§ 3.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham)
I beg to move, at the end of the Question to add:but humbly regret that the Gracious Speech contains no proposals to alleviate the hardships caused by excessive rents and insecurity of tenure, to assist local authorities in providing homes, or to deal with the high cost of land and other difficulties which now obstruct a solution of the housing problem.The Opposition Amendment begins by drawing attention to the immediate hardship caused by high rents and insecurity of tenure. It proceeds to the larger question of the provision of homes for those in need, particularly by local authorities, and from there to one of the important aspects of the whole matter, the price and use of land, a problem which will be with this country for many years and which will probably increase in severity as those years go by.
The first question, rents and security of tenure, we did debate not very long ago, at the very end of the last Session, but the Opposition make no apology for raising this matter again, for we were very far from satisfied with the replies which the Minister gave us on that occasion. I ought, perhaps, to begin by taking up a number of the points made in his reply then.
In the first place, in his reply the right hon. Gentleman tried to suggest to us that this was only a London problem. 844 Has he listened to what my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun) has had to tell him not only at Question Time today, but on many previous occasions? Has he listened to what my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway) has had to tell him about the operation of the Rent Act in his constituency? Does he remember the really infamous case of oppression under the Rent Act described by my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Darling) in February of this year? I think it is worth while reminding him of that case. It illustrates special aspects of this problem.
The victims in that case in Sheffield were new tenants, many of them old-age pensioners, who, under the pressure of rent increases in their former accommodation, had moved into flats of smaller size. They then found that being new tenants they were victims of that creeping decontrol which the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower), in his unflagging devotion to the Government, was telling us at Question Time causes no hardship whatever. Those tenants, victims of creeping decontrol, found themselves required either to pay a rent of four times the rateable value or to get out. It is worth while reminding the House of what the Parliamentary Secretary said on that occasion:May I say, in particular, how sorry I am to hear that some of the tenants in these decontrolled flats are old-age pensioners who have done just what the Government want them to do and have given up surplus space to move into smaller space. It is admirable. It is just what we want, and it is a very sad result that they should now be in this situation …. I hope that they will not despise the help of the National Assistance Board which can be of use to them in this situation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th February, 1960; Vol. 618, c. 798–9.]A very sad result.I weep for them," the Walrus said; "I deeply sympathise".That was all they got.
This is not, as the Minister suggested, only a London problem. He then suggested that it affects only a small minority of cases. There are a quarter of a million decontrolled houses in the Metropolitan region alone, he tells us, but a small minority of a quarter of a million can still be a very large number of human beings and their families. Even if his argument that this is only 845 a small minority were true, what he has neglected is that at any one moment of time the number of cases may be limited, but the nature of the Rent Act is such that it can produce a series of problems and tragedies year after year as the agreements run out. Only a small minority of the three-year agreements made after the passing of the Rent Act have yet run out, and as the rest run out, more and more cases will be added to what the Minister calls a small minority.
Next, the Minister suggested that people could escape the hardships and perils of the Rent Act by moving out of Central London. Moving out to where? To Putney, where they can be charged a rent seven times the gross value? To Ealing, where rents are being asked four or five times the gross value? This is not a problem affecting merely the fashionable districts of Central London. This is not a problem which people can escape by moving out to what used to be considered areas of more moderate rent.
Next, the Minister suggested that the tenants could protect themselves by means of collective bargaining. I drew his attention to the case in Streatham where the chairman, the secretary and other people active in the Tenants' Association were the very ones who found themselves being given unconditional notices to quit? This is not an isolated example. The United Tenants' Association draws his attention to it. In our last debate he said that he did not regard that association as representative of tenants as a whole, but does he deny that in a very great number of cases landlords have refused to enter into collective bargains, and that they can do so quite easily, because when they are dealing with a number of tenants the degree of urgency of these tenants is not the same in every case. There are always bound to be some whose anxiety not to be turned out is so great that they are forced to come to terms and break up the strength of a collective organisation.
Next, the Minister told us that the local authorities could help by means of compulsory purchase orders, but he knows very well that the local authorities here are the victims of a vicious spiral. The effect of the Rent Act has been to 846 put up the rents which can be charged for property. That puts up the market value of the property, which, in turn, puts up the price which the local authority would have to pay if it uses a compulsory purchase order, and this comes at a time when the Minister, by high interest rates and other means, has already made the financial problems of the local authorities serious enough. He is proposing here a remedy which, at the same time, he has made it impossible in a great many cases for the local authorities to apply.
Finally, the Minister suggested that the solution would come by private house building to let and it was an interesting admission that there has been virtually no private house building to let since 1939. It was his claim that the Rent Act would bring more accommodation to rent on the market, so I put to him the question which he answered about 40 minutes ago: how much more accommodation has been made available to let as a result of the Rent Act? He made it clear in his Answer that he had not made any systematic examination of the facts, but his conclusion was based on nothing that could properly be called evidence. He offers us the advertisement columns of an evening paper.
I have the thing here. There is not a piece of unfurnished accommodation in this page of advertisements at a rent of less than £4 a week. "Very reasonable rents", says the Minister. Are we to tell our constituents, even those earning the average wage, let alone the large numbers who are earning less, that they can solve their housing problem by going to live in Ealing, at £350 a year rent, or in places where they might possibly be able to get accommodation for £660 a year if they can find £200 for the furniture and fittings?
In the whole of this page, there are only eight pieces of accommodation of any kind with rents of less than 70s. a week, and of those eight all are furnished and five are merely bed-sitting rooms. Are we to tell the family looking for somewhere reasonable to live that they can go into a bed-sitting room in Dulwich at £3 a week? It was a piece of impertinence for the Minister to produce that kind of evidence in answer to a serious problem.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke-on-Trent, South)
Would my hon. Friend tell us whether that is the same newspaper as that from which the Minister quoted?
§ Mr. Stewart
It is called the Evening Standard "Daily Home Finder". I daresay that it does find homes for some people, such as the friends of the Minister who cheered him when he gave that answer. The trouble is that it does not find homes for the great many who need them at very different rents from these. I note that the Annual Report of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, in an endeavour to say something kind about the Rent Act, is singularly silent on the question of how much unfurnished accommodation to let has come on the market at reasonable rents as a result of that Act.
Meanwhile, the picture is not all gloom. There are some people who are doing tolerably well out of this. Look at the prices of shares in certain companies owning house property in London and elsewhere. In the case of Land Securities, the price of shares is three times what it was in 1958; in the case of Alliance, three and two-thirds times the 1958 price; and in the case of City Centre, four times the 1958 price. These increased prices of shares represent increased actual profits of the companies, and these actual profits are extracted from people like these tenants of decontrolled property in Sheffield with whom the Parliamentary Secretary was so sympathetic. That is how these companies get their income, and the Minister acts as their bailiff to secure it for them.
Most of us will remember in our youth a game called "Happy Families", in which cards depicted such characters as Mr. Bun, the baker, and Mrs. Trim, the tailor's wife. In the game of "Unhappy Families", now played under the rules of the Rent Act in London and many other places, there is a new card which depicts the forbidding features of Mr. B, the bailiff's man.
What is wanted immediately to deal with this problem? Inescapably, it is some form of reinstatement of control. The Minister is tormented with inner agony at the idea of reinstating even any kind of control in any form, but let us remind him that he has departed from his inflexible attitude before. The defeat of the Government candidate at North 848 Lewisham during the last Parliament resulted in the lengthening of the transition period for decontrolled houses while the Rent Act was still under discussion. The depressing result for the Government of municipal elections in the spring of 1958 resulted in the Landlord and Tenant Act, which took off in some instances the very sharpest edge of decontrol.
Is it the position that the Minister is prepared to move in this matter only when he thinks that there might be some electoral advantage to his own party and that he is not prepared to be moved by the undoubted record of profiteering and hardship that we have laid before him very many times? We need a measure and the Minister can please himself about how moderate a measure he makes it. He might extend the 1958 Act to holders of three-year agreements. He might fix a multiple of the gross value as a new higher limit of control, and he can fix a fairly high multiple and still cut out many of the exorbitant rents that are being charged.
We need, also, a greater measure of security of tenure for tenants entering into agreements for the first time. They will have imposed upon them—and I suspect that this will be true despite the pending legislation—increasing obligations for repairs. They ought to be given longer periods of security of tenure than the usual three years at most that they get in agreements at present.
If there is any doubt about how serious is this matter we notice the testimony of the hon. Member for Dulwich (Mr. Robert Jenkins), reported in the Press in the summer of this year, when he said thatSome landlords are already beginning to ask up to six and a half times the 1939 rent.…They are squeezing people and threatening them and we are not going to stand for it.I wonder who "we" means in that context. Does it mean some of the hon. Member's hon. Friends? Some of them wil stand for it quite cheerfully. This is the immediate problem, but we should recognise—
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham, North)
Can my hon. Friend say from what newspaper he was quoting the hon. Member for Dulwich (Mr. Robert Jenkins)?
§ Mr. Stewart
Not offhand, but I shall be glad to let my hon. Friend know.
849 More fundamental than this problem, serious as it is, is the general question of getting houses provided where they are needed and to meet the need of the people whose need is greatest. It is to that problem that I now want to turn.
May I, on this point, save the Minister a little time? I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman has in his brief a passage about the number of houses built between 1945 and 1951 and the numbers built since then. We have that in every speech that he delivers on this subject and I am sometimes tempted to think that we might borrow a piece of American procedure and allow him to read it into the record without actually reciting it in the House all over again.
If, however, the right hon. Gentleman feels that he must recite it, will he add that during the years 1945 to 1951 there was an immense amount of war damage to be cleared away, that the building industry had to be built up again from scratch, that the local authorities had to recruit all their administrative and technical staffs necessary for the purposes of building, in many cases also from scratch, and that the whole business of deciding where to build and clearing sites, and so on, had to be done from the very beginning? All this had to be done at a time when the country was faced with a desperate need to revive its industry and to make itself capable of living at all in the peacetime world. If the right hon. Gentleman is not prepared to add that piece to his usual paragraphs, they are not worth the paper they are written on.
Let us look at the need at present. Despite what we do not dispute is the very considerable total of building since the war, there is still a very desperate need for getting up to a higher rate than we now have and maintaining that rate over a considerable number of years, particularly because of the needs of the ill-housed. I shall not labour that point. There will be a great many of my hon. Friends from many parts of the country who can tell the House how many people there are, of all sorts and condtions, for whom life is "cabin'd, cribb'd, confin'd" by the simple fact that they have not enough room to live decently, let alone graciously.
850 Then there is the formidable problem of our growing population year after year adding to the demand for houses. There is the fact that a very considerable proportion of our houses, even despite the new building, are old, and many of them, as my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East is repeatedly pointing out, lack the kind of amenities that we ought to regard as an essential part of all houses today. These will need to be replaced as far as can be. There is also the fact that as the standard of life rises and if it is accompanied, as it is likely to be under the present Government, with increasing inequality in incomes, the proportion of population who will own, and in a sense occupy, more houses than one will be increasing. If that is to happen, that is a further addition to the number that we need to build if everybody is to be decently housed.
Last year, the total number of houses built in the United Kingdom was, in round figures, 280,000. I am probably right in saying that by the end of this year it will be about 300,000. It has been climbing up a bit in the last year or two after a drop before that. But, for reasons which I gave in the debate on 17th March, I believe that we need to think in terms of about 320,000 and that that is not a figure to be attained in occasional peaks but to be steadily maintained over a period of years. I believe that that is what the total reckoning of our housing needs for all purposes adds up to. We are not getting it at present, even with the fact that it is now fifteen years since the war ended and the present Government have held responsibility for nine out of those fifteen years.
I find it impossible to agree with the recent words of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, if he is correctly reported in the Observer of 30th October last, when he said thatA national housing shortage no longer exists.It is, I suppose, as the Americans would put it, merely a rumour put about by those who have nowhere adequate to live. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that what remained were "purely local problems." Let us be charitable to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] My hon. Friends ask why and I take it that it must be my natural good nature. I cannot think of any other reason.
851 If one wants to study the housing problem one must accept the fact that it strikes with a different impact in different parts of the country. We have to think in terms of the need to build in particular places and for particular groups of people. It may be just possible that that is what the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster meant, but when a problem crops up in so many localities it is a misuse of language to say that it is not a national problem, even if the nature of the problem varies somewhat from one locality to another. If the Minister of Housing and Local Government or anyone else has any doubt about the number of localities where the problem crops up, let him listen to my hon. Friends during the course of this debate.
I understand that the Home Secretary is to reply to the debate. He will have the advantage, as the Minister will not, of hearing what my hon. Friends say before he speaks. He will, therefore, be in no doubt as to the widespread nature of the housing shortage, and we trust that he will reply to what is said in the debate. Last night's debate was wound up by the Secretary of State for Scotland, and we all went home with his impassioned phrases ringing in our ears. It is an extraordinary way of treating the House for a Cabinet Minister, which is what the Secretary of State for Scotland is, to affect to reply to a debate by reading passages of continuous prose from a typescript which must have been prepared before the debate began. May I implore the Home Secretary not to use that technique, but to reply to what is said.
I spoke of the fact that this problem varies in its impact and nature from one part of the country to another. There are two aspects which one could particularly pick out. First, the need to provide housing accommodation in the big cities is not being adequately met and, in so far as it is being met, that is overwhelmingly due to council building and not to private enterprise building. In those areas where often the need is most acute, local authority building has concentrated in recent years one-fifth of its whole housing effort, whereas private enterprise has put only about one-sixteenth of its whole effort into providing houses to meet the needs of the great overcrowded cities.
852 That is why we mention, in our Amendment, the needto assist local authorities in providing homes.As the newspaper advertisements which I quoted show, it is not enough merely to say that more houses are being provided without inquiring where and for whom; and when we ask those questions the answer is that we need more council building to meet the overcrowding of some of our great cities and to provide houses for people of average income or average wage, or a little under that. I do not think that that is in dispute between the two sides of the House.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
This is a fundamental point. It is the average earnings which are £14 a week, and those who are earning as much as that are working at a great tempo of piece rate and overtime. The average wage is much less than the average earnings.
§ Mr. Stewart
I am obliged to my hon. Friend. He is quite right; I should have said "average earnings".
I do not want to overstate the case, but even if we take somebody into whose home is going £14 a week, private enterprise is not doing very much to provide him with the kind of accommodation which he ought to have at a rent which he can afford to pay. When we allow for the fact—and here I am grateful to my hon. Friend—that a great many people are not bringing home as much as that or, if they are, doing so only by working longer hours than is sociably desirable, and if we consider those who have incomes of £10 to £12, it is clear that private enterprise provides no answer to their housing problems. That was illustrated by the hon. Member for Solihull (Mr. Lindsay) in the debate in March, when he spoke of the man bringing up a family on £12 a week. He said:For people in such a position, nothing but a high rate of council house building can suffice."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th March, 1960; Vol 619, c. 1551.]853 That is a large part of the housing problem. What has happened? Council house building in the United Kingdom has fallen by one-third since 1955. In England and Wales it has fallen by 50 per cent. in the last seven years, at a time when our total need is still unsatisfied and when some of the need has to be solved by council house building. That is the record of the results of the Minister's policy.
Why is there this low rate of council house building? We all know one answer. It is the fearful financial burden imposed on councils by high interest rates. We keep telling the Minister this, and I make no apology for telling him again.
§ Mr. Stewart
Let us put the figures in yet a different way. In 1951, the tender price for an average three-room council dwelling was £1,400. That was what one had to pay for the actual labour and materials which brought the dwelling into existence. By the time the money had been borrowed and repaid with interest over sixty years, one would have spent £3,000 in order to create that dwelling. That was the position in 1951—£1,400 as the tender price of the house and £3,000 the complete cost, with interest.
In 1959, eight years later, the tender price had risen from £1,400 to £1,550, an increase of one-ninth, or about 11 per cent. But what the council had to pay by the time it had finished with the burden of interest was not the £3,000 which it had had to pay in 1951, but £6,400. The cost of the house in labour and materials had risen by about 11 per cent., and what the council had to pay to bring the house into existence had risen by more than twice. The Minister need not look further than that for an explanation of why council house building has declined.
It is not only the person living in a council house, or the person who wishes to live there, who is hit by interest rates. It is also the person who is trying to become an owner-occupier. Let us take the person who borrows £2,000 for house purchase and proposes to repay it by equal monthly payments over a period of twenty-five years. If he embarked on 854 that in 1951 and was able to complete it for what he expected to have to pay when he first entered into an arrangement with a building society in 1951, the total amount of money which he would have paid for that £2,000 loan would be £3,225 over the years. A person entering into such business today will have to pay £3,825, or £600 more. If he negotiated his loan through a local authority, which could treat him a little more kindly in 1951 but not so kindly in 1959, the effect of the interest rate policy has been to increase the cost of the loan to him by £675.
All round, then, the Government's policy hits almost everyone who is concerned with the housing problem. It hits the man who lives in a council house, because his local council, afflicted with rising interest rates and shrinking subsidies, is obliged to put up his rent. It hits the person who is waiting for a council house, because the ceaseless cutting down of council house building means that he must wait longer and longer before his need is satisfied.
If, in despair, he decides to be the tenant of a private landlord, he is in the hands of the Rent Act, and I need not labour the position he is in then. If he decides to avoid tenancy and to become an owner-occupier he will find that the process of buying a house will take him longer and will cost more than he had reason to suppose would be the case when he first entered into the transaction. The Government have created a situation in which it is difficult to buy, and dangerous to rent.
What do we need in this situation? I believe that part of the answer to that question was provided for us by a phrase once used by the late Aneurin Bevan, when he said:I should like to see everyone owning his own house and nobody owning anybody else's.I think that Mr. Bevan would have agreed that that is not something which can literally be achieved for everybody. Many people either cannot, or for good reason do not wish to, buy a house of their own. It is none the less a good starting point of the argument that the power which somebody who owns somebody else's house can nowadays exercise over the tenant is not socially a good thing and that we ought, therefore, to 855 look first for the solution to increased help to owner-occupiers.
That suggestion ought to appeal to the Government because of their continual references to a property-owning democracy, but the person trying to buy his own house does not receive much help from the Government. It has become a little easier for him to get a somewhat larger proportion of the cost of the house by way of a loan from the local authority, but he has received no help from the Government against the ceaseless effect of higher interest rates. That is one thing which needs to be done. The interest policy as it affects house purchase and council building ought to be reconsidered.
The next thing to do is to reverse the policy which has cut down council building in the last eight years and see that more houses are provided of the kind, not perhaps that will be advertised in the evening papers, but which will be of some use to the people whose need for houses is the greatest.
Thirdly, in our housing policy we need a recognition of the fact that if one owns somebody else's house one is under a considerable obligation to one's tenant and to society. That, to my mind, is one of the great evils of the Rent Act, apart from higher rents. Unless this is recognised, it will encourage the idea that one can treat the ownership of a house in the same way as one can treat the ownership of one's shoes, that it confers no social obligations, and that one can use the power of ownership exclusively to one's own advantage.
Why we on this side of the House have advocated, and do advocate, a steady increase in municipal ownership is because we believe that if a man is not to own his house, if he is to be a tenant, it is a good thing for his landlord to be somebody whom he helps to choose, and whom he can change every so often at elections. I wonder how many private landlords would stand up to that test?
I know that the Government will say that they have devoted special attention to slum clearance and flats for the elderly. It is true that they have special favour to the provision of housing for elderly people, and no one would regret that, but it is not satisfactory to hold 856 up these special achievements as an answer to the steady decline in council house building as a whole. It is as if the Minister tries to praise one achievement which has become more remarkable simply because what has been done in other spheres has become less and less.
Now as to slum clearance. In Scotland, at the end of three years, only 60 per cent. of the slums which it had been resolved should be cleared in that period were cleared. In England, a target was set to be achieved in five years. At the end of five and a half years only 60 per cent. of that target had been achieved. We are not making the progress that we might make.
Beyond these problems of the present and the near future, there lies the larger problem referred to in the last part of the Amendment, the high cost of land. Indeed, not only the cost of land, but the use of land.
We know the position there. Under the 1947 Act, passed by the Labour Government, local authorities had powers which would have enabled them to deal with the proper planning and use of land. There was also provision in that Act to see that the rising value of land, which occurs wherever there is a growing population and a rising standard of life, flowed not into the pockets of private persons, but to the community as a whole.
That was the position under that legislation. By a series of acts beginning in 1953 and ending in 1959 the Government have torn down that protection for the public, and have created a position in which the owner of land which is urgently needed for some public purpose can get what are in some cases fabulous and fantastic prices. I shall mention only a few examples because other hon. Members will have examples, and it is a story which we hear often.
In each example that I shall give the land had to be bought by a public authority for an essential public purpose. Middlesex County Council wanted to buy some land in 1953. If it had been allowed to buy it then, it would have paid £2,000. It now has to pay £24,000, and nothing has been done in the interval to improve the land. No productive effort has been made to account for the twelve-fold increase which the 857 landlord will get. On a lesser scale, another piece of land wanted by that council for essential purposes has risen three times in value in the last two years. A piece of land in Camberley has risen eight limes in value since 1958. In Walsall, a piece of land increased its value ten-fold in the last three years. One finds examples like that in one region after another.
It is not the unearned profiteering income which is the only, or perhaps the main, evil. It is the increasing difficulty which this is creating for local authorities in planning the proper use of our land, and here we come up against a problem not of this year, or even of this decade, but one which lies ahead of us for the rest of the century.
It is estimated that during the next ten years, if our population and standard of life go on as we have reasonable grounds to suppose they will, about 50,000 square miles of land now not built on and undeveloped will have to be brought into urban use. That is not an intolerably large figure if one compares it with the total area of the country. It could be done. It could be turned to urban use for building houses, factories, garages, and the like. But, in the present absence of any policy over the price and use of land, what will happen? That development will take place mainly round what are already the great conurbations. It will not be evenly spread. That demand for 50,000 square miles of land will press in on limited parts of the country and enormously inflate the value of land in those areas.
It is against that evil that the Minister has issued his Circular No. 37, but he must admit that it is a rather feeble thing. In essence it suggests that local authorities should consider making available a bit more land on their borders, and if they have a Green Belt round them they should jump over the Green Belt and make it, as my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition once said, a ditch between subtopias.
Further than that, the Minister suggests that the local authorities should try to encourage industry to move, as well as people. That is quite an admirable sentiment, but does he realise what he is doing? He is really asking local authorities to take on a job that he ought to be doing by bringing more new 858 towns into existence. The only way of dealing properly with this growing urbanisation is to see that it does not all occur in the immediate vicinity of London, Birmingham, Hull, Manchester, Bristol, and so on, but to create new centres, new magnets of attraction, in order to spread the population more evenly. Local authorities have not the resources to do that. It means a vigorous new towns policy.
When we last debated this matter I reproached the Minister with the fact that the Government then had only one new town to their credit. There are now projects for two more, or so we understand, but that is rather a small contribution in comparison with the dozen or so that the Labour Government brought into being. It shows a complete lack of awareness of how essential this is if land is to be properly used, if profiteering is to be avoided, and if we are not to have what one expert on the matter has described as a gradual concentration across the middle of the country until we have one huge city of "Lonbirm" joining the Midlands and the Metropolis together Therefore, what we want from the Minister in this sphere is, first, a recognition that profiteering by private owners of land should stop, and that the method of stopping it is increased public ownership of land. If he cannot swallow that, there should at least be some financial device to secure that the gains from the increasing value of land shall flow into the public purse. That could be done either by a tax on land sales, or by giving power to local authorities to rate site values.
I know what the Minister will do. He will examine, in turn, every expedient to that end that is proposed to him, point out that each has its difficulties and, therefore, decide not to adopt any of them. At Question Time today we on this side were impressed with the number of things that the Minister was watching and considering. Has he ever realised that he ought to have a creative function as well as a critical one; that it is not sufficient for him merely to suggest reasons why remedies for social evils will not work? It is his job to try to provide the remedies, and the misuse of and profiteering in land is one of those evils.
859 What is also wanted is a more energetic new towns policy and the co-ordination of Government policy on three things—transport, the location of industry, and housing. We shall never get the thing right until those three are brought together. At present, they are handled by separate Government Departments with, so far as one can judge, only the most casual consultation between them. Our chage against the Government, starting from the immediate question of rents and going on to the larger problems connected with the use of our land, is that they show neither compassion for the difficulties of the present nor wisdom and forethought for the needs of the future.
§ 4.43 p.m.
§ The Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs (Mr. Henry Brooke)
What we are discussing on this Amendment are the living conditions of 50 million people in this island of ours. A point which the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) omitted to make is that between 8 million and 9 million of those people are living in new houses and flats built since the Conservative Government came into power. One in every six of the whole population is enjoying a modern, up-to-date home built in the nine years of Conservative government.
In addition to those 8 million or 9 million who have been provided with new homes in nine years, there are another 3 million or so living in houses and flats built during the six years of Socialist government between 1945 and 1951. The hon. Gentleman seemed not to wish quite to mention that, but it is relevant. Altogether, therefore, there are between 11 million and 12 million of our people living in homes built since the war, and by the end of next year—provided, of course, that Conservatives remain in charge of housing policy—we should be able to say that one in every four people throughout Britain has a post-war house.
That is a colossal achievement, and a devastating answer to this churlish Amendment. I am not calling the hon. Member churlish—I know that he as sincerely concerned as I am about the housing needs of London, for we are both 860 London Members. I realise as well as he what a thankless task he is saddled with the moment anybody compares his party's housing record with ours. He is the person to be tormented with what he called the "inner agony".
