§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 3.36 p.m.
§ The Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs (Mr. Henry Brooke)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
I say frankly that it has always been my hope that I would get an opportunity, as Minister of Housing, to initiate and to carry through Parliament a major Housing Bill. Here is that Bill. It covers a wide range of matters on which, in the view of the Government, fresh action is now called for at this stage of our post-war housing progress.
I have been encouraged by the reception given to the White Paper to think that a great deal in this Bill commands general assent. Where we are doubtful let us argue it out. There are new powers in this Bill which many housing authorities badly want and I hope that we shall make sure that they get them as soon as possible. I am very keen to hear the views of the House on the Bill, and I can shorten my speech and leave more time for general debate if I do not recapitulate all the background information which has been set out in the White Paper on Housing in England and Wales, which has been in the hands of hon. Members for six weeks or so.
I believe that it will be more helpful to the House if I leave the White Paper to speak for itself today and go over in some detail the actual proposals in the Bill. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, when he winds up the debate later, will, of course, be ready to deal with any queries either on the Bill or on the White Paper. Meanwhile, I am interested to see that the Opposition Amendment, while it ranges over various other matters, seems to direct very little criticism against the far-reaching proposals in the Bill itself.
As the national housing shortage is overcome, the local and the social needs to which an up-to-date housing policy ought to be directed naturally become more detailed and more varied. As slum clearance progresses, some authorities can more and more turn their 961 attention to the relief of overcrowding and prevention of squalor. As building programmes continue, some housing authorities, the more fortunate ones, are found to need less Exchequer assistance than they get under the present Housing Acts, but some housing authorities need more assistance, and others need much more.
In the Government's view, the time has come for a radical change in our traditional system of housing subsidies, reducing future Exchequer help to councils which are or which could be relatively well off in their housing accounts and giving extra help to councils, whether in towns or in the country, which need more help if they are to go on fulfilling their housing duties, especially those councils which are concerned in overspill building or which are tackling heavy slum clearance costs, as well as rural districts the financial resources of which are limited.
A further stimulus, too, is now needed to the use of improvement grants and to building to let, I shall revert to these matters one by one as I go through the Bill.
The heart of the new subsidy proposals is in Clause 4. This is the Clause which provides for alternative basic rates of subsidy, either £24 or £8 a house. Whether it will be £24 or £8 depends on the assessment of the particular authority's resources. Before I come to this in detail, I should say a word about Clause 3.
Clause 3 deals with subsidies on houses built by local authorities for what is called overspill, or to meet the urgent needs of industry, with houses built by development corporations in new towns, and with certain houses built by housing associations, for example, where they build for old people. The subsidy on houses to meet overspill needs, whether under town development schemes or in new towns, is to be raised to £28 a year. Also, the annual contribution which the Minister may pay towards the cost of providing houses under town development schemes is to be raised from £8 maximum to £12, with a similar increase in the case of new towns.
The power to do that will be found in Clause 10, which also provides that half the contribution may be recovered from an exporting authority, just as at present, 962 but for a period of up to fifteen years instead of the present ten years. My intention is that, in the case of houses provided in future, the normal period for Exchequer contributions also will be fifteen years.
§ Mr. Joseph Slater (Sedgefield)
Will the Minister say when the £28 will come into operation in respect of new town development corporations?
§ Mr. Brooke
I shall come to the timing in a few minutes.
The total financial assistance available in these cases will be £40 a house in place of the present £32. The object is to give a further stimulus to building for the relief of congestion in big towns and cities which cannot possibly rehouse all their people in decent conditions within their own areas. I hope that authorities which are making their own arrangements with receiving authorities will be encouraged to increase the assistance they are offering and the period for which it is offered.
A further encouragement of a different type to overspill building is provided in Clause 31, which makes two or three changes in the law which will be useful. It makes it possible for county boroughs to act as receiving authorities under the Town Development Act, 1952, and it also empowers county councils in exporting areas to give financial and other assistance to receiving authorities.
§ Mr. Brooke
I think that it would be better if I were allowed to continue.
To return to Clause 3, this continues, also, the existing £24 subsidy for houses to meat the urgent needs of industry and provides the same subsidy for dwellings provided by housing associations. All subsidies under Clause 3 are independent of any assessment of the resources of the body concerned. The reason for that is that these subsidies are intended to provide a special incentive and, of course, in the case of housing associations a test of resources would not be appropriate at all.
§ Mr. Charles Royle (Salford, West)
Will the Minister give way for a moment on a matter of information? Do the increases of subsidy up to £24 include multi-storey flats?
§ Mr. Brooke
If hon. Members will allow me to make my speech in my own way, they will find, I think, that I shall cover all these points. Other matters may be raised in detail later. I was coming in due order to each of the points so far raised.
§ Mr. John Dugdale (West Bromwich)
May I refer to something which the Minister has omitted altogether? Does he intend to deal with Clause 2 at all?
§ Mr. Brooke
I can only ask the right hon. Gentleman to wait and see. My fear today has been that I should make too long a speech. I want to make it a thorough speech. I am dealing with the Clauses not necessarily in number order, but in what seems to me to be, perhaps, a more logical order for the purposes of this speech.
Turning to Clause 4, for all other local authority houses approved for the purpose, there are to be, as the House knows, two basic rates of subsidy, £24 and £8. Which of these two rates will apply to the houses built by a particular local authority at a particular time will depend upon the adequacy of the council's resources in relation to its out-goings. This will be tested by putting on one side the expenditure actually borne on the authority's housing revenue account for the relevant year, which will normally be the year before the year in which the house is completed, putting on the other side of the ledger an assumed income, and then comparing the two.
The assumed income will be calculated by taking twice the 1939 gross value for rating purposes of all the houses included in the housing revenue account and adding to that the Exchequer subsidies and any other income actually credited to the account for that year other than house rents and contributions from the general rate fund. Then, if the assumed income measured in this way is less than the actual expenditure, a basic subsidy of £24 will be payable. If the income equals or exceeds the expenditure, then the subsidy will be £8, subject to a measure of what is called marginal relief.
The logic of this is that twice the 1939 gross value is a contribution which every local authority can reasonably be expected to make from its own resources 964 in the shape of potential rent income, with or without—I hope without—assistance from the rates. Councils which would then have a surplus of income over expenditure are, quite clearly, in less need of Exchequer assistance than the rest. What rents are actually charged and whether any contribution at all is made from the rates are questions which have been, are now, and will continue to be, for the individual local authority to decide.
At present, the situation is that local authorities are receiving about £61 million a year in subsidy from the Exchequer on their existing houses which, of course, include in many places large numbers of cheap pre-war houses which may no longer in these days need to be subsidised at all. At the current rate of building, local authorities are receiving, also, an additional £3 million every year in subsidy. The £61 million is going up by about £3 million a year. If the whole of these subsidies is used to assist tenants who genuinely need help with their rents, and only to the extent of their need, housing authorities generally should have no difficulty in raising a rent income of not less than twice the 1939 gross value of their houses, without hardships to anyone.
I attach great importance to the point that, if the resources of any housing authority are shown by the test to be particularly inadequate, and if, also, the general rates in the area are above the national average, then the authority can qualify for further Exchequer assistance. If the excessive expenditure over assumed income is more than the yield of a 1s. 3d. rate after allowing for rate deficiency grant, the £24 subsidy will be increased to £29. Hon. Members will find this in the First Schedule to the Bill. If it is more than the yield of a 2s. 6d. rate, the subsidy will be £34. If it is more than the yield of a 3s. 9d. rate the subsidy will be £40.
These increased rates of subsidy will be mandatory. They take the place of the discretionary subsidy now payable under Section 6 of the 1958 Act. This system of subsidies is designed to concentrate Exchequer assistance where it is most needed and thus to make possible increased aid to poorer authorities while keeping down the burden on the taxpayer. I have no doubt that I shall 965 be told that it may mean loss of subsidy to some of the authorities which are still faced with some of the biggest housing problems, but the fact remains that no authority will drop down to the £8 level unless, by definition, it has ample resources for the time being to carry on.
If, as a result of continued building, local authorities come to the point where they have used up their surplus resources then they will automatically qualify for a higher rate of subsidy, which will go up to £24, or £29, or £34, or even £40 per house if, in due course, their financial resources warrant it.
The new arrangements under Clause 4 and the First Schedule, as I say, automatically take account of the changes in the financial position of each authority in consequence of the continued building it has to do, and they provide for increased Exchequer help accordingly. I want to make clear that subsidies at the appropriate rate will be available henceforward on all approved houses built by local authorities instead of being strictly limited, as at present, to houses built for certain special purposes. The authorities will have to show that they do need to build for the purposes they propose before they will get subsidy approval. Building for slum clearance and for old people will still continue to be their main tasks—and may I say, in passing, that I thought that there was a very valuable debate in this House on housing for the elderly, a few Fridays ago?
My object in making the subsidy arrangements more flexible now is to enable local authorities to provide a greater variety of bungalows and flats for old people—that meets a point which was made in that debate—and also to enable them to tackle problems outside the field of slum clearance, problems such as rehousing from very badly overcrowded or over-occupied houses, problems which they alone are able to deal with and where the need for action is acute.
The rest of the present subsidy system will continue. Clauses 5 and 6 will be found to look after that. Expensive site subsidy, where the site as developed costs more than £4,000 an acre, will remain. There will continue to be additional subsidies for flats in blocks 966 of four or more storeys, and for agricultural cottages, and in certain areas for building in stone, and towards the cost of precautions against subsidence.
Now I come to the date from which the new or altered subsidies will apply. Subject to the special exceptions which are mentioned in Clause 1, the new or altered subsidies will apply to all houses included in tenders or estimates accepted by resolution passed on or after 16th February, 1961, the date of publication of the Bill. That follows the precedent of the 1956 Act, and I think that it is generally accepted to be the fairest way, because it means that so far as possible all houses which were, so to speak, commissioned on the basis of the old rates will qualify for the old rates.
The new subsidies like the present ones will normally be payable for sixty years, but by Clause 2 (4) I am taking power to abolish or reduce by order, subject to affirmative Resolution of this House, subsidies which are already being paid under this Bill if the Bill has been in force ten years. I want to make it perfectly clear that this power will not he used unless there has been a really major change in the need of housing authorities for Exchequer assistance, and then only after consultation with the local authority associations concerned.
The reason for this subsection I can explain briefly. It is wrong that the taxpayer should be committed to the payment of subsidy for as long a period as sixty years regardless of any changes in the meantime in income levels. Let us look back fifty years: 1911 is fifty years ago. If, during the next half century, there were to be another rise in the general income level comparable with the rise in the last fifty years since 1911 it would be absurd to be bound to go on paying out subsidies till the year 2021 at rates which had been decided sixty years earlier. This is simply a precautionary provision. There may never be cause to use it. If there is no major rise in income levels, and, therefore, rent-paying capacity, in the course of the sixty years it will never be used.
§ Mr. Dugdale
Is there any precedent for allowing a Minister to change the rate of subsidy before the rent repayment period comes to an end?
§ Mr. Brooke
No. This is new. The Government have been doing some important new thinking, but everybody who looks back over the history of these matters sees that it is now absurd for the taxpayer, here and now, to be continuing to pay subsidy at the rate fixed in 1911, or perhaps 1921, when that subsidy was needed, though income levels have vastly changed and there are not the same financial reasons for any subsidy to be paid at all on those houses now. But the Government are bound by Act of Parliament to go on paying, and there is no question of making any alteration with regard to subsidies to which we have been committed in the past.
This puts all concerned on warning that if there were to be a major change in income levels at some time between 1971 and 2021 the Government might have cause to invoke this subsection, but they would not do so in any other circumstances, and they would not do so except after consultation with the local authority associations concerned. There is, therefore, no reason whatever for any local authority to feel that this creates uncertainty or to be deterred from going on with its housing policy.
§ Mr. Slater
The right hon. Gentleman is making great play with living levels, increased wages, and so on, but what about price levels? He has not taken them into consideration. He has made no reference to them at all.
§ Mrs. Harriet Slater (Stoke-on-Trent, North)
What consideration is the right hon. Gentleman giving to the question of local authorities' long-term planning for housing, for many local authorities will have to face the problem that in ten years' time subsidy may be cut off? Does he not think that this is a retrograde step and stops local authorities from long-term planning?
§ Mr. C. Royle
Does this mean that the Government do not anticipate any further housing legislation in the next ten years? Otherwise, why put this in this Bill now?
§ Mr. Brooke
I cannot speak for future Parliaments, but I can say that in my view it would be wrong for the Government to alter the rate of subsidy to which they had already been committed without having come out into 968 the open and put their cards on the table and include in the Bill a subsection such as this.
In answer to the hon. Lady, there is no question of reducing the subsidy in future unless the rent-paying capacity of people generally so increases that that subsidy is no longer needed. If she will look back—she has a great deal of housing experience, and I am quite sure that she is familiar with the financing of houses built in those years—she will see that the houses were built and the subsidies arranged on the assumption that the rent-paying capacity of ordinary people was put at a certain level. That rent-paying capacity is now two or three times that level thanks to increases in wages and income since then.
There is no reason why account should not be taken of this. It would be quite wrong for the taxpayer to continue for the whole period of sixty years to make subsidy payments to local authorities if, on current figures, which would have to be discussed with local authority associations, it was clear that those payments from the Exchequer were no longer needed. But I recognise that this is a matter for debate. It is one of the novel and, I think, far-sighted provisions included in the Bill.
I want now to speak of housing associations. For many years non-profit-making housing associations have made a valuable contribution to housing progress. The normal procedure is for a housing association to enter into what the Housing Acts describe as "authorised arrangements" with the local authority. This enables the authority to pass on to the housing association any subsidy which the authority itself would have received for the houses to be built by the housing association. Most housing associations finance their schemes also with loans from the local authorities. This partnership between local authorities and housing associations has worked well for many years. Nothing at all in the Bill is intended to disturb it.
The Government look to the local authorities to continue their support for schemes by housing associations which are supplementary to their own building. I want the local authorities to be ready to finance such schemes and also to enter into authorised arrangements so that the housing association may obtain 969 subsidy in any case where subsidy would have been obtainable had the local authority undertaken the building itself. Where a housing association builds houses which would qualify for subsidy if they were built by a local authority, it will receive subsidy at the rate of £24. But the new and significant opportunities opened up to the housing associations by Clause 7 of the Bill are over and above their present range of activities in supplementing the work of local authorities.
There is an undoubted need for more houses to rent among people who would be able and willing to pay a full cost rent. Today, this need is largely unmet. Private enterprise is concentrating on the building of houses for owner-occupation and the country is so prosperous under a Conservative Government that the demand shows no sign of falling off. Local authorities obviously need to give priority to people who otherwise would not be able to help themselves. If therefore, we are to stimulate interest in building to let we need to look at this moment to other agencies.
Housing associations, standing midway between local authorities and private enterprise and already experienced in the housing field, are the natural choice. Clause 7 provides for a scheme of direct loans by the Minister to housing associations, to finance the building of houses to be let at unsubsidised rents. The Minister will enter into direct arrangements with housing associations for the purpose. Where a scheme is approved, the loan can be up to 100 per cent. of the cost, though I hope that the association will usually be able to put in some money of its own. Interest will be at the rate at which the Public Works Loan Board is lending to local authorities, and for the same periods.
The basic conditions will be that the housing association must be a bona fide non-profit-making organisation, that it should be able to show the existence of a real local need for the type of houses or flats or maisonettes to be built, and that the houses will remain available for letting, unless the scheme is to be on a co-operative basis. The Exchequer will provide on loan up to £25 million for the purpose of this scheme. By the time the advances reach that figure I hope that the scheme will have done its work in 970 defining the existence of a real demand for houses to let at non-subsidised rents and that by then other agencies will be able to take over the meeting of it.
Schemes under Clause 7 will not ordinarily, therefore, rank for housing subsidy. They are designed for people outside the normal range of local authority housing—not for people who have all the money in the world, but for people who could afford to meet the unsubsidised rent of houses costing up to, say, £3,500. The one exception will be for schemes approved under Clause 7 for the benefit of old people. By Clause 1 (1, d), to encourage development of this kind, the Minister is empowered to enter directly into special arrangements with a housing association which will enable the association to receive the subsidy of £24 for houses or flats that it builds for old people.
These special arrangements are not intended to replace the "authorised arrangements", as they are called, between local authorities and housing associations where these ordinary authorised arrangements would be appropriate. They are meant to be a kind of long-stop, to enable a housing association to obtain subsidy in a case where a good scheme for the housing of old people, for example, might otherwise come to nothing.
Therefore, one type of housing association which I greatly hope may spring up as a result of the Bill is what is called the co-operative housing association, in which a group of would-be occupiers form themselves into a body to build and then to manage collectively houses or flats in which the members themselves will live. We in this country have a lot to learn from schemes of this kind. They have already become well-established in other countries and I think that they have a value of their own in developing mutual responsibility based upon home ownership.
I know that some leading builders in England have already expressed interest in developing schemes of this kind. The fact that such an association would be formed entirely of members collectively owning and occupying their own homes ought to be a guarantee of strength and responsibility and I hope that banks and insurance companies and the like will be prepared to give sound schemes of this sort their support.
971 Clause 7 therefore opens to housing associations a greatly widened field of activities. Up to now valuable as their contribution has been, it has been relatively restricted. Potentially, I believe that they are capable of far more than they have as yet been called upon to undertake. They are in a unique position to couple social service with self-help, and they have the great advantage that their individual schemes are generally on such a scale as to make it possible for them to retain the personal touch. That is one of the reasons why they have been so successful in the schemes which they have so far undertaken for old people. Now, in the Bill, they are being given a new challenge and I am sure that they will respond.
I should like to move now to Clauses 26 to 28. These Clauses will make a number of useful changes in the law relating to improvement grants. If the owner of a controlled house carries out improvements, the existing rent limit is increased by 8 per cent. of his expenditure. The same rent limit and increase of 8 per cent. apply where an uncontrolled house is improved with the aid of grants, unless the local authority uses the powers given to it by the House Purchase and Housing Act to fix a higher rent when approving the application for grant. This 8 per cent. is not a clear return. It is subject to Income Tax, like other forms of income. In the case of companies it is subject to Profits Tax as well. Out of what remains after tax has been paid the owner has to amortise this expenditure over the likely life of the property before he can get any return at all on his capital expenditure.
Properties improved with the aid of standard grants may have a life of no more than fifteen years in front of them. In such cases a gross return of 8 per cent. not only provides no incentive to the landlord; it does not even leave him with enough to redeem his original expenditure after Income Tax has been paid at the standard rate. As a nation we simply cannot afford to have our older houses decaying into slums for lack of improvement and modernisation.
I am proposing, therefore, in Clause 26, to increase the permitted return to 12½ per cent. This is reckoned, of course, only on the landlord's share of the expenditure, so that if an owner spends 972 £300 on installing the standard amenities in an old-fashioned house and obtains £150 towards that in grant, the permitted rent will be increased by 12½ per cent. of £150, which is just over 7s. a week. That is all that the tenant will have to pay in a case like that to get the benefit of modern amenities like a proper hot water system, a proper bath and an indoor water closet.
I am most anxious that there should not be any hold-up in the work of improvement while the Bill goes through. I am equally anxious that tenants who agreed to the carrying out of improvements at a time when the maximum permitted return was 8 per cent. should not now find themselves committed automatically to 12½ per cent., but should have the opportunity of reconsidering the whole position in the light of the Bill.
This Clause, therefore, provides that the new rates shall apply to all improvements carried out after the operation of the Bill, with the exception that where the landlord is proceeding in reliance on a consent that was given by the tenant before it became law, the new rents will not apply unless the tenant's consent is given in writing and makes it clear that he recognises that the rent limit can be increased by 12½ per cent. of the landlord's expenditure. The tenant's position is, therefore, safeguarded, but it will be open to a landlord wanting to do improvements to approach his tenants and to secure their consent on the new basis, if he can, and put the work in hand in advance of the actual passing of the Bill.
Clauses 27 and 28 are really tidying-up operations. Clause 27 simply proposes changes which experience has shown to be desirable in the definition of two of the standard amenities. Clause 28 remedies defects in existing legislation which prevent the benefit of grants from being obtained in certain circumstances owing purely to technicalities.
Perhaps I might, at this point in my speech, mention also Clauses 21 to 23, which are intended to bring more flexibility into the law in another direction, which, I think, will be generally approved. The most important of these Clauses is Clause 21, which provides for the revocation or variation of clearance orders where there is a case for doing that. At present, these orders, once 973 made, are irrevocable, and once an order has been confirmed the owners are under a legal duty to demolish the houses which are comprised in the order. This is so inflexible that it can lead to a waste of accommodation where the houses have since been made perfectly fit or can be made fit.
There is a substantial number of houses which were included in clearance orders made as long ago as before the last war. Then war broke out and they were temporarily reprieved, and they have been occupied ever since under licence. During those years—twenty or more—some of them have had money spent on them and have now been put into good shape. But as the law stands, they have to be demolished when the licences expire. It would, in fact, be quite absurd to demolish them.
Other cases also arise from time to time where, after a clearance order has been confirmed, a would-be purchaser of a house comes along who would be prepared to spend the money necessary to make an unfit house properly fit to be lived in. But there is no way under the law as it stands of removing the clearance order, and so he sheers off.
Clause 21, which needs to be read along with the Third Schedule, empowers a local authority, at its discretion, to make and submit to the Minister orders modifying or revoking clearance orders if it is satisfied that the houses have been made fit or will be made fit, and is satisfied, too, that the particular houses can be reprieved from demolition without prejudicing the clearance of the rest of the clearance area. Hon. Members on both sides of the House have written to me from time to time to point out how unreasonably the absolute rigidity of the present law affects particular houses in their constituencies, and I have been wanting an opportunity to make this change.
§ Mr. G. B. Drayson (Skipton)
Can my right hon. Friend say whether it would be possible for the owners of these properties to take action themselves and ask him to instruct the local authorities to remove the clearance order if they find themselves in a position to put the property in a proper state of repair?
§ Mr. Brooke
These are, of course, matters to be discussed in Committee, 974 but I feel that the initiative must come from the local authority itself. If objections were raised, I, as Minister, would have to reach a judgment, and I might be felt to have prejudiced my impartial judgment if I had suggested to the local authority that it should make an order.
I turn now to Clauses 29 and 30, which are almost the only provisions of the Bill not already outlined in the White Paper, because they were, in fact, foreshadowed in the Gracious Speech. These Clauses are to put a stop to the practice of a few unscrupulous landlords in attempting to impose unreasonable repairing obligations on their tenants.
There are two points to consider here; one of equity and one of public policy. As a matter of equity, any fair-minded person will say that it is unreasonable to require a tenant to undertake major repairs unless he is given sufficient security of tenure to enable him to enjoy the results of the money that he has spent. I know that the great majority of landlords throughout the country entirely accept that. I have not heard of many cases of landlords trying to impose this unreasonable requirement. But they can be very bad cases. I have heard even of weekly tenants being asked to take on responsibility for all repairs outdoors and indoors when the house is not at all in a satisfactory state at the start of the tenancy. That would mean, of course, that a tenant could be called upon to do repairs costing hundreds of pounds and then be given a month's notice to quit. The law must stop this; no tenant should be asked to accept terms like that.
To deal with this point of equity alone, it would have been enough simply to declare onerous covenants of this sort in a new lease to be invalid. But the Government do not think it right to stop there. For reasons of public policy, the Government are anxious to see that necessary repairs get done. To say simply that short-term tenants cannot be made responsible for repairs might mean that no one would be legally responsible. Quite apart from the kind of bad cases that I have mentioned, a number of other tenancy agreements are unsatisfactory because they make no proper provision far repairs at all. The 975 Government have, therefore, decided that the right policy is not only to relieve short-term tenants of unreasonable obligations, but, in the case of short-term tenancies, to put definite obligations on the landlord.
Clauses 29 and 30 will apply where a house is let for less than seven years and the letting is not regulated by other legislation. The landlord will be under an implied obligation to keep the structure and the exterior in a reasonable state of repair, having regard to its age and character, and also to keep the main service installations in proper working order.
§ Mr. Herbert Butler (Hackney, Central)
I have raised this matter before with the right hon. Gentleman. Has he, in connection with Clauses 29 and 30, taken into account electrical installations which have been in houses for twenty, thirty or even forty years, and which are now worn out?
§ Mr. Brooke
I invite the hon. Member to study the terms of this Clause. I have tried to draft it in such a way that it will be effective for the purpose which the Government have in mind. Like the rest of the Bill, it can be examined in detail in Committee.
There are three points which I want to mention in connection with these Clauses. First, under existing law all tenants are under a legal obligation to use the premises in a "tenant-like manner". This obligation is often made explicit by written covenant, but even if this is not done the obligation is still there.
