasgow has a direct labour department of over 6,000 employees, and it also employs private contractors to build houses for it. In 1955, 6,207 building trade workers were employed building houses for the Corporation. In 1959, the number had dropped to 3,764—a reduction of 2,443. That means that at least 2,443 building trade workers who were previously building houses for Glasgow Corporation are now unemployed. Is it any wonder that there is such severe unemployment in Scotland—

Mr. Peter Emery (Reading)

Are you trying to suggest that these building trade workers have not got other employment? All you are saying is that they were not employed by the Glasgow Corporation. You cannot infer from those figures—

The Temporary Chairman (Dr. Horace King)

Order. When an hon. Member addresses the Committee, he must do so through the Chair.

Mr. McInnes

The hon. Member for Reading (Mr. Emery) asks whether I am saying that these building trade workers are now unemployed. I say, most emphatically, yes. We have from 14,000 to 16,000 building trade workers unemployed in Scotland alone—

Mr. Emery

Unless the hon. Member can produce some figures, and not just generalisations, it is quite wrong of him to try to suggest to the Committee that all the people who once upon a time were working for the Glasgow Corporation are today unemployed. He has only inferred that and can produce no facts.

Mr. McInnes

So far, I think that I have given facts and figures, and I challenge the Secretary of State to repudiate one single figure that I have quoted. I say that those building trade workers who no longer work for the Glasgow Corporation now form part of the unemployment in the building industry there. That is the situation.

Apart from the general housing problem, Glasgow is also burdened with a problem that, in magnitude at least, is perhaps unique in Great Britain—the problem of the wholesale abandonment of property by owners. I know that in law an owner cannot abandon property, but devious ways can be adopted. In Glasgow, the owner forms a private limited liability company, with a nominal capital, to which company he conveys the property. The liability of the company is limited to its funds. When those funds are finished, the previous owner can abandon the property, and no remedy can be taken against the company. That is the modern equivalent of the old idea of conveying to a man of straw. I do not know how many hundreds of such men of straw we have in Glasgow.

Having for the last eighty or a hundred years squeezed every available penny out of the property, they abandon it. The tenants are in the property, but no maintenance or repair work is carried out. Nuisances are caused—choked drains, burst pipes, stagnant water and the like—and, in the interests of public health, the local authority is compelled to carry out the necessary repairs. In that way, public money has to be expended in order to make these places a little more habitable for the benefit of the tenants. The people living in these properties are living in conditions grossly inferior to those enjoyed by livestock. If the Secretary of State challenges me on that statement, I invite him to accompany me to any of the areas in the central zone of Glasgow to find out for himself. That is the situation which exists in Glasgow.

With the rapid deterioration which takes place, these abandoned properties become dangerous; then they are condemned, and again the local authority has to face the financial responsibility of demolishing the properties. In the last ten years over 3,500 houses have been abandoned in the City of Glasgow. But that is not the end of the callous operations of the slum landlords. Indeed, many of them, before they abandoned the properties, asked the local authority to take them over free of charge except that the take-over was subject to ground burdens.

Because there are no sites on which to build houses as a result of the inactivity of the Secretary of State during the last ten years, the Glasgow Corporation has to take over these abandoned properties and it has to carry out repairs to 12,848 houses. In ten years over 16,000 houses have been more or less abandoned by the property owners in Glasgow. The financial responsibility for carrying out repairs and maintenance on these properties and ultimately in demolishing them falls on the local authority.

It seems strange to me that the efforts of the present Government to placate the factors and property owners have failed. We were told that one of the objects of the Rent Act was to keep properties in good condition, but that bribe has never become attractive to the factors and property owners in Glasgow. Even the 1959 improvements grant did not prove attractive to them. We were told that the Rent Act would create a pool of houses for letting and that there would be no further problems in places like Glasgow. Today in that city there are over 3,000 houses lying unoccupied—a good type of property in the main, lying unoccupied for months.

Mrs. Alice Cullen (Glasgow, Gorbals)

For years.

Mr. McInnes

This is a city with a waiting list of 120,000 people, and the owners refuse to let their properties. They are holding them up for sale. These are the friends of the Secretary of State. All these facts compel me to say that it does not appear to me that the factors and property owners in Glasgow are possessed of one shred of morality.

I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Scotland—the Long John Silver of Scottish politics—if he is really seized of the urgency of this great problem in Glasgow. I do not think he knows the first thing about Glasgow's housing problem. I know that the Minister of State, Scottish Office, has gone up and down Scotland on litter campaigns and talked about litter. You can litter Glasgow with all the slums in the world and no action is taken against you, but if you throw down an empty cigarette packet you are fined for doing so. It may be that the Minister of State has acquainted the right hon. Gentleman of some of the facts.

I want to make this appeal. You will never help to solve Glasgow's housing problem by your mean and miserable little Housing and Town Development (Scotland) Act.

The Temporary Chairman

Order. As I pointed out earlier, the hon. Gentleman must address himself to the Chair.

Mr. McInnes

I beg your pardon, Dr. King. I should have referred to the right hon. Gentleman's mean and miserable little Act.

To solve this great problem of 300,000 people, more new towns are required. Let me remind the right hon. Gentleman of the situation that developed in England and Wales. Under a Labour Government London, with a similar problem to Glasgow's, got eight new towns, and I think I am correct when I assert that these eight new towns did not cost London boroughs a single penny. But Glasgow gets one new town, Cumbernauld, and for every family that Glasgow sends to Cumbernauld, or to the new town at East Kilbride which is now in existence, Glasgow has to pay £14 for ten years for each family so transferred. In other words, by the time that 300,000 people have been exported from Glasgow, Glasgow will be faced with a bill for £14 million.

Eight new towns are provided for London at the expense of the Government, and today these eight new towns have a population of over 200,000 people. Yet here we are tinkering with the right hon. Gentleman's mean and miserable little Act that would export 900 people in three years. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to waken up and deal with this problem.

7.20 p.m.

Mr. Peter Emery (Reading)

I apologise again, Dr. King, for not speaking to you in my intervention a few minutes ago. As the hon. Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. McInnes) realises, in the heat of the moment one sometimes misplaces in one's mind all that one should remember in having proper regard for order.

I begin by questioning—I put it no stronger than that—some of the assumptions which I have heard made by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Central. It really is not good enough for him to try to suggest that this Government have done nothing for the slum population of Glasgow during the last few years.

Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)

Now will the hon. Gentleman tell us what he knows about it?

Mr. Emery

Does the hon. Gentleman wish to intervene?

Mr. Ross

The hon. Member has said that he intends to deal with some of the assumptions which have been made. Can he give us any figures to controvert the figures given by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Central? I suggest that he does not know the first thing about it and he is really making matters worse by talking about it.

Mr. Emery

If the hon. Gentleman will allow me, I shall be delighted to go on. If he will have patience, I will come to these points, and he will not need to interrupt.

Mr. Ross

Let us have some figures.

Mr. Emery

I suggest that one of two things must be true. Either Glasgow has not taken advantage—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Hon. Members can murmur if they like. It is always surprising that, in this Committee, when one says something which hon. Members do not like to have to accept or which is not liked, hon. Members start to groan. As I say, it is either that Glasgow Corporation has not been taking advantage of what the slum clearance Acts allow—[Interruption.]—or else—

Mr. McInnes rose

Mr. Emery

May I finish my sentence?—or else—

Mr. Ross

There are no slum clearance Acts in Scotland.

Mr. Emery

—or else Glasgow Corporation is not doing what other corporations in Scotland are doing in trying to deal with slums. Other corporations in Scotland are dealing with the problem. Quite honestly, I do not believe that Glasgow is so behind in this matter as it is suggested we should believe.

Secondly, to deal with the other point—

Mr. Dempsey

The hon. Gentleman has not dealt with the first point.

The Temporary Chairman (Dr. Horace King)

Order. I must ask hon. Members from Scotland to allow the hon. Gentleman to make his speech.

Dr. J. Dickson Mabon (Greenock)

But this is provocation.

Mr. Emery rose

Mr. Willis

In the first place, there is not a slum clearance Act in Scotland. The hon. Gentleman does not seem to know that. Further, is he aware of the fact that there is only one city in Scotland with a Tory council, and that is building houses at only half the rate that Glasgow is building them, and not only is it not solving the housing problem or the slum problem but the houses are actually falling down and collapsing? I refer to Edinburgh.

Mr. Emery

I have not tried to suggest anything about the political complexion of cities in Scotland. All I have suggested is that other cities in Scotland, Socialist-controlled cities, are dealing to some extent with this matter. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where?"] Dundee.

I come now to the second point. [Interruption.] I think that I have been reasonably fair. I come now to the second point in the hon. Gentleman's speech. If, in fact, the improvements in Glasgow are nil, as he suggested, then I wonder why the Glasgow Corporation is not taking advantage of some of the Vote under Subhead A.3 (c) which we find on page 163 of the Estimates.

Mr. McInnes

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will not be annoyed if I counsel him not to attack me for the figures which I quoted. I have already challenged the Secretary of State to repudiate them. I did not deal with slum clearance. It may interest the hon. Gentleman to know that, since the end of the war, Glasgow has demolished over 12,000 under the slum clearance programme. There are no slum clearance Acts in Scotland. As regards the improvement grants, I leave the Secretary of State to tell the hon. Gentleman to what extent the private property owner holding rented houses in Glasgow has taken advantage of that provision. I can tell him the answer now. if he likes.

Mr. Emery

I have now elicited from the hon. Member for Glasgow, Central a piece of information about which there was no implication in his speech at all, namely, that there have been 12,000 slum dwellings dealt with in Glasgow. I compliment him and Glasgow Corporation on that. But one would not have understood that fact from his absolute condemnation of the Minister. I am delighted that I have forced him to give that information.

Mr. McInnes


Mr. Emery

I come now to two specific points on this Vote, taking, first, the slum clearance Acts in this country. It is interesting to note that the amount of money to be paid for slum clearance in England and Wales during the coming year shows an increase. The Estimate is increasing, and it is particularly important to realise what the Government are doing about slum clearance. Whatever hon. Members opposite may shout or say in their speeches, it is only because of Conservative Governments that we have slum clearance going forward to the extent that it is.

Mr. Manuel

It is because of the Tories that we have slums.

Mr. Emery

I have a suggestion to make about slum clearance procedure. Wherever slum property is demolished, the areas have all to be developed by local authorities and only by local authorities. The same thing applies to redevelopment areas in certain local authority areas. To take the example of Reading, for the next twenty years there is a redevelopment scheme envisaging the clearance of about 1,500 homes, of which only one-third are, at the moment, considered to be slums. But, as the Acts stand, all the redevelopment will be left to the local authority to deal with itself. I ask my right hon. Friend the Minister to consider the formation of a scheme whereby new development, after local authorities have cleared land, could be put out for private enterprise as well as the local authorities.

I am not suggesting that this should be other than permissive, but, from my experience—I have been chairman of a housing authority for four years—it seems to me that there should be some arrangement whereby local authorities, if they so desire to increase the speed of their internal redevelopment, could do some of it themselves and hand some of it over to private interests to do on behalf of the local authority.

The major problem, of course, is the rehousing of the people in the properties. I suggest that it might well be possible for agreements to be made between a local council and other interests taking over from the local council so that, when the redevelopment was completed, the private developers would be willing to take nominated tenants from the local authority housing lists.

This leads me to the problem of density in local authority areas. Today, we are faced with the conflicting problem of the shortage of land. Agricultural land and urban density cannot both be considered to be sacrosanct. One or other has to be sacrificed. I humbly suggest that it is urban density which will have to be sacrificed. I know of local authorities in the conurbation of London which are limited with regard to density by what I would consider to be outdated county development plans. I suggest to my right hon. Friend that prompt action must be taken as soon as it is humanly possible to review the problem of density as it affects the development plans in the great conurbations.

Once one starts to review a development plan one is lucky if a final decision is reached in three to five years. This is something which we must deal with now so that in development in London, Middlesex and the other great conurbations a higher density than is at present envisaged can be achieved. I think that density is the major problem that we should be considering in housing for the future, both in dealing with slum clearance and with redevelopment.

I hope that the Minister will give me an assurance that the Government are willing to suggest to local authorities and local authority associations that density should be stepped up to a very much higher degree than is at present envisaged.