But he and I can, however, agree on the starting point. There is no longer a national housing shortage. Over a great part of the country housing needs have been largely met, thanks to the tremendous advance in the last nine years. Housing shortage is now a local or regional matter, as my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said in an admirable speech the other day. My right hon. Friend was confirming what the hon. Member for Fulham said in our debate on 2nd May last. He then said: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."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd May, 1960; Vol. 622, c. 702.]Today's Amendment shows scant recognition of that fundamental fact and, in that respect, it is certainly out of touch with the realities of the situation—
§ Mr. George Brown (Belper)
Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that if it is a regional problem in all regions there is not much difference between a regional problem and a national problem?
§ Mr. Brooke
It is not a regional problem in all regions. There is no doubt whatever that London is the chief problem area in England and Wales. We debated the London situation a fortnight ago.
The terms of the Amendment call, as I read them, for a reimposition of rent control on the houses and flats that have been decontrolled. I must say that they contain no suggestion of how that is to be done without bringing back all the evils that every housing expert agrees rent control has inflicted on landlords and tenants and on the nation at large.
§ Mr. Brooke
What is the Opposition's suggestion in this Amendment? Is it security of tenure? The best way in which people can make certain of security of tenure is by buying a house of their own. Under Conservative 861 policies, I am proud to say that 160,000 houses a year are now being built for owner-occupation—
§ Mr. Laurence Pavitt (Willesden, West)
The Minister is no doubt aware that one cannot get a loan from a building society unless one's income is above a certain amount. That puts out of court a large number of people who cannot possibly buy their own houses. How do we deal with that?
§ Mr. Brooke
We can deal with that because, thanks to Conservative Government, people are getting steadily richer.
The fact that 160,000 houses a year are now being built for owner-occupation means that half a million more people every year are gaining security of tenure. They are gaining it by their own efforts. They are gaining it by the Government encouraging them to do so, and not discouraging them as the Labour Party did by its dog-in-the-manger attitude to home ownership up to 1951.
I was surprised to hear the hon. Member for Fulham turning from a dog-in-the-manger attitude to a crocodile attitude; weeping crocodile tears for the owner-occupiers, and saying how hard it is for them and how much they need increased help from the Government. The fact is that owner-occupiers are increasing in number all the time, and the amounts advanced last year by building societies and local authorities on house purchases was an all-time record.
What the Opposition now want, as I understand it—and certainly as I gathered from what the hon. Gentleman has said—is that people who are renting, and not buying their houses should, nevertheless, have all the advantages of home ownership in terms of security of tenure without its efforts and without its obligations. I must say that I can never follow the Socialist claim that a certain group of people—just that group who happen to be in occupation of rented accommodation in property belonging to someone else—should be deemed to enjoy a kind of moral right to live on in it as long as they like at a rent lower than the house or flat would command in the open market.
Do not the people who want a flat and who have not been lucky enough up to 862 now to enjoy a rent-controlled one all these years deserve some consideration, too? Should there not be some equality of opportunity? Is it wholly right that retired people should all be enabled to live on near the centre of London at a cut rent, forcing the people who work in the centre of London and who would like to live nearer to their work, to travel a long distance to and from London each day?
The other phrase in the Opposition Amendment refers to excessive rents. The Amendment calls for proposals to alleviate the hardships caused by excessive rents. There, the Amendment is three months too late. I sent out a circular in August in which I told local authorities that if they came across cases where people were liable to be made homeless through landlords demanding extortionate rents I would be prepared to entertain a compulsory purchase order. That has been known to the local authorities for three months. In that time, only six compulsory purchase orders have been submitted to me and, of those six, two have been withdrawn because landlords and tenants have come to terms.
One of the boroughs where it is well known that rents have risen considerably is in my own constituency, Hampstead. Hampstead has a population of close on 100,000 people. It is often mentioned in the Press as one of the chief problem areas from the Rent Act point of view. In Hampstead, following the receipt of that circular of mine in August, the borough council made it its policy to investigate every complaint that an extortionate rent was being asked.
The council, at its last meeting ten days ago, had before it a report from the appropriate committee saying that 55 complaints had been received from this borough of 100,000 population. The report went on to say that some of these complaints had turned out to be unsubstantiated, that others were still under investigation, and that only two cases so far, in the committee's view, merited consideration for compulsory purchase. The council proceeded to make a compulsory purchase order on one of those, a single house converted into flats. On the other, they took no action because, in the interval between the committee meeting and the council meeting, the landlord 863 had come forward with a new offer that seemed to everyone concerned to be reasonable.
In the long run, of course, far the best way to get rid of these difficulties is by supply catching up with demand; by getting more houses built to let. That was one of the main objects of the Rent Act. It was blocked at the start by the Opposition threatening to municipalise all rented houses. Who would build simply to be municipalised? However, as time goes on and the danger of another Labour Government is obviously receding, I must say that I cherish the hope that, gradually and then increasingly, private builders and developers will once again start building to let.
At last, then, we should get the total supply of houses to let enlarged, which is what we all want—or, at any rate, what we all should want. But if the Government were to follow the Opposition's advice and clap rent control back on the houses and flats that have been decontrolled, that would spell doom to all hopes of a resumption of private building to let. Far from dealing, as the Amendment says, with thedifficulties which now obstruct a solution of the housing problem,it would simply create a new obstruction.
The hon. Member for Fulham suggested at Question Time that the Rent Act has made no change for the better in the amount of accommodation coming on to the market to let unfurnished and he pursued that again, I think a little unwisely, in view of what he said in his speech just now. In reply, I gave certain figures. I am not taking those figures to prove that unfurnished flats in London are easy to get nowadays; they are not.
What I am saying is that they are not impossible to get, that a great many more come into the market now than before the Rent Act was passed, and that there is good hope of there being more still, if only the House of Commons and the country make crystal clear that they are not going to stand for reimposition of rent control. That is not the right way to help people who are in difficulties: it is a quack remedy, more harmful than the disease.
The people that we all ought to feel a deep concern to help are those who 864 genuinely cannot afford what is now a reasonable present-day rent for the house or flat they have been living in, and yet cannot easily move elsewhere. There are not a very great number of these cases, but there are some.
They are quite different from the commoner case where a person says that the new rent is unreasonable simply because it has gone up to, let us say, three times what it was under rent control based on the 1939 rent, forgetting that yearly earnings in the London area generally are more than three times what they were before the war. I am not so concerned about that type of case, where the person can afford to pay today's market rent, though he dislikes the idea of having to because he has enjoyed the shelter of rent control for so long. I understand his feelings; we all do. But that is not the kind of case that enjoys the same degree of sympathy as that of the person who really cannot afford to pay.
In some of these cases it is possible for the person to move elsewhere. I read in a newspaper the other day about a lady living alone in London in a largish flat, who had decided to join up with her sister in the country. The paper described her as "a victim of the Rent Act", as though the Rent Act caused nothing but suffering. I could not help thinking of the home that her vacant flat would provide for a family that really needed a home in London.
In the circular that I issued in August I suggested some ways in which local authorities might be able to help those people who could not afford the new rent and who could not easily move. I am very grateful to local authorities, to voluntary bodies, like the citizens' advice bureaux, and to hon. Members on both sides of the House for the trouble that I know they have taken to find a solution in the really hard cases. One case after another has, in fact, been solved by this sort of individual attention and care.
My concern is to make sure that these people get the advice and help they need, without going back on the purposes of the Rent Act and freezing the situation by restoring control. I know that there are some who say, "Could we not do something to smooth the transition to market rents or lessen the impact of 865 them, when the three-year agreements run out?" People who speak like that are not facing the fact that this would be to reimpose a control on flats and houses that have been decontrolled for the past three years.
The Gracious Speech contains an important proposal, which I notice is not even mentioned in the Amendment, but which is designed to protect tenants and to further the objects of the Rent Act. It has come to knowledge that some landlords have been seeking to get tenants to sign a form of agreement which would put on to the tenant the whole responsibility not only for minor repairs but for major repairs to the roof, or the drains, or even the whole structure. An arrangement like that is quite reasonable in the case of a lease for a long term of years—it is common there, and it is taken account of in the rent—but it is totally unreasonable to try to shift on to a tenant, who has not the assurance of a long tenancy, the cost of doing major repairs or putting right serious defects which have perhaps accumulated through the long years of artificially low rents.
In the ordinary case a tenant who is holding on a short-term tenancy ought not to be asked to take on that sort of responsibility. No responsible landlord who took an interest in his property would ever ask that. Not only would it be quite unfair for him to do so, but he would know that the repairs would not get done. If major repairs are not done, one of the purposes of the Rent Act is liable to be frustrated. One of its main aims was to stop the neglect and decay of property that resulted from rent control, which, to refer to the terms of the Amendment again, was one of the "difficulties" which obstructed a solution of the housing problem.
§ Mr. Albert Evans (Islington, South-West)
We welcome the Minister's new proposal to deal with the excessive demands of landlords to impose repairs conditions on their tenants. I think that the Minister will agree that his action will mean some reimposition of control in respect of the conditions under which property can be rented to tenants. Can he tell us how soon the tenants can expect this Measure to come on to the Statute Book?
§ Mr. Brooke
I cannot say for certain when the Bill will be presented, but I can certainly say that there is nothing whatever in it which bears any relation to the reimposition of controls. What the Government intend to do is to legislate to make the landlord liable by statute for major repairs if the tenancy he grants is for less than a certain term. In a case like that any covenant that purports to bind the tenant to carry out major repairs would be void. We shall provide in the Bill for special situations that may arise, but its main purpose will be, as I have stated. This will be permanent and not temporary legislation. It will be by way of amendment of landlord and tenant law. It will be for the benefit of the property, and I believe that its general principle will have the support of all responsible property owners.
§ Mr. A. Fenner Brockway (Eton and Slough)
The Minister will be aware that since decontrol many tenants have had to pay very heavy expenses in respect of repairs which they have already done. Does the right hon. Gentleman propose that this relief will be retrospective since the period of decontrol?
§ Mr. Brooke
I would ask the hon. Member to await the terms of the Bill, which, I hope, will be published before long.
The Amendment goes on to refer to the high cost of land. In a debate on 18th July I indicated how the Government are handling that problem. The Government policies which I outlined in the course of my speech in that debate were embodied in Circular 37/60, which went to all local authorities on 25th August. That circular asked planning authorities to consider, if they were not doing so—as many were—whether more land needed to be allocated in their areas for housing and other development, and to submit their proposals to me in advance of the five-year review of their development plans if they thought fit to do so.
The green belts must be held, and I sense that hon. Members on both sides of the House are firmly behind the Government in that. But I pointed out in the Circular that the restriction imposed by a green belt must be matched by 867 making sure that enough land is available for development elsewhere: by seeing that there is no waste of land in the built-up area that is, so to speak, contained by the green belts, and that if necessary more land is allocated for building beyond the green belt—but allocated in the right places, and not as a sprawl, and in such a way as to avoid good agricultural land wherever possible.
The hon. Member for Fulham referred to an unfortunate and—I thought—ill-informed reference in a speech by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition in this connection. He seemed so unfamiliar with planning policies and practice as to imagine that if we permitted land on the other side of the green belts to be developed it would be bound to involve building anywhere. He appeared to be quite unaware that any planning permissions will be given so as to make sure that the development is compact. But if we have green belts round certain cities it is necessary, in some cases, to make provision for some additional building land on the other sides of the green belts, in certain places.
In the circular I also asked the urban authorities to do certain things—to encourage the conversion of large properties into flats; to encourage the redevelopment of the older, low-density areas at higher densities; to review their general standards of density in reviewing their development plans, and also to do all they can to prevent waste of land. A problem arises here in the high price of land. The whole nation is better off than it was a few years ago, thanks to Conservative Government. One obvious result is that more and more people want to buy and can afford to buy a house of their own—usually a house with a garage and a little more space round it than they had before. That increases the demand for land.
So do the new roads, and the new factories and power stations, all of which are a sign of the growing wealth of the nation. Then there is the rise of 200,000 a year in the population, a fact to which the hon. Member for Fulham referred. Still more rapidly rising is the number of separate households, for which I reckon we need between 80,000 and 868 100,000 new houses every year. We live on an island which we cannot enlarge except by reclaiming waste land. The Government are determined to preserve the beauty of the countryside and not to allow building everywhere, so the price of land is inevitably rising in those places where it is most sought after.
My responsibility, and the responsibility of the planning authorities, is to see that no unnecessary rise in price takes place through an artificial shortage of land being created anywhere by unnecessary restrictions. Discussions are going on between my Ministry and the planning authorities to make sure that problems like that are everywhere properly tackled. We are also holding conferences with the authorities on a regional basis, so that policy is properly worked out and fitted together over a larger area wherever that is necessary.
One of the matters that has to be thoroughly studied and considered at discussions and conferences with all concerned is the need for land for what is called overspill. At present, as the hon. Member said, 12 new towns are being built in England and Wales, and there will be room to accommodate well over 100,000 more people in them before their development is completed. Over and above that, town development schemes are in operation or quite clearly in prospect which will provide homes for a further 160,000 people in expanding towns outside the big cities. That figure of 160,000 does not include the three town development schemes in Hampshire, which, I understand, are coming before the London County Council this very afternoon and which are estimated to provide for another 50,000 people.
Then, since our debate on the subject in July, I have told the Northumberland County Council of my intention to approve a large area for housing at North Killingworth, which could house 17,000 Tynesiders. Tyneside is another area which has an overspill problem. I have also announced plans for a Government new town, primarily for Liverpool, at Skelmersdale, in Lancashire, for which we have in mind a population of about 80,000. I am consulting the local authorities about this at the present time.
§ Mr. Tom Brown (Ince)
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that Skelmersdale 869 happens to be in my constituency? Does he know that there is a great deal of dissatisfaction among the farming fraternity at the prospect of this new town taking away valuable agricultural land? Will he be ultra-cautious about taking away agricultural land when other land nearby can be used for the purposes of extending the town?
§ Mr. Brooke
I am glad to see the hon. Member in his place, because I realise that my reference to Skelmersdale closely affects his constituency. The present stage is that I am consulting the local authorities. Before any land is acquired there will have to be public notices made in due course, and people will have the opportunity to submit their representations and objections. Without doubt, a public inquiry is likely to be necessary. That will be the time for all these representations to be made. I can assure the hon. Member that I will most carefully take into account everything that is said by all sides at that public inquiry when it takes place.
What the hon. Member has said illustrates most vividly the difficulty by which any Government is faced in settling this question of meeting the housing needs of the population in a small island. Some people say, "Why not solve all overspill needs of the big towns by putting up numbers of new towns?" The hon. Gentleman has, however, quite rightly perceived that it is not so easy to find a site for a new town to which no objections at all can be levelled.
I believe that in principle, Skelmersdale, which has been under designation for some time, has its merits as a site. I hope that it will be possible to go ahead with it, but we shall have to consider very carefully the perimeter of the designated area in order to be sure that we interfere as little as possible with legitimate other interests.
§ Mr. T. Brown
In view of the fact that the town of Skelmersdale—a very ancient town—is surrounded by one or two green belts, if the right hon. Gentleman agrees to revise the green belt system it may help in extending the town.
§ Mr. Brooke
All these matters had better be gone into in great detail at the inquiry and when decisions are made. The hon. Gentleman is right to ventilate 870 them here, but I am sure that he would wish me to listen to what everybody has to say on this.
I am also making enquiries to see whether a suitable site can be found for another Government new town for the benefit of Birmingham and the West Midlands. We are looking at Dawley, in Shropshire. It would be a great thing if we could plan a new, modern, twentieth century town on a site scarred by legacies of derelict ugliness from the nineteenth century, and, indeed, the Industrial Revolution. With this rising demand for land, more people ought to be thinking about practical ways of reclaiming derelict land everywhere.
§ Mr. Wiliam Yates (The Wrekin)
In the Wrekin division we would welcome my right hon. Friend's new town and consider it to be a good use of this land by his Ministry for a proper purpose.
§ Mr. Brooke
I am obliged to my hon. Friend. Every other investigation should be made before any further announcement, but I appreciate the provisional welcome which he has given to a new town at Dawley.
All these schemes which I have described—completion of the 12 existing new towns, fresh new towns and town development schemes—will provide new houses for close on half a million people from the big cities. So, the terms of the Amendment, insinuating that not enough is being done to provide homes, seem strangely fanciful and false. In the first nine months of 1960, the number of houses completed in England and Wales was 19,000 more than in the same period of 1959; council houses were 5,000 up, and private enterprise houses 14,000 up.
Taking Britain as a whole, we have built in the first three-quarters of 1960 more houses than the Labour Government of 1945–1951 ever built in a whole year. No, I am wrong. There was one exception, the year 1948. We did not quite equal in nine months of 1960 what the Labour Government did in twelve months in 1948. It took us nine and a half months. If we do not pass the 300,000 figure again by the end of December, it will be due to the weather and the rain, but I think that we shall Of course, we are all out for a high figure again next year, for there were 871 287,000 houses under construction at the end of September, which was 17,000 more than at the same time a year ago. What nonsense that makes of the Amendment. This is an odd moment for the Opposition to seek to criticise the Government on housing. One is inclined to look for ulterior reasons why they passed over other contentious issues and decided on housing—and one has no need to look far. They move to censure us for building 50 per cent. more houses than they did.
The hon. Member for Fulham stressed, rightly, the need for building up stocks in local authorities and for dealing with urgent war damage repairs, but he failed to explain why the Government of which he was a member built 30,000 fewer houses in 1951 than they were able to do in 1948. If the Opposition argue that not so many of our houses are council houses, are they really pretending that the rest do not count? If they feel like that, let them go and ask the people who live in them—the tens of thousands who have gained the chance to fulfil their ambition and buy a house of their own, thanks to the Conservative Government.
As people get better off, and as the percentage who need a subsidy on their rent gets smaller and smaller, obviously the need for council building should gradually shrink. When the day comes when the whole country is really well housed, there may be little need for council building. But that time is a long way ahead. Meanwhile, every new house counts towards creating better housing conditions, just as every slum house that comes down is a matter for joy.
The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition said on Tuesday that his party would want to criticise slow progress on slum clearance in the debate on the Address. Since then someone has evidently told him the facts, for slum clearance is not mentioned in the Amendment. No wonder, for we are steadily closing or pulling down more than 1,000 slum houses every week—about 60,000 a year—and in two or three years' time over a large part of this country there should not be one slum house left.
There is, however, a huge task of slum clearance still ahead for the big cities 872 like Birmingham and Liverpool and Manchester—anyone can see that from the train as he goes into Manchester—and for the older towns of the Industrial Revolution in south Lancashire, the West Riding, and on Tyneside and elsewhere. As slum clearance elsewhere gets finished, in towns like these I want to see it speeded up.
Slum clearance, building for old people, and improvement of conditions in houses occupied by more than one family or let in lodgings—these should be the first priorities for council action now, along with overspill action. We may need a strengthening of the law to deal with houses in multi-occupation, and I told a deputation from the Kensington Borough Council the other day that I was thinking about that. I have also been getting the views of my Central Housing Advisory Committee on it. Actual living conditions in these large multi-occupied houses can be worse than in some of the small slum houses which we are pulling down.
The hon. Member for Fulham spoke generously of Government building generally for old people—
§ Mr. Marcus Lipton (Brixton)
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves this matter of multi-occupied houses, will he say whether there is a possibility of legislation going through this Session?
§ Mr. Brooke
I could not say that. I think that what I have said to the House will have indicated to the hon. Gentleman that I am anxious to find a strong instrument for dealing with this problem. It is not easy, and those who have listened to conferences on the subject will recognise that there are differences of opinion. However, I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I am not going to go asleep on it.
I deliberately disclosed to the House today my concern about it. I was grateful for the way in which the House received my statement, for often the living conditions in these multi-occupied houses are worse than in some of the small slum houses which are technically unfit, but in which there may be a family living who are thoroughly house-proud and work wonderfully to keep their inadequate house looked after.
As to building for old people, it is going on better and better, but I want to see it always better still. I want the 873 new town development corporations and also the expanding towns to see whether they can make more provision for old people in their plans. The proportion of total council housebuilding of the kind suitable for old people has quadrupled—it has gone up from 7 to 28 per cent.—but I would like to see it over 30 per cent.
I have asked all local authorities to study our latest suggestions in a booklet called More Flatlets for Old People which we published from the Ministry a few weeks ago. I shall be delighted to send a copy of that booklet to any hon. Member who is interested and will let me know. The ideas in it are specially suited for small towns and villages and for restricted sites. We published an earlier booklet a couple of years ago designed for the larger towns.
Do not let us ever forget that out of our 50 million population about 7 million are over pension age, and the number is going up all the time. If I have done nothing else as Housing Minister, I have ceaselessly sought to keep before housing authorities the importance of meeting the needs of the old.
There is one other section of our people of whom I would speak—the 9 or 10 million who are living in older houses which will last for years, but which so badly need modernising. I am not speaking of the slums which need to come down, but of the soundly built houses that were put up before the time when a hot water system and a fixed bath was normal in every house built.
The 1949 Act which was designed to get these houses modernised by means of improvement grants was a failure. It only got 10,000 houses modernised in five years. The 1954 Act, which amended the 1949 scheme, was a success. It brought the number of improved houses up from a mere handful to some 35,000 a year. But that was still not enough. So, exercising the creative function which the hon. Member for Fulham alleged that we lack, we devised the new idea of standard grants and put through the House Purchase and Housing Act of 1959. Immediately, the number of applications for grants shot ahead.
The number of houses approved for grant in 1959 was up from 35,000 to 874 80,000, and in 1960 it looks like reaching 135,000. So the new Act has quadrupled the rate of progress already. I am pleased with 135,000 houses a year to be modernised, but I am not satisfied; I want to see it reach 200,000, and then 250,000.
We are doing all we can with publicity for the standard grants and improvement grants and conversion grants, but if hon. Members can stimulate more applications from their constituencies, or can suggest how we can publicise the scheme still more, I shall be grateful to them. One can appreciate what those numbers mean in terms of human happiness when one has seen a mother who, at last, has got a proper bath with hot water from the tap in which to bath the children instead of a tin bath on the floor with water from a kettle.
Never in history has so much been going forward on every front to improve housing conditions and to solve the housing problem. And yet this is the moment which the Opposition choose to censure us. There is still so much to be done. Would not the Opposition be better employed in joining with us to make these successful policies even more successful than in challenging a record of achievement that with their strange theories they could never touch?
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ Mr. A. Fenner Brockway (Eton and Slough)
I have listened with surprise to the greater part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech. He has said that there is now no national housing shortage. In my own experience, as I go about the country, I find no social evil today so serious as the continued over-crowding of our people. I know that the right hon. Gentleman has taken the view that this is largely a problem of London. Does he really say that it does not exist in all the large centres of our population—Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Glasgow and behind the beauties of Princes Street in the closes of Edinburgh?
§ Mr. H. Brooke
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman misunderstood me. I was saying that the rent situation which we discussed a fortnight ago was very largely a question of London. I entirely agree with him that there are serious housing problems in all the big cities.
§ Mr. Brockway
But I took down the words of the right hon. Gentleman. It was a part of his speech where he had dealt with rents and had gone on to the wider problems, and the phrase which he used—I am a shorthand writer—was that there was no national housing shortage. It is that statement which I am challenging today. Anybody who lives in any great centre of population would just be amazed by the complacency of that statement.
In all our great centres the need for accommodation is causing more unhappiness, a greater strain upon nerves, and more family conflicts than any other issue at this time. If there had not been a case for the Amendment which the Opposition have put down, the complacency of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman would have justified every sentence of it.
I want particularly to approach the question of the effects of the Rent Act. When we discussed the Greater London situation a few days ago, the right hon. Gentleman indicated—no, I think it was in reply to a Question which I put to him—that he had only communicated with the authorities in the Greater London area suggesting that they might make the threat of compulsory purchase because there had not been complaints from other parts of the country and he, apparently, was unaware of the situation elsewhere.
I wish to pay my tribute to the London Members of Parliament who have so vigorously raised this question, but I want to assure the right hon. Gentleman that if he thinks that the effects of the Rent Act have not seriously affected other parts of the country then the information which his Department is receiving is very inadequate indeed.
May I illustrate this from my own constituency, Slough? That town—and one expresses it with gratification—is, I suppose, one of the most prosperous areas in the whole of the United Kingdom at the present time. Yesterday the figures at our employment exchange showed that there were over 1,000 vacancies. There are five vacant jobs for every person needing a job. That is in great contrast with other Parts of the country and with the conditions as I found them in Scotland last weekend. The geographically unbalanced economy of our country 876 is a problem to which the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends ought to be devoting their attention.
The effect of prosperity in Slough has been that workers have wished to pour into the town from a great area around it, but we have no houses in which we can possibly accommodate them. When my friend Aneurin Bevan was Minister of Housing, he described Slough as the third most serious town for housing in the whole country. It is much worse now. Because there is this pressure upon the town, due to prosperity, the rents of the available houses are rocketing sky-high.
I have had information of between 400 and 500 cases in Slough where, as a result of the Rent Act and the termination of the three-year agreements, there have been steep increases in rent. I have an envelope full of letters from those who have complained. I propose to read one only to the House. I assure the right hon. Gentleman that it is not an exceptional letter. My correspondent says:I am writing to say my rent was increased 100 per cent. on August 1st when my three-years agreement ended. I have lived in this flat twenty-one years and in 1939 my rent, including rates, was 22s. 6d. a week.I am an old-age pensioner, aged 73 years, and I have worked hard to save for my old age. Now my savings have to go pay this terrible increase in rent. The landlord has told me to go to National Assistance to get the extra rent paid by them, but because I saved instead of wasting my money I have a little over £600, so cannot draw Assistance. Why should I put my hard earned saving in this landlord's pocket because he wants 100 per cent. more from me?I doubt whether there is one hon. Member who has not been receiving such letters from constituents during recent weeks.