It has been interpreted by the courts to mean that the tenant is to keep proper care of the premises and to do the simple odd jobs about the house that any reasonable man always does, such as mending fuses, replacing washers on taps, and unstopping blocked waste pipes. It would be ridiculous to compel the landlord to do small jobs like these, and Clause 29 (2, a) absolves him from obligations of that sort. The Clause, in stopping a landlord from being a bad landlord in the matter of repairs, is not an invitation to the tenant to be a bad tenant.
The second point is that we should make provisions for exceptional cases. The great majority of privately rented 976 houses and flats are held as an investment and are let to produce income. These Clauses are necessarily drafted with investment tenancies mainly in mind. They are based on the broad assumption that investment owners not only ought to look after their property, but are better equipped to do so than most short-term tenants. But not all lettings are like that.
The Service man or the professional man may be posted elsewhere for a year or two and may want to let his house while he is away. The sort of tenant he will want will be the same kind of person as himself, just as capable of looking after a house as he is. Two people like that will usually have no difficulty in striking a reasonable bargain which will make the tenant responsible for the house while the owner is away. Clause 30 (4) allows the county court to sanction contracting out in cases like that.
Thirdly, there is the point of timing. These provisions will apply to leases granted after the date of the introduction of this Bill. I do not like retrospective legislation, and I do not believe that the mischief at which this is aimed is so widespread that it would be right to go back beyond that date. But now that the terms of these Clauses are known, I do not intend to give unscrupulous landlords a chance to make mischief between the date of publication of the Bill and the date when it comes into force.
§ Mr. Marcus Lipton (Brixton)
What is to happen to those unfortunate people whose three-year agreements under the Rent Act, 1957, came to an end before 16th February, 1961? Some of them have already signed onerous leases under which they undertake responsibility for drains and all sorts of things.
§ Mr. Brooke
There have been a few, but very few, such cases. I considered that matter carefully, but the information which I had tended to show that these were very exceptional cases, and it did not seem to me that they were sufficiently widespread to justify Parliament in taking a step which it has always disliked—retrospective legislation. That is the reason why the Bill is drafted as it is.
Finally, I come back to Clauses 12 to 20. I have left them to the last because I attack so much importance to them as a housing reform. The evils against 977 which they are directed flourish mainly in big towns and cities, where houses, quite well built originally for middle class families, and not by any means slum houses, even today, now have one or more families living on each floor, with no proper conversion, too little in the way of cooking or washing facilities, and perhaps one lavatory for the whole house. Much more effective powers are needed to deal with bad living conditions in such houses, or in houses let off in rooms.
Clauses 12 to 14 contain entirely new powers to provide for reasonable standards of management and maintenance to be enforced where necessary. Clauses 15 to 20 re-enact in strengthened and more compelling form the existing powers to require the installation of cooking and sanitary facilities adequate to the numbers of people in the house. The provisions in Clauses 15 to 20 raise no new issue of principle. The question for Parliament to examine is whether we have succeeded in remedying the defects in the existing powers which have enabled less reputable landlords to evade their requirements.
I will not, therefore, dwell so much on Clauses 15 to 20 as on the earlier Clauses, and, in particular, the new power in Clause 12 for a local authority to make a management order. Some local authorities had represented to me that the best way to improve low standards of management and maintenance in houses in multiple occupation would be to re-enact the former byelaw-making power of local authorities. This power was repealed in 1954, on an earlier recommendation of the Ministry's Central Housing Advisory Committee.
I do not think that that would be the best course. I am convinced that the bad conditions in some areas today require a different approach. An essential requirement of the byelaw-making power was that there should be a general obligation for the registration of houses in multiple occupation. As I see the matter, this would impose a needless burden on the local authorities and on the owners of the very many houses which are satisfactorily maintained and managed without the necessity for any special control. What is really needed is not a general byelaw-making power, but an instrument of control that is more 978 selective and more powerful—an instrument to be brought into action only where the need for it is clear.
Accordingly, Clause 13 of the Bill empowers the Minister to prescribe regulations laying down a code of basic essentials for the management and maintenance of such houses. This ties in with Clause 12, which empowers the local authority, after due notice, and subject to a right of appeal to the magistrates' court, to make an order imposing this code on an individual house where there is a case for doing so. When a house which has been long neglected is first made subject to a management order, there may also be a lot to do to put right the neglect of years. Clause 14, therefore, empowers the local authority to require the making good of this accumulated neglect.
I know that fears have been expressed that these new powers may prove to be an unfair burden on the owners of unoffending properties. There is no risk of this. A study of Clause 13 will show that the matters to be dealt with in the regulations to be made under that Clause are no more than the basic essentials which the great majority of owners already take as a matter of course.
I should add that increased penalties are provided for a breach of conditions imposed under the management order, and also in a case of failure to carry out the works required to make a house suitable for the numbers of people occupying it. Unscrupulous landlords have been drawing big profits from some of these overcrowded houses, and anything less than a substantial penalty would be unlikely to suffice. If the landlord does not do the works required, the local authority is given a new power to carry out those works in default and recover the cost.
§ Mr. Charles Mapp (Oldham, East)
In following the Minister's remarks on Part II of the Bill and the covering Clasuses, and knowing his reasons for taking mandatory power to deal with abuses in respect of single houses with multiple occupation, will he explain to the House why those reasons, equally applicable in the case of a single house with single occupation dealt with in Part III, do not call for mandatory powers, also?
§ Mr. Brooke
What I was speaking about in dealing with Part II was the house which has a multiplicity of occupants, where it may be uncertain who is responsible for keeping, for example, the common parts of the house clean and doing the various necessary jobs which need to be done to maintain decent living conditions. That problem does not arise concerning the house occupied by a single family. Of course, a local authority has its public health powers as well as its housing powers to require that the house shall be in proper condition.
I am coming to the end of what has been a rather long speech. However well slum clearance goes, I would not forgive myself if, in my time as Minister, I failed to try to put on the Statute Book drastic powers to deal with the squalor in those houses of multiple occupation. As Minister of Housing and Local Government I go to many places to see for myself. I make that my business. I have seen housing estates which will provide lovely new homes. I have seen old, out-of-date houses so modernised that any woman could take pride in running them, and I have seen some conditions so foul that most people would not believe they still survived in this country of ours.
I shall long remember going into one of these big Victorian houses, up dirty steps, through a door with most of the paint off, up a staircase that never was cleaned, to three floors of squalor, except that in one of them the mother was obviously struggling against her surroundings to give her husband and children a decent home. There were no proper kitchens and no lavatory above the ground floor. I then went down to the basement. They tried to discourage me from seeing the basement, because a couple of women who were thought to be prostitutes occupied the basement, and it smelt one degree worse than the rest of the house.
I do not know exactly on whom rested the responsibility for the state of that house, but I felt, there and then, that unless I did something about it part responsibility would lie on me. I made up my mind that when the chance came to me to strike at such miserable living conditions in an English city in the twentieth century, I would strike—and strike hard.
§ 4.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham)
I beg to move, to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:this House declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill which, though making certain improvements of detail in housing policy, fails to deal with the major problems of land prices, interest rates and leasehold; perpetuates the hardships and insecurity arising from the Rent Act, 1957; makes no provision for an increased rate of building by local authorities; and restricts the freedom of those authorities and exposes them to financial uncertainly.The Minister himself provided us with the reason for our Amendment when, in the earlier part of his speech, he said that the national shortage of housing has been overcome. The national shortage of housing is not overcome. That is one of the basic facts which we have to keep in mind throughout the whole of this controversy.
The Bill seems to have embodied the fallacy put forward some weeks ago by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in the course of his duty of enlightening the nation as to the nature of Government policy. He argued then—and it was a matter for Question and Answer in the House—that there was no longer a national housing shortage, but only certain local housing shortages. If we are to get anywhere in this matter, we must put that right.
The truth is that there is a housing shortage in every region of the country. It is also true that the impact of that shortage varies somewhat from region to region. In one region, an abuse may be rampant for which a particular set of remedies is relevant, whereas in other regions other remedies are relevant. In every region, however, we find, in one form or another, the effects of a national housing shortage. What we find in this Bill—and why we thought it right to criticise it—is that the Government have been content to play about merely with changes of emphasis, to try to shift a little of the impact of their efforts from one of the effects of national housing shortage to another, but without taking any fundamental measures to deal with the housing shortage as a whole.
If we are to look at the matter aright, we have to bear in mind certain fundamental facts. The first is one mentioned in part by the Minister, that there is not nearly enough accommodation to let 981 at reasonable rents. The Minister spoke with some emphasis of the absence of sufficient accommodation of that kind for the people who could pay a rent of about £4 a week. None of us disputes with him that there is a shortage of accommodation of that kind to rent, but there is a very grievous shortage, also, of accommodation to rent at a much lower rental than that, and there are many people who could not reasonably be asked to pay a rent of £4 a week. For them, also, there is a grave shortage of accommodation to let at reasonable rents. The reason for that shortage is that there is not enough council house building at the present time.
I am glad to see that the hon. Member for Solihull (Mr. Lindsay) is here. I should like to quote, not for the first time, a phrase which he used in an earlier housing debate. I think that I quote the sense of what he said correctly—"For the family man with £12 a week a council house is the only answer." That is still true. It reflects the situation of a very large number of families throughout the country. There is not enough council house building. We know the fall of it over the last seven or eight years. Although, some time ago, the Minister told me that council house building was looking up again, the figures since then show that the "looking up" has been on a very modest scale, and there is nothing in this Bill to encourage the total amount of council house building to increase throughout the country.
In the course of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, which, he will agree, was not brief or cursory, he expressed no opinion as to what would happen to the total amount of council house building throughout the country. We have the position that there is a shortage of accommodation to let at reasonable rents, linked with the inadequacy of council house building as whole. That inadequacy is, in turn, linked with the heavy burden of interest rates on the building which councils carry out, with the policy of reduction of subsidy which the Government have been carrying out now for several years, and with the growing menace of the high price of land and the lack of any Government policy for the use of land in a crowded country with a growing population.
982 Those are the basic facts of the situation. We thought that it would not be right to leave unchallenged the proposition that the housing problem can be solved by certan minor adjustments of housing policy, without taking into account the inadequacy of accommodation to rent, the inadequacy of council house building, the burden of interest rates, and the problems of the price and use of land. That is why we mentioned those matters in the Amendment. They are matters which ought to be present in any proper assessment of the nature of the housing policy.
I say that by way of general explanation of why we thought it right to put down the Amendment. I want now to look at the successive parts of the Bill. We have noticed before, in Committee, that the Minister always has a fondness for dealing with the Clauses of a Bill in an order different from that in which he has seen fit to put them in the Bill, explaining that the order in which he deals with them is more logical than that in which he has arranged them in the Bill. I do not propose, in a Second Reading speech, to deal with the Bill Clause by Clause, nor with every Clause, but I shall deal with it part by part and, oddly enough, I shall deal with the three parts in the order in which the Minister has arranged them in the Bill.
Part I deals with all the subsidy arrangements. First, I will take the question of whether any particular authority is to get a subsidy in general of £8 or £24. I am leaving for a moment the subsidies which apply to particular types of building. I am dealing with the basic subsidy, which will be either £8 or £24. Municipal treasurers and housing officials have been diligently at work considering whether their authority will lise or gain. For reasons which I shall develop later, all those calculations are bound to be based on a somewhat uncertain foundation. We might have had from the Minister some indication, and perhaps some examples, of authorities likely to gain or likely to lose under the Bill. The indication given in the White Paper was misleading and it misled a considerable section of the Press and quite a number of the right hon. Gentleman's own supporters.
There was the original idea that in some way this was a method of blackmailing local authorities into adopting a rent 983 policy agreeable to the Minister. It will be clear now, as hon. Members have had an opportunity to study the Bill, and it will be clear from what the Minister said, that a local authority cannot, by any alteration it makes in its rent policy, one way or the other, affect the question whether it gets the £8 or the £24 subsidy. I do not think that that will be disputed.
What surprises me is that the contrary impression should have been given in paragraph 32 of the White Paper, which says:… the changes now to be made in the subsidy arrangements will encourage them to do so.That is to say, they will encourage local authorities to pursue what the Government call reasonable rent policies. That explanation of the £8 or £24 subsidy is now "off" and does not apply. A local authority cannot determine whether it gets £8 or £24 by adopting this, that, or the other rent policy. There is one other indication in the White Paper of how it may work out. In paragraph 19 it is implied that authorities who have many pre-war houses are likely to fare worse and authorities with few pre-war houses are likely to fare better from the Bill. There is also the implication in paragraph 19 that big towns are likely to fare worse than certain other authorities.
If those paragraphs do not mean what they imply, the Minister might have made made that clear this afternoon, and it would have been helpful to have had one or two examples of authorities likely to gain, or likely to lose. One gets some startling results from the last statistics issued by the municipal treasurers, showing that authorities which could not reasonably be considered to have a grave housing problem will get a higher subsidy, while others, with a notorious housing problem, will get the lower subsidy. I know that the Minister will say what he has said already—that those statistics are not the latest that we have—but in view of the startling results which they give, the Minister might have given us some indication of what is to be the position of at least some of the counties and some of the great cities. He has been very reticent on that subject.
There is a further matter to be considered in the question of £8 or £24 subsidy. It is that an authority will get 984 one or the other. Certain authorities—and I have had this already from a number of authorities from whom, with the help of my hon. Friends, I have been able to make inquiries—say that they think that they will be just on the border and that on present evidence they cannot say whether they will get the £8 or the £24 subsidy.
The extraordinary thing is that a very small difference of figures in their housing revenue accounts can make all the difference to whether they get £8 or three times that amount. The Minister said that there was a certain marginal relief, and that is to be found in Clause 4 (5). However, when we come to consider that subsection, we find that if a local authority is near the border between getting £8 and £24, it might, in certain circumstances, be able in effect to work itself on to the right side of the margin. As I read Clause 4 (5), that will depend on the amount of building it undertakes in the relevant year. But that is not always within the control of a local authority. It may well be a question of what sites it can obtain. A number of local authorities can now see a dead limit to the amount of building which they can undertake, because of the amount of land available in their areas. An authority in that position cannot get any advantage from Clause 4 (5).
Further, even if an authority is able to do that, the extraordinary thing is that, there are bound to be some borderline cases of authorities who are just able to benefit by the subsection and others just not able to benefit. The circumstances of two authorities like that would be very similar, but one would get three times the rate of subsidy paid to the other. There can be no justice in that. The Minister ought to consider it and, if we are to accept this principle at all, introduce some intermediate rates of subsidy between £8 and £24.
In addition to the basic subsidy, there is a provision for subsidies for multistorey buildings. The Minister will be aware that this has already been the subject of criticism by officials of local authorities and local authorities themselves. Authorities do not find that the measure of aid afforded for multi-storey buildings reflects the additional building cost which has been piled on in recent 985 years. The Minister should reconsider the rates of additional subsidy for multistorey buildings.
Perhaps more serious are the arrangements for the expensive site subsidy. In previous legislation there was an expensive site subsidy, but its amount was arranged with the following principle in mind: an expensive site puts an extra interest-rate burden on local authorities and it was assumed that that extra burden ought to be shared between the State and the local authority, roughly in the proportion of three-to-one; the expensive site subsidy figures were calculated so as to produce that result.
Expensive sites today are more expensive than they were a few years ago. If there is to be the same sharing of the burden between the State and local authorities this time as there was under the previous Act, the rate of expensive site subsidy ought to be for sites with the value of between £4,000 and £5,000, not the £60 in the Bill but something like £85, and for the addition for each £1,000 worth on the price of the site over £5,000 the figure ought to be not £34 but £46 if, as I say, there is now to be the same sharing of the burden between the State and the local authority as has previously been accepted as equitable When we have been dealing with expensive site value.
That, perhaps, is a question of detail about expensive site subsidy. We might ask a more general question. Why are expensive site subsidies necessary? Why has the expenditure been increasing and why is it likely to increase in the future? It is not so much because the Government have been more generous as because the price of land to local authorities is rising steadily in almost every region where local authorities want to build. The efforts that the Minister has to make about expensive site subsidy are, in part, a reflection of his failure to make any efforts to deal with the problem of profiteering in land.
The other point I want to make about subsidy is the provisions of Clause 2 of the Bill and particularly Clause 2 (4) for the variation or abolition of the subsidy. We know, of course, it has always been accepted that an Act of Parliament will say, in effect, "We grant you a certain rate of subsidy for houses built from now on, but perhaps in some future year 986 you will be told that any houses you build after that year will be built at a lower rate of subsidy." I do not think that anybody would dispute that a Government must take that power to themselves in an Act of Parliament, but here we have something quite new.
A local authority is invited to build houses on which it will get at the start a certain rate of subsidy and it will have to enter into loan commitments that will last for sixty years, and yet it is told that sometime during that sixty years the amount of subsidy which it is hoping to get may be cut down or finished altogether. It is for that reason I say that any calculations made by local authorities as to what they might gain or lose out of the Bill must be extremely hypothetical. Those calculations can only be made on the assumption that the Minister does not use the powers conferred on him in Clause 2 (4).
In what circumstances does the Minister propose to use those powers? We are told that periodically the incomes of council tenants are to be considered and that, if it is thought that those incomes have gone up a bit, the subsidy will go down. What does that mean? It means fundamentally the same thing as we have been arguing in the debates on the National Health Service charges. It means that if it is found that a wage earner has a few more shillings in his pocket a way is devised of taking them out again.
We want to know whether that principle is to be applied to all recipients of public bounty. Why, after all, do we pay a subsidy to anybody or anything? It is paid, or should be paid, for the reason that the particular service which the recipient enjoys is not only something that contributes to his enjoyment, but is something which makes the whole community a better one to live in. We pay a subsidy to agriculture not merely, presumably, because farmers like getting it, but because it is considered that a prosperous agriculture is in the public interest as well as in their interest. That is why we subsidise education, which is, of course, an almost entirely subsidised service, and quite rightly so. We pay a subsidy on a council house because it is not only an advantage to the council tenant to dwell in a decent house, but because it is to the public advantage 987 that he and, indeed, everyone else should do so. That is the case for subsidy.
The question is: how should that subsidy be shared among taxpayers and ratepayers and among the richer and poorer sections of the population? This subsection is a device for saying that as quickly as possible the burden should be shifted off the more prosperous sections of the population. Is that theory to be applied all round to the millions of pounds that have been handed out to private industry, to shipbuilding, to privately-owned steel, to agriculture and to the aircraft industry? Are there to be periodic reviews of the incomes of the shareholders in those industries to see whether there is a case for reducing the subsidy?
The Minister says, "Oh, but in ten years' time incomes may have risen so that the subsidy does not seem reasonable". But surely he can see that if incomes are to rise at that rate the burden of the subsidy on the taxpayer becomes proportionately less and less. There is no argument there. It is introduced because of this desperate desire of the Government to see that no poor person ever gets anything more than he needs if it can be helped. The right hon. Gentleman has introduced a most vicious principle which produces for local authorities the financial uncertainty of which we complain in the Amendment.
In the Amendment we speak not only of the financial uncertainty to which local authorities are exposed, but to the restriction on their freedom. All these subsidies, of whatever kind, are to be payable only if the dwelling is a dwelling approved by the Minister and if he considers it necessary that the local authority should provide it. I know that it will be said that we shall find this phrase about approved dwellings in earlier Housing Acts, but this time we must take it in conjunction with the significant sentence in paragraph 47 of the White Paper, which states:Every housing scheme ranking for an advance under these proposals will first have to be approved by the Minister of Housing and Local Government, who will require to be satisfied not only that a genuine demand for the houses is apparent, but that the scheme will be economically sound.988 That is a far more emphatic assertion of the Minister's right as against the local authority's right to determine need than we have ever had before. We are entitled to assume from the presence of that paragraph that a severe restriction is to be imposed on local authorities. There is nothing in the Bill——
§ Mr. H. Brooke
May I point out to the hon. Gentleman that paragraph 47 of the White Paper does not apply to houses built by local authorities?
§ Mr. Stewart
The Minister is quite correct about that, but, as he knows very well, exactly the same principle is to be applied to houses built by local authorities. This is set out in an earlier paragraph in the White Paper. The same principle applies to local authority houses and to local association houses. I did, by an oversight, quote the assertion of the principle as it relates to housing associations. The right hon. Gentleman will not dispute that he is applying the same principle to local authority housing.
There is nothing in the Bill to prevent the right hon. Gentleman from saying in future to a local authority, "In my view, all the housing need in your borough can be met by private enterprise and, therefore, your proposals will not rank for subsidy." That is why we say that the Bill restricts the freedom of local authorities.
To that we must add that it is made clear both in the White Paper and in the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum that there is to be nothing to encourage an increased rate of council house building. The subsidy is expected to increase, as it is increasing at present, but the Bill makes no difference to the total subsidy. Therefore, we cannot expect it favourably to affect the level of council house building. We have, therefore, referred to that point in the Amendment. That was why I asked the Minister earlier—and I was surprised that he said nothing in his speech about it—what he expected the future of council house building to be. We are entitled to assume that the total amount will not increase.
In that case, what is to become of the priorities? In a way we are glad to see that the Bill contains the principle of a subsidy for general need housing, but much of our pleasure at that is removed when we find, from the financial nature 989 of the Bill and what is said in the White Paper, that anything done to encourage council building for general need must necessarily be done at the expense either of housing for old people or for slum clearance.
The White Paper says, of slum clearance:There must be no relaxation of the drive to clear the slums; but today it is not always the slum tenant whose needs are the most pressing, and local authorities should now be free to put first those who in their judgment are worst off, uninfluenced by subsidy differentials.If one works that sentence out one finds that what it says in plain English is, "There must be no relaxation of the drive to clear the slums, but there ought to be." Apparently there is now to be a shift in priorities.
There might be an arguable case for that, but I do not think that either the Minister or the Parliamentary Secretary can get away from the fact that they do not propose any increase in the total of council house building. Do they propose that more council house building should be for general need purposes than before? They are endeavouring to produce that result by their subsidies. It therefore follows that less will be for slum clearance. If they would like to defend and argue that case, well and good, but it is then no good the White Paper saying that there must be no relaxation of the drive to clear the slums.
The same consideration applies to the provision of houses for the elderly. Under previous subsidy arrangements they have enjoyed a priority which will now be taken away. Out of substantially the same total for council house building less will be available to meet their needs, although we are glad that the elderly may obtain some help under the Bill's provisions, in that houses built for them by housing associations will rank for subsidy.
That leads me to say a word about the position of housing associations in general under the Bill. In essence, the Minister has brought them in because he hopes to find in them an agency which will provide private rented accommodation. In effect, they are to be given Government help to enable them to provide it. Without prejudicing the more detailed discussion of the matter in Com- 990 mittee, we might put forward the suggestion that if we build the kind of houses which the Minister has in mind—rented accommodation for people who can afford to pay up to £4 a week—it will be a long time before what is built meets the demand for that kind of accommodation. There will then be a question of judging whose need is the greatest among many applicants.
It is not altogether clear to me why a housing association's judgment on that important question should be regarded as better than that of a local authority. I approach this provision with some reserve. I still believe that the best judge of need is the elected local authority, which has a range of information about the conditions in its area that is not open to any private body, however diligent and public-spirited.
But we need this encouragement to housing associations, because the Minister must do something to suggest that private enterprise is capable of providing accommodation to let at reasonable rents—if it is given exceptionally favourable advances of public money. Nothing else that the Minister has done has proved that private enterprise is either able or willing to do that at present. The White Paper admits that the practice of private landlords of putting rented property up for sale whenever it falls vacant has been—as the White Paper very delicately puts it—checked but not stopped. That means that it is still going on on an enormous scale—and there is a steady diminution in the amount of rented property available because of the great advantages of being able to sell a house with vacant possession wherever vacancy occurs.
That is one effect of the Rent Act, and that is why we have inserted a reference to the Rent Act in the Amendment. Every one of us can quote examples of the hardships, insecurities and injustices which it causes, and I do not apologise for mentioning another. Not long ago I had a visit from one of my constituents, who has lived in his house—a good citizen and a good tenant—for the last twenty years. He is the main tenant of the house, but his family is not large enough to cause him to need to occupy all of it, and he would not have the resources to pay the rent for the whole. He therefore had sub-tenants. Quite recently, those sub-tenants left, and he 991 is alone in the house. The rateable value of the whole house is £48, and since it is in London his landlord is in a position to give him notice to quit, and is doing so.
It might not have paid the landlord to do so if my constituent still had sub-tenants in the house, who could not be turned out, but out he goes, and his twenty years of good tenantry count for nothing at all. This is the kind of thing for which the Minister is directly responsible, and for which every hon. Member who at any stage supported the Rent Act is responsible—and it cannot be defended on grounds of humanity, justice or public policy.