7.32 p.m.

Mr. W. E. Wheeldon (Birmingham, Small Heath)

I want to devote my remarks entirely to housing, and I make no apology for doing so.

I want to begin with the same point with which the Minister began his speech. I listened to him very carefully, and, as one of my hon. Friends said, it appeared to hon. Members on this side that he lives in a totally different world from the one which we, as representatives of working-class constituents, know.

One of the most prominent Tories who ever sat on the benches opposite, who came from Birmingham and represented a constituency adjacent to mine, indicted the Government of the day, his own Government, in terms far stronger than any that I shall use. I refer to the late Sir Austen Chamberlain. He represented the West Birmingham constituency. After a visit to the constituency, he addressed these words to his own Government Front Bench: … Why should anybody who lives in the conditions which I see there vote for me, or the causes for which I stand …? If I lived in such conditions I do not think my head would govern my actions…You cannot see those conditions and not feel your blood boil."—[Official Report, 15th December, 1932; Vol. 273, c. 577.] Those were pre-war days. That state of affairs has not resulted because of the war. Some of those conditions still exist in West Birmingham and other parts of Birmingham.

Thank goodness, as a result of the work of the Labour-controlled city council, people from slum areas are being moved very rapidly, but it must be remembered that, even as we sit here in this Chamber, there are thousands of families in Birmingham and in other urban districts of Great Britain who are dispirited and disappointed and have been on housing waiting lists for a number of years. For such people there is a continuing daily tragedy. They come to our advice bureaux, but we can do practically nothing for them except tell them to wait. It is a personal tragedy which affects not only the applicant himself but his family as well. It affects their social conditions and retards the proper development of the children in those families.

That is why I believe that we are justified, once again, in calling the attention of the Committee to the housing problem. The criticism made by Sir Austen Chamberlain was perfectly justified. I want to emphasise that it is nonsense for the Minister to tell the Committee that the Labour Government failed in dealing with the housing problem. The housing problem arose, not because of anything that the Labour Government did or did not do, but because Governments for generation after generation would not tackle the housing problem. There has never been an occasion in the history of this country when the Government have decently and adequately housed the working classes.

Mr. H. Brooke

Why was it that a proper rate of housing in this country was not achieved until the Labour Government fell?

Mr. Ross

Where was the right hon. Gentleman in 1945?

Mr. Wheeldon

Is the Minister suggesting that when the war broke out in 1939 we were housing our people properly? Surely he will agree that even then there were thousands of families without a decent roof over their heads. I speak of Birmingham because I know the situation there best, but I am sure that it is typical of the problem in Glasgow and many other large urban areas. In the year that the war broke out, 53,000 persons were living in houses unfit for human habitation. Thousands of houses were without an inside water supply and without a separate lavatory. Some of them were a sheer disgrace to any local authority and to the Government of the day.

In my constituency, in the year immediately preceding the war, the infantile death rate—babies who died before reaching the age of 12 months—was 106. In the outer wards of the city, the figure was 36. Three times as many babies died in my constituency as in a ward where there were fairly decent housing conditions.

Mr. V. Yates

A Tory council.

Mr. Wheeldon

Yes, and a Tory Government as well. That was the tragedy which was being enacted.

I emphasise once again that this is the responsibility not of any Government since the war, either Tory or Labour, but the responsibility of Governments in the pre-war years which failed to do their duty properly.

That was the Tory record in pre-war days, and I turn now to more immediate times. When the right hon. Gentleman says, as he did earlier today, what the Government have done and how keen they are to see houses go up and slums cleared away, let me remind him that it was a Minister of his own Government, the right hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. Thorneycroft), who came to this Chamber and deliberately said we must cut down housing. He said: Some reduction in housing is inevitable."—[Official Report, 29th October, 1957; Vol. 575, c. 54.] It had to be brought down by 20 per cent., he said. That was deliberate action on the part of the Tory Government in 1957.

It is an indication, of course, that when in their opinion there is some crisis, caused, as they said at that time, by speculation, the real sufferers are those people who are waiting and have been waiting for many years for houses in which to live. The same thing is happening today, in my opinion. The same Government give their lip-service to houses and slum clearance, and yet at the same time there are put on the local authorities mounting disabilities which inevitably make housebuilding more difficult.

There is first the question of interest charges. They have been dealt with by several hon. Members and I shall content myself with giving just one example. For every £1,000 borrowed by a local authority for house-building purposes over the normal 60-year period the interest charges amount to no less than £2,438—on every £1,000 borrowed. That is the burden which has to be borne first by the local housing authority and then, of course, by the tenants through their rents and ultimately through their rates. That is the burden we have to bear today.

Then there is the question of subsidies and the second disability which the present Government have imposed on local housing authorities. We have heard from the hon. Member for Manchester, Moss Side (Mr. Watts) and, indeed, other Members about this terrible question of subsidies. It was the hon. Member for Moss Side, if I understood him correctly, who said that subsidies should be on the basis of charity. It is just as well to take a note of that. I do not know what the hon. Member would say if we adopted that basis for all the subsidies paid today. I wonder what he would say to the brewers, the manufacturers, and those companies paying dividends of 10 per cent., 12 per cent., 15 per cent., some of them, who have been for almost thirty years receiving relief from rates to the extent of 75 per cent.—at the expense of local authorities to a very large extent.

That has been altered now to a basis of 50 per cent., but what on earth is the just reason for allowing these people to have 50 per cent. relief from their rates? There is no justification at all. When the present Minister of Aviation was occupying the position now occupied by the right hon. Gentleman, he told the House, in 1955, that it was necessary to abolish subsidies for general need. He said there was no justification for the payment of subsidies. He said that subsidies are a continued misuse of public money … and … the relief should be given only to those who need it and only for so long as they do need it."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th October, 1955; Vol. 545, c. 378–80.] I wish he had applied that to all those subsidies which have been paid out to the farmers and manufacturers and to all the other people, amounting to £2,300 million, I believe it is, between 1951 and 1959. That charity basis has never applied there. They are still giving those people their subsidies, or, to use the elegant phrase used by the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke), we are still "doling out the lolly". Conservative Governments have been doing that for years, indeed for a generation; but subsidies for working-class people and municipal housing, that is a quite different thing, and they do not apply the same test. Why do not they apply the test then to everybody, if it is to be applied at all? Oh, no, it is the same old story: there is one basis, of course, for those who have plenty in life and another basis altogether for members of the working classes.

I do not think that one matter was mentioned by the Minister, but it has been by two speakers at least on the other side of the Committee, and that is greater density—more flats pushed up in the air. Why on earth is it that hon. Gentlemen opposite always apply greater density for working-class people? It is never applied to the rich. These 10 or 12 or 15-storey places are monstrous monuments to our inefficiency and our lack of national planning. I believe there is ample room in this country for houses, if there were proper planning, if we were to survey the whole country and were to decide that the people of this country are entitled to live not in cages, as it were, at the top of 15-storey blocks of flats, but in decent houses on ground level with decent gardens.

I have been dealing with housing applications for nearly thirty-five years. I can say with truth that I have never on a single occasion had an applicant come to me to say he wanted a flat. I represent a constituency where now there are plenty of flats, but every person I go to see or who comes to me about housing matters and who lives in a flat has the same question to ask, "Cannot you get me a house instead of this flat?" Working people do not want flats. They want to be on the ground floor, they want a bit of garden for their children and for the husbands to cultivate. I believe we can provide that accommodation if we plan properly.

Apart from the question of social values, there is the question of cost. Flats in high blocks are tremendously costly. In Birmingham the average cost of a flat in a high block is £2,800 at the present time, and after taking account of all the Government subsidies with rate subsidy of about £21 a flat, the rent works out at £3 3s. 6d. a week. Believe me, there are very few people in my constituency who can afford a rent of £3 3s. 6d. a week—very few indeed. In these circumstances I believe that our policy should be to allow local authorities to house their people in decent houses wherever it is possible and not by way of flats.

I know very well that local authorities today are in a fearful predicament. They are short of land, as we are in Birmingham. The Minister has turned down our application for additional land. He refuses to give us access to a new town. What are we to do? What is the local authority to do? It has no alternative but to build blocks of flats, but it is a bad thing, and will be for generations, to house people in flats instead of in houses at ground level.

The Minister gave us a little more information today than he did in the last debate on this subject about the improvement grants. I have looked into the figures in Birmingham for privately owned houses with a rateable value up to £20. I have chosen that rateable value because I think it reasonable to assume that, at least in Birmingham, no house of £20 rateable value has a separate bathroom or a hot water system. The number of landlords who have applied for improvement grants in respect of these houses works out at just under three-quarters of 1 per cent. That is a deplorably low figure in respect of the facilities offered under two Acts of Parliament.

I do not know what we can do to force landlords—if we can do anything at all. I understand that the real reason why they do not apply for these grants is that they think they are not getting sufficient return for carrying out improvements. I understand that the present figure is 8 per cent. on the capital cost. I should be reluctant to change the law in that respect but it is fearfully unsatisfactory that the people in these houses, many of which will remain in occupation for years to come, will be compelled to stay in them without these necessary modern facilities.

There are today in Birmingham 65,000 families on the housing waiting list. They are discontented and often dispirited people, and there are thousands of families in the same position throughout the country. These people who are on the waiting list are the people who make the motor cars and build the houses for other people and make the ships and the machinery and create all the things by which the country prospers and has become famous. Yet these people are denied houses to live in.

Everything that is necessary for the country to go ahead and prosper is their responsibility and they make their contribution towards it, but after food and water the most necessary thing in life is a house in which to live. Year after year we go on debating this matter and yet these people are compelled to continue their existence in poverty-stricken, broken-down and often bug-ridden places. There is no hope in life for them. Here in our debates we try to do this, that and the other for them, but it seems appalling that for all this time yet these people will be compelled to spend a great portion of their lives and bring up their young families in conditions which are a disgrace to us as a Parliament.

7.55 p.m.

Dr. Alan Glyn (Clapham)

I am sure that the hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Wheeldon) will forgive me if I come later to the point which he made about density, on which I fundamentally disagree with him. I make no apology for confining my remarks entirely to housing, and housing in London. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government was very fair in assessing the housing problem in the country. There has been a considerable improvement throughout the country in the last seven years, but that does not apply to the great cities, and my right hon. Friend was fair when he said that there was still a very serious housing shortage in London.

My hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Moss Side (Mr. Watts) painted a picture with which we are all familiar. Housing conditions not seven minutes' journey from this Chamber are absolutely appalling. One does not have to go to the Middle East to find appalling conditions. Hon. Members need only come with me to my division, seven minutes' journey away.

All hon. Members agree about the conditions, but it is a question of what we are to do about them. Housing in London is one of the most important social problems. We have gone a long way with education, but what is the good of educating children if we cannot bring them up in decent houses? There is no doubt that in London these problems exist, and I should like to make one or two suggestions on how the situation might be improved.

First, I believe that in London it is fundamentally wrong to have two housing authorities. There is the London County Council—and I do not decry its work—and there are the borough councils. It would be far better to have one authority responsible for all the housing, and that should be the local borough council. In my constituency there is constant competition for sites between the L.C.C. and the local borough, and it is true, I regret to say, that when the L.C.C. builds, the people who find their way into the accommodation in my constituency are not the people who lived their originally, but people from other parts of London. It would be far better if housing were entrusted to the local borough council, which knows the requirements and can get on with the job.

As for rent rebates, there are people living in flats in my constituency who, unquestionably, are earning very high wages indeed. There are also, of course, others who earn very low wages. If we had some form of rent rebate those people who could well afford it—and hon. Members will not disagree that there are families whose incomes are very great—could be compelled to pay the proper cost. This would be an incentive to them to find other accommodation privately, or to buy their own houses and so release accommodation for those people who really need it.

My right hon. Friend the Minister mentioned under-occupation and improvement grants. I do not know that we are going about this in the right way. We are converting houses the life of which cannot be more than ten years. It would be far better to start afresh and build something that would last not five or ten years, but fifty years. People today are demanding higher housing standards. Fifty years ago they did not demand bathrooms, but people today want baths, central heating, and lifts. We should concentrate on building first-class flats to last half a century.