There is an aspect of the question which the right hon. Gentleman did not mention. There was, perhaps, a relationship between the individual landlord and his tenant in the old days. That could become a human relationship. It could develop into a relationship where a particular hardship of the tenant would appeal to the sympathy of the landlord. But the letter I have read illustrates what we are now experiencing in Slough. Individual landlordism is becoming a thing of the past. The majority of privately owned and rented houses in Slough are probably not owned 877 by individual landlords today, but by large companies. They are owned by absentee house-owning companies who have their headquarters outside Slough. The relationship between landlord and tenant, which used to be a personal one, has now disappeared. These companies have just become profit and dividend-seeking companies, as one finds through the whole sphere of industry today.
When the right hon. Gentleman was speaking I gained the impression that in his view this was a narrow and local problem. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to be saying that all that a tenant experiencing particular hardship had to do was to go to his landlord and beg him to meet his needs. That can be done sometimes, but when housing becomes—I was going to say "industrialised", when it is no longer a human relationship between landlord and tenant—
§ Mr. Brockway
When, as my right hon. Friend says, it becomes commercialised, great companies being involved, it is impossible to deal with the problem on the personal basis about which the Minister spoke.
I turn now to the wider issue. The right hon. Gentleman has made the task of local authorities in housing almost impossible—first, by withdrawing subsidies, secondly, by making it so costly, through high Bank Rate and interest charges, to obtain loans, and, thirdly, by the effect of the increased cost of land, which the higher rents for houses has so much influenced. It is now almost impossible for local authorities to deal with the problem of housing.
In one sense, the right hon. Gentleman has succeeded. The difficulties and failures of local authorities are due to his policy. Very often, however, the people who suffer from the effects of his policy turn their indignation against local councillors. The right hon. Gentleman's failure has been cushioned and pillowed by members of local authorities who are fighting against terrible difficulties to meet the needs of local inhabitants. They have had to suffer from the indignation which should have been directed against the right hon. Gentleman.
878 The main point I desired to make was that this is not only a Greater London problem.
Perhaps I may illustrate from my own experience—this is a confession which may surprise the House a little—the effects of the Rent Act in increasing the value of property in London. The Rent Act must have put millions of pounds into the packets of property owners.
A year before the Rent Act was passed I became a landlord. I occupied one of two maisonettes in a large house. The landlord offered the house to his tenants for £1,500. The other tenants did not wish to buy the house. It seemed to us to be a reasonable sum, so we bought it. We had to spend £1,000 on putting it into repair, making a total of £2,500.
The Rent Act was introduced. During the passage of the Bill I voted against every Clause of it and opposed and denounced it. I did not feel, therefore, that I could take advantage of it just because I had become a landlord and had a tenant in the maisonette above. I suggested to him that we should follow the policy which the Labour Party had proposed in the case of decontrolled houses, of asking a rent tribunal what was a fair rent.
We wrote to the chairman of the rent tribunal and he said, "Of course I have no authority"—as I realised—"but, as you have opposed the Rent Act, perhaps you will be satisfied with the increase which is allowed to controlled houses". And so we were. Then I found that the owners of the similar maisonettes in the street were able to obtain rents from their tenants of twice the amount we got in that way. Yet with that lower rent, we were able to meet all the costs of the establishment. It was an adequate rent to do the repairs and maintenance and everything else. The other landlords in the street, who under the Rent Act had so highly increased their rents, must have been making vast profits as a result of the Rent Act.
That is not the end of the story. The point came when we wanted to live in smaller accommodation and wanted to sell the house. We communicated with estate agents and we were just amazed. The house which had cost us £1,500 and £1,000 to put into a good condition five years ago, the estate agents said could 879 be sold for £5,750. Just like that. And in three days we got it. Just like that.
Again my conscience was troubled as to whether I had benefited by the Rent Act, which I had so vigorously opposed, but, when I went to seek a smaller house, I found that the cost had gone up just as much. A smaller house which we bought, smaller than the one maisonette of the two-maisonette building, cost £4,500, and by the time we have put it right it will cost £5,000. We have just been able to pay off our mortgage.
The point I want to make is that this story illustrates that as a result of the Rent Act, for which the right hon. Gentleman and the Government are responsible, the landowning and property classes of this country must have had millions of pounds put into their pockets through the increased value of property. [An HON. MEMBER: "A racket."] It is a racket. The right hon. Gentleman talked about how pleased he is because a house is modernised and a woman now has a bath instead of having a bowl. We are all pleased when that happens, but that is nothing compared with the struggle and suffering which hundreds of thousands have had to undergo as a result of the introduction of the Rent Act. Most of those people have suffered so that the property owners may have greater riches than they ever possessed before. This is typical of a Conservative Government and it justifies this Amendment.
§ 5.44 p.m.
§ Mr. W. F. Deedes (Ashford)
I appreciate that the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway) may have greater problems arising from the Rent Act than some of us. I therefore quite understand his wish to make the bulk of his speech on that subject, but I think it perhaps a good thing that most of the speeches we have had in this debate so far have gone a little beyond that particular issue.
I only wish I felt that establishing justice between landlord and tenant would in itself solve the tremendous other problems which lie ahead in the housing field. I do not belittle the landlord issue, but, just as I have disagreed with some of my hon. and right hon. Friends who think that rent control is 880 the Gordian knot of housing policy, so I must disagree with some hon. Members opposite who see nothing bigger in housing than the Rent Act. I warmly congratulate my right hon. Friend on his persistent attempts to keep this particular difficulty in perspective in relation to the rest of the housing problem.
What we are increasingly up against here, surely is the problem of demography, where people want to be, where they have to be and why. That is a point which the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart), who opened the debate for the Opposition, touched upon. I confess that it rarely happens in this House, but I was disappointed that his speech was not longer than it was because I thought he was getting on to an interesting point and was going to develop this particular theme. Perhaps I may be allowed to develop some of the unspoken passages for him. I am quite sure that getting this right goes to the heart of the housing problem and will have a fundamental bearing on the problem of for sale or to let for the next ten years or so.
One talks loosely of "housing policy", but I must say, without any disrespect to my right hon. Friend, that I find it very difficult as things are to say that we have a housing policy. Housing seems less governed by policy than by the product of gigantic pressures far less within the control of Her Majesty's Government than some of us like to think. There are pressures between the cities and conurbations, which are desperate for space, and country areas which are defending their land like tigers. There is the pressure of industry, which in reality holds the whip hand more than most people recognise. It is not so much directed as persuaded by the Board of Trade to go to certain areas and against this are those who must work out the social consequences in the provision of housing there.
There are pressures within the Ministry to give local authorities the autonomy which is their statutory right and wider national considerations. There is pressure between what needs doing and the resources available. I noted what the Parliamentary Secretary had to say, I think yesterday, on the subject of the resources available and the progress of the improvements scheme. There are 881 pressures between commercial demands and domestic needs. A point which the hon. Member for Fulham only touched upon is the pressure exerted by perhaps the most rapidly expanding social influence of our time, the motor car. That emphatically enters into this field.
There is also the pressure between the aspiring home owner and forces which sometimes contrive to make that an arduous and expensive adventure. In parenthesis, although some of my hon. Friends may not agree with me, I hope that we shall consider very carefully the next step in home ownership. Statistically, there can be no doubt that in the past it has been successful and has still great potential success. It has many virtues and I think most of us have extolled them. I do not accept entirely that it is a case of "the more the merrier". I think there remains, and always will remain, a proportion for whom public arrangements are the better alternative. What gives me some reservations on this subject is the large proportion of home owners, new and aspiring, whose wives must become wage earners.
Such reservations are held in some minds to represent "a fuddy-duddy doctrine", but I remain uneasy. I think that this will lead to some problems. In particular there is the problem of the young wife who goes to work at the same time as she may be having children. The results on family life might shift certain problems from the Ministry of Housing one door down Whitehall to the Home Office, which is next door. This policy needs watching to see that we do not reach a stage when home ownership exercises a social compulsion which tempts certain families to overreach themselves.
However, this remains one of the pressures. It is one of the factors which govern where our homes are to be built. Weighing up these conflicting pressures, I think the most remarkable thing is that we have done so well as we have.
What alarms me is the clear signs that some of these pressures, and in particular the newest of them, are becoming very much stronger, and unless we are careful they may threaten to overwhelm us. I have no doubt, for example, which is winning in Central London between 882 commercial demand and domestic needs. I am one of those who regret the fact that fewer and fewer people live as residents anywhere near the centre of London, because I think that the problem of cities with decaying hearts, or without hearts at all, may be partially attributed to the fact that nobody lives but everybody wants to work there. Indeed, I understand that we have reached a point in Central London at which it is virtually impossible to build any form of domestic blocks at an economic rent. The price is such that it cannot be done. This is one of the troubles with which my right hon. Friend is confronted.
This problem of cities without hearts, which means cities without people in them except during the working day, is a problem which we must not allow to slide, without seeing whether there is something else we can do about it. I think, too, that we need a more realistic appraisal than we have yet had of the probable course of our housing needs over the next ten years. Given that, I think that it would be easier to do what, with respect to my right hon. Friend, we have never done—to lay down the course which we should like to see him follow on the broadest lines.
For some years, some of us—and I include myself—have been handicapped by the belief that the end of the housing problem, if it is not in sight, ought to be in sight. But this is a chimera, a complete illusion. According to the best information which I have been able to lay my hands on, we are likely to want housing at an average rate of 200,000 a year for 20 years. That includes slum clearance, but it represents, in sum, between now and 1980, about 25 per cent. of our present stock.
What kind of a pattern are we aiming at? I find it very difficult to envisage, and I am bound to say that I think that many other people do, too. I do not think that any Government, short of dictatorial powers, which would be intolerable, can decree that pattern; and no one, least of all myself, is suggesting that they should. But I think that a Government can, and perhaps should, give a much clearer indication of the broad lines which they would like to see it follow. We tend to be governed here—and this is partly due to the statutory relationship between my right hon. 883 Friend and the local authorities, which we all appreciate—by a series of somewhat negative and occasionaly conflicting edicts which together do not provide a very coherent or creative picture.
"We must hold the Green Belt; we shall clear the slums"—as indeed, we are doing most successfully; "we shall encourage overspill; we shall build up but we must also build out; we shall push new industry into areas where low employment can absorb it"—which is another department; "we shall avoid sprawl; we shall encourage home ownership; we must build homes for the old—and I emphatically agree that that is one of the major problems ahead of us. All these form a quite unexceptionable doctrine, but I question whether it forms an adequate picture to guide, still less to inspire, those who will have the responsibility during the next decade or so of building the 4 million houses which we must have.
Of course, this is no longer a self-contained housing problem. Perhaps one of our worst errors is to imagine that it is. This is a point on which I hoped that the hon. Member for Fulham, who is no longer here, would develop his remarks. It is profoundly affected, as we all know, by industry. It will be increasingly and mercilessly affected by the motor car.
I do not want to digress here on the ordeal which I think lies ahead of the Minister of Transport, save to say, which is not irrelevant to this theme, that I believe that we are approaching a real crisis in which we either resolve to discipline the motor car in a manner which is unthinkable at present to the motorist or resign ourselves to chaos This will be a major political decision.
I will not develop that theme at the moment, but in this context it has another significance. The motor car is producing an entirely new race of commuters. The pattern of life which London and the Home Counties and certain other big cities have known since the end of the First World War is now being reproduced in countless towns and villages throughout England. People are living in the village and going to the nearest town to work—an admirable thing, if one can manage it.
884 It is clear to me that a surprisingly high proportion of the new houses which are to be built will be built in rural England, in what its protectors call "virgin countryside". I do not think that much longer all of our so-called affluent society will be content to live in urban compression, as so many of them have since the first Industrial Revolution. Many will have to be so content, but some will not, and I think that we may be on the threshold of a tremendous social explosion—and it is a social force which will not be contained by the Town and Country Planning Acts.
I calculate that possibly the rural district councils will have to build about 75,000 to 100,000 houses a year. That will surprise a good many of them. Some of these will belong to the new race of commuters but some will be the second houses of those who occupy the central urban areas—the country cottage, which may not be within the reach of every man but which will shortly be within the reach of many more. In my view the caravan is a social progression which thinly disguises that fact.
§ Mr. A. Evans
The hon. Member said that in his opinion the rural district councils would have to build 100,000 houses a year. Does he mean that these councils will have to build them or that they will be built in the rural districts?
§ Mr. Deedes
The hon. Member is quite right to take me up on that point. What I meant was that the countryside would take an increasing share of those houses, not necessarily built by the councils but built in the areas of the rural district councils. I am grateful to the hon. Member.
The point which I want to stress is that it is very difficult to provide and prepare for this task through the agency of the Ministry of Housing alone, because so many factors affect it which lie outside the Ministry's orbit. I have no idea how these things are done, and no one will tell me, but it seems most desirable that something in the nature of a Cabinet sub-committee, comprising housing, transport, labour and the Board of Trade, which are the four principal agencies involved here, should be in existence to keep this under constant surveillance. To expect my right hon. Friend from now on to be able to hold these various reins 885 in his hands is to expect too much. There is no time for commissions or inquiries: we have had enough of them. This is now upon us, and I think that such a sub-committee—for all I know it may exist—and that type of machinery of government would be a help.
I do not say that it should be either directed or totally planned; that is impossible and undesirable. But I think that those who are to be responsible for this building over the next ten years ought to have clearer and more intelligent principles laid before them, and a consortium of Ministers, which is how the building industry sets about the biggest projects, is one way of bringing that about.
I think that these physical developments, which include not only housing, which we are rehearsing today, but power, transport and industry, are increasingly difficult to separate and will bear very much, and increasingly, upon the standard of living in real terms. More and more, where a man lives, the kind of journey which he has to make between his work and home and back again, his environment and surroundings, will add to or subtract from his pleasure in life. It will be given a rising value.
Environment and neighbourhood, of which this is only part of the problem, will become a big social factor, and I do not think that at the moment we are giving here the lead which we should. It is my experience—and I warn my hon. Friends that I think it will soon become theirs—that a new mood is arising in this country in relation to environment, surroundings, amenities and so on. I think that we have to go a little way to meet it.
I most warmly welcome the Minister's reintroduction of a competition for housing design and siting—the reintroduction of the housing medals which I think some hon. Members will recall. That is a small step but it is a step in the right direction.
In that sense I think perhaps it was unfortunate that the sole reference to amenities in the Gracious Speech was to the proposal—no doubt excellent in itself—to build a whopping underground car park in Hyde Park. The stricken appearance of our parks in London already demonstrates the price of pro- 886 gress, and aparently that agony is to be prolonged. But elsewhere, and more generally, there are clear signs—thank heaven for it—that people are showing signs of being more selective.
A few weeks ago I attended a meeting for the formation of a Weald of Kent Society. When I got to the meeting, which was in a small village hall, I found that there were 250 people inside and 100 trying to get in. There was no film star present or election for office of any sort going on. It was purely the magnetic appeal of a society which was going to look after amenities. This was outside any of my electoral experience and I mention it because I believe that it is quite likely to happen in the constituencies of many of my right hon. and hon. Friends, and probably in those of hon. Members opposite.
I am not myself an ardent preservationist. I am simply a strong believer in trying to get this development, building and housing development, afoot and ahead on terms with our surroundings both in the towns and in the country. That really is an integral part of our standard of life. The standard of life of a city typist is not doubled if she takes twice as long to travel between her home in Essex and Liverpool Street Station every day, and in the company of twice as many people in the train compartment. Her standard of life has been halved. What surrounds a man, what he sees from his upstairs window, is as much a part of his wealth as his wages, but it is a currency which is being sadly depreciated, as many hon. Members are aware.
Today the prevailing threat to the affluent society is a new kind of poverty, poverty of outlook, and I for one am quite ready to start a revolution against it. I shall not abuse the Town and Country Planning Acts and I am quite ready to admit that without them we should be worse off than we are now. But they were designed for a situation which has changed a great deal in the last fifty years. Although we have altered some of the economic Sections in the Acts, we have done a great deal less about their relationship to planning, and it is futile to regard them as the ultimate safeguard against poverty of outlook.
887 Something more positive is needed, and I hope it is possible that all the Ministers concerned—not only housing, transport, trade and power but health as well, and education and the Services—will give more weight to this and allow the countless decisions they make to be weighed by it. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary who I understand, is to wind up this debate, talked once of doubling our standard of life in twenty-five years, and that is a hope which I am sure we all share. But it is no use talking about doubling our standard of life in terms of pension, output, productivity and the rest, if the means to that end destroy something which a great many people care about. We have been through all that once and we are still repairing it.
It seems to me, particularly in terms of housing, that what we build, the shape of the communities and the shape that the houses take on can be either a symbol of mediocrity or part of that inspiration for which so many people are now groping. If as a result of our stewardship it appears that for most people life has grown noisier, uglier, more exhausting and less comfortable it will go hard with us. More people are coming round to thinking on those lines. But that is not the only test. What shape we make of this will be, as always, one of the tests of a civilised people.
§ 6.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Albert Evans (Islington, South-West)
Everyone will agree that we have just listened to a very thoughtful and valuable speech by the hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes), although, possibly, there are one or two hon. Members opposite who will not agree with everything that he has said. But in his speech on these collated problems the hon. Gentleman has given us a vision of how we should be thinking of the future. I regret that such vision and farsightedness was not apparent in the speech of the Minister responsible for housing. We need something of the passion, fervour and desire to re-create our amenities displayed by the hon. Member for Ashford to be displayed by the Minister for Housing and Local Government, but, in my opinion, we shall not get that while the present Minister remains in office.
888 I wish to refer to a matter not mentioned in the Gracious Speech, the appalling overcrowding which exists in certain districts in London and in most of our great cities and towns. These pockets of overcrowding are a blot on our society. The problem is known to the Home Secretary and the lack of a solution helps to fill the prisons. It is certainly known to priests and social workers. To some extent it may be known to the Minister of Housing and Local Government, although I shall have something to say in a moment about his lack of information on the subject.
I wish to quote an extreme example of the kind of sore or breeding ground of disease and degradation, lawlessness and crime which I have in mind. Not far from this Palace—I represent a London constituency and so I shall deal mainly with the situation in London, although the same kind of thing may be found in most of the great cities—there is a terrace of 16 houses in which there are 140 separate lettings. The population of those houses in estimated at over 300. That is probably an under-estimate of the number of people in those 16 houses. As with the normal run, there are no baths and anything from ten to twenty people use the one toilet.
That is an extreme case, but dotted about the older parts of the Metropolis and the older parts of most of our great cities are to be found these pockets of overcrowding which cause considerable problems for the authorities, for the police, for social workers and for all the other people who have to go near them or pass through them. Pockets of overcrowding pepper our urban centres and their conditions are appalling. They are often centres of crime, prostitutes, strong arm men, dope pedlars, layabouts, criminals—all those are the kinds of people to be found in these centres of overcrowding, mainly as the result of inadequate housing or force of circumstances bringing them together.
Such places are breeding grounds for the increasing prison population. Incidentally, I suppose that they attract certain weak types and they gather together all the undesirables in an area. It seems that they are beyond the police and that the police cannot grapple with the crimes and nuisances which arise in these areas, although I think that the 889 police could do more than they now do to mitigate some of the conditions.
What I want to know from the Minister is the position of overcrowding in London and the great towns. Is overcrowding growing? Is it being dealt with? Is it diminishing? It is not possible to get any figures, or make any close estimate, because the Ministry has no information about overcrowding. I gather that the Minister has not taken the trouble to gather any estimate of the amount of overcrowding in, say, the Metropolitan area, Glasgow, or Manchester. However, from my own observations I would say that it was tending to increase in the older Metropolitan areas.
Today, for the first time in my hearing—and I generally listen to what he says—the Minister touched on the problem of the older houses occupied by several families, the tenement houses. I raised this problem three years ago, in November, 1957, when the then Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government told me:There can be no doubt whatever that in these localities there is an enormous amount of overcrowding … but the difficulty of local authorities and the reason they are not overzealous in … enforcing these provisions"—that is, the provisions of housing legislation dealing with overcrowding—is that they know full well that if they do so a certain result will follow and they are not in a position to provide alternative accommodation for the people liable to be displaced.He also said:… I would straight away assure hon. Members that everything that has been said in the discussion will be most carefully studied by my right hon. Friend.That was the present Minister of Housing and Local Government. He went on:It certainly is our intention to look in a very thorough way at the whole problem."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd November, 1957; Vol. 578, c. 771–4.]Three years ago we were told that the Minister would carefully study the problem of overcrowding and the social sores which it creates.
However, time went on and nothing was done and we heard nothing from the right hon. Gentleman. I do not believe that he gave another thought to the 890 problem. In June, 1959, the right hon. Gentleman himself, speaking about this matter, said:The main housing problem in London, as I conceive it—and I have been a London Member for a good many years—is overcrowding.That was his policy in June, 1959. He went on:Here we are up against the grave difficulty of enforcing the measures that are on the Statute Book against overcrowding. The reason is, of course, that if there is not enough room for everybody, and one tries to eliminate overcrowding in one house, one may only be creating it in another …. We must all give very serious thought to how we can tackle, as soon as we can, the problem of overcrowding in London, because it is this, I believe, which is at the root of the housing problem."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th June, 1954; Vol. 607, c. 1521–3.]Then, as far as my information goes, no attempt was made to deal with centres of overcrowding. Nothing was done to tackle this problem vigorously. We waited for the Government to act after their promises in 1957 and 1959, but no action was taken.
In April this year the present Parliamentary Secretary told the House:Whilst I agree overcrowding is a very serious, and, in individual cases, even a tragic situation, I can assure my hon. Friend and the House that my right hon. Friend has the solution of this very much in his mind."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th April, 1960; Vol. 622, c. 180.]Time after time in the last three years the Minister has assured the House and the country that he would tackle this admittedly difficult and sore problem of pockets of overcrowding, and the degradation and crime which go with them, but nothing has been done.
A week ago, I put down a Question to the right hon. Gentleman asking him what estimate his Ministry had made of overcrowding in London. He replied:I have not asked local authorities in London to make an up-to-date report to me on overcrowding since the war, because their most urgent task in recent years has been to get on with slum clearance and redevelopment."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th October. 1960; Vol. 627, c. 240.]Therefore, despite all the Ministerial assurances that the matter was to be tackled, the Minister has not even taken the first elementary step of getting information So that he could see the size of the problem. He does not and cannot know the extent of the problem. 891 He cannot know whether the position is getting worse or better, and yet we have had an assurance that he intends to tackle it.
I ask the Minister to see what he can do to make a vigorous onslaught on localities where there is excessive and dangerous overcrowding. I am sure that the Home Secretary, with his problems of over-full prisons, will give the right hon. Gentleman all the help he can, if the right hon. Gentleman will vigorously try to tackle these localities I suggest that he first gets the information from local authorities of the estimated extent of overcrowding, certainly in the Metropolitan area and possibly in other big towns. This need not be such a big job after all. We can use all kinds of measures when we really want to do a job and perhaps we could get some of the publicity firms to comb these areas so that as soon as possible we could see the extent of overcrowding in some of the worst districts of London and the other great towns. I suggest that when that is done the right hon. Gentleman will have the necessary basic information to enable a drive to be made in these localities, to break them up and to sweep them away. If he does that, he will be fulfilling the promises that he has given to the House over the years. He will be ridding us of the worst core of our housing problem and will save the country a lot of money.
§ 6.21 p.m.
§ Sir Eric Errington (Aldershot)
With much of what the hon. Member for Islington, South-West (Mr. A. Evans) said about these overcrowded pockets one is bound to agree, particularly because one realises that very often those pockets of accommodation are in what I call the decaying rings of our big cities, and, some time or another, it is obvious that it will be essential for those decaying rings to become available for modern housing. I believe the two things might well go together.
The importance of this debate is the hope that as a result of it more and better accommodation will be made available. The programmes of slum clearance, of providing old people's flats and building new towns, are going ahead well, but I 892 am not satisfied that that in itself is sufficient. I believe that in some way we must get private enterprise to come into this activity of building houses to let. I believe that it can be done and that we are nearly in a position to get it done.
It is, of course, essential to provide economic rents so that an adequate return can be obtained by those investing in house building. I recollect that in Liverpool before the war the speculative builder did a considerable job, and one wonders where the people in Liverpool would have been but for the activities of the much miscalled speculative builder. He provided accommodation at reasonable prices for those who required it. It is important to give the private enterprise builder every opportunity when he is in the position to take it.
In many cases, of course, the price of land operates against the private builder, but, as I have said, we have nearly reached the position when the rental charged would be economic and proper. I know of some property in Liverpool which has to come down and which could be replaced by houses which, in total, would cost about £1,200 each. That would enable the developer to charge a rent of between two guineas and £2 5s. per week for those houses. The property happens to be owned by a private company with which I am connected. The local authority, however, has made a compulsory purchase order and it has proved impossible for the local authority to allow the private developer—that is our small company—to develop the property and make it available to tenants at the sort of rent that I have indicated.
Some encouragement must be given to those who are prepared to come into this admittedly difficult market. I do not think the encouragement need always necessarily be financial. Local authorities could help by providing facilities to rehouse those who are dispossessed by the knocking down of outdated houses, as a sort of bridging operation.