§ Mr. Victor Goodhew (St. Albans)
The hon. Gentleman has been making the point that there is a great shortage of rented accommodation. If that is so, I do not understand why his constituent is unable to find a sub-tenant to put into the rest of his accommodation.
§ Mr. Stewart
My constituent may be able to find a sub-tenant, but that will not prevent his being turned out. When he is turned out, what am I to say to him? Am I to follow the Minister's advice and tell him to look in the columns of the evening newspapers? I do not think that any of us would have the impudence to do that.
§ Mr. Philip N. Hocking (Coventry, South)
A few moments ago the hon. Gentleman said that his constituent had received a notice to quit only upon losing his sub-tenants. Yet, when my hon. Friend asked him why another sub-tenant could not be obtained, the hon. Gentleman said that that would not stop his receiving notice to quit. I cannot understand the position.
§ Mr. Stewart
These things happened at the same time. But even if my constituent found sub-tenants now he would still go out. What is the remedy for that kind of thing? We all know cases where, even when a sub-tenant is in the house, the main tenant—very often a person of similar means to the sub-tenant—is flung out, without having any remedy. We ought not to be asked to commend, as a major contribution to housing policy, a Bill which allows that kind of injustice to continue.
The Minister said that the Amendment did not contain much criticism of 992 what was in the Bill. I have suggested to him that the arrangements about an £8 or a £24 subsidy have not been properly explained to us; that there is no provision for any margin between £8 or £24; that authorities in very similar positions will be treated wildly unequally; that the possibility of varying or abolishing the subsidy exposes local authorities to financial uncertainty; that their right to judge need in a neighbourhood is threatened by the Clauses of the Bill and the language of the White Paper; that there is nothing to deal with major problems and that there is not enough council building. Perhaps the Minister will feel that those points are sufficient criticism to be going on with of what is in the Bill.
I turn now to Part II of the Bill, about which I wish to speak briefly. It was at the stage in his speech when the Minister was describing many of the evils of multiple occupation of a property owned by an irresponsible landlord that we on this side of the House—and, I think, the House as a whole—had the most sympathy with him. I accept that the ideas and policies which the right hon. Gentleman hopes to put into operation by means of the provisions in Part II are very desirable. But we have to face this point. In a position where there is a universal shortage of accommodation to let at reasonable rent, how much of Part II will be workable in practice?
Under the Clauses in Part II of the Bill, as I understand, a landlord may escape from the code of regulations if he sufficiently reduces the number of occupants of a building. In many cases it would be extremely desirable that he should do so. But if he does, where are those people to go? Out into the jungle created by the Rent Act? In this respect the hardships created by the Rent Act will be accentuated. Admittedly, in some houses there will be less overcrowding, but the hardships of tenants squeezed out by that process will be increased. In Part II we have a reasonable policy, a sound idea, but one whose value and workability is gravely limited by the failure of the Bill, and the policy of the Minister as a whole, to deal with the general shortage of accommodation to let at reasonable rents.
I wish to say a word about Part III, which contains the provision that when 993 a landlord carries out improvements he is to be able to increase the rent by 12½ per cent., instead of 8 per cent., of the cost of the improvements. I want to put again the question which I put in the debate last Monday, and I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will answer it. We know quite well that there are some good landlords who carry out improvements, not purely for love, although they are public-spirited people, but as a reasonable business proposition. If some of them can do it, why cannot the rest? Why should we have this additional bribe to bring in people who could perfectly well do this kind of thing at present at a reasonable profit, if they had the mind to?
Notice what we are doing. Many of these improvements will be carried out with improvement grants. When we pay public money to a private owner of property to help him improve his property we are subsidising him just as much as any council tenant is subsidised, and for the same reason, as I advanced earlier, that what is done not only benefits the property-owner, but is desirable in the interests of the community. That is well and good, but we are told that this subsidy is to go up from 8 per cent. to 12½ per cent.
I wish to know whether there is to be a periodic review of the incomes of landlords to see whether they need this extra subsidy, as is to be done in the case of council tenants. Is a similar provision to be introduced into this part of the Bill? Why is it that this desperate concern about whether a penny more subsidy shall be paid operates only when poor people, or people of moderate means, are affected, but never operates when a subsidy is to be paid to owners of property? There is here an inconsistency which neither the Minister, in the sphere of housing, nor the Government, in other spheres to which it applies, have ever been able to defend.
As to Clauses 29 and 30, we pressed the Minister for something like this last autumn, and we are glad to find that it has been given birth to at last; but I should have thought that this is a case for retrospective legislation. Otherwise it will mean that those landlords, be their number small or great, who have been behaving in a quite outrageous manner about repairs "while the sun shone"—a "sun" which, again, the Minister created for 994 them by the Rent Act—are to get away with it permanently. Only those not smart enough to get away with it before 16th February will be disappointed.
I stress that, because the Minister himself said it was wholly unreasonable; the proposition that a man could be asked to become the tenant of a house with only perhaps a year's security—or as I think the Minister said, in some cases only a month or a week—and be made responsible for major repairs to property which will never be his. That proposition is contrary to all natural justice. Anyone impudent enough to put such a condition into a contract, and drive the other party, who is in desperate need of a house, to accept it, would have no cause for complaint if told roundly by the general public, speaking through this House, "This is a disgraceful contract which the community is not prepared to allow you to enforce."
I wish to stress two other things in our Amendment which, so far, I have mentioned only by the way, the burden of interest rates and the question of the price and use of land. I make no apology for repeating these matters. I hear the Parliamentary Secretary sigh—he may well, if he considers them, think these two problems stand in the way of a solution to the housing question. I have read a number of comments about the Bill by borough treasurers and housing officers and one refrain runs through them all. Some say, "We shall be worse off under the provisions of the Bill." Some say, "We shall be a borderline case". Some say, "We think that we shall rank for the £24 subsidy". But even those who take the most optimistic view of the subsidy position say, "This will not help us anything like the extent to which we should be helped if rates of interest were more reasonable."
Looking back on what has been extracted from them in rising rates of interest since 1951, housing authorities will see that any gain which even the most fortunate of them will get from the subsidy arrangements in the Bill will be a limited recompense for that. The Minister, if I may put it in this way, is in the position of somebody who steals a wallet containing £500, and, some years later, graciously returns the wallet to its owner, and expects to receive from him expressions of gratitude. Perhaps it is better to get the wallet back than 995 nothing at all, but when one thinks of the hundreds of pounds which have gone, because of the refusal of the Government to have a proper interest rate policy for house building, one cannot feel greatly encouraged by the subsidy provisions in the Bill.
They are not unworkable. My hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Mr. Sydney Irving) pointed out last Monday that some Scandinavian countries have tackled this problem. The Minister has looked to Scandinavia for one thing; let him look there also for another. We shall never solve the housing problem where it is most squalid of all, in great cities, unless we can solve on a national, not merely a local, scale, the problem of where the growing population is to go.
On that point, paragraph 49 of the White Paper on the Use of Land is pitiful, as the Minister knows. He says that there is co-ordination between his Department and the Ministry of Labour on this matter. Since 1952, 1 million more jobs have been found in this country and 400,000 of them have been in the London region. Then we wonder why prices in that region shoot up and up. I want to repeat something I said last Monday, to which the Minister made no answer. I believe that his Department has been taking a survey of the availability of land for house building in the London region. It has shown that there is only about three years' supply left and that most of it is already in the hands of large property-owning companies.
That is creating a situation favourable to land profiteering and a situation in which it will be increasingly impossible for someone living in the London region to own his home reasonably near to his work. That is happening in the London region and is a general instance of what tends to happen around all the great conurbations. Fundamentally, the remedy for it must be a really constructive new towns policy.
§ Mr. Brooke
I should not like this to be widely misunderstood. The truth is, first, that in the London region the population has declined, not increased. Secondly, the survey of which the hon. Member spoke, and on which my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to say something further in more 996 detail at the end of the debate, has not been fairly described by the hon. Member. What he has said would have to be hedged round with a great deal of explanation and limitation if it were to be accepted as a correct finding of that survey.
§ Mr. Stewart
On the first point, by the London region I meant that region which lies within a day's travel from London, in which people who work in London itself can reasonably live and travel to and from work. In that area the population has been increasing. I agree that if one chooses a rather narrower definition of the London region one can get a different result.
As to the survey, if the Minister believes what he has just said, why did he not say something like that when he was replying to me a week ago? I raised this point specifically when speaking towards the end of the debate a week ago. The Minister replied neither to that nor to anything else I said in my speech. If there are these explanations and qualifications we shall be glad to hear them, but I say that there is no solution fundamentally of the housing problem without a constructive new towns policy.
§ Mr. A. Evans
Would it not help us if the Minister, or the Parliamentary Secretary at the end of the debate, told us in what parts of the Metropolitan area—what parts of London—there are sufficient sites to last for more than three years?
§ Mr. Stewart
I am hoping very much that that will be done. The Minister told us that it took the L.C.C. a very long time to find a suitable site for its new town operation which is to be conducted in Hampshire. When a local authority does this job it very often has to sheer off from one side to another because of the strength or nature of local opposition. The Minister is not subject to that disability. He has the power—indeed, the duty—to plan this kind of thing with the needs of the nation as a whole in mind. There is no sign at all, either in the actions of the Ministry or the White Paper, that he is doing any such thing.
I say, therefore, that what is in the Bill comprises some things we are glad to see, although we are a bit doubtful of the workability of some of them. It 997 contains subsidy provisions which are subject to very considerable criticism and which we shall have to hammer out in Committee. What is not in the Bill, and what, therefore, we have to consider on Second Reading, is any consideration of how the housing problem is ever to be solved. The Minister said that it was his ambition to introduce a major housing Bill. May I express the hope that one day he will realise that ambition? He has not realised it yet.
§ 5.26 p.m.
§ Mr. F. V. Corfield (Gloucestershire, South)
It would be quite unfair, as the first back-bencher called at nearly half-past five, for me to attempt to answer in any detail the speech of the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart), but I must emphasise that his approach to this subject is totally different from mine.
I understood him to say that the reason we pay subsidies to anyone is that a particular service is not only something which would contribute to that person's enjoyment but is also for the benefit of the community as a whole. That is a definition of reason which I can accept only subject to the rider that the available funds for the subsidy should be channelled into those places where there are people who cannot by their own resources reach the standards we regard as the minimum. How the hon. Member found a comparison between housing subsidies and agricultural subsidies is wholly beyond me. He may not know, as a town dweller, that one of the main reasons why we subsidise agriculture is that it is the only major industry in the country which is not heavily protected by tariffs. It is not heavily protected by tariffs largely in the interests of townspeople, people such as the hon. Member represents. There is no possible parallel between that and housing subsidies.
In this stage of a Session which seems to be overburdened with legislation rather than the reverse, the welcome I can give to any further legislation is somewhat limited. Nevertheless, I welcome the Bill subject to that reservation, because I welcome this attempt to channel the available subsidies to where the need is greatest. I certainly welcome the idea that the subsidies should be weighted in favour of the poorer local authorities, because that is something 998 which will particularly help rural areas where relatively low rateable values and rents generally coincide with relatively low wages compared with the towns.
I simply do not follow the argument of the hon. Member for Fulham that there is nothing a local authority could do to influence whether it gets the £8 or £24 subsidy. As I understand my right hon. Friend, this is based on twice the gross rateable value and is designed to encourage local authorities to run some form of differential rates scheme.
§ Mr. Corfield
I should have thought that in a great many places it would, but no doubt the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) will be able to tell us why if it does not. If that is the intention, whether or not it does, I should have thought that, in order to avoid any doubt, it would have been better to say that that was the intention and to make the factor of whether a differential rates scheme was run something to be taken into account by my right hon. Friend in approving applications by local authorities as they arise.
However that may be, the main matters on which I want to comment are matters of more detail, and the first concerns overspill and paragraph 14 of the White Paper. The second part of that paragraph reads:It is important that over the development of these sites there should be close co-operation between the exporting and the receiving authorities, so that the rehousing of overspill population can be properly co-ordinated with slum clearance and other redevelopment operations. The London County Council have achieved good co-operation with a number of receiving authorities. This is less true of the provinces …In my opinion it is very much less true of the provinces. In many cases these overspill schemes in the provinces have resulted in appallingly bad planning, and it is often admitted to be such by responsible planning officials and members of planning committees in those areas.
The difficulty which arises—and it is a serious difficulty—is that exporting authorities, which are mainly county boroughs, are very often over-anxious to confine this type of development to the county areas immediately adjoining their 999 own boundaries, so that this development tends to become merely an extension of their own existing urban development. The importing authority, on the other hand, which is invariably a county council, tends in my view to be over-influenced by the prospect of the increased rateable value which this overspill development will produce. Often, rather than risk the exporting authority changing its plans and making alternative arrangements with perhaps another neighbouring county, the receiving county will accept something which does not begin to fit in with its own planning policy.
A notable example of this is the Bristol overspill into my constituency. No doubt when these arrangements were made Bristol had an eye to future claims to boundary extensions, and equally, no doubt, Gloucestershire and the rural districts concerned were mainly attracted by the increase in rateable value. The result is the urban sprawl which seems to me to be one of the things which planning exists to prevent.
I have reached the conclusion, for my part, that if we are to have decent planning in this sort of development, then the final responsibility must be divorced from both the exporting and the importing authorities and placed in the hands of a body which has no vested interest in rateable value at all. It is no accident, in my opinion, that better co-operation is obtained by the London County Council, because geographically such development cannot take place in situations where it is likely that it will affect any future claims for boundary extensions.
The second point which I wish shortly to raise concerns the proposal to make advances to housing associations. I refer to paragraph 44 of the White Paper. It explicitly states there—I cannot find it so explicitly stated in the Bill, although it may be there—that these loans will be available only where an association makes its houses available for letting at economic rents. That appears to cut out many very worthy associations which exist, mainly on a charitable basis, for providing accommodation at less than an economic rent. The associations which I have in mind are those run by many units of the Services for disabled Service men and others, for example, for the blind. We tend nowadays to imagine that 1000 the only people in special need are the old. In fact, there are these charities which try to look after disabled personnel, the blind, and others. I very much hope that it will be possible to make them eligible for these loans in order that they can continue this excellent work which many of them have done for many years.
I want to turn to Part III of the Bill and to refer particularly to Clause 27. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will recollect that I have had some correspondence with him on the subject of standard grants on behalf of one of my rural districts. As I understand it, the new paragraph (c) of subsection (2) is designed to make it quite clear that a grant will be payable only where there is no hot water supply to any of the three points mentioned—the bathroom, the sink and the wash-basin.
It seems to me that there is a strong case to be made for permitting local authorities to appropriate or sub-divide this grant where, for example, a householder has a hot water supply, perhaps provided by an immersion heater or a geyser over the sink, but no hot water in the bathroom. It seems absurd, if we want to see our houses modernised, that we should cut such a householder out from the grant simply because he has put some sort of heater over the sink or at one of the other points.
This could lead to a good deal of abuse, because it is easy to dismantle these electrical and other appliances and to apply for the grant on the basis that there is no hot water system, whereas the more conscientious applicant will have his request turned down because he has perhaps a very out-of-date heater over his sink. I have a neighbour, who is not a constituent, who heats his bath water with two primus stoves under the bath. He is very proud of it, and he would be very hurt indeed if he were told that it was not a hot water system. I fancy that many local authority surveyors would agree with him, and would rule him out from any form of grant. That is an extreme case, but there are intermediate cases, and I suggest that it is well worth looking into this point if we are determined not merely to have some means of heating water but to have a reasonably efficient and modern means.
1001 Turning to Clause 29, I am fascinated to know how the principal installation for sanitation, as it is euphemistically termed, can possibly need repair unless it has been grossly ill-treated by the occupant. Or are landlords now to be vicariously responsible for the 20-stone aunts of their tenants?
§ 5.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Julius Silverman (Birmingham, Aston)
The hon. Member for Gloucestershire, South (Mr. Corfield) mentioned the question of neglect by the tenant and said that he could not see how a property could reach such a condition of disrepair without this neglect.
§ Mr. Corfield
I was referring to one specific point. If the hon. Member does me the courtesy of reading the Clause to which I most carefully referred, he will see that subsection (4) specifically points out thatThe principal installations referred to in paragraph (b) of subsection (1) … do not include fixtures, fittings and appliances (other than sanitary fixtures)".I know of only one principal sanitary fixture in a house which can be neglected. That was the point to which I was referring.
§ Mr. Silverman
Many of these properties have been neglected for many years. In some cases it may have been by a previous tenant many years ago, and sometimes the property may have been empty for a week or two. Such disrepair can happen in a variety of ways. From my experience of many houses in Birmingham, I can assure the hon. Member that many of these houses have been neglected for 30, 40 or 50 years and that in many cases, as my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) mentioned, over many years the tenants have done the repairs which the landlord has not done. The tenants are now likely to be thrown out under the provisions of the Rent Act.
I want to follow the hon. Member on one other point, namely the question of overspill. On this point I have rather more sympathy with the hon. Member's point of view. He referred to the relationship between the exporting and the importing authorities and the resultant negotiations developing into an 1002 urban sprawl. That is the sort of situation which is developing because of the Government's legislation, or lack of it.
The plain fact is that the development of new towns is not sufficient to secure planning either from the aesthetic or any other point of view. What is wanted is a better new town policy. Without that there will not be a major solution of the housing problems in the large conurbations. Birmingham has had a similar experience. It has had to negotiate with a large number of authorities. Some negotiations have achieved a small measure of success and some have achieved very little success. The general result is a sort of sporadic and spasmodic arrangement with a number of local authorities, which produces precisely the sprawl which the hon. Gentleman mentioned. It has very little effect on overspill.
The overspill arrangements are grinding to a halt in Birmingham. In other areas they are not making very much progress. The problem is not merely financial. I hope that the additional provisions in the Bill for increased assistance for overspill will have some effect, but basically it is a question of planning a new town with all its amenities, especially with industry in it. Many people who go to new towns come back again because there are not jobs for them. Industry must move out with the people. There must be planned development. That can be done only on a new town basis.
I should like the Parliamentary Secretary in reply to deal with the situation of the Birmingham conurbation. We have been promised a new town at some time. Its provision is now becoming very urgent, because there are now only about two or three years' new building land left in Birmingham. Therefore, the provision of a new town for Birmingham cannot be delayed indefinitely. I hope that a place will be found and that something will be promised us. I hope that we shall be told something definite about it tonight. The overspill problem in Birmingham is extremely serious. It is calculated that, if Birmingham deals with all the overcrowding in the city and all the slum clearance which is necessary, it will require 40,000, or even 50,000, houses outside the city. A scheme like that will obviously require 1003 planning over a long period, otherwise we shall be faced with an extremely serious situation in the near future.
I turn now to the Bill in general. I do not think that it is sufficient to say that we can be thankful for small mercies. Birmingham, as well as other large cities, welcomes some of its provisions. We welcome the reintroduction of the needs test for subsidies. We welcome the increased grant for overspill. We welcome the repairing obligation under Clause 29 so far as it goes, but it does not go very far. We also welcome one or two other provisions in the Bill, but taken as a whole it is certainly not a major housing Bill. It certainly does not begin to solve the major housing problems of large cities.
Birmingham's position can be taken as typical of other large cities. The major problems there are high interest rates, high land prices, the cost of building high flats, and the shortage of land. The Bill makes no major contribution towards the easing of these difficulties, which will continue to create serious obstacles to house building and very serious difficulties in housing finance in all large cities.
I will tell hon. Members something of the effect of high interest rates. In Birmingham 1 per cent. of the interest rate means very nearly £1 million to be borne by either the local authority or by the tenants of houses. This is a serious and increasing obligation as the debt mounts.
In a sense it can be said that the problem caused by high land prices may not be so serious, because the land is running out. When Birmingham buys land today it has to pay about £500 for the average site for one dwelling. When private enterprise is buying for housing the cost may be even greater, because the local authority is building more densely and is buying somewhat cheaper in the market. This is illustrative of the land racket which is going on in Birmingham and its environs, which prevents building except at an extremely high and prohibitive cost.
The policy of building high flats is forced upon large cities, especially a city like Birmingham, because the land is not available. Birmingham is embarking upon a large slum clearance scheme. I think Birmingham's scheme is one of 1004 the largest in the country. About 1,500 slum families are being rehoused every year. That means a greater demand upon land, because for every five tenants who are de-housed only about three, or a little more than three, can be rehoused on the same site. Therefore, about two out of the five tenants have to be found accommodation elsewhere. Consequently, 85 per cent. of the new dwellings being built by the City of Birmingham are flats.
In financial terms that means that the average one- or two-bedroomed flat costs about £2,700 to £2,800 all in. Every time a flat is built, if the most reasonable or fairest rent which can be charged is charged—all tenants cannot pay the economic rents which have been talked about—it means an additional cost, either upon the rates or upon the other tenants, of about £60 or £70 a year per flat. Therefore, there is a mounting increase every time a flat is built. The burden has either to be borne by the ratepayers, who obviously will not like it, or by the other tenants. It is not reasonable to go to other municipal tenants and say, "We want to put your rent up not because the cost of your own house has risen, but because we are building more flats. We have to build more flats because of the shortage of land and because we cannot provide adequate overspill accommodation for you".
§ Mr. Harold Gurden (Birmingham, Selly Oak)
Does not the hon. Member agree that the financial problem in Birmingham would be very largely solved and money would not have to be found to the same extent as it is now if the city sold a lot of its property to the occupiers? There is about £90 million worth of property. If the Corporation sold some of its property, it would not have to go out into the market and pay a high interest rate.
§ Mr. Silverman
How can the problem be solved by selling a house to the occupier? Even at the very best, a house is not released. The occupier becomes an owner-occupier instead of a tenant. How will that solve Birmingham's housing problem?
There is a suggestion in the Minister's circular to local authorities that houses be sold. I think it works out that a pre-war municipal house in Birmingham 1005 would he sold at about £1,100 to £1,200. I have worked out those figures from the information in the circular. If that is so, and if Birmingham replaces that house, it will not be able to do so except by building a flat providing less accommodation at much more than twice the price. How Birmingham will save money or house more people in that way, I cannot understand, nor can I see anything in the hon. Gentleman's remarks to assist Birmingham's housing finance at all——
§ Mr. B. T. Parkin (Paddington, North)
I think that my hon. Friend is too innocent. I do not think that he is seized of the point of the intervention, which was that money should be raised by selling houses to would-be owner-occupiers, which would save the municipality from paying high rates of interest. My hon. Friend does not recognise the confidence trick of forcing the new owner-occupier to pay a high rate of interest on the same amount of money, which would then be available to the municipalities.
§ Mr. Silverman
Quite apart from the position of the person buying one of the houses, I cannot see that it would give the local authority any relief. On the contrary, it is quite clear that it will cost the local authority more if it has to replace the house—and some will have to be replaced—because, although there is some restriction on the right of the purchaser later to sell the house, it has been found extremely difficult in practice to enforce that provision. The house may be sold to someone from outside the city, which means that there will be one less rather than one more house available, and the city has to build at twice the price to meet the need. I cannot see any merit in that proposal. It is a pure exercise of political dogmatism——
§ Mr. Hocking
Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that it would be more desirable for the people to buy the houses for themselves? Is he suggesting that the local authority should house anyone and everyone, regardless? Would it not be better if people did something for themselves, and bought themselves a place?
§ Mr. Silverman
No authority houses anyone regardless. We have about 40,000 families with children on the effective register in Birmingham, and the needs of all the applicants are gone into 1006 very closely. People have to wait many years, and suffer great hardship for many years before they can get housing. Further, I have no objection to owner-occupation, but I think that the vast majority of municipal tenants are quite content with the security of their tenancy. In the vast majority of cases they do not particularly want the responsibility of owner-occupation. Owner-occupation does not satisfy any crying need on their part.
I hope that the Bill is not intended to be a wedge towards enforcing differential rent policies on local authorities. Those policies are matters for local authorities to decide for themselves. They tend to create as many anomalies as they seek to remedy, and are supported mainly by those who want to increase the general level of rents. It is not true to say that in Birmingham there are large numbers of tenants who can afford to pay higher rents. A man earning £14 or £15 a week, and having two or three children cannot afford to pay a very high rent, and certainly cannot afford to pay the economic rent of one of the new flats now being put up there.
People sometimes say, "Look how much money is going into the house as a whole," but that total sum cannot be used as a basis on which to fix the tenant's rent. He has probably had two or three children to support for a long time. Then, for a short time, there may be two more in the family earning good money. But, in time, they get married or drift away, and the tenant's position is pretty much as it was before. To base a rent policy on such circumstances as that would be a mistake. I leave out of consideration the cost of administering a differential rent policy.
Clause 29 contains this landlord's repairing obligation. We asked for that and, as far as it goes, we welcome it—but how far does it go? We know that it does not deal with existing tenancies, but many more people than the Minister thinks have either had to enter into tenancies or be turned out. I know of many cases in my own area and there must be many more of which I do not know; people who have entered into these tenancies with repairing obligations, and are bound by them.