As to density, there is no question that in London we must alter the pattern of living. People like a small house and a garden, but there is not the space and it is absolutely essential that the density of building should be altered. We must just get used to the modern way of living in high blocks of flats. This is forced upon us by the fact that, certainly in the inner ring of London, sites are not available. In my constituency, even where slum clearance sites are available, if the density of building is not increased there will be rehoused on the site fewer people than when one started, and instead of going further with cutting down the waiting list one will go four stages backward. It is absolutely vital that the Minister should put this consideration first and foremost and force local authorities to change their density rules.

Mr. A. Evans

The hon. Member is suggesting that housing densities in the County of London should be raised. As he probably realises, if the density is raised and more people are put in houses on a given site there must also be provided additional hospitals, schools, open spaces and other amenities, and the extra housing accommodation that will be yielded by increasing densities will probably be very small.

Dr. Glyn

But if high blocks of flats are built there is a greater chance of having open spaces. I agree, of course, that one must be absolutely sure that there are sufficient transport facilities in the area. There are many factors to be considered, but I know of one site where it would be perfectly possible to build a 15-storey to 20-storey block of flats to rehouse people displaced by slum clearance in the area and a good number of other people as well.

The next point I should like to make is on the question of exchange. There are many old people in London who would like to live outside London, although some for family reasons, quite rightly, do not wish to leave London. I believe that if we could get a system by which all local authorities were linked to provide a common pool for people requiring accommodation, some people now living in London and wishing to live in London would be helped by that accommodation list. If there was also some sort of pool to enable people to find accommodation outside London, I am sure that that would in some ways ease the accommodation position.

The Minister also mentioned the question of old people's housing. I would ask him to compel local authorities to make a higher percentage of houses available for old people, because it is very often the old people who are very much over-accommodated. If we rehouse the older people that would in many cases release a greater amount of accommodation for general use.

Mr. Marcus Lipton (Brixton)

Not in London.

Dr. Glyn

I think that the hon. Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton) will agree that many old people are living in London in three or four rooms and that if we were able to give them the one-room flat which they require we should relieve the accommodation position.

I believe that there are sites in London not used. We could make much better use of railway sites. The big stations in London where there is enormous waste of sites could be completely redeveloped. In the same way as we have built the West London Air Terminal over the Metropolitan railway, so other areas of the Metropolitan railway could be utilised for building accommodation. There is still in London a great deal of accommodation available on land which is not in fact used. The same applies to many Government buildings. But that would require an Act of Parliament and I think that my right hon. Friend will say that he cannot deal with this point until such time as the transport question is dealt with and that it requires legislation.

My answer is that if it requires legislation, let us have it if it will relieve the situation in London. Nothing is impossible and I do not believe that it is impossible to solve the housing problem in London. If we accept that there is a different pattern of living and build very much higher, and make use of every single available site in London, we could, in the next ten years, transform the housing position in London to one which is no longer a shortage of houses. It would be an enormous undertaking, but it is our duty to do it. We owe a duty to the people of London to make sure that they are properly housed.

The Minister has tackled the problem throughout the country and I ask him now to direct his attention to, and, if necessary, have a commission to inquire into, housing in London. I ask him to go a long way in the life of this Parliament towards removing the awful waiting lists on which so many families have been for at least ten to fifteen years and to direct his attention to curing the housing problem in London and abolishing the dreadful housing shortage and improving conditions.

8.3 p.m.

Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, West)

I think that the speech to which we have just listened by the hon. Member for Clapham (Dr. Alan Glyn) emphasises one of the main points which has come out in this debate, and that is the problem of the conurbations not only in London, but in Scotland. It is significant that we have had up to now only one speech by a Scottish hon. Member on this side of the Committee and I think that not a single Scottish hon. Member on the other side of the Committee has been present throughout the debate. I rather thought, Sir Herbert, until I was called that you were refraining from calling Scottish Members on that account, but I am glad that that suspicion is unfounded.

I do not want to deal with the question of conurbations, although I might say to the hon. Member for Clapham that in a city like London one has to accept the fact that the necessary services, the transport services and the like, are generally manned by the very type of worker who is underpaid and who, therefore, cannot pay the kind of rent which is being asked. It behoves the Government to tackle this problem and to understand that until these people are very substantially subsidised, or, alternatively, get wages to match the rents which they are being called on to pay, we shall never solve this problem.

Dr. Alan Glyn

I said that there were many people in London who were still on very low wages and who require a subsidy, but I also said there were very many people whose combined family income was well over £1,000 a year and who could afford to pay the economic rent.

Mr. Hamilton

If I had known that the hon. Member was going to make that interjection, I would not have given way, because I shall be dealing with that point later. I hope that I shall get his agreement by carrying that principle to its logical conclusion.

I want to refer to some overall figures concerning Scotland. The right hon. Gentleman knows very well the catastrophic fall in the total number of completions in Scotland since the peak year 1953. There has been a reduction since then of 30 per cent. overall, and if one takes into consideration the local authority houses, including the S.S.H.A. houses and the new towns, there has been a reduction of about 36 per cent., from 35,992 in 1953 to 22,709 in 1959. But the position is worse than that, because the houses are very much smaller.

We have heard a lot about what the Labour Government did or did not do, but the Minister will remember that when the Labour Government came in the great problem was the overcrowding of the big family. That was shown in the size of the houses which the Labour Government built. Seventy-five per cent., three out of every four of the houses built between 1945 and 1951, were four or five-apartment houses. In 1953, that figure went down to 43 per cent. and last year it was 26 per cent., so whereas, under the Labour Government, three out of every four houses built were four or five-appartment houses, under the present Government the number was only one out of every four. Of course, in the statistics the five-apartment house and the one-apartment house are both shown simply as houses.

From the simple arithmetic, it can be seen that one can build more one- and two-apartment houses than four- or five-apartment houses with a given quantity of materials and labour. I am not blaming the Government for this. It was right and proper to build a bigger proportion of one- and two-apartment houses, precisely because the Labour Government had tackled the problem at the other end when dealing with big families, overcrowding, and so on.

However, not only are fewer houses being built by local authorities for renting, but the houses being built are smaller. Disturbing numbers of local authorities are not building houses at all. I was startled to find that two of the large burghs are not building at this moment.

Mr. Manuel

Is my hon. Friend aware that in the country generally 405 local authorities have completely stopped building houses?

Mr. Hamilton

We are aware of these facts. The figures from the latest digest show that 99 out of 174 small burghs are not building at all. The right hon. Gentleman cannot ride off with the argument that they are not building because their housing problems have been solved. That was the answer he gave me to a Question which I asked some months ago, and I will deal specifically with a small burgh in my constituency in a moment.

The year 1959 was the worst for council building in Scotland since 1947. Two years after the war, when the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) said that we were a bankrupt nation, we were building more council houses in Scotland than we built last year. There was a drop of nearly 5,000 in the last year alone, about a 15 per cent. reduction. Nor can the right hon. Gentleman claim that that gap was being filled by private buildings. Private building in Scotland is a mere trickle.

Nor can the right hon. Gentleman claim that activities were being concentrated on slum clearance. The 1956 White Paper estimated that slightly more than 115,000 houses should be demolished, with another 116,000 which should be patched up pending demolition. Yet in the three years 1956–58 only 34,000 were demolished or closed. At that rate, it would take another eighteen years before all the 1956 slums were cleared. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. McInnes) referred to the number of building trade workers who were unemployed. According to the latest Scottish Digest, about 18,000 building workers are now unemployed, the highest figure for all industrial groups

I referred to a small burgh in my constituency, the Burgh of Culross. It is polling day at Culross tomorrow. Several months ago, the Secretary of State for Scotland said that small burghs were not building primarily because they had satisfied their housing needs. I quote the case of Culross, which was reported in the Daily Herald on Thursday, 10th December, 1959: A family of nine—the youngest a month old—are waiting to be evicted any day from their home. And they have nowhere else to go. The house was owned by someone who wanted the house for himself and whom I do not blame for the situation, but this family had nowhere else to go.

The family wrote to me and I wrote to the council and also to my correspondent. My words were borne out by the facts. Referring to Culross, I said: Its housing record, however, is shameful and I will write immediately to the town council asking for an explanation why you have been overlooked. If the reply is unsatisfactory I will consider further action. Culross Council wrote to me: As you are no doubt aware there have been no houses built within the Burgh since 1929. That letter was dated 3rd December, 1959. Not a single house has been built by Culross in ten years and here was a family of nine which could not get a house. The family finally wrote to Fife County Council, and a neighbouring housing authority, Dunfermline, and, of course, got answers to say that those authorities could not take responsibility for housing problems in Culross.

Mr. Willis

Never had it so good!

Mr. Hamilton

Never had it so good!

The first lesson of this story is the absolute stupidity, if not the downright dishonesty, which was shown when the Secretary of State said that councils were not building because they had solved their housing problems. English Mem- bers not aware of the circumstances in Culross may be puzzled about why this authority had not built for ten years. The answer is that it ought not to be a burgh. It has a population of 600 and 1d. rate brings in £12. That is absolute nonsense and I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that the second lesson of this story is that the time has come to set up a Royal Commission on local government in Scotland, with particular reference to the small burghs. This is a potty little burgh which has a councillor who takes round the dust cart and who has to put in a contract to do so. That is the kind of scale on which services are provided.

Where a burgh is unwilling or incapable of providing houses for its people, the right hon. Gentleman should make greater use of the services of the Scottish Special Housing Association. The Association has recently built houses in Culross, but not nearly enough of them. If the right hon. Gentleman will give us another 12 or 14 S.S.H.A. houses in that burgh, its housing problem would be solved.

I am glad that the hon. Member for Clapham has not left the Chamber. He was talking about means tests and making people pay for what they were getting if they could afford it. The Burgh of Culross has a well-known chairman by the name of Lord Elgin. I have figures of improvement and other grants paid by Fife County Council since the beginning of 1945. On that list is the name of the Earl of Elgin, who got an improvement grant for a house at East Lodge, Culrosss. He got £400 on 12th November, 1959. I do not think that he had a means test when he got that £400. I do not think that he was asked whether he could meet the cost himself.

On the list there is the name of a gentleman, Lord Bruce, who, on 21st July, 1955, got a grant of £336 for a house at Charlestown, and for a new house built at Merryhill he got £240 under the 1952 legislation. The Moray Estates got a total of £2,305 in the same period. The managing directors of Moray Estates are the Earl of Moray, who, I understand is a very close relative of the former Secretary of State for Scotland, and the Lord Doune. Between 15th May, 1955, and 15th May. 1959. Fife County Council paid improvement grants to Sir John Gilmour, £5,110; Sir David Erskine, £1,571; Sir Ralph Anstruther, £3,443; Major Sir Robert Spencer Nairn, £4,496; the Earl of Lindsay, £2,621, and the Kerse Estates, £7,094. The directors of the Kerse Estates are the Marquis of Zetland, the Earl of Ronaldshay and a Mr. Richardson.

Dr. Alan Glyn

Does the hon. Gentleman think that he is serving any good purpose by reading out a long list of names? Surely it is better that the money should be spent on improving property. Is he suggesting that the money is being put into the pockets of landlords and not being used for building?

Mr. Hamilton

I am suggesting that if the hon. Gentleman is adumbrating the principle that one ought not to give public money unless one can prove need one should carry that principle to its logical conclusion, irrespective of the class to which the person belongs. I have nothing against these gentlemen except that they are grasping Tories, but if we say that council tenants will get help only if they prove need the same principle ought to apply to Sir John Gilmour, the Marquis of Zetland, and the others.

Dr. Glyn

Will the hon. Gentleman not agree that if there are grasping landlords the man who earns £20 a week is a grasping tenant if he is subsidised?

Mr. Hamilton

I am asking the hon. Gentleman to follow his argument to its logical conclusion. I am not saying that I accept it. It is the hon. Gentleman's argument, not mine. I am quoting these figures to show that hon. Gentlemen opposite have a two-sided approach to this. Almost every hon. Gentleman opposite receives a subsidy of one kind or another. Almost all of them are directors, or are interested in private industry, and nearly every one of them enjoys a 50 per cent. derating. Many of them are farmers who enjoy a 100 per cent. derating. They enjoy farming subsidies of about £250 million a year without means tests. One has only to enumerate those details to show the dishonesty of their arguments.