Another matter to which consideration aught to be given is that in this day and age when a house has ceased to be regarded merely as four walls and a roof but is fully fitted and expensive from a maintenance point of view, it ought to be possible to grant some allowance by way of investment or depreciation such 893 as is permitted in the cases of industrial plant, shipping and so on. The up-to-date house has many of the elements of a wasting asset.
I should like to make a few remarks on the provision of better accommodation. I am glad to say that the use of improvement grants has increased considerably, but it is largely confined to owner-occupiers. It will, of course, be appreciated that owner-occupiers may be prepared to spend money on improving their own houses without requiring a return on an investment basis, and the problem that faces my right hon. Friend in the case of rented property and improvement grants is considerable. Many things mitigate against the rented property owner taking advantage of improvement grants, and it is important that some effort should be made to see whether these problems can be overcome. It would be valuable if a larger number of owners of rented property took advantage of the principle of the improvement grant with which I think everybody in this House must agree. One of the difficulties is the possible excess assessment on the improved house when the improvement grant has been used, and the effect of that may be to increase substantially the tax paid. That is something which the investor, the property owner, must consider carefully.
Secondly, he must consider the cost of additional capital. Much has been said about the cost of money today. It is, of course, high. Fortunately, the Bank Rate is now down, but when I made some inquiries the other day I was surprised to find that even for the purchase of owner-occupied houses the building societies had closed their books for something like a month ahead. Money is not easily available. Some local authorities are prepared to find it, but others are not.
The third factor I wish to mention is the amount of time taken by the owner in preparing plans and obtaining authority from the local council. To anyone who has not had to do it, this may seem quite a small matter. But the preparation of plans is quite expensive. There is the difficulty of having adequate staff to do what is not normally the job of the property owner, and in many cases—in this I speak with knowledge from my own experience—there is substantial 894 delay due to inquiries, some of which are necessary but some of which are not, by the local authority.
While on the subject of local authorities, I must say that it is a great pity, if the improvement grants system is to be made to work, that local authorities, generally speaking, will not do two things. First, they will not supply a list of unfit houses which are, therefore, right out of question in the matter of improvement grants. Secondly, they will not guarantee non-inclusion in clearance areas within fifteen years, which, as the House knows, is the minimum period in this context.
§ Mr. A. Evans
I understood the hon. Gentleman to say that the local authority refuses to give to the owners lists of unfit houses. Do I deduce from that that the owners do not know when their houses are unfit?
§ Sir E. Errington
In many towns that is the fact. In one big city I have in mind there is a general programme put forward covering, say, 50,000 houses, but no one can find out which are the 50,000 houses which are unfit. The difficulty is that no one really knows whether or not a house he wants to improve will come into a particular programme, and he does not know, if he does improve the house, whether he will be allowed to have it for fifteen years.
Another factor which creates difficulty for the person who would seek to use the grant is that in many cases tenants will not agree to have improvements done. I think that it is very rare that this is simply naughtiness, as it were; it comes from a genuine wish not to be disturbed There is the problem of not having enough accommodation if, for instance, a back bedroom is turned into a bathroom, as everyone would wish to do except the people who happen to have a family there with one or more members of it occupying the back room. Nobody is to blame for this, but it is a factor militating against the improvement grant system.
I come now to a factor of considerable importance, that is to say, the 8 per cent. which is allowed on that portion of the improvement which is not within the grant. This is really inadequate for the purpose which the owner of the house would have in mind. He has to face 895 the payment of tax. He must face increased maintenance at a cost which is increased by reason of the improvement. He wants some form of repayment and amortisation of capital by way of redeeming it within the fifteen years or such longer life as there may be. In some cases—the House may be surprised to know this—even voids have to be provided against. All this really rules out any question of profit to the owner.
I suggest to my right hon. Friend that he should consider the possibility of increasing the amount payable in respect of the owner's expenditure from 8 per cent. to about 12 per cent. Then, I believe, there would be little difficulty in finding owners who, in spite of the problems I have indicated, would wish to improve their properties and take advantage of the grants. I am interested to discover that there is some indication that two large corporations feel that some-think more than 8 per cent. would be appropriate. The housing committee of Leeds Corporation on 20th October indicated that it thought that some further remuneration should be given in these cases in order that the work should proceed. As long ago as 1956, representatives of the health committee of Birmingham Corporation met together and discussed the matter. They agreed, subject to confirmation, that something on these lines should be pressed upon the Minister.
It seems to me that, if we really wish to solve this difficult problem, the only way to do it is to use every available house in the best way we can. I am an out-and-out supporter of the improvement grants, but I think that the Minister now has one arm tied behind his back because he is unable to give a remuneration which will reasonably, and only reasonably, encourage those who are the owners of very large numbers of houses to make those houses more satisfactory and better to live in.
§ 6.39 p.m.
§ Mr. Laurence Pavitt (Willesden, West)
The hon. Member for Aldershot (Sir E. Errington) began by expressing the hope, which, I am sure, is shared by hon. Members on both sides, that there should be more units of accommodation, but I could not follow him when he suggested that the only way of 896 doing this was to pin our faith to private enterprise to secure those additional units of accommodation. He left out of consideration the fact that the building industry is an entity which concerns itself with more than just houses. The building industry builds blocks of offices, schools, hotels and cinemas. It even takes over theatres, pulls them down and then puts up another building with the theatre in the basement and a block of offices above. Therefore, it seemed to me that, if he was pinning his faith on a greater financial incentive by making the rents more economic, he was ignoring these other considerations.
I share with the hon. Gentleman the desire that there should be a greater extension of people taking advantage of improvements, especially in areas like my own constituency. I noticed that the hon. Gentleman said that incentives other than financial incentives should be given, but when he came to his final remarks the main incentive which he gave was a rise from 8 per cent. to about 12 per cent. I should be most interested to explore these other incentives a little more, because I share the desire that these problems should be solved.
I was interested in the thoughtful contribution of the hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes). To me, this was a ray of hope for hon. and right hon. Members opposite. It showed a breadth of vision and some understanding and a grasp of the subject which I was very pleased to hear at that stage, because I was still boiling a little at the very complacent address of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister. I should like to reply to the hon. Gentleman's question whether the present policy inspires. I would say that the present policy does not inspire, and I agree with him that it results a good deal from conflicting pressures rather than from any conscious attempt to plan effectively. I very much welcomed the hon. Gentleman's support for the idea that one should try to get an overall picture of the problem and then plan intelligently rather than leave it to these various pressures.
The Minister gave us very much the mixture as before. Over a period of months, I have come to the conclusion that it is not only buildings which are made of reinforced concrete. The right hon. Gentleman also is absolutely inflexible and rigid, and it does not matter how 897 much information we give to him about the problem we get the same dusty answers time and time again. Today, he pointed out the number of houses which had been built. By all means, I think that he has a right to be proud of the number which have been built, but I suggest that the number in the Greater London area would have been vastly greater if those huge blocks of offices had not been built. They only create a further problem for the Minister of Transport and people coming into the centre of London who have to commute. I charge the Minister with absolute callousness to this problem of pockets of acute housing distress, which he has recognised.
The right hon. Gentleman has made it clear in the last two debates we have had on this subject that he is aware of the human problems which exist in the black spots. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway) that these black spots are not confined to London but cover a wider area. The argument Which the right hon. Gentleman continually brings forward—I think that this is the third time that I have heard it in the House—is that, in view of the overall position and the overall record, he cannot do anything for these black spots other than what is contained in Circular 45/60, with which I hope to deal in a moment. It is like saying in matters of health that, because 99 per cent. of the people are sighted, what can one do about the 1 per cent. who are blind? Or because most children are not spastics, enormous percentages and figures are produced to show that the majority of children are healthier than they have ever been. That does not alter the responsibility of the Minister to deal with the pockets where there is real hardship and real unhappiness because of his housing policy.
The Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary know that we have been conducting a fruitless correspondence for several months. I suppose that it is now said of me in the Ministry, "Here comes the second, or third, letter of the hon. Member for Willesden, West this week. They come pouring in." However, I have received very courteous replies, and in one case—I am extremely grateful for this—I was even able to get some help from the advice which the Minister gave 898 me. After we had had quite a long correspondence, he advised me to go to the Association of Land and Property Owners. A little pressure was brought to bear and in this one case, and one only, out of the many which I have referred to the right hon. Gentleman some understanding was arrived at between landlord and tenant.
One of the themes constantly running through the right hon. Gentleman's letters to me is, "Have you tried to get landlord and tenant together?" I informed the right hon. Gentleman that I had. Only last week I went to see a landlord and received the reply, "Will you please address your remarks to my solicitor?" It is a case of vacant possession or nothing. I have referred some of these cases to the Minister. In one case recently a house was taken over and the new landlord was interested in only one thing. The house is decontrolled and he wants a vacant possession because he wants to sell it again and with vacant possession it gives an enhanced profit.
The reason why my right hon. and hon. Friends have tabled this Amendment is, I suggest, that the right hon. Gentleman seems entirely to ignore the fact that we are not only talking of central London. We are not talking of the amenities of Park Lane or Mayfair. I hope that the House will forgive me if I constantly refer to my own constituency, but it is a typical case. We do not enjoy Shaftesbury Avenue in Willesden. We are an industrial area with a large factory population who wish to live close to where they work. London Transport has two large garages in the area. The Kariba Dam equipment is built in my constituency. We have a proud record of enormous and successful industrial activity. Even the Guinness concern had the good sense to be situated in my constituency, and some of the 5 million glasses of Guinness which, apparently, are drunk daily emerge from my constituency.
These people inevitably either have to make long journeys or to live in Willesden, which creates intolerable pressure on the housing situation. I should not need to reiterate this because I have invited the Minister often enough to cross the Edgware Road away from the heights of Hampstead and the problems of his Hampstead constituents and to take one Friday night—that is all 899 I ask—just one of my constituency advice bureaux. I do not want him to address a meeting but merely to hear the heartbreaks for himself, and, if he would be kind enough to do so, to advise me what I can do to help these people.
I should like to turn to the problem of land, which was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart). I have taken the trouble to look at some of the figures paid by my local authority. I have examples of prices of £2,375 and £3,588 per acre ten years ago. This year, there are figures of £11,611, £9,167 and £22,647 per acre, but I must qualify the last figure because it includes a very large sum for compensation for leasehold interest over a period of years. But this is a vast increase which, in any building, whether it be done by private enterprise or local authorities, places an excessive burden on the person who ultimately pays it, whether it is a council tenant, the tenant of a private landlord or an owner-occupier.
I suggest that it is ime that the Minister stopped watching the position and tried to take some action. One of the things for which we were hoping in the Gracious Speech was that the right hon. Gentleman would put forward some positive proposals to deal with what has become a speculative racket. In spite of my urgent criticism of him as being absolutely adament, inflexible and ungetatable in this problem, I must say how much it was appreciated that in the middle of his holiday he came back to listen to us but how disappointed we were that we got absolutely nothing from him and remained precisely where we were before he came back from his holiday.
At that meeting, the Minister said that he was concerned about the problem of intimidation. Since that time, I have referred three such cases to him. They are the classic kind of case in a constituency like mine, where 55 per cent. of the accommodation is shared. I was pleased that in his speech this afternoon the Minister referred to the number of people who live under one roof and indicated that he was watching the misery taking place in large multi-occupied houses, presumably with a view to action.
900 In that kind of situation, I could quote case after case where, because of the extreme housing shortage, a person has had to buy a house. He cannot get any other accommodation and he may be one of the 10,000 applicants on our waiting list. All other sources have failed and people are forced by hook or by crook to buy a house. They go to an estate agent, who explains that he has no completely vacant houses but can offer a house in which there is a controlled tenant, either downstairs or upstairs, the remainder being vacant. The cost of the house might be £2,600, but a controlled tenant is in part-occupation. The economic pressure on the new purchaser to get the tenant out is terrific, because he knows very well that if he can get rid of his tenant, with the large coloured population who cannot find housing to let in the area he can probably let each separate room for the price he is getting now for the complete apartment.
Fortunately, we have a marvellous organisation, the Willesden International Friendship Committee, which deals with this problem as it affects the coloured population. I have quoted cases to the Minister, and I suggest to him that during a time of acute shortage it is impossible to deal with them unless he takes specific action concerning intimidation. To take a case to the courts, as frequently happens, for both sides to be bound over to keep the peace, does not solve the economic pressure which causes this problem. The result is that when we send a team of two, a Jamaican and, perhaps, somebody from Willesden, to try to bring the two parties together, perhaps there has already been a summons for assualt and the case has been before the court and we have to try to heal the breach. The hon. Member for Willesden, East (Mr. Skeet) serves on the committee with me. We have both done our time at this kind of thing in going round to people and trying to clear up these problems. Our problem is always that we are too late. If only we could have got in before the friction started, we might have been able to restore harmony.
I cannot absolve the Ministry from responsibility. It surely must be able to do something to meet not just the odd case, not simply the three cases which I have referred to the Minister, but case after case. I could give the Minister 901 details of as many cases as he cares to suggest—twenty-five or fifty, for example. I am quite prepared to give him chapter and verse, but I selected three typical cases as being sufficient. To meet these problems, action from the Ministry is necessary; it cannot be permanently solved at local level.
During his speech this afternoon, the Minister deployed the argument that, in the face of the terrific housing shortage and the building up of pressure, he had taken effective action with Circular 45/60. That circular contains eight paragraphs. Seven are buckets of whitewash, whilst its last paragraph gives the local authorities information which they already possess. The sting of the circular is in the tail, but it is a very little sting for a huge problem.
I should like to quote from "Civic Review", published by my council, the view of a local authority concerning the circular. It states:It gives the council no powers which it has not already got and is not already using to the capacity of its resources to deal with housing needs. Commitments in the building and purchase of properties in the existing housing and redevelopment programme and reaccommodating 70 of the worst cases already produced by the Rent Act have stretched financial and physical resources to such a degree that it is not possible for them to embark upon large-scale purchase of properties whose values are being grossly inflated by the very Rent Act which gives rise to the circular.I apologise for the long quotation, but it puts the case in fewer words than I could do.
We have the urgent slum clearance programme, but, in addition, in Willesden we have already spent something like £120,000 to purchase forty-nine units of accommodation to deal with Rent Act evictions. Thirty-one families are under court orders. I should like to draw the Minister's attention to the statement made by Judge Leon in open court last week, when he asked people who were coming with eviction orders to see their Member of Parliament because he was inundated with the problem of eviction and he wanted advice about what to do. I sent to Judge Leon copies of HANSARD for the last two housing debates in which it was made clear that Members on both sides had brought the problem of evictions to the Minister's notice. I hope, however, that as a result of that 902 appeal in open court, the Ministry can find time to give Judge Leon some further advice on what he should do as a judge in trying to perform his duties in extremely difficult circumstances.
I should like the Minister's advice on the question of using the compulsory purchase order procedure. When I wrote to the Minister, he pointed out that he could not advise on specific cases because, in the ultimate, when the matter came to appeal he would be the person who had to decide between the two parties. I have details of the case of a block of forty-eight flats in which all the tenancies expire within the next twelve months. Three have already expired and the owners have been able to secure tenants for them at rents of five or six times the gross value which, in my view, is exorbitant. Does this mean that if the compulsory purchase order procedure is used the district valuer must accept the exorbitant level of rent which can be obtained for the three units of accommodation and must base the figure for the whole building on those three flats? If so, the fact that three have been let at an exorbitant rent will govern the price of the remaining forty-five. If so, the weapon of Circular 45/60 means absolutely nothing to the landlord, because he will get his money. Whether it is from the local authority or from another speculator is not important, because he will still get a highly inflated price.
What I should have liked to have seen in the Gracious Speech, in addition to the one crumb of comfort that the Minister has given us concerning repairs, was constructive proposals that would enable the right hon. Gentleman to take special and drastic action for these black spots and black areas and which would suggest measures to ensure that the problem was being tackled as effectively as various Acts of Parliament have tried to tackle the problem of pockets of persistent unemployment in a period when there is usually full employment. I should have liked to have seen the inspiration mentioned by the hon. Member for Ashford showing its form in direct and positive encouragement for housing associations, in which people might jointly get together to act mutually and to control their own destinies rather more than they do now. 903 I was grateful for the slight encouragement given by the Minister in reply to my Question on 25th October, when he pointed out that facilities for housing associations could be given, but this is not enough.
My area is fortunate in having two experimental places of that kind. One of them is Addy's Lawn, which has received national coverage in the Press, although one of the papers which gave it a good write-up is no longer in existence. I cannot put the blame for that on to Addy's Lawn—other events took care of the News Chronicle. We have two of these experimental places, Addy's Lawn and Rutland Park, whereby the tenants join together to own and control their own co-operative society, which is their own apartments where they live. The local authority advances up to 95 per cent. of the mortgage under the arrangement put forward by the housing association.
Why is it not possible for the Minister of Housing to issue a circular to local authorities drawing attention to Sections 119, 120, 121 and 124 of the 1957 Housing Act and urging them to expand this field of help, which is a little bit off the beaten track, between the three categories which we usually get and which could give to a community a large sense of purpose if it felt that it had a series of these organic developments of housing of the people, owning and participating in the management and control of their own accommodation? Why cannot the Minister look at the possibility of making building societies act as promoters of co-operatives? He has given the building societies carte blanche to go ahead with the lending programme over the past few years, so why does he not say that as a quid pro quo he expects them to go in for promotional activity to show how people can do this kind of thing, in the same way as the housing associations in Stockholm and elsewhere in Scandinavia have done such a marvellous job for their communities? It is interesting to note that in Norway and Sweden 20 per cent. of the housing is co-operatively owned and controlled. They have expanded this system of mutually-owned accommodation.
If the exhortations of the Minister to the local authorities do not produce the goods, if his exhortations to the building 904 societies do not in this instance bring them on to the side of the angels, perhaps he will have a little more inspiration to find other ways to assist this development. I am saying this in a constructive sense, because I believe there is no great difference of principle between two sides of the House on this matter. It is a question of the amount of emphasis and the amount of strength each side gives to it.
I return to the question of security of tenure, which was brought forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham. I would ask the Minister once more to look, in addition to those arguments which have been deployed, at where there is a real social need for the type of exchange I have mentioned, the moving from upstairs to downstairs, the personal conflicts which may develop, and all the human problems of the kind in which citizens advice bureaux can do so much. For instance, there may be a person with coronary thrombosis or angina living upstairs and it is necessary for his health that he should move downstairs but cannot do so because the moment he does so his rent will be trebled, the rent in his upstairs home being that of a controlled tenancy.
I referred one or two cases of this kind to the Minister and he pointed out that there was a possibility that this could be done, but he was careful in the last paragraph to say that before this was undertaken he would strongly advise the persons concerned to take legal advice. I want the Minister to have a real understanding of the position of these people I am talking about tonight. They are not the kind of people who have a solicitor, and it scares them stiff to think that they must get legal advice. Let us have it made explicitly clear by the Minister so that there can be no misunderstanding by any person, that if for health or social reasons it becomes vitally important for a tenant to change his home, he can do so without having in consequence the gross imposition of increased rent.
I appeal once more to the Minister that he should have a special look at the negotiations which have gone on for a new town for Middlesex. It seems as though in this matter the buck is passed between the Ministry and the county council and from the county council back to the Ministry. Something further 905 needs to be done to cut through the knot and to get some action taken. I will not go over the case, because the right hon. Gentleman knows it only too well. He mentioned the London County Council. I can assure him that in Middlesex we are just as hard pushed, and we, too, require urgent action to be taken.
The point has been made, and I will only just emphasise it, that special consideration should be given to young couples trying to buy their own homes. Both sides of the House share, I think, in appreciating the need to do something special in this respect. I wrote a long letter of two pages to the Minister and he replied to me in one of similar length, saying he could not interference with the financial position of the country to give cheap money to young couples trying to buy houses, young couples just starting out on their married life. I suggest that the Minister should bring his influence to bear on his colleagues in the Cabinet to have a look at this problem as a matter of national policy, that the constant fluctuations in interest rates play ducks and drakes with the paying off of mortgages and make it impossible for young people starting out on married life to do so with any feeling of security.
In my area, if I may refer to it again, in 1955 to 1956 with a comparatively low Bank Rate there were 217 applications for loans by young couples starting to buy their own homes, and that involved £250,000. When we had a 7 per cent. Bank Rate in 1957 and 1958 that became only six loans, with a total of £1,318 only. This has an important bearing on the development of a property-owning democracy. There is not likely to be a great deal of increase in it when a couple have to spend an ultimate £6,500 for what should have been £2,000.
I have been speaking very much on a constituency basis, and I need not really apologise to the House for that, for a I am pleading for the people I know. These people bring me their troubles on Friday nights, or take to the town hall. Our housing manager has 9,000 interviews a year to deal with in cases of this kind. Ours is a multi-racial community. All that my people ask is that they have enough living space to live in peace with their neighbours, a roof over their heads under which to build the family life they want, and, perhaps, a small garden where 906 the children can play safely. Let the Government take drastic steps to provide these elementary rights. If not, let them get out.
§ 7.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Victor Goodhew (St. Albans)
I am sure that the hon. Member for Willesden, West (Mr. Pavitt) will not expect me to answer the many points he raised in his speech. He seemed to me to direct questions to my right hon. Friend. Suffice it to say that I have great sympathy with him in some of the rather special social problems he mentioned arising out of shared accommodation in Willesden, having done rather similar work in north Paddington myself. I hope he may think that the rather special point I want to put has a direct bearing on the overall housing position.
I am, like my right hon. Friend, somewhat surprised at the party opposite moving this Amendment tonight, and I cannot help wondering if this is another manifestation of the masochistic tendencies they seem to have developed of late, because, after all, though they may feel they can speak with a united voice on this subject, they must surely recognise that they are really liable to be shot at for their own abysmal failure on this very subject of housing. When I talk about their abysmal failure I am not just referring to their failure to build houses when they had the chance, though, goodness knows, that was bad enough, nor am I referring to their failure, through want of political courage, to tackle rent control. I am also referring to the failure of their party today to help to improve the overall housing position where indeed they have the power to do so, and I refer, of course, to the local authorities of which they have control up and down the country.
A fact which hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite constantly refuse to face is that the rent policy of the local housing authorities has a very direct bearing on the amount of accommodation which is available to the lower income groups. So long as we have the privileged class of people who are enjoying subsidised accommodation regardless of their means, those people are certainly not going to vacate that accommodation to go into the open market to buy or rent another house. So, whilst the Government have succeeded in restoring a good 907 deal of mobility into housing by means of decontrol, we are prevented from further progress by the refusal of certain local authorities to adopt some form of rent rebate or differential rent scheme.
§ Mr. Goodhew
If the hon. Member will be patient, I hope to come to that point.
I was about to say that this is a very important factor which hon. Members opposite should not blink from, a very important factor in the provision of housing in London, in particular, today, which they have been deploring. As an example, I think we can look at the position in London to see what is happening.
There are 28 Metropolitan boroughs, and of those 16 have a rent rebate or differential rent scheme, but the 12 which do not are all Labour-controlled. Let us have a look at the L.C.C., upon which I myself serve. This Labour-controlled, bureaucratic, monolithic giant, whose smug satisfaction with its own effectiveness is not shared by the Royal Commission which has just reported, this body constantly refuses to change from its policy of fixed rents, and what is the effect of this? This is where I come to the point raised by the hon. Member for Shoreditch and Finsbury (Mr. Cliffe). There are hundreds, indeed thousands, of people living in flats and houses belonging to the L.C.C, of which there are some 200,000, who are in fact well able to afford to buy a house of their own or to rent one in the open market.
§ Mr. Goodhew
I am afraid that I would not know about that, because I have not had a look at the list of tenancies lately.
§ Mr. Stewart
That information was given in answer to a question in the L.C.C. when, apparently, the hon. Gentleman was not present.
§ Mr. Goodhew
I am sure that the hon. Member will appreciate the difficulty of 908 having one foot on each side of the river Thames on certain afternoons, such as this.
If these people to whom I have just referred had to pay a true, unsubsidised economic rent, and I mean completely unsubsidised, or even the market rent, we should find that many of them would leave the council's property, would prefer not to live in it, and would find properties in the open market.
§ Mr. Goodhew
They could buy houses in St. Albans. There are some very fine ones there. The houses which they would vacate would then be available for the hard core of hardship cases about which hon. Members opposite are so vociferous this afternoon. It seems to me that, bad enough as it is that people should be living in this subsidised accommodation when they could well afford to look after themselves, subsidised by their fellow ratepayers and taxpayers regardless of their means, when many of those who are subsidising them are very often much less well off and living in much less comfortable accommodation, but, worse still—
§ Mr. Pavitt
Would the hon. Gentleman agree that the amount of the subsidies are insignificant when compared with those which, as indicated by my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart), have accrued to many property companies, as a result of the Rent Act, in the form of a capital appreciation, and that the exchanges of ownership of property, such as we have seen at Dolphin Square, have given a subsidy of millions of pounds to take-over speculators and companies which exist not to act as landlords but to make profits?
§ Mr. Goodhew
That is another point entirely. The point I am making is that this is public money being raised from one section of the community and given to another, and that very often it is coming from those who cannot afford it and being given to those who can.
I repeat that in addition to this, this is upsetting and frustrating the whole object of local authority housing, and will show why. I draw attention once again to the L.C.C. Because of the increase in building costs since the war, the rents of post-war properties are much higher than the rents of pre-war proper- 909 ties. This means that those who are able to take the tenancies of these flats and houses are the better-off people on the waiting list of the L.C.C., and the poorer people who really need help are having to wait for someone in the old property to die before they can get a vacancy. I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that he should drive round some of these L.C.C. houses, as I have done when not sitting in this Chamber, and see the evidence of the wealth of those living there on the subsidy provided by their fellows.