There is more to it than that. This provision does not even begin to repair the evil of the Rent Act. All tenants 1007 are not long-term tenants—a large number of them have weekly tenancies. It is all very well to say that by Clauses 29 and 30 the landlord is under a repairing obligation, but what will happen if he does not undertake those repairs? If the tenant does not like it, he is given a month's notice, and has no remedy at all. This landlord's failure to repair happened even when the houses were controlled, and now that they are decontrolled this provision will have very little effect.
As I say, this provision will not begin to remedy the evils of the Rent Act, and we in Birmingham are feeling the effects of those evils just as are other of our large local authorities. I am thinking not only of the houses with a rateable value of more than £30 which were, as a result, directly decontrolled by the Act, but also of those that have become decontrolled by this creeping decontrol that is already affecting us in Birmingham.
We are getting an entire alteration in the rent structure—in the proportion of income that has to be paid out in rent. There are houses in my constituency, not in a very good state of repair and in very mediocre districts, which were rented only three or four years ago at £1 and are now bringing in a rent of £4 a week. Rents like that are based purely on the scarcity value of accommodation. It is all very well to say that people can afford those rents, but there are thousands of tenants who cannot. They cannot afford to pay rents like that, but they have to, and must do without other things instead. That very often applies even in a prosperous place like Birmingham.
The real evils of the Rent Act are very serious, and I agree entirely with my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham. Although I welcome the Bill's provisions as far as they go, they will have a very small impact on the problem. That being so, I support the Amendment. The Bill goes only a little way towards solving our major housing problems.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Victor Goodhew (St. Albans)
I will not deal at length with the problems of Birmingham, and I am sure that the hon. Member for Birmingham, Aston (Mr. J. Silverman) will not expect 1008 me to do so. He said at the beginning of his speech, in spite of what he said at the end, that he welcomed the Bill generally except that it does not go far enough. I, too, do not think it goes far enough, but perhaps in a different direction from that which the hon. Member had in mind.
The hon. Gentleman talked about differential rent policies, and I should like to refer to this matter. It comes under Clause 4. Before doing so, however, I should like to say that I welcome the Bill as a new and imaginative approach to the whole housing situation of this country. It is a demonstration that my right hon. Friend does not merely talk of doing things but thinks what should be done and then does it.
My right hon. Friend said, referring to Clause 4, that the Bill concentrates Government subsidies on those authorities which need them most. He then went on to say something which I think spoiled it when he said that the amount of rents charged and the amount paid by the ratepayers are questions for the local authorities to decide. It seems to me, therefore, that what the Bill does is to concentrate subsidies in the first instance upon the local authorities which need them most; but, having done so, my right hon. Friend does not go that bit further and ensure that the effect of the subsidies is felt by the people who need them most.
It is high time that we had a look at the whole question of subsidised housing to see where we are going. We should say straight away that there are two essential requirements in any scheme for providing subsidised housing. First, such financial help as is given should be concentrated on those most in need. Secondly, there should be equity as between those in need. I ask myself whether these requirements are being fulfilled or whether they will be fulfilled when the Bill becomes law, and I am afraid that the answer is "No".
For many years since the war we have had a system of allocating local authority houses to tenants regardless of their financial ability to pay in the open market. I acknowledge that such a system was necessary just after the war when many people had been bombed out, and indeed during the war when people had to 1009 be housed somewhere. This put an additional burden on the local authorities. But I cannot see why we should continue indefinitely to raise funds by way of taxation and rates to provide housing for people who can afford to buy or rent for themselves even in the open market.
I cannot speak of Birmingham, but I know the London area and my own area of St. Albans, and I am sure that there is ample evidence that there are plenty of people living in houses and flats on housing estates who could afford to buy or rent in the open market. Outside many of these houses there are large cars and television aerials. Such things are common. No one begrudges people these things, but regard should be had to the principle of first things first. A man, though he may want to have a motor car or a television set or other such desirable things, should first of all provide his home with a family. [Laughter.] I am sorry; I put it the wrong way round. I was carried away by my own eloquence.
§ Mr. Goodhew
We should encourage people to provide the first necessity rather than allow them to be subsidised by their fellow citizens in order to enable them to enjoy these other good things.
§ Mr. Goodhew
I was making the point that people should think in terms of providing a roof for their families first. I do not say that ownership of a television set on its own is necessarily an indication of wealth, but I have referred also to expensive cars and such things which are common on housing estates.
§ Mr. Goodhew
The hon. Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Mapp) cannot imagine that I am talking of people earning £14 or £15 a week when I refer to people who are really well off and who own large motor cars.
§ Mr. Goodhew
I think it would be as well for the hon. Member to make his own speech in due course so that I may get on with mine.
I am sure that there is ample evidence—one only has to go to those authorities which operate differential rent schemes to see—of the sort of incomes that many of their tenants are getting. Having been chairman of a housing sub-committee dealing with this matter, I can say, even without looking at the houses with television aerials and so on, that a large number of people who live in subsidised houses today can well afford to buy or pay rent in the open market. We have these council houses and flats and we have to decide whether we should continue to subsidise them out of public funds. Why should not the tenants pay an economic rent if they can afford it?
I referred to the question of equity as between those in need. There are already many differential rent and rent rebate schemes in operation throughout the country. If one goes from one authority to another, one finds that in some cases the rent that is charged to those who cannot afford an economic rent is one-sixth of their income. In other cases it is one-seventh. In others, the first £1 is taken off, and there are also cases where the first £2 of the wife's income is disregarded, and so on. There are many different ways, permutations and combinations in deciding what to charge the tenant.
We have now reached a position where we should decide firmly where we are going, whether we shall continue indefinitely in this haphazard way. The party opposite is not without blame in this matter because, in the main, it is the local authorities which are Labour- 1011 controlled which have refused stolidly to introduce any form of differential rent or rent rebate scheme. Even the monolithic London County Council consistently refuses to do so.
It does not seem to have occurred to hon. Members opposite—I have said this in the House before, but the suggestion seems to have been ignored—that it may be this very fact which is making life difficult for the person who is hit by the Rent Act, the person in the very much lower income group who cannot afford to pay the increased rent which he is asked to pay. He is very often the person who should be housed by the local authority, and there are not the vacancies for him very often because so long as people with high incomes are able to enjoy subsidies from the local authority regardless of income they will not vacate their premises.
My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary referred to this last week when he said:The fact is that any such local authority that does not have a differential scheme or rent rebates is not treating either its waiting list or its taxpayers or ratepayers fairly. … The fact is that there may well be a relationship between indiscriminately low rents and long waiting lists, because, if rents are indiscriminately low, all sorts of people who can fend for themselves hang on to their bargains at the expense of those on the waiting lists who cannot fend for themselves."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th March, 1961; Vol. 637, c. 55–6.]That is perfectly right. It is something which the Opposition might tell their friends in local authorities to note and do something about so that those who do not wish to stay on in local authority houses will move out on finding that they have to pay the proper rent, thus leaving room for those, about whom we so often hear, who find it difficult to afford rents in the open market.
Will the Bill change this situation? I do not think it will. Only a fortnight ago I elicited from the chairman of the housing committee of the London County Council that the London County Council, so he expects, will draw the higher rate of subsidy set out in Clause 4.
§ Mr. A. Evans
The hon. Member tells us that in the view of the chairman of the housing committee the London County Council will draw the higher subsidy. It follows from that that the rent policy of that authority is to charge, 1012 on the average, the equivalent of twice the gross value. Further, the London County Council has a great range of different properties let at different levels of rent and, generally, people in London County Council properties pay a rent appropriate to the type of accommodation they occupy.
§ Mr. Goodhew
The hon. Member has got this quite wrong. There is no question of it following, just because the London County Council will have the higher rate of subsidy, that it is, therefore, operating a rent policy which results in it drawing twice the gross value. All the Bill provides is that if the notional rent which the authority would receive on the basis of twice the gross value is less than the actual cost of administering the housing estate, then it will draw the higher subsidy. There is no question of what rent scheme it is operating or what rents it is charging. It is a matter of what rents it could receive if it charged twice the gross value.
§ Mr. Goodhew
I do not think that we should discuss this now. The hon. Member has got it wrong. It has nothing to do with what the council is charging. I wish that it had. It is only a matter of what it could receive if it did charge twice the gross value. The London County Council, being responsible for an expensive area where sites are expensive, will rank for the higher subsidy. In my view, this means that that authority will continue to collect about £4 million a year less in rent than it otherwise could, and the burden of that, for houses built in the past, will go upon the ratepayers of London, when the authority could well be charging it to the tenants who are enjoying the benefit of those houses.
§ Mr. J. Silverman
Does that mean that, in the hon. Member's opinion, the London County Council should put up the rents of municipal tenants by the global amount of £4 million a year?
§ Mr. Goodhew
I hope I am not being as dim as might appear from the comments of hon. Members on my speech. 1013 I said that if the authority were to introduce a rent rebate scheme or a differential rent scheme it could probably collect an additional £4 million a year in rent; that is the sum which it could receive if it were to charge people according to their ability to pay. That is the point I make.
§ Mr. M. Stewart
The hon. Member said earlier that the merit of a scheme of that kind would be to cause the better-off tenants to vacate their houses. If the better-off tenants went out, those who came in their place would claim rent rebates under the scheme and the extra £4 million from rent revenue would disappear. He cannot have it both ways.
§ Mr. Goodhew
I do not want to have it both ways. I should be quite happy, and so, I am sure, would other ratepayers of London, if the rate subsidy were paid to tenants who needed it. What we and all ratepayers object to is paying the subsidy to people who can afford to go elsewhere.
§ Mr. Goodhew
There is an awful lot of barracking going on. The £4 million comes from those who are occupying the houses now. If they move out, as the hon. and learned Member for Kettering suggests, then, clearly, there will not be £4 million. But what happens then is that such rate subsidy as is paid by the ratepayers of London goes to the people who need it and not to the people who can afford to do without it. That would make the ratepayers much happier, and it would also be much more sensible and just.
§ Mr. Goodhew
We really cannot go into it now. The hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) can discuss this matter with his hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish), who is very much involved in a campaign in regard to this matter just now.
I had hoped that the Minister would go further. I do not see why we could not have made the whole subsidy here 1014 conditional not just upon the calculation suggested in the Bill based on rent values and the cost of administering housing estates, but conditional upon a local authority operating a standard rent rebate or differential rent scheme. In that way we should have throughout the country a perfectly well understood situation in which local authority tenants would all pay the same proportion of their income in rent. This would mean justice and equity between tenants, and, as I say we should probably find that certain people, on discovering that they would probably have to pay considerably more than they thought the property was worth, would move to a place of their own. The subsidy raised from public funds would be concentrated on those who needed it, and, among those remaining, there would be equity between tenant and tenant.
I do not understand why we should not have tackled the matter in that way. I know that the Government are reluctant to impose restrictions of this kind on local authorities, but it is only a small step from making the subsidy conditional on certain figures to making it conditional upon a local authority operating a sensible rent scheme. Indeed, we might even find that, in addition to there being a big saving for the ratepayers in some districts, there might not be any need for a Government subsidy at all because the extra rents recovered might make up the housing deficits.
Following the matter to its logical conclusion, one comes to the point of asking: Why should we differentiate today between private tenants and the tenants of local authorities?
§ Mr. Goodhew
Private tenants pay the free market rent except in the case of controlled properties where it is limited to twice the gross value. If they cannot afford these rents, they get the rent made up by the National Assistance Board. This ensures that only those who really need help receive it. I should have thought that hon. Members would have regarded that as a very sound and sensible way of administering public money. Why should not the same apply to local authority tenants? Why should not there be an automatic controlled rent of twice the gross value for local authority 1015 houses, help being given where it is needed and the bill being paid by the National Assistance Board? I know it is most unpopular with hon. Members opposite who think that any suggestion about the National Assistance Board means that people have to apply for charity.
§ Mr. Mitchison
I hope that we are all agreed by now that a person who is entitled to an allowance or a benefit of some sort from the National Assistance Board is not asking for charity when he applies for it.
§ Mr. Goodhew
That is exactly what I hope, and it is only because remarks which gave a different view from that have been made from time to time by hon. Members opposite——
§ Mr. Goodhew
—as, for instance, on the National Health Service charges recently, that I made that comment. I am glad the hon. and learned Gentleman accepts that, and I accept it myself, too.
That is why I am saying that if one pursues this subject a little further one comes to the point where one can well ask: why not put both those sorts of housing on the same basis where there is control of rent at twice the gross value which the tenant pays and only if he is unable to afford it can get as of right his rent made up by the National Assistance Board? This would be a certain way of concentrating public funds on those who really need them, and it would make for complete equity not just between council house tenants but between all tenants throughout the country.
Then, of course, as decontrol gradually takes place, as, I presume, it finally will, we shall get to the point where all housing is rented at a market rent. I see hon. Members opposite smile, but I think that this is something which may be well worth considering, because we would then withdraw Government subsidies as they now stand even within the period of 60 years. It would not worry 1016 the local authority if it knew that any deficit it might incur on its housing account would be indemnified by the Government so that the local authority or the ratepayers would not be the losers.
Therefore, I would suggest that we should be thinking about these things for the future, whether it is possible to arrive at a position where we get fair treatment for all tenants of all properties throughout the country. I think we have really got ourselves into what I regard as an almost impossible position with these two different types of tenants who have been just by the accident of fortune either in local authority houses or in privately owned houses, some of them, much better off, perhaps, in local authority houses being subsidised by somebody much less well off but living in a privately owned house. The whole thing is topsy-turvy. There is no sense in it. We ought to be looking for a way of getting ourselves out of this muddle and getting into a really straightforward, clear position where people know where they stand.
However, as I said earlier, I welcome this Bill because it is a step in the right direction. I regret it has not got more of the things in it I would like to see in it, but, nevertheless, it will have my support when the vote comes.
§ 6.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Mapp (Oldham, East)
In following the hon. Member for St. Albans (Mr. Goodhew), I must say how pleasing it would be to see the policy he was thinking about coming into operation, because one could see a large number of National Assistance Board offices opening in the countryside for the farmers, one could see the directors of great shipping companies wanting access to those offices hoping that they might, presumably, following a very tight means test, grant them some assistance. It is quite clear that the thinking of the younger Members on the other side of the House is that this great problem of housing is purely a book-keeping one, wholly a financial one, wholly one of accountability, wholly without reference to the overriding obligation which so many of us feel—many also, I think, on the other side of the House—that in these times we must mould our system to the things which are right, so that our finances, and the aid which we can afford, go to this great service.
1017 I will confess that it was way back in about 1919, when I was working in the Ancoats part of Manchester, that the circumstances I then saw carried me two-thirds of the way to this party. It was the tremendous housing problem in that part of Manchester, and I am still of the opinion that one of the basic interests in life is shelter——
§ Mr. Goodhew
I am exactly of the same opinion as the hon. Member when he talks about the social importance of shelter and housing, but my point is that, having been involved in local authority housing estates, I have seen many people who really should be looked after who are living in bad conditions and struggling along on their own because other people whom we should never have started to house by local authority means are living in the brighter places built since the war.
§ Mr. Mapp
I am unable to follow the very close and tight reasoning of the hon. Member. He wants to put them all through a looking glass and then sift them to see who will drop out. I am sorry, but I cannot go any part of the way with him in his reasoning. Although he says that he shares my point of view, I do not feel that he is perhaps moved by the moral impulses to the same extent as those of us on this side of the House.
I turn to the Bill and the White Paper. The Minister said—and he convinced me for a moment while he was speaking—that he wanted to make one major achievement by bringing in a Housing Bill which would mark a milestone in this age of social evolution. How can the Minister feel satisfied that this Bill is a major Bill which will contribute to any forward social evolution when its cost is estimated to be the same cost as the present legislation allows, plus a loan of £25 million? This is a Bill which does not hurt the Chancellor of the Exchequer at all.
I take the Minister's own figures, that one family in four is living in a house built before 1880, that one family in four 1018 is living in a house built before 1915. Consider, too, that houses which were declared unfit a year or two ago and are now decaying are still being lived in. Even though in the face of all that the Minister still feels that this is a major Bill, I am afraid that to many people in local government, and to many people in my constituency who live in houses which are unfit, which, though they may be structurally good, are, in terms of amenities, Victorian, his words and his Bill will give little or no satisfaction. At the present rate of house building, which is less than 300,000 houses a year—last year, I think, it was about 275,000—it will be 14 years before we clear those houses built before 1880. I ask the Minister to consider this period of time. Are we to reach 1975 before we get rid of these factors which produce bad health and other evil consequences?
The White Paper and the Bill lack a target. I do not know whether in private and commercial life my experiences are unusual, but I have found that if one wants to achieve an individual or collective objective, whether in family life, local government or business, one must have a target and one must direct one's endeavours to that target. The only time that one must begin to consider altering the target is when we find it physically or financially impossible to reach it. The only target in the White Paper and the Bill is the aim to continue at the present momentum. The financial figures underline that fact.
The hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) suggested last Monday that to meet the needs of an increasing population and to replace houses falling into decay we should have a target of half a million houses a year. I am sure that that would dismay the Minister and he would say that we have not the equipment, the manpower or the background services to reach such a target, but I am sure that if he had the will the means could be found. I am not complaining about the building of offices and garages but we cannot meet real needs and at the same time have an open market in which builders find it more lucrative to build commercial premises. Surely the first priority before providing the frills of the commercial world is to build houses for people who need them when 1019 they are now living in slums or in premises which have no modern amenities.
§ Mr. Brooke
Would the hon. Member agree to use his influence to get the council of the borough which he represents in the House to speed its rate of building?
§ Mr. Mapp
The Minister has invited me to use my influence on my local authority. I do not want to recite in detail what that influence has been. The Minister told me some months ago that one of the reasons why the Oldham authority had not been making as much progress as he and the authority itself would have liked was the lack of technical staff. I can now tell him that a new major appointment is about to be made. I hope that it will help in that direction.
There are in Oldham virgin sites for about 500 houses. I do not want to comment on what might be the Minister's ultimate decision on the report of a public inquiry which has taken place recently. The right hon. Gentleman's Department is familiar with the details. There are two areas in the Oldham neighbourhood capable of providing accommodation for 3,500 people. In a letter to the local authority the Minister asked that certain revised plans should be considered and he said of a suggested site thatIt is high, exposed and somewhat isolated and for these reasons and others the Minister would be reluctant to amend the plan and to allocate this as residential land unless he was convinced that alternative arrangement could not be made.I have said that there is available land for 500 houses. There is no alternative land in Oldham.
Only last Monday the Minister said in the House:We must ensure that sufficient land around and in the neighbourhood of large cities is allocated for housing development"—I am not claiming that Oldham is a large city but I think that it is within the right hon. Gentleman's meaning in this passage—and, indeed, for public housing development so that no local authority with a large, longstanding slum clearance programme shall be held up for lack of land."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th March, 1961; Vol. 637, c. 148.]That is the position facing Oldham. The public inquiry revealed that there are 1020 two areas, one of 123 acres and the other of 14 acres.
The Minister has not yet taken a decision and I would ask him to consider the matter very carefully in the light of what I have said. Here is an authority in an area where one house in every four should be the subject of slum clearance, and where the local authority has not been able to tackle the problem as vigorously as it wished in the past because of lack of technical assistance. It is now trying to fill that vacuum and it wants to go ahead. Land is available on sites on which apparently the Minister may refuse permission to build. I beg the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider the matter.
On the wider question of housing generally, I would inform the hon. Member for St. Albans that I am an owner-occupier. In making inquiries about my house which I bought long before the war, I found that among others it had the benefit of a public subsidy of £100 by way of grant given in 1926 or 1927. I would ask the Minister to examine the question whether there should always be a subsidy or whether there is something to be said nowadays for a direct capital grant of perhaps 25 per cent. or more. Alternatively, to bring down the ultimate cost to the tenant the right hon. Gentleman might consider the question of a rate of interest which would be fair to the social development of our towns and the provision of houses.
I would ask the Minister also to consider how ungenerous the Bill is to the large number of local authorities who have before them this great battle of slum clearance. The existing subsidy is £22 1s. and all the Government can offer in the Bill is to increase the subsidy to £24. Many towns will face considerable financial hardship in the effort to tackle their slum clearance problems. The Minister himself has admitted that the Bill will not increase the cost represented by existing legislation. In view of the great need, I ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider again the question of providing for an increase of both the £8 and the £24 grants in the light of relevant financial and other considerations.
I shall not deal with the question of land or building costs except to add that I agree with the criticism of land costs, 1021 but I am still of the opinion, as one who has had some little experience in industry, and recalling what a leading member of the building trade said only a few months ago—that the building industry was still a jungle—that building costs should be a matter in which the Ministry should take a very much closer and more detailed interest. Indeed, it might be that if, instead of the subsidy principle, a combination of that and the capital grant, particularly the capital grant, came into our finances, it might cause the Minister and his Department to take far more radical and helpful steps towards rationalising the building industry than they have so far done.
We have in the Bill an attempt by the Minister to facilitate, in particular, the installation of modern facilities in the houses in our older towns which lack them. In order to dangle a carrot in frant of the landlord, the Minister says. "I will permit you to have a return of 12½ per cent. on your money". I think that the Minister fears—I certainly do—that the progress which will be made in that direction even with the return of 12½ per cent. will be negligible.
I refer the Minister to an article headed:Housing and the private landlordin the Guardian on 24th March. A survey had been carried out in respect of Lancaster, and I have no reason to believe that the results for other similar towns would be any different. The article said:There are at present 853 private landlords in Lancaster. In total they own 2,361 houses. Well over a half of them own only one house. A third of them are 70 or more years old and a further quarter are aged between sixty and seventy. Their average weekly income (including net income from rents) is less than £10 a week.The general tone of the article is to demonstrate that where houses are in the possession of commercial firms which own them from a business point of view, at least some endeavour is being made to provide improvements of the type to which I am referring. However, surely we all come across houses where the amenities are one hundred years old, houses which lack light and which lack water, except in a very primitive form; and upon making inquiries one finds that the landlord or the landlady is in exactly 1022 the same position, or nearly so, as the tenant.
I suggest that Part III of the Bill lacks any power except through the landlord's willingness to provide improvements, and many landlords do not want to do this and many cannot. It is in respect of those who have not the necessary finances that I ask the Minister why he cannot appreciate that the mandatory powers in Part II are absolutely essential in the case of houses of single occupation where amenities are sadly lacking.
I will quote the Minister himself on this point. In the Guardian of 16th February the right hon. Gentleman is quoted as having said:There were probably 3 million houses in the country which could benefit from grant-aided improvement works. The number of houses modernised with the aid of a grant jumped from 34,000 in 1958 to more than 130,000 last year. This was because of the introduction in 1959 of the new scheme of standard grants, and the relaxation of some of the requirements in the older scheme of discretionary grants. He was pleased but not satisfied with the figure of 130,000. He wanted the number to increase to 200,000 a year and then 250,000. It was better for everyone if an entire area could be improved. This raised the tone of the whole area and the value of each property more than if only a house here and there were modernised. Some local authorities were tackling this by indicating streets and areas which deserved to be improved as a whole.Trying to follow the words and the spirit of that speech, I would ask the Minister how he proposes to tackle the rows and rows of houses in which a good deal is lacking. I refer to houses which are not lacking structurally but which will in ten or fifteen years' time face the authorities as slum problems. Those houses should be dealt with now not separately but collectively, so that the local authority can deal with them as a rational problem. Why should not the Minister give such a mandatory right to the local authority? I beg the Minister to give this matter second thoughts.
If one contemplates that line of action, the Minister may rightly ask what rent increase would be desirable. My experience is—I say this without the slightest reservation—that when tenants have had the possibility of obtaining a hot-water system, a bathroom upstairs or a modern toilet, I have never had any difficulty at all in getting them to face not only the cost but sometimes something more than the cost of those facilities. I am quite 1023 prepared to hand over to the local authorities, with the necessary reservations and exceptions, the right to take streets one by one and provide modern facilities in the houses in them. Here and there some additional building may be needed in order to provide a bathroom or a toilet. Nevertheless, houses can be better dealt with collectively than separately. I would ultimately leave to the local authority the right to decide what additional rent should be paid in the light of the improvements provided. If arising out of that there are difficulties, then the increased rent can be decided as between the landlord—if, indeed, the landlord has not met the whole cost—and the local authority. I urge the Minister to reconsider that part of the Bill at this stage.
For general reasons, including the lack of drive, spirit and target, and because, as the Minister has said, this is a major Bill which is costing nothing, this Measure is not a milestone. Indeed, to my mind it is something in which the House is to some extent wasting its opportunity. I believe that the House is right to censure the Minister. In these days when we have prosperity all around us and when we could get to grips with this cancer in our midst, we should rise to the occasion and meet the needs of our people when they demand what the twentieth century has to offer.