The Secretary of State for Scotland is under pressure by his back benchers and by the Tory Party in Scotland to introduce legislation to force local authorities to put up their rents. According to reports in the Press this morning he is under considerable pressure to do that.

Mr. Manuel

He has done that before.

Mr. Hamilton

If the right hon. Gentleman introduces legislation like that, I hope that it will be in a nice little Bill in front of the Scottish Grand Committee.

Mr. Willis

We shall guide it through.

Mr. Ross

We will give the right hon. Gentleman the benefit of our advice and experience.

Mr. Hamilton

I warn the Minister not to try that kind of tactic. His party came off very badly at the General Election, and if he brings in that kind of legislation it will be the death knell of his party.

8.24 p.m.

Mr. James Allason (Hemel Hempstead)

The hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. W. Hamilton) suggested that vast sums of money for improvement grants were going into the pockets of landlords. If the landlord was the owner occupier, £400 could possibly go into his pocket, but not more. The remainder goes to subsidise the tenant. It is not an improvement to the landlord's income; it is an assistance to the tenant.

Mr. Manuel

The house belongs to the landlord.

Mr. Allason

The hon. Gentleman says that the house belongs to the landlord, but it is a question of who pays the rent, and how much he pays. The landlord is not much better off whether there is a bathrom in the house or not. He is interested in the rent.

Mr. Willis

He gets 12½ per cent. more.

Mr. Allason

He gets 8 per cent. on the money that he puts up. The house does not become decontrolled until the tenant leaves, and it may not be in the landlord's interest to carry out this improvement. That is one of the reasons why the Act has not been a greater success than it has. To suggest that this is a matter of these peers pushing money from the ratepayers into their pockets is a matter for the elections due to be held tomorrow.

I share the keen desire to see every one properly housed. I have been listening for constructive solutions to this problem, and the most that I heard was from the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) who complained that the reason why more building was not done by councils was the high rate of interest. The hon. Gentleman asked for a specially low rate of interest for councils. In the last housing debate we heard that this was a matter of £6 million. For that sum per year there could be a specially cheap rate of interest to councils.

Mr. Willis

It is a subsidy.

Mr. Allason

I want to consider where that subsidy, as the hon. Gentleman calls it, would go. That subsidy would automatically go to the tenant. I do not want to argue whether a further subsidy is required, but if there is to be a further subsidy of £6 million I beg and beseech the Minister not to grant it in the form of special reduced interest rates because that automatically would go to the tenant and would make worse the special condition that we have under those councils which refused to apply a differential rent scheme or a rent rebate scheme. One there gets the position which we have been discussing.

Very often the tenant who can afford to pay a full rent is prepared to take a subsidy from the ratepayer and from the taxpayer. The hon. Gentleman said that it was only fair that every one should get it, but there are private tenants who pay as much in rent and who also have to pay rates but who are not as well off as tenants who are lucky enough to be in council houses and receive subsidies.

I want to make a constructive contribution to the debate because there are two essential points to be considered. We must have the will to provide houses, and the will to find sites. People have said that the Government do not build houses; they provide the will to provide houses. Since 1951 the Government have been advocating the building of 300,000 houses a year. We have heard many stories about the lack of houses, and I am beginning to doubt whether 300,000 houses are enough. It would be an excellent thing if the Government decided on a target of 400,000 houses a year.

Mr. Willis

It depends who they are for.

Mr. Thomas Fraser (Hamilton)

Does the hon. Gentleman think that 300,000 houses a year have been built in recent years?

Mr. Allason

Yes, I do. That has been the average between 1951 and 1959. We have heard the Minister say that 300,000 houses per year were being provided.

Mr. Gourlay

I have the housing returns to the end of 1959. In not a single year since 1952 have more than 300,000 houses been built. The largest number was in 1954 when 308,000 houses were built, and that was the only occasion during that period when the target was reached.

Mr. Allason

I have in mind a figure of 299,000 plus a few hundred as the average yearly total between 1951 and 1958. We have heard from the Minister this afternoon that well over 300,000 houses were built last year.

Mr. Dempsey

Will the hon. Member tell us how many of those 300,000 were municipal houses?

Mr. Allason

I am coming to that. I was speaking of the will to build. The houses which are built for sale for the owner-occupier have been going extraordinarily well, but some people can afford only to rent, and I am concerned to see more houses built for renting. Local authorities are doing their best, but they have run out of sites. There is one source of houses to rent which is being completely neglected now. In the nineteenth century the private developer had a wonderful record in the provision of houses to rent at sums which ordinary people could afford, and I should like to see a return to that situation. Unfortunately, it simply cannot be done, because of the high rate of taxation and the high building costs. Anyone who tries to build a house for letting to ordinary people immediately runs up against tremendous difficulties, and very little of it is being done.

I have a suggestion to make in this connection. Just as in the building of factories there is an investment allowance, so that should be for private developers building houses for letting. I suggest a rate of 3 per cent., which would make it a fairly reasonable commercial proposition. It would enable private enterprise to do a job which it is well equipped to do. It is no good sneering at landlords if they are not encouraged to do the job. We all ought to act together in this matter and back anybody who can possibly go into the market in order to provide houses for letting.

It is no good saying that we must build 400,000 houses each year if we have not got the sites. As a local councillor in London and the representative of a constituency which includes a new town, I see both sides of the green belt picture. I am aware of the tragic conditions in London. We are simply running out of sites, as are other big cities. Around London we have the green belt. I support the green belt policy, although I have some reservations about its application within villages. We must look beyond the green belt to find our new sites.

Our new towns offer a wonderful solution. We have a great deal to offer in our new towns, and we offer it to people who are adventurous and who are prepared to emigrate from London to face a new life. I am glad to see that the hon. Member for Willesden, West (Mr. Pavitt) has returned to his seat. I visited many people, now happily settled in the new town, who came from Willesden. That is the other side of the picture, contrasting with the terrible tragedies about which the hon. Member was telling us earlier.

But that is not to say that we have not our own problems. I receive letters, as do other hon. Members, from people who complain that the people from Willesden and other hard-hit places are given accommodation in the new town at the expense of local people. Clearly, the only way to provide sites on a really grand scale is to provide further new towns, and I would ask the Government to look north of the Thames rather than south of it.

I go further. I suggest that we have a new city. If Brazil can do it, why should not we? I do not suggest that the home of the Government should be moved there immediately, but we might think of moving another place there. That would give us much more room here. If the new city happened to be near the Dukeries it might be convenient for the other place.

I ask the Government to give us an indication that they are looking forward. We have run out of housing sites in the cities. We need a plan for the future provision of sites, and then a plan which shows the will to provide a great many more houses than are now being built.

8.36 p.m.

Mr. Leslie Spriggs (St. Helens)

I am more than ordinarily interested in this debate because I put down a Motion on this subject for an earlier date, and about a hundred Members signed it. As the Member for St. Helens I had the honour to be invited to see some of the property of a kind which most of the older industrial towns inherited from the industrial revolution. These houses are generally troubled with damp. Many have walls which are caving in. In recent days, I have seen some in Peasley Cross and the Parr area, also in the central ward of St. Helens. What has been said about accommodation for animals being far superior to that which we expect human beings to live in is quite true. During wet weather, the rain has poured through the bedroom ceilings into the kitchens, I have seen water-falls down the curtains. In fact, there has not been a place in some kitchens where a person could sit without wearing a mackintosh or having an umbrella over him. This may sound laughable, but it is not so when we consider the overcrowded conditions which also exist in these houses.

I want hon. Members opposite to listen carefully to this, because I am referring to privately-owned property. In every instance except two, the landlords tried to get extra rent under the 1957 Act. Hundreds upon hundreds of Forms G were filled in by the tenants of these private landlords applying for certificates of disrepair, and many such certificates have been issued.

When the Bill which eventually became the 1957 Act was before the House the Minister told us that this Measure would create better property, that landlords would repair their property. I have seen only a few landlords who have repaired their property in the great county borough of St. Helens. I often visit my constituency because I like to see what is happening to my constituents, and when I go to the Peasley Cross area I find families, including young children, living in property which is not fit to house pigs; in property the state of which encourages vermin. The occupants cannot keep their homes clean because the walls are falling to pieces and the ceilings collapsing.

The hon. Member for Manchester, Moss Side (Mr. Watts) spoke of a ceiling collapsing on a child's bed. If the Minister or any hon. Member, will visit St. Helens, I can show where many bedroom ceilings which have fallen on to the floor and on to beds. Only last week I was called to inspect some property where the tenants had done their utmost to make their living conditions reasonable and comfortable. The walls had been repapered, but within a fortnight the paper had lost its colour and gone almost white. The tenants were concerned for their furniture which they had bought and paid for with money earned by hard work.

What are we to do when our constituents call upon us, as Members of Parliament, to come to inspect their homes, and when we find long queues waiting to interview their Members of Parliament to ask for a council house? We know that the powers have been delegated to local government and that as Members of Parliament we can only sympathise with these people. If we have the time, we can visit the property and we can write a letter to the local housing committee begging that the case be re-examined. But always we have in mind that we must not assist anyone to "jump the queue". Over the years we find that financial provisions which exist make it most difficult, in fact impassible, for some local authorities to build council houses at all.

Recently a blind couple appealed to me for help. They had two of the nicest children, a boy and a girl, that any parent could wish for. The house in which they lived was unfit for human habitation. Both the children had passed their 11-plus examination. The parents gave me the usual message, "I want my children to have a chance. They have got through the 11-plus examination, may I have somewhere to live where they can read, study and do their homework?" What can I do about it? What can hon. Members opposite do if the Government are not prepared or have not the will to do anything about it?

I wish to refer to the effect of the Government's financial policy and, although I am not prepared to weary the Committee with lists of figures, I will quote one or two to indicate the difference regarding the price of a house when it is being bought by a young couple and when the local authority is renting a house. Taking the date at 1st June, 1946, we find that the rate of interest for not more than five years is 1½ per cent. or for more than 5 years and not more than 15 years, is 2 per cent. For more than 15 years it is 2½ per cent. In 1955 the respective figures had increased to 3¾ per cent., to 4¼ per cent. and 4¼ per cent. In 1958, on 12th June, it was 5¾ per cent. rising to 6¼ per cent. This is the story of what the Government have done both to local authorities and to the would-be owner-occupier. We on this side of the Committee, no less than hon. Members opposite who talk about home ownership, support to the full owner-occupation of house property.

The cost of building a house in 1951 was £1,403. Interest payable was £1,631, making a total of £3,034. We have not finished yet for we have been warned that the building societies are to hold a meeting and the moneylenders are to decide whether to increase interest rates based on the Government's economic squeeze. In 1960 for a three-bedroom house costing £1,500, interest payable will be £3,853, making a total of £5,353. We find in the Report issued by the Committee on the Working of the Monetary System: While somewhat more money has been raised by local authorities stock issues since October, 1955, than in the previous period, given the conditions prevailing in the gilt-edged market it has only been possible for a very small part of the funds required to be raised by this method. Local authorities who wished to make an issue have had to wait a period of years before being allowed to go on to the market. Hon. Members will not mind me quoting instances of local authorities which have had to go into the private money-lending market while at the same time big industry has been going cap-in-hand to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to get subsidies and cheap loans. We find that public money is being loaned to private industry at lower rates than to local authorities, who make no profit. We have the position in which a local authority—a non-profit-making body which has a social duty to perform on behalf of its people, part of which is housing—is crippled because of the financial policy of the Government.

As an hon. Friend said, some local authorities do not build at all. Other local authorities have increased rents. Throughout the country practically every local authority has increased its rates. I received a petition from the people of St. Helens who have had notice of rent increases. I have received a petition also from a section of the ratepayers of St. Helens objecting to increased rates. What are we to do about increased rents? What is the Minister prepared to do? A large number of these people are not earning big wages or salaries. A number of the men who petitioned me about notice of increased rents were taking home less than £8 a week. This comes on top of other increases.

This increase followed an increase in rates—and then hon. Members opposite talk about a property-owning democracy and tell these people, "You have never had it so good". If we mean that, let us do something about it. The Government and the Minister have it within their power to make cheap money available, as the Labour Government did. I have never forgotten the statement of the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) when he went to the United States in 1945 and said, "Britain is bankrupt". Yet hon. Members opposite had the nerve to criticise the Government which came into power in 1945 and which could put into operation only the capital works for which it could find the money from a bankrupt State. Men and material were very scarce also.