In other words, we have a state of affairs in which, since the war in the case of authorities like the L.C.C., in the main the people now being housed are the people who need housing least and the people who are low on the waiting list are those who need help most. I say to hon. Members opposite that, if there is still hardship suffered by Londoners over their housing today, it is not my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government who is to blame. It is the friends of hon. Members opposite who sit on the other side of the river and who persist in pursuing their perverse and pig-headed policy of fixed rents. If hon. Members opposite are really concerned, as I am sure they are, about the sufferings of people in London and in other areas of this sort, where there is pressure for housing, let them put some pressure on their own colleagues who sit on local authorities up and down the country and persuade them to introduce these rent rebate or differential rent schemes.
I would go further and say that I do not think that this House should stand by and watch money raised by the Exchequer being squandered on people who do not really need it. There is a strong feeling in the country that something should be done by the Government—and this applies to all sections of the community—to see that the money raised by taxes and rates is given to those who really need help and not to those who do not; in other words, to restore some justice and reality into the field of local authority housing once more.
I deplore most strongly the absence of any mention in the Gracious Speech of some such Measure to compel local authorities to adopt a standard form of rent rebate scheme which would bring fairness and justice to all council 910 tenants, and also produce greater mobility in council housing estates. While I shall vote against the Amendment on the Order Paper, I hope that my right hon. Friend the Minister will have another look at this matter and see whether he and his colleagues cannot step in and act where the local authorities have failed to restore justice and reality to housing.
§ 7.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Skeffington (Hayes and Harlington)
I shall hope to pick up some of the points made by the hon. Member for St. Albans (Mr. Goodhew) in the course of my own speech, but I must say first of all that he seems to me, as a new member of the L.C.C., to show a great lack of knowledge of the general housing policy of that authority. I was there for some years, and I know that nobody is housed within the council's area unless they can show a proved housing need. With the slum clearance programme, and the fact that there is so little land left in the council's area, that housing need has to be a very urgent one indeed.
§ Mr. Skeffington
I will give way presently, but I have hardly started my speech yet. [Interruption.] I will give way to the hon. Gentleman, but if I get a lot of barracking, I will not give way at all. I will give way to the hon. Gentleman when I have got some way with my speech.
If the hon. Gentleman had been there a bit longer, he would have known that because of the great variety of different types of houses built in several periods, it is generally possible to fit a tenant into a home in accordance with his income. With so many houses, the L.C.C. has been able to offer a range of rents, and a very considerable number of tenants now, including the four Conservative Members of Parliament, are, in fact, paying pretty nearly or entirely the economic rents. A good deal of what the hon. Gentleman has said is not borne out by the facts.
§ Mr. Goodhew
The hon. Member is misrepresenting me. The point I was making was that the people who needed housing most were not being housed. Surely the hon. Gentleman will agree 911 that the people who most need the help of the local authorities with subsidised housing are the people of the lower income brackets who cannot afford to go into the private market. It is useless for him to say that because the L.C.C. is housing people who may be short of accommodation, that is the same as housing those who cannot afford to go into the open market, as others could.
§ Mr. Skeffington
I do not think the hon. Gentleman has controverted anything I have said. The fact is that no one is accepted on the list, let alone housed, without a very convincing housing need. There are the slum clearance cases and very often cases of illness, like tuberculosis, which have to be helped. Many of these people are paying an economic rent, as indeed are the four Conservative Members of Parliament. If the hon. Gentleman wants to prune L.C.C. expenditure, he might start by talking to some of his colleagues who occupy council houses at present.
I think that the speech of the hon. Gentleman and that of the Minister, following the speech of his Parliamentary Secretary last March, reveal once again not only the massive complacency of the Government about this problem, but an almost complete disregard of those, of whom there are hundreds of thousands, whose only hope of a better home is, in fact, the local authority.
The Minister has confirmed in his speech his reputation of being one of the most doctrinaire of all Ministers. The two points that he makes always are "Away with controls" and "On the commercial freedom of the market". This means, and must mean in housing, where accommodation is limited because of lack of land, freedom for the property-owner and the landlord but not for the tenant.
The right hon. Gentleman—and I think that this is also true of the Parliamentary Secretary—seem always to ignore all the evidence day after day in the local and national Press, and especially the evidence that recently appeared in the lamented and now deceased Star of the miseries which the Minister's own doctrinaire 1957 Act has conferred on hundreds of thousands of people. If it is thought that the Star was too radical and emotional a newspaper perhaps I 912 may quote the Estates Gazette which cannot be accused of that affront in relation to tenants. On 13th August this year this paper, which is the property-owners' journal, said:We say it is necessary for people to realise that there is no free market in London; the dice are heavily loaded in the owner's favour. Put the screw on a tenant and what can he do but migrate? He has no hope of getting anywhere to live … In such a case there is no use talking about the free market rent as there would be could the owner point to some empty property in the district.This situation was very well put in the memorandum sent by the tenants of Dolphin Square to the Minister and to most Members of Parliament.
The memorandum shows the basic difference between the sort of speech just made by the hon. Member for St. Albans and the views of my hon. Friends and myself. The memorandum said:The homes of British families were surely never intended to become commodities from which speculators could make inordinate profits … The 1957 Rent Act was allegedly passed on the idea that in a free market the supply of accommodation would prove equal to the demand. This has proved a complete failure so far as London and the other big cities are concerned.That again is the sort of evidence and point of view, quite apart from the evidence of every one of us, that we think the Minister and certainly the Home Secretary, in replying to the debate, ought to take into account.
We are entitled to state our attitude to the problem. All history proves that it is impossible for private profit to provide decent homes at reasonable rents for large numbers of people. It is not physically possible. As far as we can go back with certainty into history the lot of the average tenant in our country has been a very poor one indeed. Long before there were any Rent Acts millions of people lived in inconvenient, ill-designed, sometimes damp and often insanitary accommodation. I know that among Conservatives the great alibi has always been that the private landlord could never improve the property because his rent was limited by rent control. But for years before there was any rent control this system never provided decent housing for a great number of people.
I ask hon. Members who are really interested that, instead of making an 913 entirely doctrinaire speech like that of the hon. Member for St. Albans, they should examine the history of this matter. They should read the Report of the Royal Commission on the Housing of the Working Classes in 1884 which is quite relevant to our problem today, as I shall show. The Commission, which spent a long time in investigating housing conditions in London and other great cities said:The old houses are rotten from neglect. The new houses are rotten from the beginning.The Report, which had as its signatories not only the then Prince of Wales but also Cardinal Manning, went on to make very acid comments about jerrybuilding and said:Houses for the working class were built from the shoddiest of materials and with the poorest workmanship.It is impossible to blame rent control for the condition of those houses in 1884. From this classical evidence and many other instances I form the view that large numbers of people, if they are to pay a rent which is not extortionate, cannot be housed decently under a private enterprise housing system. The evidence of most European countries is the same.
As the Minister has said, we now have 4½ million old houses. Over 4 million of them are over 65 years old, nearly 2 million are over 100 years old and, for all the property built before rent control, we have a condition today in which 6 million families have no separate bathroom, 3 million have no separate W.C., and 2 million have no separate kitchen. These are figures obtained in the 1951 census. This is an example of the glories of private enterprise in housing before the rent control.
If hon. Members want to take their studies a little further they should read the Ridley Report on Rent Control. They will find that even when a 25 per cent. increase was given to landlords after the First World War for improving their property, quite apart from 15 per cent. given to them to improve their incomes, the Ridley Committee said that there was very considerale evidence that many landlords regarded the 25 per cent. as an addition to their income not to be spent for the purpose of repairs.
On that evidence and on that basis, our attitude must be fundamentally 914 different from that expressed today by hon. Members opposite in the debate. It cannot be based on doctrinaire theories of setting the market free; it must be based on history. Since 1951 we have seen the conception of freeing the market carried to such an extreme that the possibilities now of providing decent homes for numbers of small-income people are almost nil unless the Government change their policies.
A great deal of the mischief in Government policy stems from the statement which I quoted on a previous occasion and which I shall quote very briefly now. It was made when the then Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, the present Minister of Health, was introducing the Rent Act on 21st November, 1956. He said:… we are now within sight of, and should in 12 months' time or so be level with, an equation of the overall supply and demand for homes."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st November, 1956; Vol. 560, c. 1760.]If there ever was a more ridiculous forecast I have yet to hear of it. Today the Minister, in talking about the need for new houses of one type or another, could no longer stand on that estimate, but that prognostication, that the number of houses was almost equal to the demand for them, was at that time the justification for the 1957 Rent Act.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Johnson Smith (Holborn and St. Pancras, South)
I was interested to hear the hon. Member quoting some Minister. I did not catch whether he was quoting the Parliamentary Secretary or the late Mr. Aneurin Bevan, who made a similar statement, I believe, round about 1951.
§ Mr. Skeffington
That was very clever of the hon. Member, but if he is going to make that kind of remark I shall not give way again. I was quoting a statement made in 1956 by the present Minister of Health, who at that time was Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, when he introduced the Second Reading of what is now the Rent Act. The forecast that the supply of houses would within twelve months equal the demand was used as a justification for the Rent Act. It has been one of the most grotesque forecasts ever made.
915 Let us look at the position. There are 4½ million houses more than 65 years old, to which I have referred. There are 6 million families without a bathroom. There are those still on the waiting lists. The Ministry of Housing and Local Government never knows how many there are on the waiting lists. For some reason, that figure is quite beyond the Ministry. However, the National Housing and Town Planning Institute, as a result of a questionnaire which it circulated last year to more than 500 authorities, was led to believe that there were on the local authority waiting lists about 1½ million people. It classed at least 500,000 of those cases as urgent. I think we ought at least to be considering the 500,000 if not the other million. There is the estimated expansion in the population of England and Wales, which was touched upon by the Minister today. By 1975 the population is likely to have increased by 3 million.
In those categories we have a potential demand for decent housing which will mean that we shall want millions of new homes. There are also the 850,000 houses which were statutorily declared as slums in 1955. Incidentally, the Minister took great credit this afternoon for the 1955 housing drive. We are all glad to see the slums disappearing, but the fact is that at the end of the year we shall be about one-third short of the total which he forecast would be cleared. Whatever may be the cause, it is clear that, with the increasing population, with the old houses and with those in desperate need on the waiting lists, to say in 1956 as a justification for setting the market free and holding the tenants up to ransom that we had enough houses has been proved to be utterly untrue.
What has been the Government's policy? They have hit the local authorities as hard as they can. Reference was made this afternoon to interest rates and the withdrawal of general subsidies. I shall give two examples of what this has meant. The average contract price for building a three-bedroomed council house has increased since the time the Labour Government left office by about £100, not a very significant increase, but the Government's high interest rates—in August this year the rate was as high as 6⅛ per cent.—mean that for precisely the 916 same type of house the local authority and the ratepayer now have to pay £2,000 more. Not a single tile, floorboard or brick has been added, but there is £2,000 extra on account of the increased interest payments alone. This is a crazy way to try to get, houses. If the whole of this increase is passed on to the tenant, it means that he must pay 15s. a week more over the 60 years just to cover the additional £2,000 in interest charges.
There is another point which is forgotten by hon. Members like the hon. Member for St. Albans, that in paying, as many tenants are doing, very near the economic rent, they are doing it in respect of a property which will never be their own. Whatever the owner-occupier is paying he will at least eventually own the house, or his children will. But this is never so in the case of the local authority tenant, and, therefore, he is surely entitled to some consideration on this ground.
It is no wonder that 500 local authorities have stopped council house building. This is not because there is no demand. There are very few places where one ought not to provide very much better housing and housing standards. Owing to the Government's financial policy we have now reached the astonishing point where local authorities are paying back to the Public Works Loan Board £170 million a year more than it is borrowing. This was the organisation which was created to help local authorities to finance housing and for other purposes.
I now turn to owner-occupation. I understand that this is the Tory Party's great sovereign remedy for all our housing evils. I am sure that the Parliamentary Secretary would agree that it is at any rate one of their remedies. The difference in the interest rates between 1951 and 1959 on £2,000 borrowed for twenty-five years for a mortgage has added about 10s. a week to what the owner-occupier has to pay at an interest rate of 5¾ per cent.—increased from 4 per cent. Some have to pay more. Why it should be felt that owner-occupiers ought to thank the Conservative Government I certainly do not know.
I do not believe that the owner-occupation solution applies to the problem about which the hon. Member for St. Albans was talking. There are in 917 this country about 10 million incomes of less than £500 a year. When one has an income down at that level it is almost impossible to obtain a mortgage—impossible to find the deposit or impossible to make the payments. There was a letter in the Daily Herald on 13th July which said:When we get married, my fiance and I will have saved nearly £375, and have a joint income of about £20 a week. I thought that we should take out a mortgage on a house, even after spending £175 on furniture. But we find that building societies will not take a wife's earnings into account. And a borrower must be able to pay a month's mortgage instalment out of a week's earnings.That is the sort of figure which many, though perhaps not all, building societies require. Thus, it is useless to say to large numbers of people who come to see me, "Go and buy a house", because they have not the deposit to put down, and if their income is within the category to which I have referred they just will not be considered for a mortgage. In fact, there are fewer and fewer people in that income group who will be considered for a mortgage because of the greatly increasing price of land itself. This is becoming a bigger and bigger factor in buying a house. It has been deliberately created by the Town and Country Planning Act, 1959. Consequently, many desperate cases of people needing houses cannot be solved by buying a house.
§ Mr. Skeffington
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman was about to refer to what I am going to say. I should like to continue with this point because it forms part of my speech.
Equally, it is sometimes said that one can go to a local authority and obtain a 100 per cent. mortgage. But one only gets 100 per cent. if one is lucky. There are not many local authorities which will give one 100 per cent. anyway, and if one does get 100 per cent., it is on the value of the house to the authority and not on the market value, and that has been deliberately and grossly inflated by the 1959 Act. So there is no solution there.
§ Mr. Goodhew
The hon. Gentleman is making the exact point that I was making. The people earning £500 or less a year about whom he is talking are the 918 very people I want to see housed by the local authorities. There are others, he will find—on the London County Council the estimate has been given of one in ten—who are earning £20 a week or more—£1,000 a year. It is those people whom I want to see paying the full rent so that the subsidy can go to the benefit of the people earning £500 a year or less.
§ Mr. Skeffington
If the hon. Gentleman wants, as I do, to see these people having an opportunity of being housed by local authorities, I hope he will vote for the Amendment and against his Government who have made it so difficult for the local authorities to build and have caused 500 of them to stop doing it.
In the light of the high interest rates, the lack of housing subsidies and the difficulties that ordinary people encounter in being housed, what is one to do with the sort of letter that I have here, which I quote as a concrete example:Dear Mr. Skeffington, I am writing to you as my last hope.This is how letters from desperate cases always start. They have already been to the local authorities and to the house agents and have put up postcard advertisements in local shops. [Interruption.] Apparently, an hon. Gentleman opposite thinks it is frightfully funny for a family to be in such desperate need. Perhaps he will not laugh so much when I have finished the letter. This letter shows that this poor woman has been driven almost mad in trying to find somewhere to live. She has been pestering everybody she can, including the local authority, and advertising.
The letter goes on:Can you help me? For the second time in four months I again find myself homeless … I am a happily married woman with two lovely children, one aged eighteen months and the other five months …. I will not bore you by going into details, but Sunday found us out in the street. We went to Hayes Police Station, where we were taken to a hostel …. That was myself and two babies; my husband slept rough …. The welfare there could not find a place for us all together, so this is how we are situated. Myself and my eldest son are in this hotel, and my baby"—remember the baby is five months old—is in a baby's home at Twickenham, and my husband is fending for himself. My heart is breaking. I want my baby with me—he is so young—and also I love my husband very 919 much and want to be with him always, not just for weeks in rooms until we are told to go again. I cannot even see him here often because it costs nearly 10s. a time to visit me …. My husband is going to pieces as well as me. We do not ask for much, just that we can all be together.What answer can I give after hearing the Minister's speech? It was a clever debating speech giving an account of what the Labour Government did immediately after the dislocations of war. What sort of message can I pass on to the writer of the letter?
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Sir Keith Joseph)
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will be good enough to send the case to me in case there is anything that can be done.
§ Mr. Skeffington
I will take advantage of that offer. I have already raised the matter with the local authority. The difficulty in this case is that the woman has not been long enough in the district, but I will be glad to take up the Minister's offer.
I quoted that letter as being typical of the situation in which are hundreds of thousands of people with small incomes, some of whom had to move to find work and whose only hope is help from the local authority. That is why the Government's policy of freeing the market and slowing down local authority building is so disastrous.
I want now to refer to the general rent policy. When we had our interesting debate on 17th March the Parliamentary Secretary said:For those people with a steady, above-average income, there are plenty of alternatives. I do not think that hon. Members opposite would deny that. These people can buy a new or old house, if not at home then nearby. They can rent the less cheap houses that are to let.Some hon. Members then asked where. The Parliamentary Secretary continued:I could have brought for the benefit of the hon. Lady newspapers filled with advertisements for houses to let.Hon. Members asked where? The Parliamentary Secretary replied:I am speaking of people with above-average incomes, and of houses that are not the cheapest. These people can also join in self-help housing associations …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Thursday, 17th March, 1960; Vol. 619, c. 1503.]920 That is about all they can do. But the prognostication, like the one made by his predecessor, not after three years, but after six months, seems to have been completely falsified.
The Parliamentary Secretary will have seen the preliminary survey made by the Clare and Downing Court Tenants' Association. The report gives instances where rents have increased by 190 per cent. in Bloomsbury since the passing of the Rent Act; in Earls Court, by 250 per cent.; in Chelsea by 100 per cent.; in Fulham by 120 per cent.; in Sutton by 120 per cent., and in Hackney by 220 per cent.
There was also the series of examples to which I have already referred and which appeared in various editions of the Star. On 12th August it was reported that four-roomed flats on which the rent was £200 prior to the Rent Act were now to be let at £600. The rent on a five-roomed flat which before the Rent Act was £265 is now £730, with repairs. The rent on a four-roomed flat which was £275 before the Rent Act is now between £600 and £700, with rates. Indeed, the category to which the Parliamentary Secretary referred, the better off tenant, seems to have faired even worse than the hon. Gentleman forecast.
On 24th October the Evening Standard in an article entitled "London Rents" asked:Can the crazy spiral go higher?The writer mentioned a couple with £400 a year to spend on rent. That is a good deal more than most of my constituents have available for rent. The writer said to an estate agent "What will happen?" He was told: "If you had £400 a year to spend you would get nothing but black looks, or perhaps faintly embarrassed apologies from agents today, unless you also had enough money to pay a formidable premium. The agent continued: "It is hopeless at that price. We could not even offer a onebedroomed flat under £500 a year without a steep premium."
I quote that because if the Minister comes to the House and tells us that there is no difficulty in finding accommodation for that category of person, and we find in a few months that that very sort of person is having the greatest diffi- 921 culty, it shows how wrong the Minister was when he made his forecast.
There was an article in that same paper the next day which talked about a house in the less fashionable end of Portobello Road being sold for £8,000. What sort of information can the country have on which to form a judgment when the hon. Gentleman has been so grotesquely out in his forecast.
§ Sir K. Joseph
The hon. Gentleman has attacked my forecast. It would be only fair to say that that article referred to Chelsea.
§ Mr. Skeffington
That may be so, but the hon. Gentleman, when he spoke on 17th March, was referring to tenants who were better off.
The article said:This is the sort of case where before the war a young married couple of the professional type could hope to find accommodation.The fact is that they cannot do so nowadays. As the Estate Gazette says in its editorial, the only thing to do is to emigrate. That is a poor sort of social policy, even for professional people who, I would have thought, were as deserving of a home as much as anybody else.
People are beginning to find it difficult to understand the theory about freeing the market and allowing rents to rise. We know what has happened. The better off tenants and the less well off tenants have difficulty; it is only the property owners who always come off so well.
I mentioned a case the other day where property owners of working-class dwellings in Battersea increased their profits from £1,200 before the Rent Act to £63,000 after the Act was passed. That was for so-called working class dwellings. One can find examples of these increased profits in the property papers.
Let me give one or two examples to show that these are not mere words but are backed by facts. If one considers the Raglan Property Trust, its profit before the Rent Act was £58,000. It is now £103,000. The chairman reports:Following the enactment of the Rent Act there has been a substantial increase in the company's rent income.922 Another example is London County Freehold and Leasehold. Profits before the Rent Act amounted to £271,000. After the Rent Act the profits rose to £582,000. The chairman, Mr. Thomas Cullen, said:Under the terms of new agreements the income from our existing properties will be substantially increased for the current year and still further increased for the year to March 1962.Next consider the Property Holding and Investment Trust. Profits before the Rent Act were £298,000. They are now £453,000. The chairman, Mr. Bullock, said:Your directors look forward with confidence to the future.I think that he was there speaking with justifiable confidence.
The chairman of the Regis Property Company said:The increases in income from rents have by no means come to an end and it is expected that there will be further expansion over the next few years.Next there is the Alliance Property Company whose profits before the Rent Act were £171,000. They have now risen to £758,000. This is the biggest increase that I have discovered. Its chairman, Major Webb, was dissatisfied. He said that he did not like the Government pledge not to further decontrol properties in the lifetime of Parliament. He continued:This in my view was a very serious error of judgment.I suppose that if one is in that position it is an error of judgment.
I think that when ordinary people come to understand these facts they will begin to wonder why it is that very rich tenants can be found accommodation while other tenants in London and other big cities have the greatest difficulty in finding somewhere to live. They cannot have a general housing subsidy. They have to pay high interest rates. The only people who seem to be getting a substantial subsidy today are those who are able, through the National Assistance Board, to get a rent allowance which goes to subsidise the landlords. There are no subsidies for local authorities, but nearly £1 million is paid to private landlords by the National Assistance Board by way of rent payments. That is a travesty of social policy, and I hope that the people of this country will wake up to it.
§ 7.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Dudley Smith (Brentford and Chiswick)
The hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington) usually makes some valuable and interesting points in his speeches, but tonight I think that he has been a little off key and has exaggerated the whole housing problem. I shall devote my speech to the very narrow question of rents. I am affected by the problem in my constituency, but I have found that on the whole, although it is admittedly a problem—and everyone will subscribe to that view—it has been exaggerated by hon. Members opposite for political purposes. I make it clear that sympathy and concern with people who have cases of hardship is not a monopoly of those on the Labour Party benches. Considerable concern is also felt on this side of the House by many hon. Members who have done a great deal to try to help those people affected.
I venture to speak briefly in this debate because I feel that I know as much about this problem as any hon. Member opposite who lives in the London or Greater London area. There is more rented property in my constituency of Brentford and Chiswick, mostly of the flat variety, than any other part of London, with the possible exception of Hampstead, which, of course, is represented by my right hon. Friend. I have been closely in touch with developments over this problem as they have arisen with the ending of three-year agreements over the past few months. I subscribe to the view that it is peculiarly a problem relevant to London. There may be patches in different parts of the country, but the main trouble is here in the middle of London and its environs, and it is that which has to be put into perspective.
When we debated this question towards the end of the last Session, the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish)—and I am sorry that he is not in his place, as I had imagined he would be—said that he had a file of 10,000 cases of complaints of hardship resulting from the Rent Act. I know that the hon. Member has campaigned assiduously for his party throughout the whole of the Summer Recess, that he has advertised extensively in the area newspapers of London and Middlesex and has issued daily communications to the Press during 924 that time over what he has called his "war" on the Minister of Housing and Local Government.
It is obvious that advertising pays, because the hon. Member has had a very good response. I do not doubt for a moment that he is genuine with his figure of 10,000. I imagine that there probably are 10,000 letters of complaint, but I submit that many of them are obviously not cases of hardship in the accepted sense of that word. I say that because I am well acquainted with this rent problem and I have had many comparable complaints to deal with among the cases which I have encountered. Many of them on close investigation have proved not to be cases of real hardship. There have admittedly been unpleasant increases, but they have not been cases of hardship when one has got down to brass tacks.
I have kept a meticulous check over the last few months and I have a history of very case, on each of which I have written to my right hon. Friend or my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary. To date, the total number of hardship cases is 64, which is not so many in a population of more than 40,000 for a Greater London borough. I am quite prepared to admit that there may well be more and that there may be people who have not contacted me, but I have made it known throughout the area that I am prepared to help people who are affected and I have asked everyone concerned to come forward.
I have found the incidence of this problem decidedly patchy, even within my own area, and that is obviously the situation throughout the rest of the London area. There is a small minority of people with fixed and restricted incomes who have obviously found themselves in a difficulty, and I have had one or two cases of real hardship which present genuine difficulties.
There is one small suggestion which I want to make on that score. It is that it should be more widely known to those exceptional cases, often elderly people, that they can have rent subsidies—subsidies paid by the National Assistance authorities to help them to meet rent increases. I hope that I shall not be taken up on that point, by hon. Members opposite, because it has been argued many times 925 that to do that is to subsidise landlords. But it must be remembered that the Government are getting much more money from landlords as a result of rent rises because the landlords have to pay more under Schedule A and in Profits Tax, so the Exchequer is benefiting.
One instance where I found a good deal of trouble concerned a block of 20 or 30 flats where the landlords were, I thought, acting unfairly. I wrote to the local council suggesting that it should consider imposing a compulsory purchase order. The council is now considering that, and I have not yet had a decision, but I believe they have been in touch with the landlords and have extracted certain promises from them. I am sure that other threats of compulsory purchase orders have had a salutory effect in bringing a minority of unscrupulous landlords to heel.