§ 6.50 p.m.
§ Mr. James Watts (Manchester, Moss Side)
I am very happy to follow the hon. Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Mapp), particularly as he referred to Ancoats, which I know well. I also know its slums well. I do not want to bother the House again with the argument about differential rents, because it has already been thrashed out. I agree with my right hon. Friend's policy about that. But even if we were to agree that any subsidy to people who live in corporation houses should be found by the National Assistance Board—which would be in accordance with the principle, in operation ever since Mr. Neville Chamberlain did what he called "breaking down the Poor Law", on the principle that people ought not to be financed out of the rates but by the State—the amount saved in Manchester would be roughly £360,000 to £370,000 only.
1024 Even if all this money were to be spent on building houses, instead of making what I consider is a rather expensive bookkeeping entry from one book to another, we would get only an extra 160 houses on the basis that a house costs £2,000. Manchester has 60,000 houses unfit for human habitation. At the present rate of building in the city, of about 2,000 a year, it would take thirty years to solve the problem, and during that time other houses will fall into disrepair.
The clearing of the slums is more important than any other matter, except defence. If we are not defended, then it does not matter what the condition of houses are, because at any moment they may no longer be intact. But having provided for the defence of our houses, then it is true to say that all the money spent on health, education and on the prevention of crime, comes to naught in such slum conditions. The money which children have spent on them in their education is entirely wasted when they return home to be crowded together in appalling conditions. We all know about those conditions, so there is no need in this debate to make a miserable speech about them.
What good is the money spent on our great National Health Service if people in their homes are crowded higgledy-piggledy in these appalling rooms, which do not even have a landing, which have no place to hang up clothes, and which have no place in which to dry wet clothes? In the evening, mothers and fathers are tired out, and the children get out on to the streets to play. When growing up, youths get into all sorts of trouble and even stray away and get drunk. What becomes then of the money spent on the National Health Service? [Interruption.] Yes, that is what happens continually. Young people go round and are given something to drink and get into all kinds of trouble, and the money spent by the Home Office on stopping crime all goes to naught.
Everything depends on the home. If they are not to have decent houses in which to live, how can fathers and mothers keep their faith? My constituency has terrible conditions, like the constituencies of the hon. Member for 1025 Manchester, Openshaw (Mr. W. R. Williams) the hon. Member for Manchester, Exchange (Mr. W. Griffiths), and the hon. Member for Manchester, Cheetham (Mr. H. Lever).
No local authority is perfect. Nothing can be done unless this matter is taken up, not by a means which is quite good as a measure of reform, but by a drastic measure like the abolition of slavery. The campaign against these conditions must be put upon what I might call the "Wilberforce" basis—a great surge of enthusiasm for a drive to get rid of these conditions. If houses are in such bad condition, then no other social service is of any use, and we shall waste all the money we spend on them.
§ Mrs. Harriet Slater (Stoke-on-Trent, North)
I am sure that the hon. Member does not want to be misunderstood. While we agree with his general idea, does not he also agree that some very fine families have been reared in slum areas? I do not think that he wants to put the idea about that no good families have ever, or can ever, be reared in slum areas.
§ Mr. Watts
The heroism shown by these people is wonderful. It is quite extraordinary. I do not know how they carry on in these conditions. Of course I do not want to give that impression. I visit such houses every two weeks and I know what takes place.
Now, immigration is worsening the situation. An enormous number of people from the Colonies are coming in. Without them, we could not carry on in Manchester, because they run the transport service and they do a wonderful amount of good work in the city. But when they arrive they live together in a particular part of the city, because most of them are poor and have to go where they can get cheap lodging. That applies to my constituency. Other cities like Birmingham have the same problem. There are tenement houses which fulfil no kind of health or sanitary regulations. All this extra crowding is being added to the conditions I have described.
My hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, South (Mr. Corfield) suggested that there should be some kind of new authority governing and watching much larger areas than those of single local authorities. When this House 1026 debated the Manchester Ship Canal Bill last year, I was in complete agreement with Lady Summerskill, then a Member of this House, who spoke about the conditions in Warrington. The canal runs from Manchester to the sea. It is very good for trade purposes but it is nothing more than a sewer, and the people who live on either side live in the most terrible conditions. At St. Helens, the smell of the chemical works is appalling. At Widnes, there is the same condition.
From Accrington to the Potteries, and from Liverpool to Leeds, industry has grown up in a few years. In Manchester in 1804, when my great grandfather was born, the centre was still fields. At the bottom of Portland Street, where my family warehouse was, there were sheep and a farm even in 1857. The whole thing grew up in a very few years and there is now this great conglomeration of population. I think that the Cabinet should make a survey of the North-West and decide what should be done. Nobody lives there unless their friends are there or they have to work there or have a vocation there. There should be a great big plan for this wide area. That is why I was happy when the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, South made his suggestion.
I believe that we should add to the Bill. I agree that there should be differential rent arrangements, with the intention of clearing the slums. We should do this as quickly as we can, having regard to the resources of the country. I do not want to say, "Let us have homes for heroes to live in", and then to shed tears and think that I have done a good day's work.
I want a review to be made, with sound arrangements to follow it, from the point of view of money, materials and the number of people available to do the work and make the arrangements. Of course what can be done in that direction an elderly back bencher, who has just arrived in the House, cannot possibly tell. That is why I ask the right hon. Gentleman to put this matter to the Cabinet, so that the North-West area and the Black Country, which one can see when travelling by train through Birmingham, may be dealt with. These places need to be cleaned up and cheered up and made into areas in which people would wish to live because they are 1027 beautiful. I am not speaking from an idealistic point of view. I do not know how long this will take, how much it will cost or what resources we have. What I want is determination on the part of the Prime Minister and the Government to report to us how this can be done, and to do it.
§ 7.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Donald Wade (Huddersfield, West)
If any hon. Member had doubts about the seriousness of the housing situation in certain parts of the country, I think that they would have been dispelled by the speech of the hon. Member for Manchester, Moss Side (Mr. Watts). There is no doubt that there is a serious shortage of houses in many parts of the country. There is also some very bad housing; in fact, some of it is a social disgrace.
As to the housing situation generally, there is no reason for complacency. We are building fewer houses per head of the population than other leading countries. For example, in 1959 we built 5.5 houses per 1,000 of the population, Western Germany built 10.5, France 7.1, Sweden 9.4 and the United States 7.9. I agree that in endeavouring to find a remedy one must have priorities. I would certainly put the removal of slums and the lessening of overcrowding as the first priority. The second is the needs of the elderly. In so far as the Bill attempts to deal with those priorities, I am prepared to support it.
On the credit side, I welcome the recognition of the work of the housing associations to which I shall refer again later. I also think that the Minister is right in not imposing a rent policy on local authorities. I have no objection in principle to differential rent schemes, and I think that it is right that, so far as possible, if rents are subsidised, the subsidy should go to those in need; but I do not believe that it would be wise or practicable for the Minister to lay down a particular rent policy which would have to be adopted by every local authority, whether it wished to do so or not. So much for the favourable side of the balance sheet.
On the other side, there are many detailed criticisms which one should make. I am not entirely happy about the distinction between the £24 and £8 grants. 1028 This seems somewhat arbitrary and may lead to difficulties. The Minister referred to marginal relief, and no doubt we shall hear something about that when the Bill is discussed in Committee. I also notice that the calculation is made by reference to twice the 1956 gross value and it is, therefore, based on the 1939 letting value. In the Rating and Valuation Bill, which has been discussed upstairs, we are attempting to get away from 1956 gross value, and I am not sure whether difficulties may not arise if we have one Bill dealing with 1963 values and another with 1956 values.
Clause 2 introduces a new principle. It gives powers which, I think, may give rise to uncertainty in the planning policy of local authorities. Some finance committees and housing committees may be in doubt as a result of Clause 2. I hope that their fears may be set at rest by observations made by the Minister during the Committee stage or by the Parliamentary Secretary in winding up this debate.
On Second Reading I hope that I may be allowed to turn from the particular to the general. One must see this Bill in the right perspective. Of course, the perspective depends to some extent on where one stands. The view which one takes of the Bill depends in part on the place in which one would put the provision of housing in the general welfare functions of the State. Obviously, that must affect one's attitude to the Bill. Personally, I make a distinction between health and education on the one side and housing on the other.
I think that it is right that everyone should be entitled to the free use of the Health Service, and I wish to see every boy and girl entitled to equal opportunities of education. I do not want to see one kind of Health Service for the rich and another for the poor, and I do not want to see those whose parents are well-off entitled to a better education than those whose parents are not well-off. I have no hesitation in including health and education among the welfare services. In a free society one must, however, always be attempting to put reasonable bounds on the extent of the welfare functions of the State. One must always be endeavouring to draw a line.
Looking to the future, I would not put the responsibility of finding and paying 1029 for a home primarily on the State. In other words, it is not the primary duty of the State to find a home for everyone. That is the responsibility of the individual or the head of the family. Whether he buys or whether he rents, it should be without a subsidy. That is the general principle from which I start. There are many exceptions and many factors which add greatly to the complexity of this problem.
First, distortions have been caused over nearly half a century by rent control, which in turn was due to world wars. Secondly, there are slums and overcrowding which, if not due to the war, were at any rate worsened by the war and the shortages of materials and manpower. Thirdly, there is the fact that the availability of housing and of employment do not always coincide. Finally, there is the fact that land is limited and that one cannot, therefore, have a free market in the true sense of the expression.
The Minister of Housing is in error in believing that we can achieve a completely free market in housing. That cannot be done, because of the limitation of land. The amount of land available is limited, partly because there is a limited area of land in these islands—we might attempt to reclaim the Wash, but that would not go very far to solve the housing problem of London—and partly because of restrictions resulting from town planning. There cannot be a genuine free market. To that one must add the fact that there will always be some who, because of economic misfortunes, will be unable to afford to pay economic rents. There must also be added the elderly, of whom many are bound to be in financial circumstances which make it impossible for them to live in places which they would choose if their financial circumstances were better.
I do not regard housing as naturally a welfare service, but it is obvious that there must be a great degree of communal responsibility for it. I shall not attempt to apply the various aspects of those problems to the Bill to show to what extent the Bill meets the needs. To do so would require a somewhat lengthy lecture, and delivering lectures to this honourable House is a temptation which I have always tried to resist. However, I want to refer to the problem of the elderly and that of supplying houses to rent.
1030 The Government have claimed that local authority building of houses for the elderly has increased from 7 per cent. to 29 per cent. in the last ten years. However, it must be remembered that the total number of houses built by local authorities in that period has fallen by one-third, so that the percentage increase does not give a fair picture of the improvement in home building for the elderly.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Sir Keith Joseph)
The hon. Member may prefer the figures. There has been an increase from 11,000 to 27,000.
§ Mr. Wade
There has been a growth as the hon. Member says. I was going on to point out that it was not nearly sufficient to meet the need. I am advised that in 1980 there will be 94 million persons over the age of 65—nearly one-fifth of the population—so that the problem of housing the elderly will obviously grow.
There have been many improvements in the form of housing provided for the elderly. The old practice of separating a man and his wife is no longer considered necessary.
§ Mr. Wade
I agree, but not so much. I have always regarded it as a tragedy that, after being together all their lives, a man and his wife should be separated and put into separate homes when they reach old age.
Last Monday, the advantage of bungalows compared with flats was mentioned. The difficulty is finding sufficient land for bungalows, but, granted the land, there is much to be said for bungalows as opposed to flats. There are elderly people who are able to afford to pay a rent for their own homes, but who cannot afford to buy. They would be willing to rent a small dwelling if one could be found, and they would gladly go to seaside resorts and live in modest homes for the rest of their days. But where are those modest homes at low rents in seaside resorts to be found? What happens is that the old people stay in houses in our large industrial centres taking up accommodation which is needed by those who are working. That is one of our problems and it will continue so long as there is an inadequate supply of houses to let. 1031 It is a problem which the Government have not yet adequately considered.
We have a responsibility to those who wish to rent rather than buy. While we attempt to clear the slums and do more for the elderly, we must recognise that there are many who, for various reasons, do not wish to buy and for whom house purchase is not appropriate. I say that as one who has for many years advocated home ownership. There are workers whose jobs demand mobility. There are young married people who have not yet saved up sufficient to start buying a house and there are those who are just not suited to property management and who make better tenants than owners of homes.
In the debate last week, the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) referred to the proportion of home ownership and said:I should like to maintain the present proportions of some 5 million owner-occupied houses, some 5½ million privately let houses and some 3½ million council let houses. I do not think that we ought to change those proportions."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th March, 1961; Vol. 637, c. 73.]How are those proportions to be maintained? It is likely that owner-occupation will increase. I hope that it will, and it certainly should if our society is to become more prosperous.
What of private letting? The article by Mr. J. B. Cullingworth in the Guardian on 24th March has already been mentioned. Mr. Cullingworth draws attention to the problem strikingly when he says:Private ownership of rental housing has been in decline for the major part of the century—both in this country and on the Continent. It is the aim of the present Government to arrest this decline. The assumption underlying housing policy since 1954 has been that a return to freer market conditions would bring this about. But in spite of decontrol, permitted rent increases, and subsidised improvements there is no indication that private enterprise is significantly interested in the rental market.The recent White Paper, 'Housing Policy in England and Wales' and the new Housing Bill represent a further attempt to resuscitate what appears to he a dying institution.I quote this as one who has no ideological objections to private enterprise. I wish to see more home ownership, although by that I do not mean—again to quote from the article—frustrated would-be renters who are involuntary owner-occupiers.1032 What are we to do about the problem of providing houses to let? I believe that small landlords are on the way out. A friend of mine recently had a conversation with an elderly couple, when the wife made a somewhat curious remark. She said, "We have got on all right. We have always managed not to save." When asked what "not to save" meant, she explained that her parents had put all their savings into cottage property, which had given them endless trouble. They had managed to get rid of it after a long time, but had lost nearly all their savings. I know that it is a different story for the speculators who buy up such property.
Investment in house property by small investors is now declining. There are many other ways of investing one's money, and I do not think that the present trend will be reversed. In those circumstances, what is to happen to the 5½ million privately let houses to which the hon. Member for Crosby referred? I estimate that 500,000 of those will become owner-occupied, and that 2 million will probably be owned—if they are not owned already—by property-owning companies. I do not regard all property-owning companies as evil. Some are efficient and good landlords. But they are not likely to provide all the houses to let that are required. In future about two-thirds of the privately-owned houses to let will be provided by property-owning companies. Where are we to find the landlords for the remaining 2 million or 3 million tenants who are looking for houses to rent?
I know that some members of the Labour Party would say that all these houses must be provided by local authorities. I do not agree. There are objections to having only one landlord. There are objections to local authorities having to put so much capital into housing, and to their having to incur so much administration in it. Therefore, largely by a process of elimination, the only answer is, in my opinion, to be found n the development of housing associations and, to a lesser extent, co-operative housing societies.
This will mean a dramatic change. At the moment housing associations provide only a small part of the need. Command No. 1296, referring to the number of new houses built in Great Britain up to 31st January, 1961, states 1033 that 44,000 houses were built by housing associations, compared with over 2 million by local authorities and over 1 million by private builders. In the month of January, 1961, 101 houses were built by housing associations, compared with over 6,000 by local authorities and nearly 12,000 by private builders. If the housing associations are to fulfil this rôle, something much greater than that is needed.
So far I have mentioned only new houses built. According to an article in the Financial Times on 16th February of this year it is estimated that housing societies own over 100,000 dwellings. That is, however, well short of the 2 million to 3 million houses about which we should be concerning ourselves. The article in the Financial Times concludes:
If the Government offer of a loan is backed by a sufficient publicity drive, the growth of non-profit building could well outdistance the intentions of its sponsors. The example exists in Scandinavia, and especially in Demark, where by 1950 nearly half the national house-building effort was in the hands of nonprofit associations.I see no reason why we should not follow the example of Denmark.
Be that as it may, we shall never get over the evils of our housing problems until supply roughly equals demand, by which I mean that the supply of houses for sale equals the demand from those who wish to buy, and the supply of houses to let equals the demand of those who want houses to rent. This presents us with a great challenge, but it is one that we ought to be able to meet.
§ 7.26 p.m.
§ Mr. T. H. H. Skeet (Willesden, East)
I listened with great interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Mapp), who indicated that the failure to get rid of the slums was one of the reasons why he turned to the party to which he now gives allegiance. If he considers the advance made by the Conservative Party he may well decide to cross the Floor of the House.
I want to deal with the paint raised by the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Wade), who indicated that he would prefer maisonettes or bungalows to tall flats. In certain parts of the country that is practical, but in London we cannot spread out laterally and therefore have to build upwards. We must 1034 not be frightened of heights. In Middlesex densities seem to be about 100 persons per acre, although they are very much higher at some spots. The net density is approximately 138 to the acre. But in the London County Council area the density has risen to about 200 per acre. My right hon. Friend is putting up a block of flats 16 storeys high in the Primrose Hill development, and I congratulate Willesden, my own council, on deciding to put up a block 17 storeys high in Kilburn square.
According to the exhibition on "Housing in the Sixties", in the City of London, Southwark has a block of flats 18 storeys high. Yet we are falling well behind Scandinavia, where buildings of 24 storeys or more are constructed. We must also remember that very near this House there is an office block which is rising above 30 storeys, and that makes me wonder whether we are doing our best in this direction.
That brings me to Clause 5 of the Bill. I should like to know whether the Parliamentary Secretary considers that the subsidies available for tall multi-storey structures are sufficient. The whole question is one of costs. I should like to refer to a letter I received from the Building Research Station at Watford, which says:We have analysed the tender prices of some comparatively recent high blocks; a group of 33 from 6–12 storeys, and a group of 16 from 13–19 storeys. The average prices per square foot for both foundation works and main superstructure (concrete and brickwork) were virtually the same for both groups. Recent site observations also indicate that actual construction costs for the same work are not greatly affected by increased height, at least up to 18 or 19 storeys.One must, of course, bear in mind that so many extras are put in, such as boosters to get water to the right height, and fast lifts, and there are regulations laid down by the authorities regarding fire escapes. But there is also one significant observation—granted that high densities are required, it has been argued, we would say with good reason, that it is really more economic to build in the 15–20 storey range than at the interim height of 6–12 storeysI wonder whether the Parliamentary Secretary would agree with those observations. It would appear reasonable that if one is going to a considerable height—to some extent proportionately—the cost must increase if one is to allow in 1035 a number of additional factors, such as increased lift charges, construction costs and so on. On that basis, is the hon. Gentleman satisfied that the subsidies for which he has arranged under Clause 5 are sufficient?
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his initiative in introducing the provisions in Clauses 12 to 20, which may truly be described as a tenants' charter. I share one interest with the hon. Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin). In the Kilburn area we have some extremely bad slums. I know of a house where there is a family of fourteen, including seven boys and five girls, living in very restricted, in fact abbreviated, accommodation. I could quote other cases in Cambridge Road, for example, where there are four young children who sleep in a single room in bunks even smaller than the accommodation in a submarine. I do not wish to weary the House with a number of illustrations, but I know of cases where teenage boys and girls have to share sleeping accommodation.
I think the measures provided in these Clauses may be avoided by some people. As far as I can see, "house" will have to be defined and the person responsible. Is it to be the actual lessee in charge of the premises or the ground lessee? In the case of trusts, would it be the agent acting for the trustees? These are matters which may well be discussed during the Committee stage proceedings.
Clause 29, refers to obligations for repairs. In cases brought to my notice in the advice bureau in my constituency I have found few extortionate rents, but I have noticed that several landlords have attempted to shift the onus for repairs. The provisions in Clause 29 will prevent this. But it may be possible that the additional responsibility for repairs will be reflected in an addition to the price, and if so, the rent may go up. The opposite argument is that a tenant has security for a much longer term and also that a landlord can only secure what the market will command. Prices of house property and land values in the United States are falling, and if the rate of building in this country continues, it may be that over the years we can look forward to a decline in prices in this country also.
It is indicated that installations prior to the commencement of a lease will not 1036 be included, but I have in mind an installation under a collateral arrangement prior to the granting or entry under a lease. Apparently such matters would not be covered. It may be that a skilful landlord may say, "If I grant the tenant a term of three years with an option of another four years, that would be a way round the provisions in Clauses 29 and 30." I have no doubt my right hon. Friend has looked at these matters most carefully and during the Committee stage he may be prepared to accept Amendments on the subject.
When the White Paper was initially published, I thought it would lead to the adoption by local authorities of more economic rents, and the arguments advanced today are clearly that housing accommodation should be properly utilised for those people in the greatest need. To take an extravagant example, people with considerable resources should not live in council houses, but people who cannot afford to pay economic rents should be properly accommodated in the housing available. The new subsidies, recast in their present form, would permit a flow of people to this accommodation, because most councils would be induced, if not compelled, to operate what is known as a rent rebate or differential rent scheme.
Last year, the Parliamentary Secretary wrote to me on a point affecting my local council. He said… my latest information is that Willesden rents average something like 1⅓ of the houses' gross value for rating purposes compared with 2⅓ times the gross value that could be obtained if they were rent controlled houses in private ownership. If rents were raised to something approaching this level, I should be surprised if they did not yield the council at least an additional £100,000 per year, which is a substantial margin, even allowing for any rebates.It is quite apparent from the mere reading of that extract that if the council did raise the rent and charged even the control rent under the 1957 Act, twice the gross rent if we put it that way, they would scoop in additional rent which could be devoted to other purposes. Surely it must be the aim of all local authorities to measure up to their responsibility to house those people in greatest need.
I listened carefully to the speech of the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) and I consider that he agreed, in principle or in substance, with at least 1037 66 per cent. to 70 per cent. of the contents of this Bill. He agreed in principle with Clauses 12 to 22. He indicated that his party had pressed for what is included in Clauses 28 and 30. Many Clauses were not commented on by the hon. Gentleman, he did not object to them, and that leaves only the earlier Clauses for consideration.
Generally speaking, I think that my right hon. Friend is to be congratulated on this Measure. I should like to underline what he said in his closing remarks, that when he went into areas where conditions were bad and saw for himself the conditions under which some people were forced to live, he made a clear resolve that when he was in a position to rectify that he would do so. I invited the hon. Member to come into my constituency where I can show him such conditions. I think it the duty of every hon. Member to refuse to be satisfied until these conditions are entirely removed. It is the great fortune of many of us to live in much more desirable circumstances, but I do not think we should stand aside because of that. We should find a way to carry out the obligations we owe to our constituents, particularly those who are less fortunate than ourselves.
Therefore, I agree with hon. Members on both sides of the House that our aim and aspiration must be to carry on with the slum clearance drive and with the drive to accommodate those people who have reached the twilight of life. I understand that as earnings increase it might become necessary to revise, or even to reduce, the subsidies, but I hope my right hon. Friend will bear in mind that he should do this only if he is forced to it over a term of years. If he is looking ahead today as he looked back in 1911, he will not resort to that too early because, as my council puts it, it has to budget well ahead in its programme.
§ 7.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Albert Evans (Islington, South-West)
I am glad that the hon. Member for Willesden, East (Mr. Skeet) is aware of some of the appalling conditions which exist in Willesden. I hope that he will constantly probe and urge his right hon. Friend to take some action to deal with the terrible conditions in Willesden.
§ Mr. Evans
I am fairly certain that it will not deal with the Willesden problem nor with the problem generally in the country, in the large towns particularly.
I shall not follow the hon. Member in his remarks about Clauses 29 and 30, except to say that the provisions in those Clauses are about three years too late. His point about high blocks of flats seemed quite interesting. No doubt the Ministry is considering whether or not in parts of London flats can be built up into the skies and we can have in certain places flats similar to those seen in New York. Whatever is done in London, whether in Willesden or the centre of London, the amount of accommodation provided by high flats will not necessarily be greater than that provided by lower buildings of flats. When one builds high one has to have adequate surrounding space. Reaching into the skies with very high blocks of flats does not necessarily give a greater amount of accommodation per acre. Building very high blocks of flats is not a serious or sizeable contribution to the housing problem.
The hon. Member mentioned Part II of the Bill and called it a tenants' charter. The provisions in that part of the Bill will not increase the amount of accommodation available. It is true that local authorities will have added powers to see that houses in multi-occupation are properly provided with facilities, but the whole of Part II will not increase by one unit the amount of accommodation available. Indeed, on balance, I think it will tend slightly to reduce the existing amount of accommodation.
The hon. Member for Willesden, East told us he was certain that the Bill would make a contribution to tackling the slums problem in Willesden. The Minister has told us that he was very proud to bring in a major housing Bill. That 1039 was a rather bold claim for the Minister to make. Over recent years he has brought in five or six housing Bills, each dealing with a particular aspect or a number of aspects of the housing problem, rent restriction, house purchase and so on. Now, he tells us, this is a major Bill. Before we can decide whether or not it is a major Bill really tackling the housing problem as it needs to be tackled, we should remind ourselves of the size of the problem.
