HC Deb 06 June 1961 vol 641 cc864-6
8. Mrs. Butler

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs, in view of the continued high price of land what further action he is taking to assist local housing authorities who cannot build urgently needed council dwellings.

Mr. Brooke

Housing authorities already receive substantial assistance towards the cost of expensive sites. I have no reason to think that with this aid they are not able to meet the cost of purchasing land required for urgent housing needs.

Mrs. Butler

Is the Minister aware that many councils have had to abandon much-needed schemes because of the high cost of land, including one that has a waiting list of more than 500, which has closed its books and has stopped building altogether for the same reason? Is the Minister not further aware that the payment of subsidies is no solution for tackling the root of the problem and, unless he deals with land speculation as a matter of urgency, increasingly socially necessary building will be priced out of the market?

Mr. Brooke

I am not aware of any local authority which has closed down on grounds of the cost of land. There are these expensive site subsidies, which rise continually, with no particular limit. I am at the moment taking through a Housing Bill which will assist authorities that are in special financial difficulty with their housing progress, and I believe that with this assistance every local authority should be able to carry on.

Mr. M. Stewart

Although the expensive site subsidy may be necessary to help certain local authorities, its net effect is to enable speculators to exploit all of us—instead of people in particular localities. Will not the Minister consider more radical remedies of this problem of the rising price of land?

Mr. Brooke

I have indicated my attitude towards the rising price of land. Undoubtedly there is pressure for land, especially around the large cities, but my concern is that there should be no artificial increase in the price of land through land being withheld from development which is, in fact, suitable for housing development. As regards reports in the papers that a certain local authority, not so far from London, has ceased building on the grounds of the cost of land, I am advised that that is not true.

Mr. Watts

Does the Minister not agree that this problem will not be solved unless it is worked out on an area basis—the North-West, Birmingham, the London area, and so on? Does he not further agree that this must be done under Government strategic supervision, with particular regard to the needs of immigrants into this country?

Mr. Brooke

I am not at all anxious to take local duties out of the hands of local authorities, but I have made clear to the House on several occasions that I am bringing together all the planning authorities in all the major conurbations to assess the supply of housing land and the demand for it. That will help me to reach conclusions.

14. Mr. MacColl

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs in how many cases he has refused loan sanction for housing development because of the high cost of the land on which the houses were to be built.

Mr. Brooke

Such cases are very rare. I cannot give an exact figure.

Mr. MacColl

Does the Minister think that the rarity is due to the fact that local authorities realise that they could not develop these schemes even with the subsidy, or is it due to the fact that the subsidy does not cover the cost?

Mr. Brooke

I cannot say what the cost of it is. Obviously, a local authority does give consideration to the cost of the land. At the same time, the subsidy is a not ungenerous one and, as I remarked before, there is no upper limit to it.