The present Minister is the friend of the landlords of Great Britain. They ought to build a monument to him, because he has put more millions of £s into the landlords' pockets than has any other Minister at any part in the history of the British House of Commons. He is the landlords' friend and never the tenants' friend. He is never a friend to local government, because ever since the took office he has tied local authorities hand and foot financially.

St. Helens is a famous town. We shall probably have won the Rugby League championship again in a few days' time. It is a great county borough, but it inherited subsidence from mining and hundreds of houses built in the Industrial Revolution. It contains some of the finest people in the country, the industrial workers, but they have to live in houses to which the local authorities have done their best, without success, to press private landlords to do the necessary repairs. This is not hearsay, for I have been to see it: there are houses, on both sides of streets, which have been built for forty or fifty years, but the streets have never been surfaced or drained because they are private streets.

People have approached me and asked what I can do about it. I have approached the local authority to see what it can do. Landlords who receive what is termed, under the 1957 Act, an economic rent for private property are not prepared to drain and surface the streets although they have been drawing the rents for two rows of houses in the same street for forty or fifty years. Where is there fair play in that? There are children with nowhere to play but a dirt street. In wet weather it is full of mud and in dry weather there are clouds of dust. We see children trying to play rugby football in the street in dirt like that. Their parents take them indoors, and they carry the dirt into the houses. Often the children are covered in dust. This is what the people have to tolerate at a time when we are told that we have never had it so good. Hon. Members opposite will have to prove every word that they set out in their election manifesto.

The people of this country are told in time of war that they will have a land fit for heroes, instead of which they have dirty and flooded streets, without drainage and without surfacing. Is that all the British people are worth? They are asking only for reasonable accommodation and for houses fit for human beings to live in. Cannot we give them these? Surely with the will to do it, we can do it. We are giving millions and millions of £s away to people who have failed in industry—over £30 million to the cotton industry as well as money to the farmers. We on this side have never objected to helping private industry which has failed. Surely, the people who earn the wealth—the producers of wealth—are entitled to live in houses which are wind- and weather-proof, in houses where they can see a dry wall and put in furniture and expect to retain it in a reasonable condition. Is it too much to ask for such reasonable conditions?

Our people do not ask for palaces—they dare not—but the time has come, when we must reset our sites and ensure that the local authorities, who exist to perform a service on behalf of the community, are allowed to have the money at reasonable rates. At least, they should not be discriminated against. Some people use money belonging to the State at far lower interest rates than the local authorities can get it. I appeal to the Minister to do all he can. If money has to be saved, surely there are other ways in which it can be saved.

My final point is an important one concerning the average number of houses built in the last eight years. Many people have talked about the number of houses which have been built and some of my hon. Friends have referred to their size. Every hon. Member who has been inside a local authority house, and in a number of the private houses, will agree that those being built today are smaller than ever, with very small rooms. I have gone into houses when the foundations have been put in. I have stood in the area which was to be a room and I have thought it almost impossible for anyone to get two chairs and a couch in it, so small are the rooms.

I have taken particular note of who was building the houses. I have found that when local authorities have a direct building force, they can determine that where timber is employed in the building of the houses, the best possible timber is used. I ask the Minister to look at the regulations, because I ask not only for the protection of local authority building when contractors are responsible for it. I ask the Minister to watch those who are building houses for sale. Many of the houses going up today are again earning the description "jerry-built". Some very poor material is going into them. In view especially of the present-day cost of housing, the Minister, if he has the will to protect both the buyer and the council tenant, might get his colleagues in the Government to assist him if he requires time for new legislation. I hope that the Minister will take notice of what I have said.

The Deputy-Chairman (Major Sir William Anstruther-Gray)

Mr. Thomas Fraser.

Mr. Thomas Fraser (Hamilton) rose

Mr. Manuel

I wish to raise a point of order, Sir William, concerning the deplorable arrangements which have been made for this debate. It was supposed to be a United Kingdom debate. Scottish housing and local government is supposed to get equal prominence and discussion with English housing and local government. We have had ony two Scots called from this side of the Committee. If the reason is that there are no Scots on the other side, that is most deplorable. I protest strongly against this discrimination.

The Deputy-Chairman

I hope that the hon. Member will bear in mind that besides the two Scottish Members from the back benches who have been called both Members winding up from the Front Benches are Scottish Members. The Chair has done its best to give fair play to England, Scotland and Wales.

Mr. Manuel

Further to that point of order, Sir William. With all due respect to your argument, do I take it that you think that the three Scottish hon. Members called as against those on the other side represents an equal proportion of English and Scottish hon. Members?

The Deputy-Chairman

Order. Except on a substantive Motion, it would be improper to criticise the Chair on the calling of hon. Members. I cannot accept any further discussion on this point of order.

9.0 p.m.

Mr. Thomas Fraser (Hamilton)

The Minister of Housing and Local Government made some fun this afternoon about there being a Motion of censure on him. Frequently throughout his speech he paused and asked, "Is this the matter on which the Opposition are censuring the Government?" He was so busy asking that question over and over again that he completely forgot to answer any of the important points put by my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) in the excellent speech with which he opened this debate. That being so, I think that I should remind the right hon. Gentleman of those questions, asked by my hon. Friend and ignored by the Minister.

My hon. Friend first made the case for new towns to take overspill population from our congested cities. After the forceful speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. McInnes) about Glasgow's situation, the Secretary of State will be aware of this problem. There is the question of the high cost of land—not a word was said about that by the Minister; and only a very few words about the high cost of money—and not a single word about the alternative methods by which local authorities might raise money for local services. Perhaps the Secretary of State for Scotland will say something about some of those matters.

As I listened to the Minister, I could not help but reflect on the debate we had last Wednesday, when his colleagues, including one who was his predecessor in the Ministry, were so ready to have £100 million spent on Blue Streak, and thought it an impertinence on the part of the House of Commons to question that money being spent. I could not help but reflect on that, when the right hon. Gentleman, today, showed so little concern for these people who are at present so much in need of rehousing. He was not at all willing that a few more millions of pounds should be made available to local authorities to enable them to carry out their responsibilities to the communities they seek to serve by greatly improving the housing position.

What the Minister did was to compare the rate of completions in recent years with those in the years immediately after the war. Did he think that he was making an honest comparison? Was it honest to compare what the building industry could achieve in recent years with what it could achieve in the years immediately following the war? He knows that it is not.

I had some responsibility, in a junior capacity, at the Scottish Office in all those years between 1945 and 1951. I can remember very many meetings with the Scottish local authorities, but at none of them can I remember their asking us to remove any impediments to their building efforts. It was the Ministers who were begging the local authorities to get on with building more houses. I can remember innumerable meetings with the building contractors, asking them to get more houses built. We never had to say that they would not be allowed to build. We used our labour and material resources to the full, and I challenge the Secretary of State to contradict that fact tonight.

We used our resources to the full during those years. He was a Member of this House between 1945 and 1951. Will he recall any occasion upon which either he or any of his right hon. or hon. Friends came to this Box on this side of the House and criticised the Labour Minister between 1945 and 1951 for having prevented local authorities from getting ahead with their housing programmes in Scotland?

The Minister talked about the enormous demand for house purchase. It is clear from a study of the figures, and from listening to what the Minister and some of his colleagues said in the debate, that the Government are not really concerned to see that houses are made available for those people whose needs are greatest. They are willing to look at total numbers, and if they get the total numbers up to a certain level they are satisfied that their record is good. Houses are being built in large numbers by private enterprise for sale in some parts of the country, but not in Scotland, and not in those parts of England and Wales in which most of the people who are in need of houses are working people.

Let us look at the figures for the country as a whole. Completions in England and Wales last year by local authorities were 99,456 according to the Paper published by the Minister. For private owners in England and Wales completions were 146,476. Completions in Scotland last year by local authorities, including new towns and the Scottish Special Housing Association, were 22,709. For private owners, this enormous demand for house purchase produced in Scotland 4,232 houses. In England and Wales last year three out of every five houses were built for private owners. I doubt whether this is any reflection of the requirements of those whose housing needs are known to the members of our local authorities in England and Wales. Three out of every five houses in England and Wales were built for private owners, and the Minister says that we can depend upon private builders to meet housing needs and that he wishes to rely increasingly upon private enterprise to meet the needs of our people. Can the Secretary of State say this?

Only one in six of the houses built in Scotland is built for private ownership. Even in Edinburgh the figures are deplorable. The Secretary of State cannot say that the Scottish people can look elsewhere than to the local authorities for accommodation. I wish that he would speak up on this subject.

Mr. Ross

He will not speak up on anything.

Mr. Fraser

There are no impediments in the way of private enterprise building houses in Scotland. But the number of houses completed by private enterprise in Scotland has hardly increased over the years. We have one-tenth of the population of Britain in Scotland. Last year private owners in England got 146,476. We in Scotland got 4,232. There is no profit in building houses for private ownership in Scotland. Unemployment, the level of wages and the feeling of insecurity are such that people are not able to stake their future in houses for private ownership. That is the reason. Because of it, the people must look more and more to the local authorities to provide houses.

Local authorities, of course, are providing fewer and fewer houses. In 1953, local authorities in Scotland, including the new towns and the Scottish Special Housing Association, completed 35,992 houses. In 1959, last year, the figure was 22,709, a decrease of 13,000 houses, or 36 per cent. less than seven years ago. Is this because our problem has been solved? Is it because there is not the same need now as there was years ago? Have the local authority waiting lists grown smaller over the years? The truth is that they have not in any of the urban areas or in any of our big cities.

How many houses does the Secretary of State think are needed in Scotland? In my view, a very conservative estimate of our housing need in Scotland would be that one-fifth of our population—I million people—are living in slums, in houses which are unfit for human occupation, or are living more than two families to a home in conditions of gross overcrowding. I should think that at least one-fifth of our fellow citizens in Scotland are living in those conditions.

Surely the Secretary of State will admit that we need about 390,000 houses in Scotland. Yet our local authorities, last year, completed just over 18,000, with another 2,500 built by the new town development corporations and the Scottish Special Housing Association, 13,000 less, as I have said, than were completed seven years ago. There can be no justification for this run-down.

The reason for the run-down is the financial burden of providing houses, the cost to the rates. We have labour and materials in plentiful supply. The White Paper on Industry and Employment published by the Secretary of State last year told us that 11,000 to 12,000 of our building and civil engineering workers are always unemployed, with an increasing number of tradesmen among them. This is so, year after year, with the unemployed labour force increasing all the time and the number of houses completed decreasing all the time. There must be some reason for it, and I suggest that it is the cost to local authorities of building houses.

The root of the problem is high interest rates and reduced subsidies. In 1951, a three-bedroom house involved loan charges of £55 a year. It is these simple calculations that one looks at. It cost £55 a year then to finance the building of a three-bedroom house, the average house built by a local authority in Scotland. The Exchequer grant was £23. The same house built in 1959 or being built now, in 1960, involves loan charges of over £120 a year. The Exchequer grant is £24. About £100 has to be found by the local authority.

Local authorities cannot find the difference from the tenants. Therefore, they cannot build more houses without putting a strain on the rates. I know that Minister say that the difference can be made good by adjusting local authority rents and giving subsidies only to tenants who need them. We read in the newspapers that Scottish Tory Members were coming to this debate today to express this proposition upon the Secretary of State and to ask for legislation. They have been conspicuous by their absence. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. McInnes) referred earlier to the right hon. Gentleman as "Long John Silver". Today, among the Scottish Tories, he has been the "Lone Ranger".

The right hon. Gentleman has been saying for some years that local authorities can get out of their difficulties by adjusting rents. I have never been one of those who say that no local authority rent should ever be adjusted. On many occasions I have urged that local authorities in Scotland should adjust their rents, in many cases in an upward direction, but I have never said, and I do not believe, that local authorities can get out of incurring considerable increases in the rate burden by building more houses. If they build more houses they are bound to add to the rate burden, because they cannot recover the additional cost from the tenants no matter how they try.