The Minister has been often accused of being the landlords' friend, and the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) reiterated that claim this afternoon. However, it is worth pointing out that bad landlords do not take kindly to his idea of a compulsory purchase order, and when councils start to threaten to impose such orders the threat certainly has its effect. It is also the case that landlords are not always entirely in favour of my right hon. Friend, as revealed by a circular issued by the National Federation of Property Owners. I must make it clear that I do not link bad landlords and the National Federation of Property Owners, but the Federation recently sent a circular to most hon. Members criticising my right hon. Friend for considering using compulsory purchase orders. I quote a passage from the circular:It is difficult to see what benefit will be derived from the further municipalisation of rented property, which the Minister in a recent circular encouraged local authorities to undertake by compulsorily purchasing those properties in respect of which they think that 'exorbitant' rents are being demanded …. It is scarcely a satisfactory solution to reintroduce control limits for the private landlord fixed, not by Statute, but by a local authority supervised by the Minister; and, if the limits are not observed, to municipalise the building in question and thus remove the control again.I do not subscribe to that, but I suppose that one could make out a case for their view. It shows that the National Federation of Property Owners, which is a very big organisation and representative of a 926 large number of landlords, does not entirely agree with my right hon. Friend.
In the long run, it is no solution to go back on the Rent Act in any way and to reintroduce controls. Even the Daily Mirror, which is never an advocate of the Conservative cause, made that point in a leading article on the "Rent Threat" a few weeks ago. Admittedly it was attacking my right hon. Friend, but it said:It is a waste of time to talk about repealing the Tory Rent Act, which decontrolled hundreds of thousands of houses. Some reform of the rents structure was plainly essential.I must, in fairness, say that the article goes on to state that the Minister is acting too harshly.
It would be a retrograde step to go back on the Rent Act at this stage. Many of the people who have approached me did so quite understandably after hearing rumours of steep rent rises. In most cases there were rises in their rents, but on investigation many of the rumours proved to be exaggerated. In some instances, where the demand was more than expected, I myself, like many other hon. Members, have been able to negotiate slightly better terms for the tenants. In other cases, the tenants themselves have negotiated their own new terms.
I am convinced that before any action is taken it is incumbent upon any tenant to try to establish a meeting point with the landlord. There will obviously be landlords who will turn down anything out of hand, and we have heard today of deplorable cases where the idea has been purely to evict people and re-let the property. But there are also many landlords—and I would say the majority—who favour negotiating with tenants and who will sit down with the tenant across a desk and even revise the original estimate of their claim.
Despite what the Opposition has said today and what they have said before, it is a fact that many landlords pay heed to good tenants and long-term tenants. I can give an example of that concerning two of the biggest blocks of flats in Chiswick, where the rents are increasing with the ending of the three-year agreements by £1 a week, making an average rent for the block of £5 10s. a week. That may sound a lot of money to some 927 people, but included in that £5 10s. are rates, other than excess rates, porterage and constant hot water. These would be classed as luxury flats, and anyone would be happy to live in them if they wanted to be in that area. Judged by today's earnings and values, they are a fair proposition when it is remembered they are only seven miles from the centre of London. Those, as I say, are two of the biggest blocks of flats in my constituency. Of course, there have been people in those flats who cannot afford that economic rent and there are people still there, which is why we have to have fresh thinking all the way round on the whole question of housing and rents.
My view comes very much into line with what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for St. Albans (Mr. Good-hew), and I entirely support him on this matter of the importance of rents becoming economic—and in that I include the whole range, frum luxury flats down to ordinary council houses. It is quite scandalous that large sections of the community earning good money should be subsidised by councils which are not prepared to act in this matter. It is also worth putting this matter into perspective by quoting Professor D. R. Denham of Cambridge University, who has recently undertaken a survey into the rent decontrol problem and has estimated that the total amount paid in rent for privately-owned rented houses rose between 1938 and 1958 by only about 48 per cent. as against a rise of nearly 350 per cent. in total wages and salaries.
I know that this problem presents difficulties, but I think that people should gradually try to find the type of accommodation which most suits their pockets. They will be happier in the long run and they will relieve a great deal of the pressure which is coming down on the centre of London. Many people have been unfairly subsidised in the past. One cannot blame them for taking advantage of the chance, but that is why having to pay an economic rent now hurts them so much.
I am quite willing to admit that there are bad landlords and that there is a minority of landlords who have put rents up steeply and excluded rates and services and insisted on personal repairs and decorations, which, of course, is a 928 hidden form of rent. I strongly deprecate the actions of that type of landlord. My personal view is that where landlords demand more than 4½ times the gross annual value of the house the council should be consulted, either by the local councillor who has been approached, or by the local Member of Parliament. However, much depends on the type of property involved and the services provided. Nevertheless, I am sure that one or two compulsory purchase orders carried through to their ultimate conclusion would do a power of good to curb the small but significant number of troublesome rent racketeers who operate in the London area.
The Rent Act has been a courageous and necessary piece of legislation. I was not in the House at the time it was introduced, but it was unpopular when it came in and it is obviously still unpopular in some quarters today. But unpopular Acts are not necessarily bad Acts, and, with respect, I think that the Minister has been fully justified in sticking to his guns. I think that when the housing history of this country comes to be compiled in the years ahead, his policy will be fully vindicated.
§ 8.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Mapp (Oldham, East)
I hope that the hon. Member for Brent-ford and Chiswick (Mr. Dudley Smith) will not expect me to follow him on the details of events in London, because I am not familiar with them. Coming from one of the older towns in the North of England, I am still wondering, after hearing the whole of the debate today, including the Minister's contribution, what housing hopes there are for the man whose income is something less than £12 a week. With all the good will in the world, and after hearing all the contributions from the other side of the House, I cannot see one iota of hope for the average man whose income is about £12 a week, or who is earning £14 of which £2 cannot be relied upon as regular income.
I want to confine my attention to the question of slum clearance. There is a general feeling that the programme of slum clearance in the country is going ahead fairly rapidly, but in some of our older towns the problem is not easy, nor soluble during the next few years. I refer to Oldham in particular, because I shall 929 ask the Minister to say whether there are not some special steps that can be taken to deal with towns which have difficulties similar to those of Oldham, which I now propose to mention. Oldham is seventh in the list of towns which have the worst slum clearance problems facing them.
The brief facts are these. There are about 43,000 permanent houses in Oldham of which just over 11,000 were declared unfit in 1955 and coming within the general programme of slum clearance for the future. In other words, 26 per cent. of the permanent houses in Oldham are due for demolition as soon as possible. The Minister, I think, is contemplating this as the kind of problem that can be overcome within the term of office of this Government. As a matter of fact, the maximum number of houses cleared and built has been about 1,150 in the last four or five years. At the present rate of progress in Oldham—I want to be quite fair about this, because the local authority is, broadly speaking, united on a pattern of development of slum clearance—it will be approximately a seventeen-year operation before the local authority is in a position effectively to deal with the slum clearance problem.
§ Mr. H. Brooke
I never dreamed of including Oldham in those areas where I thought slum clearance could be finished within three years. I regard Oldham as one of the difficult problems of slum clearance. While I may not agree with the hon. Gentleman about seventeen years, I thoroughly agree with him on what he is saying in general about the extent of the problem there.
§ Mr. Mapp
What I am trying to say is that any feeling that the slum clearance problem in the older towns will be overcome in the next three or four years is manifestly wrong. Both sides of the local authority consider that this problem will be with them for the next fifteen or seventeen years. I shall shortly make some postulations to the Minister as to what might be done to deal with special circumstances. We have to appreciate that the older towns are constantly losing population, although perhaps not so severely as Oldham, where the fall has been about 30,000 in the last thirty or forty years. There is a strong case for ensuring that that population should not 930 fall still further. We should provide the social help that is necessary in order to bring the old towns up to modern standards.
The Housing Committee's minutes of July this year state that:The Committee discussed the adoption of a programme for the next five years, and it was pointed out that the number of unfit houses which could be dealt with was limited by this authority's difficulty in providing alternative accommodation for the occupants because of the shortage of suitable building land and the limitation of the building programme because of the shortage of engineering and architectural staff. The inadequacies of brick supplies was also a limiting factor at the present time.That was in July. I have taken up the question of the supply of bricks with the Ministry, but I must inform the Minister that difficulties are still being experienced.
If I say that the technical staff in Oldham Corporation is one-third short of its complement the Minister will realise the extent of the problem facing the authority. I gather that Oldham shares with Liverpool, Bacup, Batley, Manchester and Kidsgrove—all mixed old towns—the problem of a terrific backlog of slum clearance work. I suggest that the Minister, perhaps in consultation with the authority in Oldham and similar authorities, should see what steps he can take to develop a greater intake of technical staff by these local authorities. I can assure him that the shortage does not arise from any backwardness on the part of the authority in trying to get the necessary staff.
The number of virgin sites left in Oldham provides sufficient space for only about 490 new homes. The local authority has faced this fact and has decided to build on slum cleared land. It now faces the problem of phasing this work in such a way as to ensure that it is carried out as quickly as possible, but the largest programme it can undertake at the moment is the building of 450 houses per annum, thereby relieving the existing council house accommodation of 50 per cent. of the demand for vacancies that normally arises. In this case the authority is not wholly relying on the building of new houses; it is cramping the other housing demands by earmarking 50 per cent. of the existing houses that become available.
931 I have estimated that Oldham is faced with about fifteen or seventeen years' work. The Minister was in Oldham about two or three years ago and was impressed by the size of the problem there. I do not intend to draw on any graphic details, which could easily be done. The figures that I have given already are sufficient to show the extent of the problem. In Oldham and in the rest of Lancashire we have an old industry. Rightly or wrongly, it has had an infusion of public money to reorganise itself, apart from ordinary fiscal measures being taken. Rightly or wrongly, the House will shortly be asked to consider some special social insurance for the "Queen Mary". The public purse is asked to provide the money.
I should like to refer to the Local Employment Act. That embodied the acceptance of the principle that, apart from normal fiscal measures covering industry as a whole, in areas where unemployment was heavy the Government would be prepared to do something exceptional to meet local circumstances. I suggest that, now that we are in a position to assess the extent of slum clearance remaining to be done, the Minister can estimate the degree of difficulty that rests almost wholly upon the shoulders of the older towns. I hope that he will agree that they are bearing an undue burden, and also that they must be modernised. If he does he will see that it is logical for him to conclude that some sort of criterion or datum line requires to be fixed, within which the slum clearance programme can be disposed of—either in a certain number of years or by way of special financial arrangements.
Before the Minister attempts to lay down such a criterion he should have consultations with the authorities concerned in order to arrive at ways and means of achieving the desired result—whether it be by ensuring a better supply of technical staff or by financial means. I hope that the Minister will consider my suggestion, so that the people of Oldham can feel that they are entitled to as much sunshine and modern housing as any other part of the country.
§ 8.17 p.m.
§ Mr. William Yates (The Wrekin)
Hon. Members on both sides of the 932 House will have a great deal of sympathy for the hon. Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Mapp). Many towns, and the centres of some cities, warrant special attention—in particular, places like Oldham and my constituency, The Wrekin, which saw the foundation of the Industrial Revolution. Although many hon. Members opposite have complained about the work of the Minister and his Department in their constituencies, his work in The Wrekin has been regarded by both Socialist-controlled councils and Conservative-controlled councils as satisfactory, and even exemplary in certain cases. I do not wish to be uncharitable to the party opposite, but if we take, as an example, the Socialist-controlled council of Oakengates, we find that it has realised that many people in the lower income brackets would like to buy houses for themselves and has started a "£1 down" scheme. Houses are now being taken by people with low incomes.
One hon. Member said that it was a pity that people could not get the mortgages they needed to buy their new houses. I would point out that one and a quarter miles from my house about six new bungalows have been built by Messrs. Wimpeys in the last three months, and they are already filled.
I cannot enter into the argument about the London County Council and London housing problems. I cannot join the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) in talking on this subject, because I do not know the facts. But I know who will—the people of London when they vote in the Council elections.
Mr. Aneurin Bevan, speaking in Blackpool in 1950, told the party conference that it was high time it thought of decontrolling some rents, but the party opposite did not have sufficient courage to carry out this legislation. We did. We do not mind whether we are popular or unpopular so long as we are certain that we are working in the national interest.
Another great difference between the party opposite and ours is that we believe that council houses should be built for those who need them and not just for those who want them. Everybody wants one—I should like to live in one if I could. Some of my hon. Friends live in London County Council houses. I have been told by Members opposite that two of my hon. Friends—
§ Mr. Yates
—it may be four—I do not dispute that—live in London County Council houses. These houses are not for us, however, but for those who need them.
I come now to my own constituency problems. The most tragic problem is that of a man who comes to one's office and says that he lived in a farm cottage but was injured last week and went to hospital and the farmer has now told him that he must leave the house as he cannot keep him on. He asks, "Where am Ito get a house?"
§ Mr. Yates
In this case I first persuaded the farmer not to evict the man, and then I persuaded the local council to call a meeting to consider the case. But I cannot force the housing manager to give more consideration to one case more than to others.
I find it objectionable to suggest, as the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington) has done, that the Socialist Party has more pity or worry for these distressing cases than we have. The case I have mentioned was an urgent one. This man had a family of thirteen children and accommodation must be found for them immediately. The greatest help for a Private Member is for such people to consult the housing manager and their Member of Parliament earlier, for it gives us a much better chance to do something about it. It is hopeless when they quote an eviction order which is already operating against them.
My right hon. Friend has been very forthcoming for the Oakengates area. He allowed an extra 100 houses to be built on the Greyhound housing estate above what was originally allowed, and, following a further intervention on my part, allowed a loan of £2,000 to be made available for a park and recreation ground. When I look back over the past five years and on the scars left by the Industrial Revolution in my constituency and consider the help which it has received from the Government, I am particularly grateful.
§ Mr. A. V. Hilton (Norfolk, South-West)
The hon Member for The Wrekin (Mr. W. Yates) was more successful with the Minister than I and some of my union colleagues were when we asked him to give assistance to farm workers living in tied cottages. I hope the hon. Member will take up the question with his right hon. Friend, for perhaps he will have more success than we had in our deputation to the Minister two months ago.
§ Mr. Yates
Perhaps the hon. Member can send me a postcard. If he is talking about tied cottages, it is all very well to attack farmers for having them, but what do I do about people who come to me about C.W.S. tied cottages in my constituency? Is it right for the C.W.S. and wrong for the farmer? What about the railway and mining cottages in my constituency? Is it wrong to have a cottage tied to a mine?
§ Mr. Yates
That is a tedious answer.
Another problem is the supply of finance for water and sewerage. One of the essential needs in a large agricultural area is a proper supply of water. I have a note from the East Shropshire Water Board which says that in the last eleven years it has spent £266,000 and in the last four years the Board has laid sixty-five miles of new mains, seventeen in urban and forty-eight in rural areas. The progress in the supply of water to the farming communities in the areas of Great Bolas and Waters Upton has been of great assistance to agriculture. It has been, in part, due to that that Shropshire is clear of T.B.
§ Mr. Yates
I said T.B. We have plenty of T.V.
935 I want to say something about the new city or town which my right hon. Friend is considering building in the area of Dawley. Here is an area which consists mostly of pit mounds and disused land and is about 3,500 acres. If the Minister is to build this town it must be built under the 1946 Act.
Not only will south Shropshire welcome this project but—having had discussions with members of the county council—I believe the whole county will welcome it. We believe it to be a social duty to receive into our area people who are not so fortunate and have been living in difficult conditions in Birmingham. I do not think that there is worry on the political aspect towards it, though the local council at Dawley, which is Socialist-controlled, said that I did not want the new town in case it turned against me. As I will live almost in the area I can look after them well.
My right hon. Friend will face serious problems about sewage, roads and water. We would like to know a great deal more about some of these matters before we give this project our complete blessing. I do not think that it is fair to keep the local authorities waiting much longer before he states his full and final position. In any case, we do not want people coming there and buying up any of the land in the area in which the new town to be built.
I had hoped to address myself to some of the other problems of my constituency, because it is the historical tradition of this House that we act as private Members in the debate on the Address. This time is not to be used for the discharge of agreed business put down by the two Front Benches. In view of the fact that the Opposition have moved an Amendment on housing, I am automatically precluded from discussing many urgent matters concerning my constituency which I had hoped to bring to the notice of the House. In view of this fact and also because other hon. Members on this side of the House are anxious to speak, I shall content myself with saying that the Minister should know that so far as The Wrekin area of Shropshire is concerned we are satisfied with the progress which has been made and the help received for housing. But, of course, 936 we shall be making more demands for money from the Exchequer and from other sources in the near future.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Mr. J. B. Symonds (Whitehaven)
I have listened patiently to the debate and I would say that from the speech of the Minister one would think that the housing problem in this country had been solved. The Minister appears to believe that a Tory Government are responsible for building more houses than did a Labour Government from 1948 to 1951. Do you claim, because private enterprise has built more than 150,000 houses in the last year, that you are solving the problem and that you are building in this country—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Sir William Anstruther-Gray)
Order. In the last few minutes of this debate the word "you" has been used over-frequently. I hope that the House will remember that speeches should be addressed to the Chair.
§ Mr. Symonds
I apologise, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, if I have transgressed the rules of debate in any way.
I feel that the Government are claiming something which they are not entitled to claim. An hon. Member opposite said that Labour-controlled councils should get on with the job. If the Minister would confirm orders more quickly, Labour-controlled councils would certainly get on with doing a grand job of work.
I wish to touch upon a matter that I am tired of hearing hon. Members opposite refer to. It relates to men and women who live in subsidised houses. From statements made by hon. Members opposite I have gained the impression that they lack knowledge of local government housing practice. When a man is removed from a slum clearance area he may leave a house where the rateable value amounts to £10. He may be moved into a council house where the figure on which he pays is £21 and where the gross value is £28. He will have to pay twenty-one times the rate in the £ instead of ten times as previously, so that he is paying an amount representing an increase of eleven times the rate in the £ per year. The local authority contri- 937 butes only £7 7s. a year. I cannot see how such a man is subsidised by the local authority.
Hon. Members opposite have said that such a person is subsidised by the taxpayers, but does not he pay taxes despite the fact that he lives in a council house? Of course he does. I have heard hon. Members opposite say that they do not pay Schedule A tax because the amount they spend on house repairs is sufficient to enable them to avoid it. A person in a council house has to pay anything from £8 to £15 a year for the repairs that the council carry out to the property. I do not consider, therefore, that the argument that a council house tenant is subsidised by the local ratepayer or taxpayer will hold water.
It has also been said that these people should pay an economic rent. If every council house tenant were to pay an economic rent, not one new council house would be built. If we did what hon. Members opposite say should be done, and made those residing in council houses who can afford to pay an economic rent do so, that would be balanced by those who cannot afford to do so. It has been said that people can go to building societies and get a grant for the purpose of having a home built. No one can get a loan from a building society unless he has between £12 and £14 a week as his basic rate. Neither bonus nor overtime payment is taken into consideration when such a man applies to a building society for a mortgage. A man who receives that wage or less is not in a position to buy a house of his own but is forced to remain on the council's housing list.
Up to date the Government have refused to give assistance to local authorities to enable them to build houses. The Government have said, "Equalise your rents, have differential rent schemes, and the additional cost will mean that you will have to put into operation a form of means test." Some people ask, "Why not?" Local authorities would have to employ men to keep records of the amount of money going into each individual house and to readjust the rents week by week or month by month. What a lot of chaos there would be in the administrative machine of a local authority.
938 Local authorities have been hit very hard because of the high rate of interest they have to pay. The Chancellor of the Exchequer was very generous in reducing the Bank Rate by ½ per cent. Local authorities thought, "Here is a chance to have a reduction in the interest rates which we have been paying", but what happened? The Government then said, "We are sorry, but we cannot reduce the interest on local loans from 6⅛ per cent. to 5⅝ per cent. They have to remain at 6⅛ per cent.
Information was given by the Minister himself that £54 million has been loaned to the building societies under the 1959 Act at 5 per cent. If it is fair and right to lend to building societies at 5 per cent. and they can make a profit, surely it is right and proper that local authorities should be able to borrow from the Government at the same rate of interest. As my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington) said, the Public Works Loan Board has received £170 million more than it has lent to local authorities. Surely the Government should not be in a position to make a profit out of house building. House building should be a social service and rendered by the Government as such.
There are three-quarters of a million people living in overcrowded conditions whose need is urgent. What do the Government intend to do? Local authorities have waiting lists of 1,000 or 2,000 and in some of the larger authorities the figure is even as high as 15,000 or 20,000. All the answer the local authorities or we as Members of Parliament ever receive is that local councils should put into operation differential rent schemes. At the same time, building societies are given the privilege to borrow money cheaply. The local authorities, on the other hand, cannot even have the chance of a reduction in the interest rate for the purpose of helping the very people that even hon. Members opposite say are in need.
I have heard hon. Members opposite say that housing subsidies should be for the benefit of those in need, but not one of them has today appealed to the Minister to reduce the interest rate so that the people in need can have houses at rents they can afford. It is unfair that such a rosy picture should be painted by the Minister. Let us look behind 939 the picture and get at the facts. Hon. Members opposite should be as much up in arms as we are about the rotten conditions in which so many people have to live in this country today.
§ 8.42 p.m.
§ Mr. William Clark (Nottingham, South)
It is a little unfair of the hon. Member for Whitehaven (Mr. Symonds) and other hon. Members opposite to say that the Miniser has been complacent about the housing problem. In view of the record that my right hon. Friend gave in his opening speech today, no one on the benches opposite or in the country can accuse him of complacency.
One factor which has bedevilled the housing problem in the past has been the artificial level of rents which has prevailed for so long. To make the point clear, I will give the figures. There are about 5½ million owner-occupied houses today and they, of course, do not come into the total of rented property. There are now 1½ million decontrolled houses. There are 5 million controlled houses owned by private landlords. There are 4 million rented houses owned by local authorities. The overall total is 16 million.
Houses let by private landlords have come under the Rent Act so that, generally speaking, the rents the tenants pay are twice the gross value. Thus, partially, the artificial level of rents paid by private tenants has been rectified. There does not seem to be any coherent policy with regard to the rents charged for local authority housing. Hon. Members opposite say that many boroughs and local councils charge economic rents. If one takes the national figures, one finds that the total rents received by local authorities throughout the country were £146 million in a recent year, whereas the gross value of the houses themselves was £85 million. Twice the gross value under the Rent Act formula for private tenants would make £170 million. Thus, it can be said that council tenans are enjoying an advantage over private tenants to the tune of about £24 million. That is another reason for the controversy about rents as between the different types of tenant.
It was quite understandable before the war that one should subsidise council 940 houses. Even today, there is a need to subsidise council houses, but I submit—and I am delighted that my hon. Friend the Member for St. Albans (Mr. Goodhew) raised this point—that it is wrong to subsidise all council tenants. Let us be a little discriminatory. In the days of higher wages—higher wages are being enjoyed, and I am jolly glad, like other hon. Members, that that is so—we must have some realism in rents.
I think that no hon. Member opposite has yet mentioned the amount of subsidy which the Government are giving to council house tenants. In the housing report for the year 31st March, 1959, which came out in June, the Exchequer subsidy for council houses was given as £49 million and the rate contribution was £17 million, a total of £66 million, plus, in the case of some local authorities, a great loss on the housing account which is not included in this total. If this £66 million is divided among the 4 million council houses, it gives an average annual subsidy of £16 or £17 a year.
To my mind, subsidies are a form of State assistance to tenants. No one would suggest that National Assistance should be operated on a local scale in as much as local authorities should determine the scale under which a man or woman receives National Assistance. [Interruption.] It may be administered locally, but the working out of one's benefits is dealt with on a national basis. I do not think that it is fair to give all tenants the same rebate, and I think that no one in this House, irrespective of which side he is on, would disagree that the person who has should help the person who has not. I think that that is a principle with which no one can disagree.
§ Mr. Pavitt
Is the hon. Member suggesting that £66 million to cater for the social service need of a roof over the heads of the population is excessive? Does he consider that excessive in view of the £120 million thrown away on Blue Streak?
§ Mr. Clark
I am not suggesting anything of the sort. I am merely giving a statement of fact. This is not a statement of opinion. These are factual figures. The £66 million about which I am speaking, the Exchequer and rates subsidy, is in addition to the £24 million which council tenants throughout the country 941 enjoy because of this formula of twice times the gross value.
§ Mr. Clark
I will give way in a moment.
As I have said, I think that assistance through these subsidies is a national responsibility, and I do not think that we as a Government can abdicate our responsibility. What we must do is to have a national rent rebate scheme. I do not like the term "differential rent scheme." I should like there to be a national rent rebate scheme, and the standard rate of the council house computed at twice the gross value and put on the same level as other private tenants. Then, depending on the personal circumstances of the tenant, there would be a rent rebate.
I know that in May, 1956, the Minister of Housing and Local Government sent out a circular setting out various rent rebate schemes. But, if the local authority did not want to act on it, it did not do so, and I think that the time has come when the Government should say that, although there are different rent rebate schemes throughout the country, the best one, whichever it is, should be superimposed on the local authority. To my mind, it makes no difference whether a man with two or three children, or whatever the size of his family, whose income is the same lives in Nottingham or Norfolk. If his circumstances are the same and he is entitled to a rebate, he should get it irrespective of the geographical situation of the town in which he lives.