We cannot do better than refer to the speech made by the Parliamentary Secretary last Monday. He then told us, what we all know, that there are 600,000 slums yet to be cleared. They must contain at least 2 millon men, women and children, probably more because slums are generally heavily populated. We can say without exaggeration that the slum problem is of the size of 2 million or 2½ million men, women and children. The Parliamentary Secretary went on to say that there are in addition several million non-slum houses without modern conveniences. Very often those are houses in multiple occupation. Those are houses which are 80 or 100 years old. We know this is so because of the figures given in the White Paper of which the Parliamentary Secretary reminded us. We can say that in those houses without modern conveniences, still lacking even elementary amenities, there are 8 million, 9 million or 10 million people.
§ Mr. Brooke
I must correct this. When the Parliamentary Secretary was speaking of these older houses lacking modern conveniences, he was not speaking primarily of houses in multi-occupation but of terraced houses, which in so many areas do not in fact contain more than one family each.
§ Mr. Evans
However that may be, we know from the figures on the record that there are several million of these houses which are 80 to 100 years old. Many of them have no adequate water supply, and in many there is not a water closet for each family. Many of them are dark, insanitary and damp. We know that several million houses exist which are unfit for people to live in. I do not think it an exaggeration to say, on the word of the Parliamentary Secretary, that they must contain 5 million, 6 million or 7 million people.
§ Mr. Brooke
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member again. It is the slum houses which are unfit for human habitation. These older, non-modernised houses are not slums. They are structurally sound, but they lack modern conveniences, a hot water system, a fixed bath and so on.
§ Mr. Evans
Had the Minister listened to what I said, he would know that I have already dealt with the slum houses in which there are 2 million or 2½ million people after ten years of Conservative power. We can add to them several million substandard houses which lack modern amenities. There is no question of that. In my constituency there are hundreds and thousands of such houses. In the industrial North there are rows and rows of such houses, often damp, lacking toilet facilities, lacking water supply and so on. In the country today, in addition to 2½ million living in the slums, there are several million in sub-standard houses, possibly 5 million in housing conditions which are deplorable. That, broadly, is the picture. To tackle that problem the Minister brings in this Bill and calls it a major housing Bill. Is the Minister surprised that we have put down an Amendment to reject the Second Reading in face of the size and the squalor of our housing problem? We know that a large number of people are living in these deplorable housing conditions, and we say that the Bill does not size up to the problem and that we shall therefore vote against it.
It is surely a condemnation of the Government that after ten years of unfettered Conservative rule so many people should still live in slums and sub-standard accommodation. The Minister frequently tells us that the position is getting better and better, but we all know that so long after the end of the war, with materials having been in full supply for the last six years, we still have not tackled the great core of our housing problem effectively—and the core of it is to be found in the towns. There is a hard core which has not yet been tackled.
It is not difficult to trim the easy parts of the problem. It is tackling the hard core which is the test of any Administration, and the Minister knows 1041 that this hard core in the centres of our population has yet to be tackled. Whatever satisfaction the Minister may gain from his efforts over recent years, he must admit that the problem facing him in the towns remains formidable and that it will need more than this Bill to deal with it.
The problem in London, Birmingham, Liverpool and our other great cities, where people live in great numbers, cannot be solved within the boundaries of those towns and cities. It is beyond dispute that many families in the older and larger towns will have to move out of the towns because there is no sites for them in the towns. The Minister knows that his overspill problem is sizeable.
I wonder whether the Minister is determined to tackle the overspill problem. In the Bill he gives an increased subsidy for overspill, but it is not the financial side which is the most difficult side. This is a physical problem. Were it not for the new towns which the Labour Government initiated, with foresight, we should be in a parlous condition in London today. Those new towns have provided an outlet for our overspill and homes for tens of thousands of our people, but the building in the new towns is slowing down and some of them are nearing completion. The Minister knows that several new towns in the London area will soon conclude their programme. He knows that the opportunities for overspill in the new towns are diminishing and will diminish. Yet he refuses to reconsider his policy towards new towns and to provide new opportunities in areas away from the London conurbation.
It is certain that the new town policy was sound, although some of the new towns around the Metropolitan area were too near to the Metropolitan centres. Nevertheless, this sound idea provided an outlet—but that outlet is closing. The Minister tells us that some outlet will be provided under the Town Development Act, but what has he done to make that Act work effectively? I know of no case in which he has gone out of his way to help local authorities to initiate schemes under the Town Development Act. He may confirm their proposals, but he has no positive policy to make the Act work effectively so that people who cannot be housed in their 1042 own towns can find an outlet outside them. After much debate he agreed that the London County Council might seek its own new site if it could find one. The council and its officers spent much time trying to find a site for a new town for London to take some of London's inevitable overspill. The Minister said, "If you can find a site, you can have it", but he gave the L.C.C. no help in that formidable task.
The L.C.C. found a site near Hook. What did the Minister do? I think that any Minister who wanted to tackle London's overspill problem would have brought the local authorities together and would have done his utmost to insist on some arrangement between exporting and importing authorities. But his attitude under the Town Development Act, as in respect of new towns, is negative.
§ Mr. Brooke
I do not know what the hon. Member is talking about. I took the initiative and invited Hampshire County Council and the L.C.C. to meet me. We had a fruitful meeting under my chairmanship which resulted, I understand, in an agreement for town development work to go on for London in Basingstoke, Andover and Tadley.
§ Mr. Evans
I do not understand what the Minister is talking about I was referring to the new town site of Hook, and as far as I know the Minister has never given any active, purposeful help to establish the new town at Hook. It is true that a scheme may be finalised in Hampshire, and that the Minister met both sides and acted as impartial chairman, but I say that he takes no positive action to make town development work effective, and I believe that to be true. He is content to sit on the sidelines and to leave the local authorities to do what they can.
I regret having continued for so long, and I have taken longer over this task because of the Minister's lack of understanding. I will finish quickly. Clause 2 is a most retrograde step, for in it the Minister takes powers to cut off the subsidy after it has been given. He asks local authorities to commit themselves to a period of sixty years, during most of which time the authorities will be uncertain whether the Minister will at any time reduce or abolish the subsidy. A local authority which I know well, and 1043 on which I served before coming to the House, has written to me as followsApart from the fact that this enables delegated legislation to be used for the purpose of retrospectively interfering with the terms of a contract, this provision will make it difficult for local authorities to plan in advance the best use of their, financial resources, and whatever assurances the Minister feels inclined to give about the way in which he or his successors will use the power, it is felt that legislation in this form is most undesirable.That is from Islington Borough Council. I agree that it is only one local authority, but it is a sizeable authority with a population of about 200,000, which equals the population of Oxford, Cambridge and Bath together. I ask the House to remember that at least one sizeable local authority has written in those terms about the power which the Minister seeks to take in Clause 2. When the right hon. Gentleman put through his House Purchase and Housing Act, 1959, I do not recollect that he made any such stipulation to building societies. He made £100 million of public money available to building societies. Did he say to them, "I may alter the rate of interest at which you are receiving this money at some time over the period"? He lent that money to building societies at a lower rate of interest than that at which local authorities can borrow money. He made no stipulation to building societies such as he is now making to local authorities about the alteration in the amount of subsidy. It seems that the Minister is happy to treat building societies rather more generously than he treats local authorities.
I welcome Part III generally, but I doubt very much whether it will help to solve the housing problem. In 1954 the Prime Minister introduced a Bill and published a White Paper. The White Paper was called "Operation Rescue". It contained similar suggestions to deal with old houses in the occupation of several families. It certainly was not a success. Now the present Minister is trying to do something which the Prime Minister failed to do in 1954.
I wish it well. I hope that with the new powers local authorities will be able to deal effectively with houses in multi-occupation, but we must remember that nothing that can be done under Part II will increase the amount of 1044 accommodation. If anything, it will tend to lessen it.
I am sorry to be so critical of the Bill. I had hoped for a major housing Bill. I had hoped that the Government and the Minister would tackle the immense housing problem with vigour and with some hope that it might be solved within a term of years. Existing slums will last for 10 or 15 years. We now know that the Minister is not determined to grapple effectively with the problem. The Bill contains little which will give hope to the millions of men, women and children still living in bad and shocking conditions. I doubt very much whether the problem will be dealt with effectively during the lifetime of this Parliament.
§ 8.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Colin Turner (Woolwich, West)
The hon. Member for Islington, South-West (Mr. A. Evans) will forgive me if I do not follow him into overspill problems. Time is getting very short and a number of hon. Members on both sides still wish to take part in the debate.
Both sides seem to be agreed that there is a shortage of rented accommodation. Where we probably differ is on how to provide extra rented accommodation. The hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) said that there was a considerable shortage of rented accommodation below the £4 a week figure. I do not disagree with that statement.
I wholeheartedly welcome the Minister's proposals concerning advances to housing associations. This is a bold experiment. We have been told from the other side this afternoon that it is unlikely that private enterprise will come back into the field of providing rented accommodation. These proposals offer a new avenue for providing housing accommodation on a far greater scale than housing associations have done hitherto. It is an experiment well worth trying, because it will demonstrate that there is a very large demand for unsubsidised rented accommodation. It will not only increase the amount of housing to let which housing associations can provide. They will get going in a big way. It will also bring private enterprise back into the field, now that there is little or no chance of another Labour Government returning in the 1045 foreseeable future to nationalise. It will provide what is needed.
Where I and many of my colleagues differ from hon. Members opposite is as to what part the local authority has to play in housing. I believe that local councils still have a tremendous part to play. Their job now is to provide specialised housing, particularly for old people. They must look after those who are in most need of accommodation. This is where people tend to blur the facts. People may be in need of accommodation, but the test surely is whether they have the ability and—the number of cases I have at my weekly "surgery" convinces me that this is the more tragic aspect—the desire to do something to help themselves. This is the difference.
I support the statement of my hon. Friend the Member for St. Albans (Mr. Goodhew) that everything possible should be done to encourage local authorities, of all political opinions, to recognise this. One might gain the impression from listening to speeches in the House of Commons that rent rebate schemes are matters of political consideration. Many Socialist-controlled local authorities implement them only too well and only too successfully. This is not a political issue. It is a matter of sound financial common sense.
Local authorities must look at it in this way. I am certain that this experiment will work and that private enterprise will come back. Housing associations and private enterprise are the bodies which should provide the housing for £4 a week accommodation and above. The local authority should return to the field for which it was originally intended, namely, helping those in dire distress. In many local authorities, whether they be Conservative or Socialist controlled, this is just not happening at present.
Many of my constituents come to me for housing assistance. Every hon. Member undertakes this task. Many of those who come to me have been waiting for years, are in dire need, and should get council houses. On the other side, people who can well afford to rent their own accommodation are in council housing at the moment, thus causing unnecessary misery to people on the housing list.
I am sorry to say that I do not think that my right hon. Friend's proposals in 1046 Clause 4 will provide the necessary incentive—"reason" may be a better word—for local authorities to do much about it. In the White Paper my right hon. Friend said that the proposals were designed to ensure that local councils had a sensible rent policy. I have studied a number of facts and figures from various local authorities. I am dealing only with the easier cases. I do not believe that a figure of twice the gross rateable value is quite large enough. About two and a quarter or two and one-third times the gross rateable value would achieve what my right hon. Friend has set out to achieve. I am with him entirely in wanting to achieve it.
§ Mr. Sidney Irving (Dartford)
Does the hon. Gentleman realise that if there is a differential rent scheme under the Minister's policy the people paying the top rent will be paying at least two and a quarter to two and one-third times the gross rateable value in order to achieve the average of twice the gross annual value for the authority?
§ Mr. Turner
I am not worried about that at all. I do not like the phrase "differential rent scheme". I much prefer the phrase "rent rebate scheme", because I think it is easier and clearer and one which people understand. I have no objection whatsoever to a local authority applying a rent of two and a half times or even three times the gross rateable value, provided that there is an effective rent rebate scheme which will enable people in real need to pay less rent than they are paying at present. I used to serve on the Enfield local authority, and there were many such cases there.
All I ask is that there should be a scheme. I realise that the Minister cannot force this on local authorities, but they themselves must look at the sound financial commonsense of bringing in such schemes. My right hon. Friend may be right—his scheme may do this; I only have some doubt as to whether twice the gross rateable value will achieve the results he seeks. It will have some effect, but I do not believe that some authorities will be as affected as I would want.
Clause 26 deals with rent increases in respect of improvements. Hon. Members opposite asked why these people 1047 should enjoy an increase of 12½ per cent. in the amounts they can collect, and why it was that some people were improving their property while others could not or would not do so. The answer is fairly simple. Some property is in a far worse state than others; under the improvement system, some of it has a far longer life than others. Therefore, if a local authority feels that a property has a useful life of about 15 years and that this is the only way to get an economic return on the improvements over those fifteen years, an increase to 12½ per cent. is more than justified, and I congratulate my right hon. Friend on taking this step.
I want to refer hon. Members to the rows of terrace houses there are in many constituencies—I have them in Woolwich, and in Enfield where I live and in a ward that I represent on the local council—which, since the war, have passed into owner occupation. Here we have a simple matter of identical properties. In one street there may be 200 houses of only two or three designs. Surely, it must be in the interests of the local authority concerned and of the Government to find some way of encouraging, to a far greater extent than has hitherto been done, the private occupiers of those properties to bring them up to a modern standard on a far larger scale than before.
Is it not possible for the Government and local authorities to think of ways and means of publicising what could be done in such a street as that? There is no reason why a local authority, whatever its political opinion, should not produce a master plan for that street and for the type of house in it. I hope that my right hon. Friend will give that aspect very serious consideration. No matter what publicity there is, there are always hundreds and thousands of people who have never managed to hear about some scheme. It is to these people we want to appeal, because it is they who are standing in the way.
Overall costs could be reduced if there was a standard plan for a certain type of house in a certain street. As one who has served on a borough council—a Socialist-controlled one which was at first misguided enough not to want to implement the plan at all, but was later wise enough to change its mind—I believe that encouragement should be 1048 given to local authorities to undertake these schemes. I welcome the Bill and will wholeheartedly support it in its various stages.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Mr. B. T. Parkin (Paddington, North)
When the hon. Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Turner), dealing with improvement grant, spoke of some houses that were in a worse state than others and of some that had a longer life than others, I was almost tempted to interrupt him to suggest that the same thing applied to landlords. That is a very important aspect of this problem. I was also very interested in his remarks about the large unsatisfied demand for dwellings to let, but, if he will allow me, I shall not immediately follow him there but will come to that subject later, as I want to keep my remarks as concise and orderly as possible.
I want to take up two remarks that have come from the other side. The first was the only party political remark of my neighbour the hon. Member for Willesden, East (Mr. Skeet), who proudly stated that the Conservative Party had done more than any one else to clear up the slums. I want, in the nicest way, to remind him of the answer he would certainly get at a public meeting—that his party has also done more than anybody else to create them.
I really do not mean that in a cheap sense now, because I want to come to the Minister's claim that the Government have been doing some new thinking. I do not think that it is true—it is the Minister who has been doing some new thinking. I have already paid tribute to his courage in assembling in the White Paper the facts of many aspects of the problem, and I want to give as helpful and constructive criticism of some aspects of his suggested remedies as I can.
I am sure that if he has the chance to be the Minister to find out what causes the slums in the first place, the right hon. Gentleman would not want to go down to history as just one more Minister who had initiated one more slum clearance scheme. I want him to go back a stage further and to trace the turning point at which a house becomes doomed.
Although it is, perhaps, unfair to quote out of context, the Minister was rather revealing when he spoke of the possibility of local authorities not needing the 1049 subsidies in the years to come and talked of people's incomes rising and thereby increasing their rent-paying capacity. He brought that out with great conviction and relish, as though it were something that must never be lost sight of. His supporters today have spoken in similar terms—as though it were monstrous that people should live in a rented house unless they had the last penny wrung out of them. They spoke as though something happened to their digestive juices when they passed a council house that had a car outside.
That raises all sorts of questions of inflation and wage claims and rates for skilled and unskilled work and the like that are outside the scope of this debate, but if there is to be the argument that the proper price should be paid for the use of the land the Minister must tackle the myth embodied in the phrase, "Safe as houses"; the notion that houses are intended to last for ever. They are not. They are expendable. They have a certain life, after which they ought to be replaced. They are not suitable as longterm pension schemes for small families, for elderly aunts and retired grocers. I shall return to that cause of the deterioration of houses.
The Minister must reintroduce some notion of stewardship and responsibility in the private ownership of houses. We cannot allow houses to be bled to death by the extraction of rent and the failure to plough back a reasonable amount in the way of repairs and reconditioning and improvement as the years go by. The Minister is a former Financial Secretary to the Treasury and I am sure he knows all about hypothicated taxation. I wonder whether he will reflect on the question of Schedule A and whether he will put up a battle to retain it. It would be a pity to say "Good-bye" to it unless we can consider the possibility of having a property tax to be imposed as a sort of fine on a person who does not plough back a certain amount of the income into the maintenance of the house. I am sure that some such device will have to be found to compensate the landlord who is prepared to try to keep his house up to date with modern amenities.
I want to concentrate my remarks upon the provisions of Part II of the Bill dealing with the powers that the right hon. Gentleman proposes to give to local authorities to manage houses in 1050 multiple occupation. I am sure this is the thing that the right hon. Gentleman most hopes and believes will be a success. I hope that before the Committee stage he will give some thought to some of the difficulties of which he has been warned. If this is a major housing Bill and we are not to have another for some time, we want to get it right this time. We want to start on the solution of this intractable problem not to fail but to be a step towards something better.
The first thing that I must warn the right hon. Gentleman about is that merely to give the authorities permission to secure a proper standard of management is not enough. I wish he had thought it necessary to say that local authorities "must" and not "may", and I wish also that he had included the common clause providing that if local authorities do not do it the Minister can step in and do it. I wish that he could devise some other form of initiative, should a local authority fail to do it, such as an inquiry conducted by the Minister, or something in the nature of an appeal against the failure of a local authority to tackle the job.
The right hon. Gentleman is asking local authorities to do a difficult and complicated job. The present Prime Minister seven years ago told me that in the 1954 Act he, as Minister of Housing and Local Government, was introducing sufficient powers to enable the local authorities to deal with those houses and to take them over. What he was asking them to do was to undertake a comparatively easy job of managing houses. What the Minister is now asking them to do is to manage landlords, which is a little more complicated. The amount of good will that was put into the previous powers varied considerably.
I am sorry to say that Paddington Borough Council has shown a certain apathy about the White Paper and the Bill, which rather grieves me because the minority Labour group on Paddington Borough Council has in recent months, when discussing housing, attempted to frame their motions in such a way as not to cause offence but to make it possible for agreed action to be taken about certain intractable problems such as sites and overspill. A very inoffensive resolution appeared on the paper asking the council to call a special meeting of the establishment committee 1051 to deal with the problem of staff for handling these problems. There is a great shortage of public health officers and experienced managers of housing estates. Tough experienced characters are required to do this job; I can assure the Minister of that.
One or two voluntary efforts have been made but have come unstuck rather badly when dealing with a certain type of landlord in the rather desperate situation involving tenants living in overcrowded conditions. The local council not only did not want to accept the suggestion but even refused to give an undertaking that the matter would be discussed in the ordinary way by the establishment committee. I am not saying this to scold the local council in public, or to advertise the matter, but I mention it to the Minister as a warning that he may have to exercise a little more persuasion on some of the councils who have become so hardened to the existence of these conditions in their boroughs that they are no longer as sensitive as many hon. Members opposite who have spoken in the debate today. If the spirit of some of the back bench speeches that we have heard today could be transferred to some of the councillors in the country, it would help the Minister a great deal.
I want to analyse what really happens in these multiple occupation houses. I do not think it is good enough for the Minister merely to say that he has visited them, that he has been shocked, and that he is determined to introduce these powers to see whether this situation can be ended. We must diagnose a little more carefully than that. The Minister needs to look, first, at who owns these houses and to classify them accordingly. One speaker has already read a quotation from the Guardian analysing the ownership of many of the houses in one area, the owners having inherited them, without any great enthusiasm, from deceased elderly relatives, and preferring not to put hard cash into these properties as an investment but to put them into the hands of estate agents. Far the most part, long-term experienced property companies do not go in for that sort of property. But there are also those who wish to get rich by speculation and who want a quick turnover.
1052 The types of tenancy in these multiple occupation houses fall into three groups. First, there are those properties which have become decontrolled. We have to see what happens to these. Unfortunately, aft the moment they fall into two categories. There are those where no improvements at all are made, where the owners can get a higher income from overcrowding in the existing conditions than by undertaking repairs and reconditioning. That is socially very bad indeed, and it is a factor which pushes up the price against the potential owner-occupier and against the potentially honest landlord who would be ready to undertake some conversations. The second type is the property the landlord of which wants to convert and to improve. But the landlord who is to do this for honest gain, to call it that, to make the best of a conversion job, is faced with a difficult decision. He can spent on a basement, let us say, £1,000, reconditioning it and bringing it up to standard. This would be the sort of thing which the Minister had in mind when he was promising us a free market in flats with large numbers of dwellings available at about £4 a week. But if the landlord art that point were to spend another £100 on crystal door-knobs he might get £8 a week.
There is at the moment an enormous unsatisfied demand for small dwellings in London. The situation is really very complicated. Some people are now becoming so weary of being transported into London that those who can afford it look for a small flat in which to spend the nights during the week in order to avoid struggling back to suburbia or the green belt each evening. This brings me back to the Minister's bold hope that private enterprise will come back into the business of houses to let.
I do not know whether housing is a service or a manufacturing industry. I suppose it is both. But, putting aside all prejudices and past experience, is it not true that, if one is assessing the chances of success in inviting private investment capital into housing, one must expect the investor to do in the housing industry exactly what he would do in any other industry in which he was putting money? He avoids the normal. He avoids the straightforward production of a normal article at a moderate price. He looks for the "gimmick". He does 1053 what other manufacturers do. He looks for the better price, the little bit of extra. He tries to find the undiscovered needs, the special needs, of a small group. That is the way to make money.
In housing, the investor is asked to lay out great slabs of capital and tie up money for a longer period than any other investor has to contemplate, and he is asked to tie it up in a form which is not mobile. There is nothing he can do about it. He is a hostage of social and industrial developments, and there is no guarantee that he will get his money back if there is any shift of population or alteration of the employment policy of the neighbourhood. Thus, it seems to me that the Minister, in proposing to invite the investment of capital in housing, ought to say that he will try to induce private investors to go all round the edge, supplying all the marginal needs, the special needs, the "gimmicks", but he will still be left with the main need for cheap, decent flats in the centre of towns to be occupied by people who earn moderate wages in the service industries there.
That this need is not met by private enterprise was discovered about the time of Wilberforce. The hon. Member for Manchester, Moss Side (Mr. Watts) called for a crusade. This was discovered in the last century, and some very conscientious Tories went into it. Peabody, the eccentric American millionaire, one of the founders of Morgan Grenfells, the merchant bankers, came to the conclusion that this was not a subject for private enterprise but it would have to be met out of trust funds, one of which he established with charitable intent. This argument has been gone through more than once, and I am surprised that the Minister does not accept the implications. So much for the decontrolled element within these houses in multiple occupation.
There are two more categories. As the years go by, the flats in these houses remaining subject to statutory tenancies are occupied either by elderly couples whose children have married and gone away or by exceptionally large families. A fortnight ago we had a debate about housing for the elderly and some suggestions were then made. I put this suggestion to the Minister now. He has done a good deal of propaganda to 1054 induce local authorities and housing associations to build flats for the elderly. He knows quite well that the full need could not possibly be met by building under those schemes. The need of a large part of the present and coming generations of elderly people would be unsatisfied. They would be left stranded in these old statutory tenancies where their lives are very often made unhappy by changes among their neighbours and the other people in the houses.
The difficulty is that they can never increase their points for rehousing. They will never be rehoused by the local authority, and they are too old to buy a house. The landlord is in a difficulty in trying to induce them to give up part of the room in their flat even if he is willing to undertake the job of obtaining an improvement grant. As one hon. Member has said, it often happens that the owner is in much the same economic position as the tenant. It is just not on.
I put this possibility to the Minister, within the framework of his own policy. While reserving the ultimate right of the landlord to the vacant possession of the old folks' flat, will he consider the situation where the landlord would gladly leave the old couple undisturbed as long as they wanted to stay there but when they left would undertake conversion? Conversion of that single floor dwelling will never make a family dwelling any more, because the conversion will reduce the amount of space available. One room will be lost for certain to be a bathroom or toilet. So the ultimate conversion would be the sort of conversion which would be attractive to old folk.