Dumfries County Council has tried the policy which has been advocated by the Secretary of State over and over again. He would not deny that. It has fixed rents at a high level and has introduced a rebate scheme so that only those who needed subsidies would get them according to this well known Tory doctrine when applied to council tenants and completely ignored in respect of other subsidies. Dumfries County Council owns 2,248 houses. The average standard rent at 28th November, 1959, was £62 3s. 3d. The number of houses enjoying rebates was 2,027. Only 221, or one-tenth of the total yielded the standard rent.

This is indicative of the wages earned in the county of Dumfries and of the proposition that most people who live in council houses in Scotland can have worth-while accommodation only if it is provided by local authorities. The average amount of rebate, an interesting figure, was £43 14s. 10d. in the County of Dumfries. The average rent paid by nine-tenths of the tenants of the council houses, therefore, was £18 12s. 5d. The average rent in respect of all county council houses in Scotland was £19 3s. 1d. and for all local authority houses £22 9s. 1d.

Having adopted the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman, Dumfries County Council finds itself worse off at the end of the day than all the county councils in Scotland. It is for that reason that Dumfries County Council virtually has stopped building council houses. Increased rents are not the answer. We must look to interest rates. At the end of the year, Dumfries County Council had only 70 houses under construction. It now knows that it cannot get the money by increased rents, and it is unwilling to put too much on the rates. I do not think that the Secretary of State will contradict that.

Other local authorities can be instanced. At the end of the year, Tory-controlled Edinburgh had only 1,517 houses under construction. Edinburgh has had more unwelcome publicity in the last six months than any local authority in this country because of the number of blocks of tenements that have fallen down because they have not been repaired and maintained over the years. The Edinburgh Corporation has not seen fit to build houses to rehouse the tenants of these dwellings.

In one case, a gable end fell off and all the Press photographers went along to take pictures of the building with the gable end off. There were heartrending pictures showing the miraculous escape of the people who lived there. Edinburgh Corporation has never been accused of being a low rent area. It is quite unable, with a Tory Government, to build as many houses as it demanded the right to build in times of shortage when we had a Labour Government in the years immediately after the war.

It cannot be said that the Edinburgh Corporation, a Tory corporation, need not bother because private enterprise will build the houses. I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman knows how many private enterprise houses were under construction in Edinburgh at the end of the year, according to the housing return for Scotland, the document which his Department publishes? The answer is 291. Not as many as we had in the Labour County of Lanark with our 6 per cent. unemployment. We still do more private enterprise house building than they do in the whole of the City of Edinburgh. Edinburgh, if we continue with a Tory Government at Westminster, will go on earning notoriety for tumbling tenements.

I have no doubt they would build more houses if it were not for the burden imposed by the rates. After all, Edinburgh rates, which rose only by 3d. in the £ from 8s. 3d. to 8s. 6d. in the six long years of the Labour Government, have rocketed to 18s. in the £ after eight years of a Tory Government, and the Scotsman told us yesterday that by September this year the Edinburgh City Treasurer will have to announce at least another 1s. on the rates. However, the whole of the local authorities are in the same boat. They raised from rates in 1946–47 £29.7 million. In 1950–51 that went up only slightly, to £32.2 million. In 1958–59, it went to £70.5 million.

The Minister of Housing and Local Government told us that under the general grant they were £10 million better off. Did he mean that they got £10 million more from the central Government than they got the year before, or did he mean that they had to raise £10 million less by local rates? Of course, he meant they got £10 million more than they got the year before.

Mr. H. Brooke

What I meant was that they got £10 million more than they would have got if the Government had not passed the 1958 Act.

Mr. Fraser

Yes, but I do not know how the right hon. Gentleman makes his calculation. Let me put it to him that after eight years of Tory Government the local authorities in Scotland, having had to raise their rates to yield for them another £38 million more than they had to raise in 1950–51, are perhaps £38 million worse off than they were before they got a Tory Government. The ratepayers in Scotland have had to produce £38 million more as a result of eight years of Tory Government.

The rate poundage has gone up from 13s. l0d. on average to 23s. 9d. on average, and local authorities cannot escape it. They cannot escape it by having Tories in control in local government. There is no escaping it at all. Expenditure on loan charges has gone up from £14.3 million in 1946–47 to £15.5 million in 1950–51 and in 1957–58 to £41.6 million. We have not the figures yet for 1958–59 and 1959–60. I have an idea that the Minister said today that the burden of loan charges was a trifling element in local rates. A trifling element! This trifling element in local rates in Scotland is £41.6 million. We wish he would increase the housing subsidies by a trifling element. It would solve the problem of the local authorities.

The Minister told us that local authorities were better off under the general grant and that opposition was decreasing. He said that in another year nobody would oppose the general grant at all. I turn to the publication, The Schoolmaster, which has a report of the N.U.T. Annual Conference. I have a note here of a speech by Dr. Alexander, who is Secretary to the Association of Education Committees. I do not know Dr. Alexander, but I have been told by someone who does know him that he is a very fine man. In any case, he is a man who occupies an important position. Addressing the N.U.T. Easter Conference, he is reported as follows: Dr. Alexander said that the all-important problem of the next ten to twenty years was to integrate the education service. There was, in his opinion, a great danger that means might become more important than ends. 'I think myself that anybody who thinks he can move current expenditure from £700 million to £1,500 million on the present financial relations which exist between the central and local government is daft.' That is plain enough, anyway. That is the Minister he is talking about.

Dr. Alexander went on: We must, therefore, face some basic problems. We have got to get a bigger slice of the national cake. The division of financial responsibility between the taxpayer and the ratepayers will have to be re-examined if there is to be the progress which we seek. I should have thought that that was a speech which would have been supported by the vast majority of people who are interested in local government. We would be content if the Minister would go so far at present as to undertake that this examination will be made, because we know that we are now heading for disaster.

It seems to us on this side of the Committee that the Government have a duty to make money available to local authorities for some of the most important social services which they provide, at a rate of interest very much lower than that which they are paying at present. For the life of me I could not understand the Minister proclaiming so proudly today at the fourth attempt—after he had had three different advices about it—that the rate of interest charged to building societies was 5 per cent. How could he proudly proclaim that the Government were making money available to the building societies at 5 per cent. and charging the local authorities 5⅞ per cent.? There cannot be any justification for it, though perhaps the Secretary of State for Scotland will tell us what it is.

I hope that the Secretary of State will tell us why building societies get money from the Government at 5 per cent. to lend to people to buy old houses when Hamilton Town Council has to pay at least 5⅞ per cent. to build new ones. This difference of ⅞ of 1 per cent. makes a difference of £17 a year to the financial cost of house building by local authorities in Scotland.

We have been concerned at the burden of local rates because we recognise in our rating system the most regressive and most inequitable system of taxation that has yet been devised. People have to pay their rates according to the value of the house they live in, irrespective of their ability to pay. The Secretary of State must have wondered at times why it was that his Rent Act was not successful in getting small families out of big houses and getting big families into them. It was because large families do not always have large incomes, and the large families could not afford to take the large house because it had such a large rateable value and attracted a large rating burden.

We say that the Government ought now to be considering an alternative to rating to produce revenue for local purposes. I have been making some inquiries. I concede that I may have overlooked some examples in other countries, but I have not been able to find another country in the whole wide world which depends entirely on such an inequitable system for the raising of revenue for local purposes. There is no country in the Commonwealth that has adopted our system, and it is just pos- sible that some of the countries in the Commonwealth have a better system than ours. That is why we think that we are reasonable in asking that the Government should look at alternative means of raising money for local purposes.

I should have liked to say more about overspill which I mentioned in my opening remarks. Glasgow overspill is not one that can be dealt with successfully by the local housing authority. At present, the Secretary of State has Glasgow Corporation doing its utmost to induce industrialists to take industry out of Glasgow. The Glasgow Corporation is at present seeking to induce Glasgow industrialists to leave Glasgow with the overspill population and the President of the Board of Trade has listed Glasgow as a development district so that he might induce industrialists to go into Glasgow to relieve unemployment in that city.

If the Secretary of State succeeds in getting industry to go out of Glasgow and leaves sites vacant the President of the Board of Trade will be delighted, because perhaps he will be able to send industry into those empty sites to relieve unemployment in Glasgow.

Mr. Willis

How stupid can the Minister be?

Mr. Fraser

Yes, how stupid can the Minister be?

The problem of the financing of local authority housing in Scotland has been badly neglected by Her Majesty's Government's present advisers. There has been no better example of this than this business of trying to solve Glasgow's overspill in a very different way from that in which London's overspill problem has been dealt with in recent years. Glasgow cannot afford to be burdened by the terrific expense of £14 per family over ten years, for rehousing by the receiving authority. The receiving authority, in any case, has plenty to do minding its own business, without providing for Glasgow's needs.

The Secretary of State has the responsibility sooner rather than later of getting on with building a few more new towns in Scotland.

9.32 p.m.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. John Maclay)

The hon. Gentleman the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart), in opening this debate, said that he hoped that some of the English points made, and Welsh points if there were any, as well as Scottish points would be answered by me. Judging from the way in which there were rather rude noises from Scottish hon. Members, I would not have thought that they were likely to get the answers they want from the Secretary of State for Scotland or anyone else. Over the last three years I consider that I have given a most astonishing amount of information about Scotland, but the trouble with hon. Members opposite is that if they do not get the answers they want, they say that they have not been answered.

The hon. Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) is the arch offender. I give him a completely full, convincing and generous answer, and he then says that is not an answer because it is not the answer he wants. If in the course of the evening I give hon. Members opposite certain answers which they do not want, they will say that they have not been answered, but they cannot get away from the fact that they have been answered.

The debate has had rather a peculiar shape for a full-dress occasion, which, I understand, the Opposition intended this to be. The timing of the debate is interesting. From the point of view of English hon. Members it is probably about right, but from the point of view of Scottish hon. Members I do not think the timing was so good, because I assume that the purpose of the debate had something to do with the local authority elections about to start. I have a lingering feeling that Scottish hon. Members opposite, as before, may have been dragging at the heels of English hon. Members.

The fact remains that until the hon Gentleman the Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) spoke, because he widened the debate a good deal, and apart from certain parts of the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Fulham, this debate has not developed into a major attack on broad Government policy. What it has done is to pinpoint as is very right and natural, certain constituency problems. There have been some very good and interesting speeches on both sides of the Committee in relation to special problems of hon. Members' constituencies, but there has been no substance in the general charge that the Government's housing policy in England. Wales or Scotland is failing the nation. I do not want to waste time on purely controversial issues—[Laughter.]—just on searching for them—because I know what effect that would have. We would waste a lot of time and not get on. I have many questions to answer, although I assure hon. Members opposite that I will become controversial later on.

To get it out of the way, because it does not fit the main theme of what I have to say, I want to deal with the extraordinary charge made by the hon. Member for Hamilton about the conflict of intention between the Secretary of State for Scotland and the President of the Board of Trade in relation to Glasgow's overspill. The hon. Member knows that there are industries which will remain and which must remain in Glasgow because of their nature and the places and people which they serve, but there are industries which we all hope will go out of Glasgow. I do not imagine that he wants to deny Glasgow the benefits of the legislation which he mentioned. What is proposed is not inconsistent and is the only thing which can be done with a problem of that kind.

Mr. Willis

That is not an answer.

Mr. Maclay

There he goes. That is a perfect case. That is an answer which the hon. Member does not like, although it is the sensible and correct answer.

The hon. Member for Hamilton and the hon. Member for Fulham mentioned the cost of land. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing dealt with a great deal of what the hon. Member for Fulham said about the cost of land. Are the Opposition asking that shortage of land for building should be met by allowing building on the green belt, which is not our policy, or are they asking that the 1959 legislation should be repealed and that local authorities should be enabled to buy land compulsorily and not have to pay market value for it?

Mr. M. Stewart

If the right hon. Gentleman had paid any attention to what I said, he would have known that that was not what I was asking. I referred not merely to that, but to earlier legislation. What we are asking is whether we are to continue indefinitely with the position in which increases in the value of land for which the owner has made no constructive effort are to accrue entirely to the owner and not to the community. That was the question we were asking. Are the Government to continue to tolerate that?

Mr. Maclay

The hon. Gentleman knows that that is a matter which has been debated time and time again and it would be going outside the scope of the debate to deal with it now.