One thing which should be remembered is that the rent rebate scheme does not mean an increase for everybody. People who need assistance and who are entitled to it will pay less rent. I might mention in parenthesis that this subsidy which is being enjoyed by council tenants throughout the country is, in fact, notional income, but it is not dealt with in the same way as notional income under Schedule A and subject to tax.
§ Mr. McCann
The hon. Member has talked about a subsidy of £66 million and equated it to £17 per house. He forgets, however, that the corporation tenant is subsidising the Government by virtue of the increased interest which is paid If the hon. Member would be 942 honest about it, he would probably find that the corporation tenant pays more to the Government than the Government pay to the corporation tenant.
§ Mr. Clark
I cannot see how that comes into my argument. It does not alter the £66 million.
Another point which I should like to raise is what I consider to be one way in which we might increase the housing accommodation. I believe that there is a tremendous amount of under-occupation in houses throughout the country. In 1938, there were 13½ million houses and flats and in 1959 there were 16 million, an increase of 2½ million. From 1938 to 1959, the population increased from 46 million to 50 million, an increase of 4 million. When, however, we calculate the number of persons per house, we find that in 1938, when we did not have the long waiting lists—[An HON. MEMBER: "Oh, yes, we did."]—not to the same extent—there were 3.5 persons per house; and today the figure is 3.15. This is something which the Government might investigate to see whether there is any under-occupation.
All of us, in each of our constituencies, know that a man with a wife and family probably has a three or four-bedroomed house. When the family grows up, the man and wife are left in the house on their own. Whether they are in a council house or a privately-controlled house as tenants, they have a vested interest in the place and they will not move out. How much better it would be if the landlord were to convert the house into two units.
I know that that would cause hardship. It is, however, worth investigating from the Government's viewpoint because, for a very small expense, it would provide an additional unit of occupation. More use should be made of conversion grants, which at the moment are discretionary to local authorities. Whereas standard grants are obligatory, improvement grants are discretionary and the Nottingham local authority, for example, does not operate the improvement grant scheme, because it is discretionary.
If those under-occupied houses could be cut into two units, obviously there would be hardship to the tenant, but the Government could work out a scheme, the details of which would need to be 943 carefully watched, with the broad principle that the existing tenant of the house, which is now too large for him, should have the right to any one of the flats that remains after the conversion at either the old rent or twice the gross value of the new accommodation, or whichever figure is the lower.
We should then find, I think, that tenants would be extremely grateful to forswear their accommodation. [Interruption.] It is no good hon. Members opposite laughing at this scheme. Hon. Members opposite know, as I do, that at our weekend surgeries we have many queries from tenants who come to us. For instance, a tenant will say, "I have a house at 25s. a week which is too big for me. Can you possibly get the local authority or somebody to give me smaller accommodation?"
I think that if the Government were to press on with improvement grants, although I know it would mean legislation and it would certainly mean interfering with the rights of tenants, a system could be worked out whereby tenants would eventually obtain smaller units of accommodation, modernised—
§ Mr. S. O. Davies (Merthyr Tydvil)
I am glad that the hon. Member has given way on this important point. Does he realise that during his speech he has been talking about human beings, with their ambitions, their aspirations, and their troubles, and all the problems of adjustment, and not about sheep—as to how many could be confined to an acre or confined to a barn on a stormy night? Will he answer that?
§ Mr. Clark
I think that that is a little unfair, particularly to an inexperienced Member like myself. I hope I did not give the impression that I was talking about tenants as though they were sheep.
What we have to do is to look at this thing realistically. We have property in 944 this country which has a long life in front of it. Whether because of the various Rent Acts, whether Private Acts or not, some accommodation is being wasted. Where we see that it is being wasted it is essential that the Government should give the lead. Let us make these improvement grants, where there is conversion, compulsory upon the local authority—
§ Mr. Clark
They are not compulsory.
A national drive to convert old houses cannot be on a piecemeal basis, by asking local authorities, "This is what you can do, will you get on with it?" I think that the Government must give a lead, to see that these improvement grants are compulsory, and I am sure that through improvement grants we shall get the extra accommodation.
§ 8.58 p.m.
§ Mr. George Brown (Belper)
I think that the hon. Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. W. Clark) did his best to show an awareness of the problem. I can only say that from beginning to end it never seemed to me that he was really concerned with what to us is the kernel of the problem—the people who need decent housing accommodation. He was more concerned about costs. I was interested to hear him at one stage use the phrase "rate loss". It puzzles me that people on the other side of the House never seem to think of housing otherwise than as an entry on the debit side of a balance sheet. Contrariwise, I should have thought that every house we provided was on the other side. How on earth they can call it a loss, I do not know.
§ Mr. Brown
It is too soon yet to give way. There will be many opportunities yet.
This is the end not only of this debate on this topic but also of the debate for a whole week or so upon the Address. Some have claimed in other places, heady places, Scarborough among other heady places, that the Labour Party, being occupied, as it sometimes seems to be, with arguments of its own, is not an effective Opposition. Anybody who has ever thought that—and the Leader of the House went very near it himself 945 the other day at Scarborough when he committed himself to the view that it looked as if we were committed to committing suicide, and the Foreign Secretary, who is always rather more indiscreet, went a little bit further—those who have said that, I should have thought, had their answer not only today but in this last week. In fact, at the end of this debate on the Address, the number of issues which the Home Secretary and the Leader of the House has to answer is tremendously long, and it will test his ingenuity to do it in the half-hour which he has requested he should have.
There is one real problem which we have to face in this House of Commons, and it is a problem in three parts. In the first place, Ministers never now answer anything, and the Minister today was a perfect example, if perfect be the right word, of this technique. They ignore everything that is asked, every issue that is raised, gallop off at a tremendous pace and with a whole lot of things which they have said four or five times before, and they stick to it. It is very difficult not only for an Opposition to be effective but for Parliament to be effective. If Ministers never answer anything, Tory Members never dare to press anything. Occasionally, they rise to the point. The hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) made a very notable speech today which impressed me very much, as I think it impressed everybody who was here at the time to hear him, but it was very delicately done. Obviously it is not going to be pressed, and, although the hon. Gentleman has not come back into the Chamber, he will get back before we vote and will vote with the Government.
We have Ministers who do not answer, Tory Members who do not press anything and a tremendous monolithic vote on the Government side of the House and all this adds up to Parliamentary ineffectiveness. There is no Parliamentary democracy or Parliamentary force on the benches opposite.
The problem of democracy today is exactly the problem of democracy in the 'thirties, and I shall have other occasions to refer to this, but the parallel is absolutely exact. The issue is not that we are so alive and alert with ideas that we sometimes flatten ourselves, but the problem of the deathly stillness on the 946 Government side of the House, where responsibility and power lie. I should have thought that today and in the past week that is just exactly what we have had. I must not go too far outside the terms of the Amendment or I shall incur your wrath, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but perhaps I may give two or three examples, because they are all bound up with the Amendment on housing and the sort of way in which on this closing day of the debate on the Address we have had this problem. We have had no answer—maybe the Home Secretary is going to provide it tonight—on the great issue raised in the Commonwealth affairs debate. We have had no answer to the great issue of the breach of faith of which the Prime Minister is accused not only by Sir Roy Welensky, but by many others—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Order. The right hon. Gentleman is putting me in a difficult position. If he puts these questions, they are entitled to be answered, and if they were debated and answered the debate would be quite out of order.
§ Mr. Brown
I am wholly in your hands, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I had an idea that there was a wish to answer them, but if they are not to be answered, I have no desire to ask them. There has been for years a tradition according to which the Leader of the House answered on issues that went wider than the last day's debate. It did not seem to me that he could answer them tonight if nobody else had raised them. I am very willing not to ask them if it is ruled that the right hon. Gentleman cannot answer, and I am quite willing to spend my time on housing.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Order. I am on my feet. As the House is aware, there is a degree of give-and-take in these matters, but there is before us now a definite Amendment which must be replied to, though other things can be raised in passing.
§ Mr. Silverman
On a point of order. Although there is in fact a definite Amendment before us to the Motion for an Address, my right hon. Friend would surely be in order in arguing the whole subject of the debate on the last day. This has always been the custom in the 947 House, and I have never heard it objected to before.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I think that what the hon. Gentleman has said and what I said just before mean very much the same thing.
§ Mr. Brown
On that basis I am saying that we have had today—and this is what the Home Secretary is answering—and we have had on other days of debate, the titles of which I was introducing to show what I meant, the same pattern. When we have had questions asked Minister answering them on that day have given no ettention at all to them. As examples of what I meant I raised the question of the breach of faith which the Prime Minister has not yet answered and which I should have thought the Home Secretary would have wanted to answer tonight.
We have not cleared up the defence debate to which we devoted a day, nor the details of the Polaris agreement. Nor have we cleared up—which is very relevant to today's debate—the problem of the new stagnation which has entered into our economy, and the external payments situation which seems to have entered into our overseas trade problem. All these will have a great bearing on the ability to house our people and on all the social services that we wish to carry out. We have had no answer from all the Ministers who have spoken so far to questions on which I would have expected the Home Secretary to want to address himself tonight.
Our main problem in today's debate is housing. It seems to me that we have three major issues before us, none of which did the Minister of Housing and Local Government dealt with when he followed in the debate my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart). I have not hitherto spoken in the House in a debate on housing and I am not sure that I have ever before heard the Minister of Housing and Local Government all the way through a speech. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will accept it from me when I say that I have seldom heard on a great burning social issue a more insensitive or complacent approach than he showed today.
The right hon. Gentleman talked about one in four of our people living in a post-war house, but the war is now 948 fifteen years behind us. He called it churlish of us to criticise, and at no stage did he even have a word for the three out of four who are living not only in pre-war houses but many of them in very miserable houses indeed. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to think that the one in four was much greater and much more important than the three in four. He even said, and I took his words down, "There is no national housing shortage. It is a regional problem." I asked him what was the difference between a regional and a national problem if the problem existed in all the regions. The right hon. Gentleman did not seem to see the point of this and he then reeled off a list of great cities which if one added them up not only accounted for the bulk of our population but identified every region. I could see no point in the remark except that it was an attempt to excuse himself for considerable complacency.
"Let them buy a house of their own" was one of the right hon. Gentleman's great contributions to the debate, as though it was just about the easiest thing in the world and as though he had not inflated prices by the encouragement of inflationary land speculation and by the high interest rates which he and his colleagues have imposed. The right hon. Gentleman said that we had to see that supply caught up with demand—the nearest that he came to a piece of dogma this afternoon—and he cherished the hope that private builders would again build to let. The right hon. Gentleman said everything except anything to encourage people to believe that things would change and that those who are without houses would get them and those who are in fear of losing their present houses would have that fear removed from them. I repeat that it was a very insensitive and rather frightening and chilling exhibition that the right hon. Gentleman gave today.
There are three main issues here, to none of which the right hon. Gentleman addressed himself. In the first place, there is the fantastic rise in rents, and "fantastic" is the word used especially in London, but not only in London. A tremendous amount of insecurity is being felt by tenants who are faced with the possibility of eviction unless they spend more than they can spend comfortably 949 and properly in rent. That is the first problem.
The second problem is the inadequacy of the house building programme and the inflated costs of providing houses. This, in turn, leads to the inflated costs of second-hand houses. It is no use pretending that this is not a problem; it is a very great problem where I live and in my constituency.
The third problem to which the Minister did not address himself is the failure to plan the proper use of our land—the Minister smiles, but he did not deal with this—and to retain for the community the betterment in land values which the community provides. It is leading to an unholy scramble for land, to vast speculative profits and to much hurt for individual citizens, and it is a great cheat on the whole community.
What I hope to do in the time left to me is to look at each of these problems in turn very briefly, but, I hope, sufficiently to remind the Minister of what he missed and sufficiently, again I hope, to stimulate the Home Secretary into doing what the Minister did not do and into trying to deal with them.
First, there is the rent rise. My hon. Friends and I have files of thousands of letters, and the Minister must have them, too. Surely nobody can deny what has happened in London. The letters are heart-breaking. They cover dreadful miseries. There are not only the dramatic cases in London—the most dramatic are, of course, in London, as has repeatedly been said—for this is a general rise all over the country.
I sit for one of the constituencies which the Minister seemed to think was not involved in this, a constituency in the country with two urban and two rural districts, with much of our property, especially in the rural districts, in a deplorable condition—if one is using any decent standard of measurement. They lack all the civilised facilities and amenities. Recently, under the Minister's policy, they have all been the subject of very subsantial rent increases with no services performed in return. It should be remembered that here we are thinking of old cottages which have been paid for in rent very many times over.
One has to be very callous, blind or insensitive to continue ignoring that this 950 is the position and that it is not only a London problem—it affects all of us—and ignoring the consequences of the Minister's policy. Every time I hear him, the Minister talks with contempt—there really is contempt in his voice on this point—about the men and women who think they have a moral right to live in the house where they have always lived. The phrase the Minister used—he used it with great contempt—was "How can anybody think he has a moral right of that kind?".
I could not help feeling as the Minister spoke that what he feels deeply in his heart is the right of property—that if one owns property one has a right. The Minister is very concerned for this right. Indeed, he kept on to us about the wickedness of the landlord who did not get out of the property which he owned what he properly should have done. However, while the Minister feels the right of property, he seems peculiarly—if I may use the word again—insensitive to the rights of men, and one of the fundamental rights of men is freedom from fear, and one of the fears from which one should be free is that of losing one's roof over one's head through not being able to pay for it.
When landlords move in to evict, is the Minister greatly moved? He knows that I have a personal interest in one London borough. I have been provided with a letter which, on his behalf, a K. A. Smith was induced to write to a householder in the borough in which I live. I honestly think that I have seldom seen such a letter from a Government Department. This was to a person complaining of the risk to him of being evicted as a result of the Act which the Minister introduced.
What did the Minister command one of his minions to write? First, that he sympathised with the problem although he could not help him. Secondly, that it was a local council problem to rehouse him. Thirdly:… although you are not registered"—with the Camberwell Borough Council—for housing accommodation your case will be brought before a housing committee … and there is a possibility that there may be temporary hostel accommodation available for you.The letter continues: 951It is understood however, that if you find yourself homeless, after having been evicted, the London County Council Welfare Department for the Homeless … may be able to help you.The letter ends:I am sorry"—said Mr., Mrs. or Miss K. A. Smith—not to be able to send a more helpful reply.I am sure that K. A. Smith was sorry. After hearing the Minister today I wondered whether he was; whether he really felt what was happening to people like that chap to whom that letter was written.
I ask the Home Secretary to see and feel the problem here. There are things that ought to be done which his Minister, in a dogmatic and doctrinaire way, will not do. First, to repeal the Act which caused the trouble, and to do it before more three-year agreements fall in, because we are only at the beginning of the problem. We are not at the end of it. Secondly, to replace that Act with something which recognises the moral rights of men in a civilised society to freedom from fear about their homes. Thirdly, to do something which recognises that a free market in housing in this country is absolute nonsense in present circumstances. It cannot exist unless one is going to be absolutely heartless. I ask the Home Secretary to recognise that.
That leads me to my second point, which is the provision of new houses, because, as the Minister in one of those blinding glimpses of the obvious which he had this afternoon said, if we could get enough houses supply would catch up with demand and there would be no problem.
Let us look at where we are getting on this. This afternoon the Home Secretary heard as well as I did the comparison between the Labour Governments of 1945 to 1951 and this Administration of all the mediocrities that we have today. I am prepared to concede anything to the Minister that he wants on that. The comparison is fifteen years' old. People who were born then are jolly nearly voting in my constituency. By the time the next General Election comes along they will not care whether the Minister is right or wrong in what he says about what we did or did not do. The question is, what are 952 we providing for people to whom 1960, and not 1945, 1946 or 1947, is the significant year?
There are three things I can put to the Home Secretary which I should have thought could not be denied. First, we are not building houses today where they are needed. I will come later to the point about where we are building them. Secondly, we are not building them for the folk who need them, and I will try to prove that in a moment. Thirdly, we are not building them at prices or letting them at rents which folk can afford to pay today or which are reasonably in accord with the costs of building. One must distinguish between the cost of building and the cost of borrowing money, something which the Minister would not do.
To try to prove those three points, I will give just two examples. As far as I know, the borough in which I live in London is typical of many, and the constituency which I represent in Derbyshire again is typical of many.
I live in Camberwell. Let us consider private house building, to which the Minister devoted so much time. It has been said—by builders, not propagandists—that in London today it is impossible to buy a house for less than £2,700. That is certainly true of Camberwell, where in only one small part of the borough is there any building going on and one would be puzzled to find a house at as low a price as £2,700. Most of the prices are £4,000 and upwards.
Yesterday, I was talking to a director of one of our two or three largest building firms. We were discussing what could be done about providing houses. He said, "If we could do it, we would build twenty houses for less than £3,000 to, four between £3,000 and £5,000, to one of more than £5,000; that is about the proportion of the demand". I guarantee that in the Borough of Camberwell there is hardly one house being build for less than £3,000, the rest being split up in £3,000 to £5,000 and more than £5,000 groups. In Dulwich they are almost all at more than £5,000. In other words, we are building for the wrong people at the wrong price and in the wrong places.
The consequence of that is that the whole housing need in Camberwell is and has to be left to the local authority. The Minister must know that there are 953 4,600 on the list, after the most scrupulous and ruthless screening. There are 1,700 on what is called the most urgent need list—including T.B. cases and so on which are examined by a medical panel.
We must realise what misery these statistics mean. If I have any advantage over the Minister it is that living in a tenement in south-east London until I was sixteen, with no water and no lavatory and no other facilities, has given me an awful understanding of what the figures mean in terms of human misery.
To meet those 1,700 urgent cases and the 4,600 cases on the general list the council is desperately doing its utmost, with little help from the Minister and denied all subsidies, to build same 400 houses a year. Because the council cannot get the land—and it asked the Minister for a C.P.O for land in one area and was refused, the land being privately developed with houses having a £4,000 premium—the Council has had to clear before it could build, so that only about half the houses it builds are for people on the list. If nobody else became an urgent case, it would be eight years before the council could clear the urgent list, and if nobody else ever came on the general list—and of course others will—it will be twenty years before the council can clear the general list. Yet listening to the Minister this afternoon I got the impression that there was no problem and that the difficulties were practically solved.
Let us now take my country constituency of Belper, in which there are two rural and two urban districts. Repton rural district has 600 people on the list and 50 dwellings under construction. It hopes to complete 50 in the financial year and of those 35 will be for the general list. It will be more than twelve years before that list is cleared if nobody else goes on. Belper urban district, a small, crowded urban district, has 200 on the list and 18 houses under construction. It hopes to complete 18 this year, but all are for slum clearance and none for the general list.
Belper Rural District Council has nearly 400 on the list and 20 bungalows and 6 houses under construction. None will be completed in the financial year—this is not a Socialist authority—and heaven knows how long it will take to house the 400 on the list. Swadlincote 954 urban district, a mining, heavily built-up, heavily industrial but not very large area, none for general need. Of the 81 houses under construction, of which it is hoped to complete 23 in the financial year, none for general need. Of the 81 under construction, 50 are for the N.C.B. special scheme, the rest for slum clearance. Heaven knows when the 400 on the general list will be cleared.
What is the use of claiming that there is no problem? Of course we have more room in our country constituencies for private building, and a great deal of private building is going on in my constituency. But nearly all of it, or certainly the bulk of it, is concentrated in the suburbs of the nearest developed town. It is no use telling all the people in my vast constituency, 50 miles from end to end, with its two towns, to come to live in Derby. That is where we do not want them. We want them spread across the division.
What are the Government doing to help in the problem which I have shown by reference to London and the country? First, they stopped the subsidy for general need, so that we could not meet our general problem without rooking the ratepayers enormously; they applied the expenditure brake, raised the interest rates, making it even more expensive, and then encouraged, or allowed, vast inflation in land prices. I shall not develop the arguments about the first two, but I should like to say something about the rise in interest rates.
My hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) in a notable speech at the beginning of the debate, referred to this, I shall repeat two figures. In 1951—and I should like hon. Members opposite to get the full savour of this—the average tender price was about £1,350 to £1,400 for a house. The repayment on that by a local authority, borrowing the money over sixty years, was £2,900. In 1959, as a result of the right hon. Gentleman's administration, the tender became £1,600, not a vast rise but it was for a poorer house—a markedly poorer house which was being put up compared with that when Mr. Aneurin Bevan was Minister of Health. [HON. MEMBERS: "Rubbish."] I will take hon. Members and show them. The £1,600 was the average tender price, but the repayment over sixty years is £6,000, 955 so that the repayments are more than doubled, whereas the actual cost of building has gone up very little.
In the case of private ownership, if one borrowed £2,000 in 1951, one repaid £2,900. If one borrowed it today, one would pay £3,500. That is quite notional, because when I had to borrow in 1951, for every two years I paid I pretty well fell back one. [Laughter.] Perhaps I had better make the point again. The effect of all this is that, as the interest rates have gone up, I have gone on paying what I contracted to pay and the virtual result is that for every two years I pay, one year goes down the drain to pay for the rise in interest rates.
We are throttling everyone under this Administration—the ratepayer, the tenant and the private owner alike—by making them pay through the nose for a fundamental social necessity. I think that the Home Secretary will miss the whole mood of the House if he does not address himself to this.
My last point is about the fantastic rise in the price of land. I shall not bother with examples which have been given very many times. The Tories are very apt to go on crying crocodile tears while their accomplices get away with the swag. They got rid of the 1947 Town and Country Planning Act. Although they tried Amendments to it, they then abolished the whole thing, went full circle and took us right back to the pre-war position. We are now seeing people being mulcted—would-be house occupiers, owners, tenants and local authorities—all because the Government will not do anything about it.
It is not only we who are complaining. The director of the large private house building firm with whom I talked yesterday was very concerned about this. He said—these are his words not mine—that the Government should be hammered mercilessly for this. He was prepared to give me the latest examples from his experience of what happened. We should go back to the Uthwatt Committee which made recommendations about this. One was that we should stop the indecent and obscene scramble and profiteering at public expense by the acquisition by the community at existing use value of all under-developed 956 land when the time comes to develop it, and then, when the community has acquired it, we should release it to the developers. Another recommendation was that site values should be rated every five years, based on the increase during those years. Yet another was that we should tax the betterment value as it accrued, leaving something to the developer but taking the bulk of it—the community-created increment—to ourselves.
I would remind the House of what the Minister seemed to be trying to deny, namely, that this great, tragic problem affects millions of families. It is no use his saying that they are the last 6 million or the last 4 million; they are still millions of good, decent people, trying to bring up their kids in conditions which give them jolly little encouragement and little help. No Government worthy of their salt can be as willing to ignore this and be as complacent in the face of it as was the Minister today.
We hope that the Home Secretary will have more to say. We doubt it, and it is because we doubt it that I ask my hon. and right hon. Friends, and hon. Members opposite whose consciences are superior to their party allegiance, to join us in the Lobby tonight.
§ 9.31 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. R. A. Butler)
It has long been a Parliamentary tradition that the debate on the Address is known as the "Grand Inquest of the Nation", and it has been customary for many years for the Leader of the House to wind up the debate and to range over a broad series of subjects. Today this task is made slightly more difficult, because even if we do not want to interfere—and I do not think that hon. Members opposite can complain about the demeanour of Ministers or hon. Members on this side of the House—we have been witnessing the grand inquest of the party opposite. We have had this forced upon our minds, not because we have attempted to take sides—we have no desire to take any side in this matter—but because business has been rendered rather more difficult by the obvious strains which have taken place.
I do not intend to occupy the time of the House on this matter for very long 957 today, but I should like to congratulate the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) on his own victory in this matter. I understand that it will be called a victory for sanity, which cannot mean a "Victory for Socialism".
§ Mr. Skeffington
On a point of order. Some of us have sat here for five hours. Cannot we have an answer to the debate instead of all this cheap stuff?
§ Mr. Butler
On these occasions, it is always instructive to examine the Amendments tabled by the Opposition—to consider the subjects they choose and to compare them with the subjects they do not choose. On this occasion, it is worth spending a minute or two in examining the subjects they have not chosen on this occasion as compared with previous years. This year we have had no Amendment dealing with prices—
§ Mr. G. Brown
On a point of order. I was stopped by your predecessor, Mr. Speaker, for referring to debates which had occurred during the week. The Home Secretary is now referring to debates which did not occur during the week. May I have your Ruling on this matter?
§ Mr. Speaker
I am at a disadvantage in the physical sense, in that I was not in the Chair when the right hon. Gentleman was called to order and I do not know the circumstances. It is within the recollection of the House that the practice in recent years has been that although, I suppose, the strict rules of debate confine us to the Amendment we discuss on the last day, some liberty has been allowed to both right hon. Gentlemen winding up the debate, one way and the other. I am at the mercy of the House about this. I have not had time to acquaint myself with the question to which the right hon. Gentleman refers. I hope that with some mutual toleration we can get on.
§ Mr. Brown
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I would not have intervened again had you not used the words "mutual toleration". I was not allowed any toleration. I had to cut out part of what I had intended to say, even though it referred to debates that took place. Could we not have at least some mutual rules? I do not object to the Leader of the House referring to the debates that did take place—I would have forgiven 958 the fact that I was not allowed to do so—but he is referring to ones that did not take place.
§ Mr. Speaker
I do not doubt a single word that the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) says. I was not here and do not know the context. I hope that with tolerance we can now get on.
§ Mr. Butler
It has been a traditional right of the Leader of the House and of the right hon. Gentleman winding up for the Opposition to refer matters not within the Amendment in the course of the debate. I will at once—
§ Mr. Hugh Gaitskell (Leeds, South)
If that is the case—and I understand that the right hon. Gentleman who is Leader of the House was here throughout my right hon. Friend's speech—how is it that he did not rise to support my right hon. Friend and ask that he be allowed to traverse the whole subject of the debate on the Address?