Will the Minister look again to some sort of incentive for designated old people's flats, recommended for 100 per cent. loan or grant to be amortised over the years, perhaps on terms similar to those we give to the owner-occupier, that is to say, that the grant is made to him personally as long as he lives in the house, but that if he leaves it after two or three years he pays back a proportion of the loan? There might be some way like that which would help to improve these old statutory tenancies which are all that many of the old people can hope for.
The last category of people who will be left in the statutory tenancies is that of the large families. That is one of the most 1055 grievous problems, to which none of us has yet got the answer. I have raised it before in housing debates. I hope that the Minister will make that his next homework problem on which to reflect, the next problem he will have a go at, because the social damage done by the failure to offer any alternative accommodation to large families is not only bring about great moral disaster but is also incredibly expensive in its final stages. It would be much cheaper to build some large flats.
We have the extraordinary anomaly, which has occurred in my own constituency, that from one floor in the same house a man, his wife and three children have been rehoused in preference to a man, his wife and eight children on another floor because the local authority could not break its own rules. So the large families are left because local authorities have not flats big enough for them, and, of course, the private landlord is not willing to offer them extra space—in addition to the limits of their statutory tenancies. It is one of the most grievous outstanding problems.
That completes the analysis of the types of landlords and tenants of houses in multiple occupation we have to deal with. I hope the Minister will be putting down his own Amendments or expanding his own ideas in Committee on the Bill. I hope that our consideration of the Bill in Committee will be both long and constructive so that in the end we shall have a very much better Part II of the Bill than we have at present.
§ 8.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Rees (Swansea, West)
I welcome this Bill very much indeed. A lot has been said about its not having gone far enough, and people would like to see other provisions in it, but I think it is agreed by all that it is certainly a step forward in trying to solve the present housing problem. Every hon. Member's constituency shows that there are pressing needs and pressing troubles.
A lot has been said about the differential rent aspect of the earlier Clauses of the Bill. I do not want to go over the arguments again, but I am rather doubtful whether twice the gross value will provide a sufficient rent income to ensure that the house is properly maintained. If the houses are not properly maintained 1056 we shall find over the years that local authority housing falls into a substandard condition and either will need a considerable injection of capital to bring them back up to standard or will deteriorate into semi-unfit dwellings. I think that the actual amount of economic rent to be assessed at that point should be used very carefully to ensure that the property is preserved in suitable condition, suitable for the tenants' occupation, and then we should channel the subsidies directly where they are needed.
Coupled with that channelling of subsidies, I am sorry not to see in the Bill some reference to the method of allocation of local authority houses. Some local authorities operate a points system and some do not. There are varying reasons for the difference, but I think that a local authority which operates an allocation solely and simply on a time basis is not necessarily ensuring that the right people get the houses when they need them. I hope that the Bill will ensure that a little more attention is given to matters of allocation and management.
One of the things that bedevils us at present with the whole problem of housing is the kind of person who gets into a house. People often buy a house early in their married life and then, long after their families have grown up, married and left them, they continue to occupy the original property which they purchased to house husband and wife and perhaps five children when there is only the husband and wife or even a widow or widower left.
There does not seem to be sufficient tendency among people to change their accommodation as their needs change during their lifetime. In the past this has been partly due to rent control but it is partly due also to a lingering in and a longing after some place. I see a possibility in the provisions in Clause 7 of providing certain sums of money to housing associations, which build property on a non-profit-making basis, to provide the better type of flat accommodation for the elderly who are now in large houses and who would be pleased to move to this new accommodation, thus releasing greater accommodation for the larger families who are now crowded in smaller, unsuitable dwellings.
I hope that these provisions can be extended to apply to bodies other than 1057 these housing associations. There are other people who build houses to let. Among them are administrators of charities and alms houses. The provisions in the Bill cover hostels and I think that they can also be interpreted to cover old people's homes. I should like to see an extension of the provision of capital for the deliberate building of houses to let so as to cover a much wider field. This would enable the burden to be shared by a greater number of people and would prevent a large burden of capital expenditure falling upon local authorities together with the costs which they have to face in interest charges.
A great deal has been said in the course of the debate about the allocation of land. I wonder whether sufficient advantage will be taken of provisions relating to land made available to nonprofit making housing associations to ensure an adequate supply of this class of accommodation to let. If the associations can meet this need, so much the better; but I should like to see it suggested to local authorities that where they have bought land in advance and do not need it to meet immediate requirements they should consider making it available to organisations of this nature so that additional new houses may be built at an early date.
This kind of accommodation could well be provided in town centres known as "twilight areas", that is areas which are not slums at present but can reasonably be expected to be slums in five or ten years' time. If these areas could be acquired on a wide and extensive basis—and here the local authorities could help—they could be satisfactorily redeveloped by housing associations as blocks of flats and maisonettes to increase the present housing supply.
At the moment, certainly in the industrial areas, we have a community of people who move from one town to a completely strange town in order to get promotion in their work or to acquire additional skills when their firm has factories in separate areas. These are people who will take the more expensive rented accommodation. They are prepared to pay a fair, open market weekly rent for accommodation rather than to buy a house and face the conveyancing charges and other costs at both ends when they are to be in the district per- 1058 haps only three or four years. I wonder whether anything can be done to encourage industrial undertakings to set up housing associations and so assist in providing more accommodation by that means.
I want now to turn to Part II of the Bill and to go into a little more detail. I am rather distressed to see that in Clause 12—this may be a Committee point, but I should like to make it clear—we are extending the right of entry of people into the homes and dwellings of the general public. That is not a good thing. In Clause 12 (2, b) there is a right of entry to affix a notice without giving any notice to the occupier at all. I am not very happy to find that trend in the administration of the Bill. I realise that the situation will be difficult—I have managed properties in difficult areas and appreciate the problems with which we shall be faced in implementing the Bill—but I do not think that we should blithely let the old tradition of the Englishman's home being his castle pass without comment.
I welcome very much the provision in Clauses 21 and 22 which deal with the exclusion from clearance and demolition areas of property which is subject to a demolition order. Because the areas are large and the properties old, local authorities often include in an area a certain property because it is convenient to do so or because it is nearly fit for demolition, when it could easily be reincorporated in a worth while scheme and saved, with saving in the initial capital cost and a saving in accommodation available at the time while the remainder of the area is being redeveloped. If an authority has a new street plan, the redevelopment can take a long time. It is important that we should retain all the possible accommodation available for immediate letting. I welcome that provision.
The second provision that I welcome is that for demolition order revocation, which will give somebody else the right to come along and reconstruct a property. It is often found that a local authority will rehouse a family from an old property and perhaps put, first, a closing order and then a demolition order on it; and, because the law as it stands does not allow somebody else to come forward with a scheme and rescue the 1059 old house, such buildings often fall into disrepair over a period to the point where it is logical that they should be demolished. This provision will now enable such properties to be sold, reconstructed, renovated and brought back into use quickly. Speed is a most important part of the Bill.
It is most important that we should try to increase the stocks of accommodation to let. It has been said that the private sector is not likely to provide more accommodation for letting. I do not hold that view. I believe that as long as the private sector is given a reasonable expectation that it will be able to recover a fair, economic rent for its housing, it will face its repair charges, management charges and supervision charges. If it receives a fair return on its capital, it will continue to provide accommodation to let. It must do.
We cannot as a community continue indefinitely to invest public funds in accommodation. One of the difficulties that we see at present in many provincial towns is that the level of council house rents is low. The rents are subsidised perhaps by a central Government subsidy and perhaps by a rate subsidy. That gives a level of opinion throughout that area about what is a fair rent. The net result is that people are reluctant to pay a reasonable rent, because they say that local authority houses similar to their own are letting at a lower amount.
The Bill, by envisaging economic rents for local authority houses, will do much to encourage the belief that a fair return on a property is worth while. The matter of the 12½ per cent. was raised earlier, and it was questioned whether it would encourage people to do repairs, maintenance and extensions. Hon. Members deduced, from the argument that the 1954 Act did not encourage people to do very many extensions and repairs, that this Bill would also fail. I do not hold that view.
I believe that it will encourage many people to do improvements and extensions. There is, however, one practical difficulty we shall encounter. It is one that I have come up against over the years. In the sector that is still rent-controlled there are many tenants who, realising that they may be faced with a 1060 12½ per cent. increase in rents, may discourage or even hamper the landlord seeking to carry out improvements.
Another difficulty concerns houses in multiple occupation. The owners, in order to do improvements and repairs, will need room for manoeuvre, and will, therefore, need to move out some of the families. It will be necessary for the local authorities to co-operate very closely with the larger estates. I realise that they cannot co-operate so well with individual landlords, but they could do so with the larger estates controlling 200, 300 or 400 houses.
I hope that such estates will get together with local authorities and explain their plans for improving the properties, and will then be allowed breathing space by the use of two empty houses in which to move families while repairs are being carried on in the old houses—rather like a game of dominoes. I hope that local authorities will agree that if such plans are put into force they will rehouse two or three families while repairs to their houses are carried on. In that way, I think that we should see most of this Bill coming into force in a worthwhile way.
I am not happy about several Clauses of the Bill which concern the serving of a notice by a local authority. Although I do not always hold with such a term, twenty-one days seems to be the standard form. If extra time has to be granted for appeal, it is to be the local authority which decides how much that extra time is to be and not the court. That is wrong. If we are to have a right of appeal, then one of the parties to that appeal should not be the one to decide the extra time.
I should like to see the application for an extension of time going to the same court where the appeal is to be made, rather than for it to be left in the hands of the local authority to decide whether or not an appeal should be allowed, and whether or not extra time should be allowed, and, if so, how much. That is a matter of principle.
In all, I believe that the Bill will work very well, given good will and hard work. But we must not expect it, as many people do, to solve our housing problem overnight. It never will. Earlier, the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West 1061 (Mr. Wade) mentioned the problem we shall be facing in the next ten years—the increasing proportion of the aged in our population. This is perhaps one matter to which we have not given enough attention, although the subsidies and the policies of the Government have tended to give more attention to it in recent years.
We shall find that, whereas the population of this country generally will increase by about 10 per cent. over the next twenty years, the aged population in excess of 65 years of age will double. If we have that problem on our hands, which we have, we shall have four or five times the problem in twenty years' time. To that end, it is important that we should try to get mobility in the way people are living and try to move them out of one class of accommodation into another by building more accommodation of the flat and maisonette type now in readiness for when that ageing group will want it.
I do not hold with the present policy of one bedroom. I realise the various reasons why the tendency is to make one bedroomed accommodation, but the difficulty that arises is the reluctance of some aged people, who can afford to pay the full economic rent, to go there because, if they become ill or sick, they realise that they cannot get a relative to look after them and live on the spot. Therefore, when we have to consider public funds and try to spread them over the greatest number of dwellings, I hope that these will be included perhaps in major blocks of flats which are suitable for other occupants as well as the aged, so that there are people on the spot in those blocks who can look after the elderly.
I think that we should also devote more attention to the provision of flats and maisonettes for the aged, which can be integrated into accommodation for all classes, but of the two or three bedroomed type. Many of these people would be willing to move into that accommodation. This would release bigger and better houses for larger families. Even some of the larger houses, once they are empty of their present occupants who have old, nostalgic memories of them, might be split into two or even three separate units of 1062 accommodation, which would help to solve this problem.
This is a gigantic problem and we must look at every means of trying to solve it. We have not the land to enable a mass solving of it overnight. We must try to take a bit here and a bit there in every possible place. I feel that we are wasting a certain amount of land in the redevelopment of our city and town centres. I have seen this in South Wales particularly, where blitzed areas are redeveloped with shops. For planning and appearance reasons, three or four storey buildings have gone up, but for economic reasons it is only the ground and first storeys which are of any use for shops. Office accommodation is fairly well provided for, but we see much second and third floor accommodation lying waste. We must have a 24-hours-a-day land use in this country if we are to solve our housing problem.
If in this redevelopment we can encourage the top storeys being turned into flats, not ideal for families with children but ideal for people only in the towns for two or three years—the floating industrial community—and if they are designed in the first place to give good access and good amenities, not only will they give us 24-hours-a-day land use but also help to ensure that the central town services are used for 24 hours a day. That will be one more source of accommodation available to us.
I promised to sit down by 9 o'clock, though I should have liked to refer to other matters. With good will and hard work and with everyone co-operating, I think that the Bill should go a long way towards solving the housing problem.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)
I am sorry if I have cut short the speech of the hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Rees). It was an interesting speech and I noted what he had to say about the increasing demand for accommodation for old folk, and about moving people about. I shall not go into the Bill in any detail. It is a detailed Bill which will be examined in Committee.
It is just about four years and four months since the most quoted remark of any Minister about housing was 1063 uttered in the House by the present Minister of Health. What he said was:It follows that upon an objective basis"—what else does the present Minister of Health ever deal with?—and one which has been broadly accepted I think"—he always was a hopeful man—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.]It was put in his own remarkable language, but that appeared to him to be an inescapable conclusion.
Now we have the right hon. Gentleman, with the air of someone performing a great achievement towards the end of his Ministerial life, bringing in what he calls a major housing Bill. I have a much simpler name for it. I call it a dog's dinner of a Bill, and that is just about what it is. I am bound to say in his defence that I would not have expected much else.
The right hon. Gentleman told my hon. Friend the Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton) the other day about the housing situation in London:… I really think that we shall gain the best picture of the housing situation in London not by continuing to make a review of a limited sample first surveyed in 1957 but by looking at the whole situation as the census and the re-valuation will reveal it"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st January, 1961; Vol. 633, c. 769.]Neither the census nor the revaluation—by which he meant revaluation for rating purposes—has yet arrived. They will arrive next year, or thereabouts. I hope that, when the right hon. Gentleman has had the opportunity to examine the situation in London in the light of what he says is necessary for a proper examination, we shall then at long last get a proper housing policy instead of a dog's dinner, which is what we have to consider today.
Even the Government, having pushed the former Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government up, or down, into the Ministry of Health, now admits that there still is a housing problem and no mere quibbling with words—and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is pretty good at that—can suggest that it is not national.
1064 In paragraph 2 of their White Paper, the Government say:… there are still serious shortages in some areas, and there remains some terribly bad housing. In some parts many families are still without a separate home, or are living in unfit houses, or in badly cramped or over crowded conditions. There is as yet nothing like enough accommodation suited to the needs of the elderly.The White Paper then refers to conversion or modernisation and says that all that is to be found after what the right hon. Gentleman calls a "vast building achievement", a vast building achievement, be it noted, in the fifteen years since the war.
That is not as encouraging a picture as some of the more rhetorical passages of the right hon. Gentleman's remarks might have led us to suppose. My hon. Friends and some hon. Members opposite time after time in these housing debates have given instance after instance, not merely of single cases, but of whole areas where the housing accommodation is still not fit for a civilised country. I agree with the hon. Member for Manchester, Moss Side (Mr. Watts) who talked about the need for treating the whole conurbation of South Lancashire and the Merseyside as something requiring what he called "a great big plan". All our housing needs great big plans. If we try to cope with it simply as a question of dealing with this town and that town we will never succeed.
That is the present position. We have to add something to that—something which has hardly been mentioned today, but was mentioned by the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) in our debate a week ago. He pointed out that we require to build about 500,000 houses a year in order to keep up with slum clearance, overcrowding and the growth of the population. The hon. Member for Swansea, West mentioned that and pointed out that the growth of the population would be especially formidable in relation to the older people. I would agree with any hon. Member who says, as some have, that the housing problem is never exactly the same. The factors which press from time to time vary. The Government do not; they maintain a sturdy immobility in all circumstances.
What strikes me most today, and is mentioned in the Amendment, is the question of land and room. Various estimates have been made. The former 1065 Permanent Under-Secretary to the right hon. Gentleman's Ministry spoke of 2 million people for whom there would be no room. The right hon. Gentleman on another occasion mentioned 1¼ million as the figure usually taken in his Ministry. Those figures relate to room in the big towns and, therefore, to the land in and around those towns.
The price of land has continued to rise solidly and sharply, during recent months and even before that. On 18th March, 1961, there appeared an issue of the Estates Gazette, a journal which cannot mention the Labour Party without vilifying it, and which proudly stated that £10,000 an acre had been fetched for seven acres of building land in Harpenden, on the outskirts of London, where the pressure is. Fascinated by this revelation I read a little more. The Estates Gazette is somewhat difficult reading at times, but it contains some useful information. It said:What is the most important feature of the housing market in the private sector since the Rent Act. 1957? The fact that the 'To Let' boards never have gone up as Tory spokesmen prophesied they would. It is true that a few can be seen here and there, but these are invariably to be found only on the big blocks of luxury flats. Mr. Brooke recently tried to construct a free market at reasonable rents in London out of advertisements in the evening newspapers"—It was one of his more venturesome efforts—more venturesome than some of his legislation—but this must be recognised as just as much of a debating point"—here comes the abuse—as Labour Members' shrieks of horrible hardship.To talk about "shrieks of horrible hardship" is all very well, but the horrible hardship is there all right, and tonight some hon. Members opposite have testified to it, not to mention the passage that I have read from the White Paper.
The Estates Gazette then gave contributions from various house agents, one of whom said:London, Western Suburbs. … We can see no indication that inflationary tendencies are being held and it is our view that property values, in step, are likely in 1961 to continue to rise.Then, even from the peaceful rural atmosphere of Devon: 1066Land with planning permission for building goes up in value daily, and with it building costs, together creating an inflationary tendency (in spite of the credit squeeze) which is unlikely to ease while our present economic position persists.That is part of the problem, but let us see what the Government's responsibility is in some of these matters. One of the things the Government did was something with which, by itself, we did not quarrel. They brought in a Bill to provide that local authorities should pay a fair market price for land when buying it. I say, "by itself" because that is for compensation, but where is the betterment? We asked that at the time, we have been asking it ever since; and if the local authorities had, in one way or another, been able to take their share of the betterment, they would not have to pay the sort of prices being asked for land, say, in Harpenden and round all the bigger towns today, and the housing problem, as a national problem, would be easier to solve.
I see no answer to this question of land prices unless, at long last, the consumer, the man who ultimately lives in the house, finds that he simply cannot pay what is being asked. Already he is being asked to pay a larger share for rent and housing than he used to have to pay. What is the solution? On that side of the matter one would say at once, "Why have not the Government arranged for any new towns to be built?" The answer of the Government, in paragraph 13 of the White Paper, is to refer to arrangements for Skelmersdale in Lancashire and another matter about the overspill from Birmingham and the Black Country. I wish the Government to answer one question. I may be alone in the House in not knowing the answer, but I do not know it. Is it proposed that these new towns should be financed by the Treasury under the New Towns Act, or is it proposed that they should be financed by the local authorities as, for instance, the London County Council is doing in some places?
It seems to me that a great deal depends upon that, because after all, if they are financed by the local authority, they will be financed by the ratepayer; if they are financed by the Treasury, then by the taxpayer. So long as we have anything like a progressive method of taxation, I should prefer the taxpayer 1067 rather than the ratepayer to pay for that kind of thing. Rates come down much more hardly on the small man than do the graduated direct taxes which we have today—at any rate until after Easter.
I turn from that, having said a word or two about money, to say a word or two about the subsidy provisions in the Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) mentioned the point I am going to make now, and I am not at all certain that hon. Members opposite grasped what he was saying. I say that, because the speech of the hon. Member for Swansea, West, for instance, might have been rather differently worded if this point had been fully appreciated. In paragraph 31 of the White Paper, after a reference to various changes in subsidy, we read:The arrangements described above will not affect subsidies payable for expensive sites, or for houses to meet the urgent needs of industry, or the additional subsidies for certain agricultural dwellings, protection against subsidence, use of special materials, etc., all of which will continue unchanged. Nor will they apply to the subsidy for new towns and town development; this … it is proposed to increase.That appears in the White Paper and it follows therefore that many subsidies are going on unchanged, but there is to be a reintroduction of the general needs subsidy. That is to replace the subsidies we have at present for old folk on the one hand and for slum clearance on the other. Yet there is to be no increase in the total; that is to say, the present rate of increase dependent on the number of houses is to continue—there is to be no addition. It follows, therefore, that the general subsidy of £8 or £24 now introduced will come, in effect, out of the slum clearance subsidy and the old folks' subsidy. I told the hon. Member for Swansea, West that I noted what he said about old folk. What the Government are doing is to express their deep concern about old folk and to reduce the subsidy on old folks' houses in order to provide for the general need subsidy and at the same time to reduce the slum clearance subsidy.
The position about slum clearance is that there were about 850,000 unfit houses some time ago. The Government always claim that they are being cleared at the rate of about 60,000 per year, but 1068 their arithmetic is faulty. If they look at the figures they will find that no such rate has been reached, nor anything like it. There still remain about 600,000 of these slum houses to be dealt with. This is the moment which is taken by the Government to finance the reintroduction of the general need subsidy, which in itself I welcome, by removing the subsidy on slum clearance—partly by that and partly at the expense of the old folks.
I can see no other possible conclusion from the figures in the White Paper. The only other point is a very small one. There might be a slight increase in the discretionary subsidy to be dealt with, but it is a comparatively small figure. The substance of the matter is clear enough. The slum clearance subsidy has been thrown overboard, the special subsidy for old folks has been thrown overboard, and the general need subsidy is being reintroduced.
I do not complain of the reintroduction of the general need subsidy. We have always asked for it from this side of the House. I have a point or two to make about its form, but that is another matter. What I complain of is that the Government are doing with this what they are doing about health charges. Instead of adding to the subsidies which already exist, they are using the disappearance of those subsidies as a means of reintroducing the general need subsidy. If I am wrong in this, I hope [...] will be made perfectly clear. I cannot see any other possible conclusion from the figures in the White Paper.
§ Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)
The hon. and learned Member says that the Government are reducing the subsidy for slum clearance and for old persons' homes to £8, but is it not true that in many cases they are increasing it from £10 to £24?
§ Mr. Mitchison
That will depend on the case. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Will hon. Members allow me to explain? There is to be no increase in the rate of subsidy. There is an annual increase which has to go on unchanged and that annual increase depends on the number of houses. This is to be paid for from somewhere—the general need subsidy, be it £8 or £24. The only apparent source for it is the disappearance of two other subsidies. No doubt there will be 1069 overlapping cases where a house which was getting £8 under one head will get £8 under another head.
The broad fact remains that the general need subsidy is not to be financed by another increase in subsidies. They all go on at the same rate with the same annual increase. Where is it to come from? The only possible answer is that it must come from the abolition of these two subsidies. The abolition of either of them seems almost equally bad at the moment. It is a lamentable commentary on the fiscal parsimony of the Government that they cannot leave those subsidies as they are and reintroduce the general need subsidy on top of that. Obviously that is what they ought to have done, if only in view of the state of affairs mentioned in the White Paper and mentioned by one hon. Member after another in this debate.
I turn to another point about the £8 and £24 subsidies. What is to happen about marginal cases? One can think of all sorts of amusing tricks a local authority might be able to use to bring itself just within the £24 limit, tricks which seem ill provided for by such a sharp distinction and a large difference.
What is the object of it all? As my hon. Friend pointed out, it is suggested at one point in the White Paper that in some way or another this is the factor which will push local authorities into adopting differential rents. Let me say at once that I at any rate draw a sharp distinction between differential rents, which necessarily involve an inquiry into peoples' incomes, and rent rebates, which are another matter. But I would add that this is a matter which ought to be left to the local authorities, just as, by the Minister's own admission, is the question of how far housing should be paid for out of rents and how far out of rates.
Turning to that question, I call in aid the Minister himself in a former incarnation. Very many years ago he was chairman of a sub-committee of the Central Advisory Housing Committee which concluded that that was the right way to deal with the matter—that just because conditions are so different in the areas of different local authorities, the right thing to do is to leave it to them.
1070 When I look at the terms of the different factors which make the difference between the £24 and the £8, I find nothing in them on which differential rents have any bearing at all. On one side of the sheet is a notional figure—the notional rents at twice the gross rateable value, which the right hon. Gentleman takes as an indication of the present market value and thereby, I think, gives some indication of what he expects to happen when the householder is re-rated at current values instead of at pre-war values. That is one side, and the local authorities cannot touch that.
On the other side is the actual expenditure on the housing account. I fail to see how they can do anything with that either, and although there is always some long-term possibility which some ingenious person may think up, it is not in that quarter that I look for the right hon. Gentleman's attempt to enforce the differential rents in which, in his later years, he has come so fervently to believe.
I find in this White Paper the most remarkable instance of Ministerial interference with local authorities which I have seen for some time. It is put in one or two places but perhaps most shortly at the end of paragraph 33:… each authority will have to satisfy the Minister, as a condition of subsidy approval, that it is genuinely necessary that they should build for the purposes proposed.That I have always conceived to be a question which was clearly for the local authorities to decide, at any rate short of any gross and obvious abuse, which one would not expect in a case of that sort. If it is the present position, what is the point of including it again at the end of the paragraph?