The hon. Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin) asked whether local authorities were debarred from lending money to housing associations unless there was a conversion scheme for the whole property concerned. I am advised that there is no such bar, but if the hon. Member has a particular case in mind perhaps he will send the details to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government.

The hon. Member also spoke about the deplorable condition of houses in multiple occupation in London and elsewhere. That is exactly the problem to which my right hon. Friend has said that he is giving special thought. It is linked with the provision for overspill, because one cannot reduce overcrowding in these big houses, urgent as that is, unless one has somewhere else for the excess people to go. My right hon. Friend's concern is to work out the best solution for the overspill needs of each big city individually in co-operation with the city council concerned—and that deals with the question about overspill policy asked by the hon. Member for Hamilton. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East must not go on like this. He does himself and the Committee no credit by constantly making completely fatuous interruptions.

My remarks about overspill also apply to Newcastle-upon-Tyne which my right hon. Friend specially mentioned. The hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Short) gave a most biassed and unfair account of the situation there. I am advised by my right hon. Friend that the city council has enough land for its immediate building needs. My right hon. Friend looks forward to an opportunity to meet representatives of the city council and to discuss with them how Newcastle's future land needs can best be met. Anyone who has had the privilege of working alongside, or of knowing, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government in the House of Commons for the number of years that I have known him knows very well that the charge of bias is utterly without foundation.

Mr. Short

Will the Minister give one figure or fact which I gave which was inaccurate or biassed?

Mr. Maclay

The hon. Gentleman made charges against my right hon. Friend of not approaching his quasi-judicial function on appeal in an unbiased fashion. That is a grave charge which anybody who knows my right hon. Friend will know has no possible substance. I have a lot of personal experience of this problem. [Interruption.] If the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central will listen to my reply I shall be grateful. He made gross charges. I have a lot of experience of the problems raised by appeals on planning issues. The amount of dispassionate consideration given to them by myself and by my right hon. Friend is great indeed, and it is wrong to make, and I refute strongly, any charge of bias against my right hon. Friend in these matters.

I will now deal with some of the Scottish points. There is not much time in which to deal with all the detailed points that were raised, but a charge has been made—and it was the gist of the speech made by the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. W. Hamilton) and was mentioned by the hon. Member for Hamilton when he wound up—that the Scottish housing figures are not what they should be. I will deal with that now.

Mr. Dempsey

That is a very good answer.

Mr. Maclay

From the end of the war to 1959 about 381,043 houses were built in Scotland. That means that over 1¼ million people have moved into new permanent houses since the end of the war. There are still serious shortages in some areas, particularly in the industrial belt, but it cannot be seriously contended that this massive housing effort has not made large inroads into our housing problem, and has indeed ended it in a number of areas.

Let us consider the figures given by the hon. Member for Hamilton, and by the hon. Member for Fife, West, about the houses built by the party opposite and those built by us. These figures were produced during the election, and they have been produced again today, so we had better nail them to see what happened. In the six years from 1945 to 1951 about 113,825 houses were built in Scotland. In the next eight years, 274,000 houses, or more than two and a half times that number, were built.

Mr. W. Hamilton rose

Mr. Maclay

I have not finished yet. I will deal with the point which I think the hon. Member was about to make. Hon. Gentlemen opposite have pleaded that in the immediate post-war years they had a problem which we did not have to face. I agree with that and I have said so in public time and again. Things were very difficult in 1945, 1946, 1947 and 1948, but will hon. Gentlemen opposite tell me why there was a deliberate decision in 1950 by the party opposite to hold down the rate of building in the United Kingdom to 200,000 houses a year?

Let me give the figures. The hon. Member for Hamilton said that their figures could have been bettered if local authorities had been able to do the work which they could not do because of shortages. Is that right? Let me give the total figures for building in Scotland in the years 1948 to 1951. In 1948, 21,000 houses were completed. In 1949, 25,847 houses were completed by all sources—local authority, Scottish Special Housing Association and private building. In 1950, 25,811 houses were completed, falling again in 1951 to 22,928.

The party opposite did not realise that but for their tight controls throughout the whole economy it would have been possible to build more houses and, at the same time, more schools and hospitals. [Interruption.] I happen to know a great deal about this period. It was a favourite game of economists to argue what proportion of the nation's resources could go into housing under a tightly planned economy, and the answer was a proportion which would provide about 200,000 houses a year. But the party opposite hardly reached that figure in any year.

Mr. Willis

But we did not have 14,000 unemployed building workers.

Mr. Maclay

I am not talking about that. I am talking about the decision of the party opposite, which disposes of any argument that their record compares even remotely with ours. I am not claiming that this Government built the houses. I am claiming that this Government have taken action which has made possible the building of houses by local authorities, private enterprise and building workers.

Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that when I asked the building trade why it was not building the houses quicker, Mr. Orchard, representing the whole trade, said that the Labour Government had asked it to build too many houses and that progress had been clogged to such an extent that it was not able to build them. In other words, we asked for more houses. Is the Minister also aware that the building trade in Scotland had 145,000 workers before the war, whereas we had to start building after the war with 45,000 workers? That figure had been built up by the time his Government came into office.

Mr. Maclay

All I know about that period is that under the planned economy the party opposite got the country into such a jam that they could not do the job. There is one case which I have vividly in mind. I remember that one burgh temporarily had surplus glass for windows and another burgh had surplus rone pipes. The rone pipes could not be sent from one burgh to the other, nor the window glass sent in the opposite direction. That happened in my constituency at that period, and it happened for the very good reason that under the then allocation system neither local authority would release its commodity for fear that it would not get another supply later on. I shall leave the matter there, but hon. Members opposite made such a point of this tonight that I felt I must deal with it.

I now turn to the question of overspill, which was discussed with such emotion by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. McInnes). I understand his emotion. He doubted if I knew anything about the conditions existing in Glasgow. I can assure him that I have known about them for many years. I have been to see many of the houses in Glasgow. In my present job I have not had the time to go to more than a few in certain towns, but I know the problem to which he refers. I have sympathy with his emotion, but no sympathy with his speech.

He has consistently decried overspill agreements, as providing no solution to the problem, but let us consider the situation. Overspill agreements have now been concluded between Glasgow and nineteen authorities, including the three new town development corporations. Negotiations are going on between Glasgow and a number of other authorities, and I expect agreements to be concluded with at least five of these. Agreements already approved cover the building of over 10,000 houses, of which nearly 3,000 will be built by the Scottish Special Housing Association. These figures are very important. They show that this process has built up extremely well. The Act was passed in 1957, but was not operative until a very late date in that year. The hon. Member talked about 300 families and 600 families. I do not know where he got those figures. My figures show a considerably better picture. But it would have been most remarkable if, within the very short time for which the Act has been in operation, we could have made much more progress.

What is happening now? Apart from the new towns for the Glasgow overspill—East Kilbride and Cumbernauld—in which houses are steadily being built for Glasgow people, overspill houses have been completed or are under construction at Kirkintilloch, Johnstone, Had-dington and Grangemouth, and building will soon start at Irvine and Arbroath. Tenders have been approved altogether for 1,200 houses in these areas, and about 1,000 of these will be completed by the end of this year. On the basis of firm plans now being implemented I expect that houses for the overspill population will become available outside Glasgow at the rate of about 2,000 a year over the next two years and this number will rise steadily as the new town of Cumbernauld gets into its stride and other overspill receiving areas continue to expand their operations.

Our objective, by means of overspill building is to reach and maintain a rate of 5,000 a year as the total number of new houses available for Glasgow. Clearly there has been a limited availability of sites within the city in recent years. These figures are interesting. In 1960 we may still be 400 short of the 5,000 target but thereafter there is every hope of achieving that figure with a margin to spare. I am satisfied that development in and for the benefit of Glasgow compares favourably with the rest of Scotland. That is sometimes forgotten by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Central.

As I think I made clear the possibility of a further new town at the right time is not ruled out—

Mr. McInnes

The right hon. Gentleman said that three years ago.

Mr. Maclay

—I still say it—when we are satisfied that the efforts we are making can go ahead unimpaired by the inevitable diversion of effort which would occur if one had to concentrate on yet another new town. Hon. Members should realise that as Clenrothes develops we have another source available to help with the solution of the Glasgow problem.

No one should forget that hon. Members on this side are just as conscious of the great problem which confronts Glasgow as anyone else and we are anxious to get the right solution. I say categorically that if I could be convinced that the provision of another new town would solve the problem, I should be agreeable to that at once. But I am not convinced and the hon. Member for Glasgow, Central knows that opinion in Glasgow is still divided on this point and about the timing, for reasons which I have given.

The question of slum clearance has been discussed by a number of hon. Members on both sides of the Committee and I hope that the Committee will forgive me if I deal primarily with the Scottish aspect. Hon. Members have pointed out particular difficulties in their own constituencies. Overspill presents one solution and some slum clearance is the other. There are black spots which have been described by hon. Members with great eloquence and which touch the hearts of us all because we are conscious of the problems about which they spoke. Slum clearance work is going on in every city where it is needed.

During 1959 there were in Scotland 5,691 unfit houses which were closed and 6,700 demolished. A number of houses which were demolished had previously been closed, but when account is taken of this the total of unfit houses dealt with for the first time in 1959 was 8,664. This brings the total of slum houses dealt with in the past five years to 43,515 throughout Scotland. Scottish authorities have been rehousing an average of about 25,000 people a year from slum houses and that is a very reasonable share of the programme over the whole country.

Mr. Willis

It is not good enough.

Mr. Maclay

The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East says that it is not good enough, and of course it is not. We want to get on as fast as we can. I am saying that the figures are being built up steadily with the emphasis on slum clearance. I do not accept all the figures which have been quoted by hon. Members opposite. Certain smaller burghs and country districts have met their requirements—I do not say that all have done so—but hon. Members must realise that the job we are now tackling is the more difficult one of trying to get proper action taken regarding building in the centre of cities. Of course it is much easier to build houses on green field sites and on the outskirts of towns.

I had intended to elaborate this. I hope very much indeed that all local authorities in Scotland will now concentrate to the greatest possible extent on tackling the situation in the centres of towns. There is a very real social problem involved. It is one of the curious and rather unfortunate parts of the tremendous housing drives of the years since the war that, in order to get houses built, we had to move to green field sites on the outskirts of towns. In some cases that has been admirable because it has given children fresh air and surroundings such as they never had before, but in other respects it has tended to destroy the community spirit in our towns, which spirit is good. The sooner we get the redevelopment of central areas, altered and improved, so that there are opportunities for people who want to, to come back into the towns, and for others to change to the outskirts, the better it will be for everyone.

I must deal again with the speech of the hon. Member for Fife, West and the point about improvement grants, which was touched on by other hon. Members. Is it right that money should go into the hands of private landlords in the form of improvement grants? I noticed a difference between the approach by the hon. Member for Fife, West and that by the hon. Member for Fulham. The hon. Member for Fulham was obviously very much in support of the grants, but the hon. Member for Fife, West did not seem to be in favour. Do let us get this clear. The hon. Member for Fife, West read a list of names, for what purposes I do not know, except that he remembered there is a local election tomorrow at Culross. What really matters is that these houses, at a relatively very small cost indeed to the public purse, whether that of the central government or the local authority, are first-rate for the people living in them. That, of course, is the purpose of the improvement grants.

Mr. W. Hamilton rose

Mr. Maclay

I am sorry, I cannot give way again. It is no use trying to make what may sound practical local politics in a local election into an attack on these grants, which have been very much welcomed in Scotland and have done a lot of valuable work in achieving the housing conditions we need. I was reproved at Question Time a few days ago by an hon. Member opposite for implying that the Labour Government did not do as much as they ought with this kind of grant which was introduced during their period of power. I repeat that if more time had been spent in those days trying to provide the right type of housing in the country districts—I am thinking more of houses in the country districts than in the towns—we could have moved more quickly than hon. Members opposite succeeded in moving towards solving the problem in the country districts. All over Scotland there are well-built stone houses. In some respects they are too well-built. They need modernising, but, with proper care given by experts, who are available—and my Department can help with that—that sort of housing could be used much further.