§ Mr. Butler
The right hon. Member for Belper mentioned the questions of Africa, of defence, of a new stagnation in our economy, of overseas trading, and took about five minutes on these subjects. I was proposing—[Interruption.] The right hon. Member for Belper need not get so excited. I was proposing to occupy four or five minutes on one or two issues and then to devote the rest of my speech to housing, which is the subject of the Amendment on the Order Paper. That is a reasonable thing to do—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—and, with your permission, Mr. Speaker, and a perfect atmosphere of give and take, I propose to do it.
There was no Amendment on the vital matter of prices, for the very good reason that we have had the longest period of price stability since the war. In the debate on trade and industry last week, my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade was able to indicate the remarkable progress—[Laughter.]—in bringing jobs to development districts. This is a matter of the highest importance. In many previous debates on the Address much time has been devoted to unemployment, but just because the figure is now 1.5 per cent. compared with 1.9 per cent. a year ago, the Opposition laugh and do not want me to mention it tonight.
959 My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade reminded us that jobs in sight in the development districts numbered 90,000—50,000 in England, 30,000 in Scotland, and 10,000 in Wales.
§ Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. There is an Amendment relating to this particular question of local unemployment down for debate later this week. Is the right hon. Gentleman not anticipating?
§ Mr. Speaker
Everything is strictly out of order which is not tightly limited to the Amendment. I do not know to what extent the right hon. Member for Belper was held tightly to some formula in the Amendment, but on the assumption that the Leader of the House was rightly reciting the topics he had mentioned, I do not for the moment think that we need be as stern as that.
§ Mr. Mitchison
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is that a reasonable thing to say when your attention has just been called to the fact that there is an Opposition Amendment on the Order Paper dealing with this subject, which he is now anticipating?
§ Mr. Speaker
I do not think, with respect, that the hon. and learned Member for Kettering should question the reasonableness of what I am trying to say on this question. I hope that we can now get on.
§ Mr. Butler
I would agree to a compromise if I may be permitted to say two words of friendliness to Northern Ireland, whose unemployment level is 5.9 per cent., and I will promise to get on to housing immediately after.
I should simply like to say to my hon. Friends the Members for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster)) and Belfast, South (Sir D. Campbell), who spoke of the position in Northern Ireland, that the unemployment figure of 5.9 is better than it was when it was 7.6 per cent. and that we shall pay attention—I will not presume on the patience of the House and go into details—to what my hon. Friends have said on this matter. They have asked for 960 a conference between the Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom Ministers. I am myself seeing Lord Brookeborough at the end of next week, and he is also visiting the Prime Minister.
My right hon. Friends the Minister of Transport and the Minister of Aviation are to visit Northern Ireland with a view to following up these questions about the difficulties at Short Bros, and Harland and on the question of possible shipping contracts and on the question of the new Britannic contract. I hope that these visits will be valuable. I should like to say to my hon. Friends that the whole House is sympathetic with their feelings about the position in Northern Ireland which, though it has shown signs of considerable improvement, is still a matter not only for the Northern Ireland Government but also for the United Kingdom Government.
Now, in view of the wishes of the House, and according to my own desire and the timing which I have arranged myself, I should like to come to the Amendment on Housing. I wish, first, to say what a pleasure it is to see the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Belper in this new rôle. He is doing a sort of "benefit match". His right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson) had his turn, and I think that between them we would rather not give an opinion because it might cause offence. I would only say to the right hon. Gentleman that he did very well today and was looked on with great favour by his right hon. Friend the leader of the Opposition sitting on his right; and it was not quite the same look which I noticed the right hon. Gentleman gave when his other right hon. Friend was speaking.
Coming to the Amendment on the Order Paper, the right hon. Gentleman spoke with great emphasis both from the point of his own constituency and from the angle of the economy, and if I deal with some of these problems, including the vexed question of interest rates, and answer some of the points in the debate, I hope that the hon. Members will bear with me as best they can. The right hon. Gentleman was indignant at my right hon. Friend's statement that since the war nearly one in four families had moved into a new house—one in six, actually, since 1951. I should have thought that a fairly generous acknow- 961 ledgment of the work done by all Governments since the war, including the Labour Government. My right hon. Friend did not stress as much as I should have liked him to, although he mentioned it, the fact that the Opposition are moving a vote of censure on us and our housing policy for building 50 per cent. more houses than they did in their term of office. The right hon. Member for Belper did not mention that.
The right hon. Gentleman did not mention that the total completions in 1960 will be in the neighbourhood of 300,000 houses, which has been a good balance ever since 1953. Moreover, the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart), who also spoke with great sincerity on this matter, complained about local authority completions, but he did not acknowledge that in the first nine months of this year nearly 5,000 more local authority houses have been completed than in the first nine months of last year. So, if we look at the statistics, which are quite easy to quote, we see that completions next year will be at a very high level and that this year completions have been 17,000 more than a year ago. So I think there is a cause for certain satisfaction in the general housing programme of the Government—
§ Mr. Butler
No, I cannot give way. Now that I am dealing with housing, I want to have a fair run.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) made a moving speech. He said that he agreed only with certain strands of our housing policy but not with the whole thing. I should have thought that if the strands are tied up together they are pretty convincing. The hon. Member for Fulham complained about the number of buildings for owner-occupiers. The figure is 160,000 per annum built for sale, which I should have thought a fairly good answer to his query about the support being given to the building of housing for owner-occupiers. He referred to going back to the Act of 1947. I should have thought there was universal support, at any rate from this side of the House, for getting rid of the development charge. If we had not, we should never have had the houses and we have no intention of putting it back again.
962 If we take one or two other of the strands to which my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford referred, we find that in slum clearance—to which reference was made by the right hon. Member for Belper, but which does not appear in the Amendment—more than a quarter of a million slums have been demolished or closed and more than three-quarters of a million people have been rehoused. What is interesting, in looking at the figures for housing, is that half the remaining slums to be cleared are in 50 or 60 local authority areas out of 1,500 in the whole country. That gives some indication of the advance we have made in slum clearance. There is still an immense job to be done, but it is confined to certain areas where we intend to concentrate upon it and to continue to have the success we have had.
As for the elderly, local authorities are now building twice as many one-bedroomed dwellings suitable for elderly people as in 1951. Over a quarter of local authority house building is in this category. The present rate of modernisation is four times that of two years ago. So in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Sir E. Errington), who spoke of improvement grants, I think it can be said that we are making a considerable advance with the various strands of our housing policy.
Now I should like to refer to some very sincere speeches made by the hon. Member for Islington, South-West (Mr. A. Evans) and the hon. Member for Willesden, West (Mr. Pavitt). The hon. Member for Islington, South-West spoke from great experience in his constituency about bad conditions in houses occupied by several families. The hon. Member for Willesden, West dealt with problems of the Rent Act to which I shall come in a moment. The problem of the multi-occupied house has come to my attention as Home Secretary in my general responsibility for law and order. I have had it brought to my attention by several hon. Members. I am glad, therefore, to support my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government, to see that this is a point to which he is to give special thought, and to see whether the law needs to be strengthened to deal effectively with this sort of case.
My hon. Friend the Member for Brentford and Chiswick (Mr. D. Smith) referred to the Rent Act, in company 963 with several other hon. Members, including the opener, the hon. Member for Fulham, in particular. I do not think it out of place in dealing with the Rent Act for the moment to remind hon. Members what was the general object of the Act. They may not agree with it, but, although some of the effects may have been severe—and I should like to be the first to answer the right hon. Member for Belper in acknowledging that—the object of the Act was a farseeing one and I believe it is going to bring dividends in the end. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]
The object was to encourage landlords to keep their property available for letting instead of selling as soon as they obtained vacant possession, as they usually did. The object was also to encourage private enterprise to provide new accommodation for renting, to convert their properties in larger number and more convenient units and to encourage the better use of the available stock of housing by discouraging people from occupying more space than they need or can afford.
The objects which informed the introduction of the Bill still remain our long-term objects. One of the purposes of this debate has been to find out whether my right hon. Friend or the Government have any intention of reverting to general control in order to deal with a bad minority of landlords. I would say that it is not our intention to revert to general control. It has been very important to find a selective weapon to deal with the bad landlord without penalising the good ones. The hon. Member for Willesden, West referred to the compulsory purchase order. This was the weapon chosen by the Minister in his Circular 45/60 to local authorities saying that they should consider compulsory purchase orders.
The hon. Member for Willesden, West was worried about the manner in which the decision would be taken to assess the capital value of a house in relation to a compulsory purchase order. The price on any compulsory purchase order would not be based on the landlord's demand but on the district valuer's or, ultimately, the Lands Tribunal's valuation. That is a very different thing from taking it at the landlord's assessment.
964 These compulsory purchase orders have already had a very useful effect. The first two cases were so bad that, when the local authorities made the orders, the landlords swiftly capitulated and reduced the rents demanded by 50 per cent. The publicity raised by this particular circular has been extremely healthy. There have been at least two cases in which local authorities have secured a concession for the tenants by approaching the landlord without having to make an order. I believe that this has been a very useful move by my right hon. Friend, and the fact that there have been so few orders lends some countenance to our belief that, although the matter is extremely serious, its extent may not be quite so bad as some hon. Members imagine.
My right hon. Friend has not only dealt with that matter but he has given an indication about a new Landlord and Tenant Bill which it is proposed to introduce during this Session. The general intention of the Bill is to make a landlord liable by Statute for major repairs if the tenancy he grants is for a short term. In such a case, any covenant purporting to bind the tenant to carry out such repairs will be void. I believe that this will be a very good reform. The Bill should succeed in preventing onerous obligations being put upon short-term tenants. Also, it should put a stop to the unsatisfactory practice of some landlords who draft their leases in such a way as to leave the responsibility for repairs uncertain. It will ensure that, if a local authority has to serve a statutory notice requiring repairs to be done, the landlord will have to pay even if the local authority has to do the work itself.
I come now to the point raised by the right hon. Member for Belper in regard to interest rates and the general subject of subsidies provided for council houses and for local authorities at the present time. This may not be a very attractive subject for this late hour tonight, but it was raised by the hon. Member for Whitehaven (Mr. Symonds) as well as by the right horn Member for Belper and the hon. Member for Fulham. The first principle which the Government adhere to—and this was their view in 1955—is that council house building cannot be insulated from general economic conditions. The reason for this was apparent to me, at any rate, in 1955, and is quite 965 apparent now. Between 1951 and 1957, housing investment amounted to between one-quarter and one-fifth of all capital investment. If we attempted to insulate or isolate house building from the ordinary rates, we should, I am sure, do great harm not only to house building but to the economy.
§ Mr. Butler
The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but what happened in the time of his Government before 1951? Twice, in 1947 and in 1949, it was found essential to out down council house building because the economy could not stand the strain. We have once, in our period of government, had exactly the same experience. I can tell the House from my own experience as an ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer that we ourselves had great problems in carrying the big housing burden in our time. What we have succeeded in doing since 1955 is not only to carry the economy successfully forward but also to carry the housing programme forward and to handle it in a sensible way.
In 1955, access to the Public Works Loan Board was restricted to authorities unable to obtain all the capital they required in the market on reasonable terms. It is still possible to have access to the Public Works Loan Board as the lender of last resort. It lends at rates which reflect the cost of borrowing on the market for a comparable period of time by authorities of good standing. I claim, I am sure rightly, that the only way to combine a sound economy and council house building is to ensure that this enormous investment to which I have referred—that is, just one-quarter or one-fifth of fixed capital investment—is handled by the general monetary mechanism on the same level as the rest of the economy. Otherwise, I do not think that we will be able to combine a sound economy and a sound building programme. That might be very hard if we were not paying Exchequer subsidies, but we are already paying Exchequer subsidies to authorities—over £60 million in 1959–60—and I would remind the House that subsidies continue on existing houses, since they are normally payable. On houses built since the war, subsidies will continue for sixty years.
There are also special subsidies paid on new houses, slum clearance, one- 966 bedroomed houses, new towns and town development. In this connection, I should like to say that there is a good deal of feeling, at any rate on this side of the House, for the view expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for St. Albans (Mr. Goodhew), who spoke about the need of subsidies being used for those who needed them most. If it were the case that all authorities used the subsidies as a pool and subsidised only those who needed subsidising, they would be able to let their houses at much more reasonable rates than they are let at present.
However, for those faced with high rents or an unreasonably heavy rate burden there is available a special discretionary subsidy of up to £30 a house. This is also obtainable for general purposes where there is urgent need to build. So far, 57 authorities have received approval for this subsidy. That, I think, indicates that the only sound way to run a sound economy and sound housing programme is to submit the whole economy to the same monetary disciplines and, at the same time, by special subsidies, to make it possible for people in need in the housing sector to obtain the subsidies which they need. This I hope will indicate that we are not only maintaining the economy as sound but are also maintaining a housing programme. As I have said, my right hon. Friend is watching the situation with great care with a view to seeing whether he can improve it in any way.
This is the conclusion of the debate on the Address. I have not time to deal with land values. My right hon. Friend the Minister indicated in his speech the number of new towns at present being built. He indicated the new towns in Lancashire and in the Birmingham area in contemplation. He indicated the measures he has taken for the future of the development plans with the local authorities and the steps he has taken with a view to trying to use our land in the way desired by the hon. Member for Fulham, who put it in a very dramatic way, saying that 50,000 square miles of new building land is necessary to meet all our obligations.
I will conclude with a word used by the right hon. Member for Huyton—that we were wallowing in extravagant complacency. I will only say that we 967 have a housing record very much better than that of right hon. and hon. Members opposite, and we propose to maintain it until the end of our time.
§ Question put, That those words be there added:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 233, Noes 332.971
|Division No. 2.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Owen, will|
|Ainsley, William||Hamilton, William (West Fife)||Paget, R. T.|
|Albu, Austen||Hannan, William||Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Hart, Mrs. Judith||Pargiter, G. A.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Hayman, F. H.||Parker, John (Dagenham)|
|Awbery, Stan||Healey, Denis||Parkin, B. T. (Paddington, N.)|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur (Rwly Regis)||Pavitt, Laurence|
|Baird, John||Herbison, Miss Margaret||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)|
|Baxter, william (Stirlingshire, W.)||Hewitson, Capt. M.||Peart, Frederick|
|Beaney, Alan||Hill, J. (Midlothian)||Pentland, Norman|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Hilton, A. V.||Popplewell, Ernest|
|Bence, Cyril (Dunbartonshire, E.)||Holman, Percy||Prentice, R. E.|
|Benn, Hn. A. Wedgwood (Brist'l, S. E.)||Houghton, Douglas||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Benson, Sir George||Howell, Charles A.||Probert, Arthur|
|Blackburn, F.||Hoy, James H.||Proctor, W. T.|
|Blyton, William||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Pursey, Cmdr. Harry|
|Boardman, H.||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Randall, Harry|
|Bowden, Herbert W. (Leics, S. W.)||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Rankin, John|
|Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan)||Hunter, A. E.||Redhead, E. C.|
|Bowles, Frank||Hynd, John (Attercliffe)||Reid, William|
|Boyden, James||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Reynolds, G. W.|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Rhodes, H.|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||Janner, Barnett||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Brown, Alan (Tottenham)||Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Jeger, George||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)||Ross, William|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Royle, Charles (Salford, West)|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Johnston, Douglas (Paisley)||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Callaghan, James||Jones, Rt. Hn. A. Creech (Wakefield)||Short, Edward|
|Castle, Mrs. Barbara||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Chapman, Donald||Jones, Elwyn (West Ham, S.)||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Chetwynd, George||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Cliffe, Michael||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)|
|Collick, Percy||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Kelley, Richard||Small, William|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Kenyon, Clifford||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Cronin, John||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Snow, Julian|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||King, Dr. Horace||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Lawson, George||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Ledger, Ron||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Steele, Thomas|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Stonehouse, John|
|Deer, George||Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)||Stones, William|
|de Freitas, Geoffrey||Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)||Strachey, Rt. Hon. John|
|Delargy, Hugh||Lipton, Marcus||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Vauxhall)|
|Dempsey, James||Loughlin, Charles||Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)|
|Dodds, Norman||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Summerskill, Dr. Rt. Hon. Edith|
|Donnelly, Desmond||McCann, John||Swingler, Stephen|
|Driberg, Tom||MacColl, James||Sylvester, George|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John||McInnes, James||Symonds, J. B.|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. Chuter||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Edelman, Maurice||Mackie, John||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||McLeavy, Frank||Thompson, Dr. Alan (Dunfermline)|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Mahon, Simon||Thomson, G. M. (Dundee, E.)|
|Edwards, Walter (Stepney)||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)|
|Evans, Albert||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Thorpe, Jeremy|
|Fernyhough, E.||Manuel, A. C.||Timmons, John|
|Finch, Harold||Mapp, Charles||Tomney, Frank|
|Fitch, Alan||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Fletcher, Eric||Mayhew, Christopher||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Forman, J. C.||Mellish, R. J.||Warbey, William|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Mendelson, J. J.||Weltzman, David|
|Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. Hugh||Millan, Bruce||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Galpern, Sir Myer||Mitchison, G. R.||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|George, Lady Megan Lloyd||Moody, A. S.||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Ginsburg, David||Morris, John||Whitlock, William|
|Gourlay, Harry||Mort, D. L.||Wigg, George|
|Greenwood, Anthony||Moyle, Arthur||Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.|
|Grey, Charles||Mulley, Frederick||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Neal, Harold||Willey, Frederick|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Williams, D. J. (Neath)|
|Griffiths, W. (Exchange)||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip (Derby, S.)||Williams, Rev. Li. (Abertillery)|
|Grimond, J.||Oliver, G. H.||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Gunter, Ray||Oram, A. E.||Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)||Oswald, Thomas||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Winterbottom, R. E.||Wyatt, Woodrow||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.||Yates, Victor (Ladywood)||Mr. J. Taylor and|
|Woof, Robert||Zilliacus, K.||Mr. G. H. R. Rogers.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M.||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)|
|Aitken, W. T.||Doughty, Charles||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)|
|Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.)||Drayson, G. B.||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)|
|Allason, James||du Cann, Edward||Johnson Smith, Geoffrey|
|Alport, Rt. Hon. C. J. M.||Duthie, Sir William||Jones, Rt. Hn. Aubrey (Hall Green)|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir David||Joseph, Sir Keith|
|Arbuthnot, John||Eden, John||Kerans, Cdr. J. S.|
|Ashton, Sir Hubert||Elliott, R. W.||Kerr, Sir Hamilton|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||Kershaw, Anthony|
|Balniel, Lord||Errington, Sir Eric||Kimball, Marcus|
|Barber, Anthony||Farey-Jones, F. W.||Kirk, Peter|
|Barlow, Sir John||Farr, John||Kitson, Timothy|
|Barter, John||Fell, Anthony||Lagden, Godfrey|
|Batsford, Brian||Finlay, Graeme||Lambton, Viscount|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley (Southgate)||Fisher, Nigel||Lancaster, Col. C. G.|
|Beamish, Col. Tufton||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Langford-Holt, J.|
|Bell, Ronald (S. Bucks.)||Forrest, George||Leather, E. H. C.|
|Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)||Foster, John||Leavey, J. A.|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos & Fhm)||Fraser, Hn. Hugh (Stafford & Stone)||Leburn, Gilmour|
|Berkeley, Humphry||Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry|
|Bevins, Rt. Hon. Reginald (Toxteth)||Freeth, Denzil||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)|
|Bidgood, John C.||Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.||Lilley, F. J. P.|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Gammans, Lady||Lindsay, Martin|
|Bingham, R. M.||Gardner, Edward||Linstead, Sir Hugh|
|Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||George, J. C. (Pollok)||Litchfield, Capt. John|
|Bishop, F. P.||Gibson-Watt, David||Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfield)|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Glover, Sir Douglas||Lloyd, Rt. Hon Selwyn (Wirral)|
|Bossom, Clive||Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham)||Longbottom, Charles|
|Bourne-Arton, A.||Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.)||Longden, Gilbert|
|Box, Donald||Godber, J. B.||Loveys, Walter H.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. John||Goodhart, Philip||Low, Rt. Hon. Sir Toby|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Goodhew, Victor||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)|
|Braine, Bernard||Gough, Frederick||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh|
|Brewis, John||Gower, Raymond||McAdden, Stephen|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Grant, Rt. Hon. William (Woodside)||MacArthur, Ian|
|Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R. (Nantwich)||McLaren, Martin|
|Brooman-White, R.||Green, Alan||McLaughlin, Mrs. Patricia|
|Browne, Percy (Torrington)||Gresham Cooke, R.||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John|
|Bryan, Paul||Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy (Bute & N. Ayrs.)|
|Bullard, Denys||Gurden, Harold||McLean, Neil (Inverness)|
|Bullus, Wing Commander Eric||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.)|
|Burden, F. A.||Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)||MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Hare, Rt. Hon. John||McMaster, Stanley R.|
|Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A. (Saffron Walden)||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.)||Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Harold (Bromley)|
|Campbell, Sir David (Belfast, S.)||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)|
|Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)|
|Carr, Compton (Barons Court)||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)||Maddan, Martin|
|Carr, Robert (Mitcham)||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Maginnis, John E.|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Harvie Anderson, Miss||Maitland, Sir John|
|Channon, H. P. G.|
|Chataway, Christopher||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Heath, Rt. Hon. Edward||Markham, Major Sir Frank|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Sir Winston||Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Marlowe, Anthony|
|Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)||Henderson-Stewart, Sir James||Marples, Rt. Hon. Ernest|
|Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Hendry, Forbes||Marshall, Douglas|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Hicks Beach, Maj. W.||Marten, Neil|
|Cleaver, Leonard||Hiley, Joseph||Mathew, Robert (Honiton)|
|Cole, Norman||Hill, Dr. Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)||Matthews, Gordon (Meriden)|
|Cooke, Robert||Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe)||Maudling, Rt. Hon. Reginald|
|Cooper, A. E.||Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)||Mawby, Ray|
|Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Hirst, Geoffrey||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Hobson, John||Mills, Stratton|
|Cordle, John||Hocking, Philip N.||Molson, Rt. Hon. Hugh|
|Corfield, F. V.||Holland, Philip||Montgomery, Fergus|
|Costain, A. P.||Hollingworth, John||Moore, Sir Thomas|
|Coulson, J. M.||Hope, Rt. Hon. Lord John||Morgan, William|
|Courtney, Cdr. Anthony||Hopkins, Alan||Morrison, John|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford||Hornby, R. P.||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles|
|Critchley, Julian||Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Patricia||Nabarro, Gerald|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)||Neave, Airey|
|Crowder, F. P.||Howard, Hon. G. R. (St. Ives)||Noble, Michael|
|Cunningham, Knox||Howard, John (Southampton, Test)||Nugent, Sir Richard|
|Curran, Charles||Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral John||Oakshott, Sir Hendrie|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Hughes-Young, Michael||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Hulbert, Sir Norman||Orr-Ewing, C. Ian|
|Dance, James||Hurd, Sir Anthony||Osborn, John (Hallam)|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Osborne, Cyril (Louth)|
|Deedes, W. F.||Iremonger, T. L.||Page, John (Harrow, West)|
|de Ferranti, Basil||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Page, Graham|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||Jackson, John||Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)|
|Partridge, E.||Sandys, Rt. Hon. Duncan||Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)|
|Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)||Scott-Hopkins, James||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|Peel, John||Seymour, Leslie||Turner, Colin|
|Percival, Ian||Sharples, Richard||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth||Shaw, M.||van, Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Pike, Miss Mervyn||Shepherd, William||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Pilkington, Capt. Richard||Simon, Sir Jocelyn||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir John|
|Pitman, I. J.||Skeet, T. H. H.||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|Pitt, Miss Edith||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'rd & Chiswick)||Vosper, Rt. Hon. Dennis|
|Pott, Percivall||Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood)||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)|
|Powell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch||Spearman, Sir Alexander||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Derek|
|Price, David (Eastleigh)||Stanley, Hon. Richard||Wall, Patrick|
|Price, H. A. (Lewisham, W.)||Stevens, Geoffrey||Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)|
|Prior, J. M. L.||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)||Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold|
|Prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho||Stodart, J. A.||Watts, James|
|Profumo, Rt. Hon. John||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Ramsden, James||Storey, Sir Samuel||Whitelaw, William|
|Rawlinson, Peter||Studholme, Sir Henry||Williams, Dudley (Exeter)|
|Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin||Summers, Sir Spencer (Aylesbury)||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Reel, Hugh||Sumner, Donald (Orpington)||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Rees-Davies, W. R.||Talbot, John E.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Renton, David||Tapsell, Peter||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Ridley, Hon. Nicholas||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)||Wood, Rt. Hon. Richard|
|Ridsdale, Julian||Taylor, W. J. (Bradford, N.)||Woodhouse, C. M.|
|Rippon, Geoffrey||Teeling, William||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)||Temple, John M.||Woollam, John|
|Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret||Worsley, Marcus|
|Robson Brown, Sir William||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)||Thomas, Peter (Conway)|
|Roots, William||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard||Thompson, Richard (Croydon, S.)||Mr. E. Wakefield and|
|Royle, Anthony (Richmond, Surrey)||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. Peter||Colonel J. H. Harrison.|
|Russell, Ronald||Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin|
§ Main Question put and agreed to.
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty as follows:
Most Gracious Sovereign,
We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.
§ To be presented by Privy Councillors or Members of Her Majesty's Household.