Mr. Gourlay rose

Mr. Maclay

I am afraid I cannot give way again. I repeat what I have said. Hon. Members opposite have not made a case against the Government in this debate, but have pointed out what is already known by everyone—by Ministers as well—that there are still very difficult areas in the country. They know well that the steps we are taking to improve conditions in those areas are producing results. It is their duty as an Opposition to make a lot of noises as if we were not doing anything, but

they know as well as we do that we have made remarkable progress in housing in the years we have been in power.

Mr. M. Stewart

I beg to move, That Item Class V, Vote I (Ministry of Housing and Local Government), be reduced by £5.

Question put:

The Committee divided: Ayes 226, Noes 295.

Division No. 77.] AYES [9.59 p.m.
Abse, Leo Ginsburg, David Mapp, Charles
Ainsley, William Gooch, E. G. Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.
Albu, Austen Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C. Marsh, Richard
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Gourlay, Harry Mason, Roy
Awbery, Stan Grey, Charles Mayhew, Christopher
Bacon, Miss Alice Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Mellish, R. J.
Baird, John Griffiths Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly) Mendelson, J. J.
Baxter, William (Stirlingshire, W.) Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.) Millan, Bruce
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J. Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley) Mitchison, G. R.
Bence, Cyril (Dunbartonshire, E.) Hamilton, William (West Fife) Monslow, Walter
Benn, Hn. A. Wedgwood (Brist'l, S.E.) Hannan, William Moody, A. S.
Benson, Sir George Hart, Mrs. Judith Morris, John
Blackburn, F. Hayman, F. H. Mort, D. L.
Blyton, William Healey, Denis Moyle, Arthur
Boardman, H. Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur (RwlyRegis) Mulley, Frederick
Bowden, Herbert W. (Leics, S.W.) Herbison, Miss Margaret Neal, Harold
Bowles, Frank Hilton, A. V. Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip (Derby, S.)
Boyden, James Holman, Percy Oliver, G. H.
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. Houghton, Douglas Oram, A. E.
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Hoy, James H. Oswald, Thomas
Brown, Alan (Tottenham) Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey) Owen, Will
Brown, Thomas (Ince) Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Padley, W. E.
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Paget, R. T.
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Hunter, A. E. Pannell, Charles (Leeds, w.)
Callaghan, James Hynd, H. (Accrington) Pargiter, G. A.
Carmichael, James Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill) Parker, John (Dagenham)
Castle, Mrs. Barbara Irving, Sydney (Dartford) Parkin, B. T. (Paddington, N.)
Chapman, Donald Janner, Barnett Paton, John
Chetwynd, George Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas Pavitt, Laurence
Cliffe, Michael Jeger, George Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Jenkins, Roy (Stechford) Peart, Frederick
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) Pentland, Norman
Cronin, John Johnston, Douglas (Paisley) Plummer, Sir Leslie
Crosland, Anthony Jones, Rt. Hn. A. Creech (Wakefield) Popplewell, Ernest
Crossman, R. H. S. Jones, Dan (Burnley) Prentice, R. E.
Cullen, Mrs. Alice Jones, Elwyn (West Ham, S.) Price, J, T. (Westhoughton)
Darling, George Jones, Jack (Rotherham) Probert, Arthur
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Proctor, W. T.
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Jones, T. W. (Merioneth) Pursey, Cmdr. Harry
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Kelley, Richard Randall, Harry
Deer, George Kenyon, Clifford Rankin, John
de Freitas, Geoffrey Key, Rt. Hon. C. W. Redhead, E. C.
Delargy, Hugh Ledger, Ron Reid, William
Dempsey, James Lee, Frederick (Newton) Reynolds, G. W.
Diamond, John Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock) Rhodes, H.
Dodds, Norman Lever, Harold (Cheetham) Roberts, Rt. Hon. Alfred
Donnelly, Desmond Lever, L. M. (Ardwick) Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Driberg, Tom Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.) Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)
Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John Lipton, Marcus Rogers, G. H. R. (Kensington, N.)
Ede, Rt. Hon. Chuter Logan, David Ross, William
Edelman, Maurice Loughlin, Charles Royle, Charles (Salford, West)
Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly) Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) McCann, John Short, Edward
Edwards, Walter (Stepney) MacColl, James Silverman, Julius (Aston)
Evans, Albert McInnes, James Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)
Fernyhough, E. McKay, John (Wallsend) Skeffington, Arthur
Finch, Harold Mackie, John Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)
Fitch, Alan McLeavy, Frank Small, William
Fletcher, Eric MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles) Snow, Julian
Foot, Dingle Mahon, Simon Sorensen, R. W.
Forman, J. C. Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.) Spriggs, Leslie
George, Lady Megan Lloyd Manuel, A. C. Steele, Thomas
Stewart, Michael (Fulham) Wainwright, Edwin Williams, D. J. (Neath)
Stonehouse, John Warbey, William Williams, Rev. LI. (Abertillery)
Stones, William Watkins, Tudor Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)
Strachey, Rt. Hon. John Weitzman, David Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)
Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Vauxhall) Wells, Percy (Faversham) Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Summerskill, Dr. Rt. Hon. Edith Wells, William (Walsall, N.) Winterbottom, R. E.
Swain, Thomas Wheeldon, W. E. Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Symonds, J. B. White, Mrs. Eirene Woof, Robert
Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield) Whitlock, William Wyatt, Woodrow
Taylor, John (West Lothian) Wigg, George Yates, Victor (Ladywood)
Thornton, Ernest Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B. Zilliacus, K.
Timmons, John Wilkins, W. A.
Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn Willey, Frederick TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Mr. Howell and Mr. Lawson.
Agnew, Sir Peter Duthie, Sir William Jackson, John
Allason, James Eden, John James, David
Alport, C. J. M. Elliott, R. W. Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)
Amory, Rt. Hn. D. Heathcoat (Tiv'tn) Emery, Peter Jennings, J. C.
Arbuthnot, John Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)
Ashton, Sir Hubert Errington, Sir Eric Johnson, Eric (Blackley)
Barber, Anthony Farey-Jones, F. W. Johnson Smith, Geoffrey
Barlow, Sir John Finlay, Graeme Joseph, Sir Keith
Barter, John Fisher, Nigel Kerans, Cdr. J. S.
Batsford, Brian Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Kerby, Capt. Henry
Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.) Forrest, George Kerr, Sir Hamilton
Bell, Ronald (S. Bucks.) Foster, John Kershaw, Anthony
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos & Fhm) Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton) Kimball, Marcus
Berkeley, Humphry Freeth, Denzil Kitson, Timothy
Bevins, Rt. Hon. Reginald (Toxteth) Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D. Lagden, Godfrey
Bidgood, John C. Gammans, Lady Lancaster, Col. C. G.
Bingham, R. M. Gardner, Edward Langford-Holt, J.
Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel George, J. C. (Pollok) Leather, E. H. C.
Bishop, F. P. Gibson-Watt, David Leavey, J. A.
Black, Sir Cyril Glover, Sir Douglas Leburn, Gilmour
Bossom, Clive Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham) Legge-Bourke, Maj. H.
Bourne-Arton, A. Glyn, Col. Richard H. (Dorset, N.) Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)
Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan) Godber, J. B. Lilley, F. J. P.
Box, Donald Goodhart, Philip Lindsay, Martin
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. John Goodhew, Victor Linstead, Sir Hugh
Boyle, Sir Edward Gough, Frederick Litchfield, Capt. John
Braine, Bernard Gower, Raymond Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfield)
Brewis, John Grant, Rt. Hon. William (Woodside) Longden, Gilbert
Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R. (Nantwich) Loveys, Walter H.
Brooman-White, R. Green, Alan Low, Rt. Hon. Sir Toby
Browne, Percy (Torrington) Gresham Cooke, R. Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)
Bullard, Denys Hall, John (Wycombe) Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh
Bullus, Wing Commander Eric Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough) McAdden, Stephen
Burden, F. A. Hare, Rt. Hon. John MacArthur, Ian
Campbell, Sir David (Belfast, S.) Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.) McLaren, Martin
Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn) Harris, Reader (Heston) McLaughlin, Mrs. Patricia
Carr, Compton (Barons Court) Harrison, Brian (Maldon) Maclay, Rt. Hon. John
Carr, Robert (Mitcham) Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye) McLean, Neil (Inverness)
Cary, Sir Robert Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd) MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)
Channon, H. P. G. Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.) McMaster, Stanley R.
Chataway, Christopher Hay, John Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)
Chichester-Clark, R. Head, Rt. Hon. Antony Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)
Clark, William (Nottingham, S.) Henderson, John (Carthcart) Maginnis, John E.
Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.) Hendry, Forbes Maitland, Cdr. J. W.
Cleaver, Leonard Hicks Beach, Maj. W. Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.
Cole, Norman Hiley, Joseph Markham, Major Sir Frank
Collard, Richard Hill, Dr. Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton) Marlowe, Anthony
Cooke, Robert Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe) Marshall, Douglas
Cooper, A. E. Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk) Marten, Neil
Cooper-Key, Sir Neill Hinchingbrooke, Viscount Matthews, Gordon (Meriden)
Cordle, John Hirst, Geoffrey Maudling, Rt. Hon. Reginald
Corfield, F. V. Hobson, John Mawby, Ray
Costain, A. P. Hocking, Philip N. Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.
Courtney, Cdr. Anthony Holland, Philip Mills, Stratton
Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne) Hollingworth, John Montgomery, Fergus
Critchley, Julian Holt, Arthur Morgan, William
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Hope, Rt. Hon. Lord John Morrison, John
Crowder, F. P. Hopkins, Alan Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles
Cunningham, Knox Hornby, R. P. Nabarro, Gerald
Curran, Charles Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Patricia Neave, Alrey
Currie, G. B. H. Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire) Nicholson, Sir Godfrey
Dance, James Howard, Hon. G. R. (St. Ives) Noble, Michael
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Howard, John (Southampton, Test) Nugent, Sir Richard
Digby, Simon Wingfield Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral John Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. D.
Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M. Hughes-Young, Michael Orr, Capt. L. P. S.
Doughty, Charles Hurd, Sir Anthony Orr-Ewing, C. Ian
Drayson, G. B. Hutchison, Michael Clark Osborn, John (Hallam)
du Cann, Edward Iremonger, T. L. Osborne, Cyril (Louth)
Duncan, Sir James Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Page, A. J. (Harrow, West)
Page, Graham Scott-Hopkins, James Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. Peter
Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale) Seymour, Leslie Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin
Partridge, E. Sharples, Richard Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)
Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe) Shaw, M. Tilney, John (Wavertree)
Peel, John Shepherd, William Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.
Percival, Ian Simon, Sir Jocelyn Tweedsmuir, Lady
Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth Skeet, T. H. H. Van Straubenzee, W. R.
Pilkington, Capt. Richard Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'rd & Chiswick) Vane, W. M. F.
Pitman, I. J. Smithers, Peter Vickers, Miss Joan
Pitt, Miss Edith Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood) Vosper, Rt. Hon. Dennis
Pott, Percivall Soames, Rt. Hon. Christopher Wade, Donald
Powell, J. Enoch Spearman, Sir Alexander Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)
Price, David (Eastleigh) Speir, Rupert Wall, Patrick
Price, H. A. (Lewisham, W.) Stanley, Hon. Richard Watts, James
Prior, J. M. L. Webster, David
Prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho Stevens, Geoffrey Wells, John (Maidstone)
Profumo, Rt. Hon. John Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.) Whitelaw, William
Proudfoot, Wilfred Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Ramsden, James Storey, Sir Samuel Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
Rawlinson, Peter Studholme, Sir Henry Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin Summers, Sir Spencer (Aylesbury) Wise, A. R.
Rees, Hugh Summer, Donald (Orpington) Wood, Rt. Hon. Richard
Renton, David Talbot John E. Woodhouse, C. M.
Ridley, Hon. Nicholas Tapsell, Peter Woodnutt, Mark
Ridsdale, Julian Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne) Woollam, John
Rippon, Geoffrey Teeling, William Worsley,' Marcus
Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.) Temple, John M. Yates, William (The Wrekin)
Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks) Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Roots, William Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard Thomas, Peter (Conway) Mr. Legh, and
Royle, Anthony (Richmond, Surrey) Thompson, Richard (Croydon, S.) Mr. Edward Wakefield.

Original Question again proposed.

Mr. Ray Mawby (Totnes) rose

It being after Ten o'clock, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to report Progress and ask leave to sit again.

Committee report Progress; to sit again Tomorrow.