It seems to me that what the right hon. Gentleman is minded to do is to introduce a greater control over the housing programmes of local authorities and to set himself up as the judge—not the local people but himself as the judge—of what housing and what type of housing is necessary, and to use these powers to enforce a particular policy in relation to rents which he has previously regarded as another matter for local authorities themselves.
I turn to mention one other question. We have heard from some of the more 1071 hopeful hon. Members opposite that in their view council houses ought to go only to those who cannot afford anything else. This is not merely the view of a few hon. Members opposite. It has been said at intervals by members of the Government, too, including the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor in office, as I well remember on several occasions. Indeed, we are told in the White Paper that the function of the local authorities is to carry out duties in the matter of housing which only they can carry out—that is to say, to provide for people for whom provision cannot otherwise be made.
I need hardly assure right hon. and hon. Members opposite that that is not the view we take of council housing. That is not consonant with the history of council housing, which was introduced into this country in the early years after the First World War to meet the deficiencies in housing for which the private landlord and successive Tory Governments had been responsible. If the hon. Member for Manchester, Moss Side finds a beastly picture all round the conurbations of which he spoke, he must blame the Industrial Revolution in its later aspects and the mid-19th century landlord, who was responsible for so many slums in this country. It was to meet that deficiency and to provide decent housing in this country that council housing was introduced. It has been a great success, like the Health Service—and, like the Health Service, many hon. Members opposite do not like it a bit.
I shall now consider what the Government are trying to do in one particular respect to get out of it. We were told about housing associations. They are useful. Nobody denies that. They have done good work. Nobody denies that. But to suppose that they can tackle a job of this size is expecting too much from them. The Government are just like the Liberal Party, which finds an idea that appeals to it and then adopts it wholeheartedly with an enormous hug until it is nearly dead, because it is so small.
That is the position about housing associations. I am not minimising what they have done. I am not minimising their utility. I am not minimising the 1072 virtues of the people who have done good public work in running them. I am far from doing that. However, they need to be supplemented. If it is desired to find a third choice apart from the evils of capitalism and what hon. Gentlemen opposite regard as the evils of Socialism, I assure hon. Gentlemen that housing associations will not stand the strain of that ideological conflict.
Mobility is a vital matter. Do hon. Members realise that the inquiry into the working of the Rent Act showed that very nearly as many people every year were being decontrolled by new tenancies and the like—by "creeping decontrol," as it is called—as were originally decontrolled under the rateable value provisions of the Rent Act? There were 320,000 in one case and about 350,000 or 370,000 in the other.
That is not what the Government expected. They expected that there would be double that number under the rateable value provisions of the Rent Act. I do not know whether they expected as much creeping decontrol as there is. It will be raging, running decontrol quite soon at that rate. That is the real reason why people in this country do not move house. They know that if they move out of a controlled house they will not get another. They will get a decontrolled house.
§ Mr. Mitchison
I do not share that opinion. The hon. Member must excuse me from going further into it at the moment. [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] I hope that hon. Members opposite want to show the same courtesy to their own Parliamentary Secretary as I am anxious to show.
Local authorities will not know where they are under the Bill. They will not know where they are as regards the £8/£24 question. They will know no more than they have ever known in recent years about rates of interest, which fluctuate for reasons entirely unconnected as a rule with local authorities. They will be pushed about from pillar to post and, on top of that, they will have one final uncertainty. Hon. Members will remember that Labouchere 1073 said of Gladstone that he did not so much mind his having an ace of trumps up his sleeve. What he objected to was that he always said that God had put it there.
The right hon. Gentleman is like him; he has two or three acres of trumps up his sleeve. One is the power to decontrol more and more houses in the country; another is the power, for a limited period of years, to say how much rates an ordinary private householder shall pay, and the third is provided in this Bill. The arrangement in Clause 2 is simply another means of the right hon. Gentleman taking ill-defined powers of considerable extent.
Under the present Tory Government, the method of freeing is to give all the power to the Minister and trust him to do the best. In view of the right hon. Gentleman's history, and the history of the party opposite—in the Rent Act, in the question of interest payable by local authorities, in the Government's successful halving, in a period of six years, the rate of council house building—it is just not good enough to ask us to trust them in this respect and in that respect. We do not trust them. For the reasons appearing in the Amendment we shall oppose the Bill, not so much for what is contained in the "dog's dinner" as because there is not enough in it.
§ 9.31 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Sir Keith Joseph)
I have been asked to deal with a very large number of comments and questions both on what is in the Bill and what is not in the Bill, but I fear that I shall not be able to deal with some points that are more properly matters for the Committee stage.
In general, there has been a welcome for the Bill from both sides of the House, and, in general, there has been clearly expressed a great desire, again on both sides, to maintain and even to increase the attack on the worst housing conditions. Hon. Members are always most telling in these deeply-felt speeches, of which we have heard several from both sides of the House today, recounting the terrible state of the housing conditions in some of our great cities. The House will have heard with deep attention the speeches of the hon. Member for Birm- 1074 ingham, Aston (Mr. J. Silverman) and of my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Moss-side (Mr. Watts).
They raised the whole question—and I should like to deal with it at the beginning—of the size of local authority programmes, and I state categorically that my right hon. Friend and the Government hope—and expect—that in the worst housing areas the pace of rehousing will quicken. The House must remember that as slums are eliminated in the areas where they form no large problem there will be scope for the areas where they form a very large problem to take up and increase their elimination.
Having said that, let me come to the point of dispute about the Bill. The two sides differ in their welcome of the Bill in that the Opposition believe that this greater attack on the serious housing problems that remain is frustrated by land values and rates of interest, while my right hon. and hon. Friends and I believe that this view takes no account whatsoever of the resources that are available to local authorities. We believe that the existing law, as amended by this Bill, will make possible a great forward step. I particularly hope that the very wise speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Rees) will be widely read for all the sensible things he said on that point.
I should like now systematically to go through the Bill and the comments that have been made on it. The hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) and other hon. Gentlemen have said that they could perceive no connection between rent policy and the level of subsidy as laid down in the Bill, but I hope that I shall be able to convince the House that while there may be no connection between rent policy and the level of subsidy the level of subsidy may have an effect on rent policy. I shall try to explain that.
I should first make it clear that this Bill is not at all designed as a sort of prize giving. It is not a device to give a reward to local authorities that pursue a certain course of behaviour about their rents. It is an honest attempt to give more help where more help is needed. As the White Paper says, the Bill will encourage sensible rent policies. It neither rewards local authorities, nor commands them.
1075 My hon. Friend the Member for St. Albans (Mr. Goodhew) objects that it does not command sensible rent policies, but my right hon. Friend agrees more with the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Wade), who stressed the independence of local authorities, as did the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison). The level of subsidy will depend upon resources, and the House is familiar with how the test of resources will work. But future building, even assuming that all new houses are charged to tenants at twice the gross value, will leave some gap in the housing budget of the local authority concerned—no gap at all probably in the case of those local authorities drawing the highest level of subsidy, although I am not saying that categorically since expenditure varies in each local authority a relatively small gap in the case of those local authorities drawing a £24 subsidy, and certainly a larger gap in the case of those local authorities drawing an £8 subsidy.
What will a local authority do when it is faced with this increased gap in its housing revenue account because of the houses that it builds? It will have the alternatives of filling that gap either by a rate fund contribution or by an increase of rents for its existing tenants, or by both. Authorities in general are used to pooling all their subsidies and spreading the cost of houses over all their stock. Since county boroughs and non-county boroughs on average are drawing in rent at the moment less than twice 1939 gross value, many of them will probably think it proper to help the tenants of new houses by something extra on existing rents. This incentive to what my right hon. Friend considers sensible rent policies will be cumulative and its effect over a period of years will become significant. I hope, therefore, that explains why it is that though rent policies do not influence the level of subsidy, the level of subsidy may influence rent policies.
I must stress to the House, in answer to several questions, that this level of subsidy which a local authority receives will be reviewed each year, and a local authority receiving in any one year an £8 subsidy may well qualify for the £24 level of subsidy the very next year if in that year its expenditure outruns its 1076 resources. Indeed, I would refer to the rather ungracious question put by the hon. Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Mapp). I had very much hoped that he would perceive a certain quality in this Bill which he has evidently failed to spot. He asked if it was generous of my right hon. Friend to increase what he called the maximum rate of subsidy from £22 1s. to £24. Put like that, it does not sound very generous. But he had not noticed that the Bill increases what up to now has been a discretionary addition to bring subsidy up to £30. It increases that to a non-discretionary addition bringing the subsidy up to as high as £40. This is clearly available to local authorities who need it. It is no longer discretionary. It is no longer limited to £30 and it goes up as the burden on the rates of the housing revenue account of any local authority increases.
Several hon. Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Willesden, East (Mr. Skeet), asked about the multi-storey subsidy. This is primarily a Committee stage point, but I must point out to hon. Members that in their anxiety they are forgetting to take into account the considerable rise in earnings that has occurred since the multi-storey subsidy was fixed.
Now I come to the hon. Member for Fulham. He pointed out correctly that it will be a number of local authorities with, as he called it, notorious housing problems which will only probably get the lower level of subsidy. I would only reply that some of these authorities with a notorious housing problem also happen to be those authorities with notoriously low rents. That means that they have very plainly a great capacity to help themselves, and the example quoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Willesden, East in citing the unused resources of £100,000 per annum in the case of his local authority gives an indication.
Now I come to Clause 2 (4) to which a number of hon. Members, particularly the hon. Members for Islington, South-West (Mr. A. Evans) and for Fulham, have raised. I know that this worries a number of local authorities at the moment. This subsection gives my right hon. Friend power, but not before 1971 at earliest, and only by affirmative Resolution and only after consultation with local 1077 authority associations, by order to reduce or abolish the future subsidies on houses that have been built as a result of this Bill, but before the order itself.
I assure local authorities that they may plan confidently on the assumption that either the subsidy of the houses built under the Bill will continue unchanged——
§ Sir K. Joseph
I will explain why—or tenants will be able, because of large net improvements in their real income—several hon. Members have referred to prices, and I stress real income—to become more self-supporting and have less need for assistance with their rent from public funds. Not to take this power—I take here the point which the hon. Member for Goole just made—in a rapidly expanding and ever more prosperous economy would be for the Government to shut their eyes to the possibility, nay, the probability, of great and most desirable changes during the next half century.
The hon. Member for Fulham asked, What does it matter to the taxpayer? He must surely know that there will always be new calls on the taxpayer even with such increased prosperity, and it is only fair to the taxpayer that he should be free to consider the new situation.
Finally in regard to the subsidy, I stress that if the resources of any local authority outrun expenditure and, therefore, they receive subsidy on the lower level, this assuredly means that they can cover their expenditure by securing only an avarege of twice the 1939 gross values. As soon as that ceases to be true and their expenditure outruns their resources, assuming only that their resources include the Exchequer subsidy and twice the 1939 gross value, then they qualify for a higher level of subsidy.
The hon. Member for Fulham asked me to explan how it was that the White Paper said that local authorities with many pre-war houses will tend to receive the lower level of subsidy. This is because they will tend to have lower outgoings since the charges on the older houses will be smaller and, therefore, they will be more likely to be in surplus.
I turn now to the comments made about housing associations. Both my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester, 1078 South (Mr. Corfield) and my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, West asked whether the housing associations which work for, say, the disabled would be entitled to have loans under the Exchequer scheme. I am sorry to have to tell them that the Exchequer loan scheme is primarily to encourage housing associations to go in for unsubsidised building to rent, and the only subsidy intended under that scheme is for the elderly; but I reassure my hon. Friends that, of course, housing associations will still be entitled to make authorised arrangements with local authorities, as they do now. This generally means that they borrow the money they need from the local authorities and draw the subsidy through the local authorities, which by the Bill will be at the rate of £24. The Bill gives my right hon. Friend an additional power to give a subsidy himself to a housing association in special circumstances if the local authority should prove unwilling or unable to do so and the scheme appears to my right hon. Friend to be sound and otherwise likely to be frustrated.
The speech of the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West was most interesting and constructive on the subject of housing associations and the part that they might play in the future. Both he and my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Turner) said that housing associations would play a large part and, while not having exaggerated hopes—I agree with the hon. and learned Member for Kettering that they cannot solve all our problems—I believe that there is a very great deal that housing associations can do. I am sure that we all hope that we shall soon have in this country examples of the co-operative housing which has served the people of Scandinavia so well. I again point to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, West and agree with him that local authorities can help a great deal by making land available to housing associations where this is practicable.
The next theme of the Bill is the attack on overcrowding and squalor. This has been generally welcomed. My hon. Friend the Member for Willesden, East called it a tenant's charter. I want to reply to the criticisms of the hon. Member for Fulham who said that, because of the lack of housing to rent, 1079 any serious attack on overcrowding would only squeeze overcrowding from one area to another. He has failed to appreciate two points. First, squalor, which this part of the Bill also deals with, is not always associated with overcrowding. It often arises through a failure adequately to convert or to maintain or to manage property, and Part II of the Bill does give the local authorities much more effective powers to deal with this sort of squalor which does not in itself involve overcrowding. Certainly that can be dealt without creating overcrowding elsewhere.
In the case where a local authority has a big slum clearance problem and a big overcrowding problem, it may be true at the moment that all it can do is to stop the overcrowding getting worse, but without this Bill it cannot even do that effectively. It will resolve the overcrowding as opportunity offers; some of the tenants, no doubt, will find homes of their own, and then the local authority can see that those places are not filled. This part of the Bill does seek to bite on the man or the company making a profit, but there is ample power under the Bill to the courts to transfer the costs on to the shoulders of the guilty party if in the first instance he has not been properly caught.
I regret that I missed the speech of the hon. Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin) who, I gather, as usual made a number of both critical and constructive comments. Of course, his arguments will be carefully studied.
The next theme of the Bill is the improvement grant section, and here I wish to take a point made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Fulham why it is necessary to allow a landlord 12½ per cent. of his costs when a number of landlords, however inadequately, are already doing the improvements with 8 per cent. The answer can, of course, vary. It must depend on the condition of the property. Some properties lend themselves so easily to improvement that a landlord may find it simple. In some cases the landlord is a charity and pays no tax. In some cases it is decontrolled property and the local authority has allowed more than 8 per cent. In some cases the landlord counts, no doubt, on more than 15 years' life for the property. 1080 In some cases it is due to benevolence and in some cases just to jolly bad accountancy.
I hope my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, South will excuse me if I do not deal with his heating point, which is properly a Committee point.
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Oldham, East spoke of a survey in Lancaster and said that many landlords do not have the resources or the sophistication to carry out improvements, and my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, West urged more publicity. We certainly do a great deal of publicity and we shall try to do more, but we would very much hope that more housing associations may find it within their interest to buy houses which need improvement and to carry out improvements with grant.
I come to what, I think, is the most serious criticism made of this Bill as a whole, again a criticism made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Fulham. He said that since we are introducing in a limited Exchequer subsidy of £3 million some building for general needs to resolve overcrowding it must be at the expense of building for slum clearance and for the elderly, but he has made a mistake here. He has taken only the cost element and not realised that because many houses will now be built with only a £8 subsidy there can perfectly well be a larger number of houses in any one area in future than we have while still only spending £3 million subsidy.
§ Sir K. Joseph
I cannot give way. I have not time, and I have a great deal of ground to cover.
A constant theme of speeches made by hon. Members opposite has been about the price of land, and here I would only say briefly that land is valuable, its price reflects prosperity, it reflects the rising number of households, it reflects the conflicting demands on a limited supply and in not all parts of the country have prices risen. But to reduce prices of land would mean such a large release of land as would jeopardise planning objectives.
There is besides, the expensive site subsidy which makes a great contribution, but I would agree with hon. Gentlemen opposite who have stressed the 1081 importance of availability as opposed to the price of land. Overspill arrangements are in hand for each area of the country where they are needed.
In answer to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham, Aston I can only repeat that my right hon. Friend is in the midst of a search for a new town site and that there are a number of expanded town schemes which are under negotiation. These new towns will certainly he an Exchequer charge unless otherwise stated, and, as my right hon. Friend has said, the new towns contemplated, both at Skelmersdale for Liverpool, and the one for Birmingham, will certainly be an Exchequer charge—that is a charge on the taxpayer.
The hon. Member for Fulham asked me about London. It needs no sort of survey to establish that London will soon need more sites. The London County Council is making good arrangements in Hampshire and I can only repeat what I said last Monday—that far from the population of the region increasing, the trend since 1955 has been that in London there is 80,000 less population and for Londoners, at public provision, 222,000 more houses. In addition there is private housing overspill available for them. But of course land will be needed in many parts of the country and my right hon. Friend has pledged the Government to see that housing progress shall not falter for lack of land.
The Bill encourages overspill arrangements. I am surprised that so little welcome has been given to this. The subsidy goes up from £32 in total to £40 in total and the time for contribution from the exporting authority to the receiving authority is extended from 10 to 15 years. The county boroughs are entitled to become receiving authorities and county councils are enabled to make contributions. This will be a considerable spur to overspill arrangements, which are so important in problem areas.
The Opposition Amendment really recapitulates all the criticisms and panaceas of the Labour Party. It deplores the high price of land. What does it suggest as the remedy? [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] That was a rhetorical question, I shall answer. It 1082 suggests the discredited betterment charge, and what does that do to reduce the price of land? It increases the price of land. [HON. MEMBERS: "Try it."] We have tried it, and we have seen the result. The Opposition alternatively suggests compulsory purchase orders at below market level, which is the surest conceivable way of drying up the supply of land. The Amendment deplores the Rent Act. The Labour Party seems to stand for a freeze regardless of the hardships arising from the divorce of rents and values.
Then the Labour Party—and here hon. and right hon. Members opposite really are in unity—attacks interest charges. Surely it must recognise by now that this is one of the means by which the Government seek to match resources with demand and so avoid inflation. Interest reflects the cost of borrowing, but interest rates are no brake at all on local authorities which have a serious housing problem. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I will try to prove that. If county boroughs were to build 40,000 houses a year and to charge twice the 1939 gross value for them, the effect of interest at 6 per cent. instead of 3 per cent. would put an extra burden on those county boroughs of just under or about £2 million each year. But in 1959–60 the gap in county boroughs alone between rents and twice the gross value was £10 million. Therefore, they could build for five years without even exhausting their own available resources. And if the county boroughs did that they would still be charging less than rural districts are already having to charge before this Bill comes to their assistance.
The Bill does not restrict the freedom of local authorities or expose them to financial uncertainty. On the contrary, they get a subsidy for what they consider most urgent, and a higher subsidy is theirs as soon as expenditure out-runs resources. An additional subsidy is theirs as soon as housing puts a more than relatively modest burden on their rates.
I hope that the House will agree with my view about the arguments from the other side. I cannot ask the whole House to agree with it, but I am sure that the public recognise it. The public recognise that the Opposition in this whole theme of housing are immensely 1083 selective. The Opposition may not like differential rent schemes or rent rebate schemes officially, but they give a good example in selective arguments.
On this side of the House we do not try to obscure the massive housing task still to be done, and we do not obscure the fact that there are many households which can afford only a low rent. There are people in the House and outside who have called the White Paper a very honest document. But listen to the speeches of hon. Members opposite. There is all this stress on interest rates and no reference at all to a higher level of earnings; there is no reference to the danger of inflation if we go back to the indiscriminately low interest rates which there were under the Labour Government; there is all this stress on the high price of land but no reference to the conflicting claims of a prospering and expanding community on a limited supply. There is a huge task ahead. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Nobody denies it. The more these factors, especially the merciful improvement in the finances of so many households, are faced, the more quickly can help be given to those still in disgusting housing conditions.
The Bill steers the taxpayers' help where it is shown by a reasonable test to be most needed. It enlarges the discretion of local authorities, and enables those with serious overcrowding to hold the overcrowding from getting worse and to clean up the squalor and bad manage- 1084 meat and bad maintenance of houses in multi-occupation. It assures local authorities of increasing financial help just when they most need it. It enables them to provide more subsidy for the housing of the elderly. It launches housing associations on what, we hope, will be only the start of a much increased and more original housing contribution in which we borrow ideas from overseas. It provides more resources and more possibilities for overspill, which, as we know, is so vital to the solution of the housing problem in the worst areas. It stimulates the use by landlords of improvement grants, and it ensures that tenants on short leases are not burdened with unfair repairing obligations.
Honestly, it beats me how individual Members whose authorities are going to benefit from a higher rate of subsidy now and probably higher additional rates of subsidy in the future, Members who have overcrowded property in their constituencies, and Members who care about housing can possibly bring themselves to vote against the Bill. How the Labour Party as a whole can possibly vote against all this, most of which it has warmly welcomed, passes my comprehension. This is a constructive, progressive and effective Measure, and I ask the House to give the Bill a Second Reading by a large majority.
§ Question put, That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 291, Noes 200.1087
|Division No. 120.]||AYES||9.59 p.m.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Brewis, John||Coulson, J. M.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Brooke, Rt Hon. Henry||Courtney, Cdr. Anthony|
|Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.)||Brooman-White, R.||Craddock, Sir Beresford|
|Allason, James||Browne, Percy (Torrington)||Critchley, Julian|
|Arbuthnot, John||Bryan, Paul||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.|
|Ashton, Sir Hubert||Buck, P. A. F.||Crowder, F. P.|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Bullard, Denys||Cunningham, Knox|
|Barber, Anthony||Bullus, Wing Commander Eric||Curran, Charies|
|Barlow, Sir John||Burden, F. A.||Currie, G. B. H.|
|Barter, John||Butcher, Sir Herbert||Dalkeith, Earl of|
|Batsford, Brian||Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A. (Saffron Walden)||Dance, James|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley (Southgate)||Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)||d'Avigdor-Goidsmid, Sir Henry|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Carr, Compton (Barons Court)||Deedes, W. F.|
|Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)||Carr, Robert (Mitcham)||de Ferranti, Basil|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos & Fhm)||Channon, H. P. G.||Digby, Simon Wingfield|
|Berkeley, Humphry||Chataway, Christopher||Doughty, Charles|
|Bevins, Rt. Hon. Reginald (Toxteth)||Chichester-Clark, R.||Drayson, G. B.|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)||du Cann, Edward|
|Bingham, R. M.||Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Duthie, Sir William|
|Bishop, F. P.||Cleaver, Leonard||Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir David|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Eden, John|
|Box, Donald||Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. John||Cordle, John||Elliott, R. W. (Nwcstle-upon-Tyne, N.)|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Corfield, F. V.||Emery, Peter|
|Braine, Bernard||Costain, A. P.||Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn|
|Farey-Jones, F. W.||Kitson, Timothy||Rawlinson, Peter|
|Farr, John||Lagden, Godfrey||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin|
|Fell, Anthony||Lambton, Viscount||Rees, Hugh|
|Finlay, Graeme||Lancaster, Col C. G.||Renton, David|
|Fisher, Nigel||Langford-Holt, J.||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Leather, E. H. C.||Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)|
|Forrest, George||Leavey, J. A.||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)|
|Foster, John||Leburn, Gilmour||Roots, William|
|Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Freeth, Denzil||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Russell, Ronald|
|Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.||Lilley, F. J. P.||Sandys, Rt. Hon. Duncan|
|Gammans, Lady||Lindsay, Martin||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|George, J. C. (Pollok)||Linstead, Sir Hugh||Seymour, Leslie|
|Glover, Sir Douglas||Litchfield, Capt. John||Sharples, Richard|
|Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.)||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)||Shaw, M.|
|Godber, J. B.||Loveys, Walter H.||Shepherd, William|
|Goodhart, Philip||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir Jocelyn|
|Goodhew, Victor||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Gough, Frederick||McAdden, Stephen||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'rd & Chiswick)|
|Gower, Raymond||MacArthur Ian||Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood)|
|Grant, Rt. Hon. William||McLaughlin, Mrs. Patricia||Soames, Rt. Hon. Christopher|
|Green, Alan||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy (Bute & N. Ayrs.)||Speir, Rupert|
|Grimond, J.||McLean, Neil (Inverness)||Stanley, Hon. Richard|
|Grimston, Sir Robert||MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||McMaster, Stanley R.||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)|
|Gurden, Harold||Macmillan, Maurice (Hallfax)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Storey, Sir Samuel|
|Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)||Madden, Martin||Summers, Sir Spencer (Aylesbury)|
|Hare, Rt. Hon. John||Maitland, Sir John||Sumner, Donald (Orpington)|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.||Talbot, John E.|
|Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||Markham, Major Sir Frank||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)||Marlowe, Anthony||Taylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.)|
|Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Marples, Rt. Hon. Ernest||Taylor, W. J. (Bradford, N.)|
|Hastings, Stephen||Marshall, Douglas||Teeling, William|
|Hay, John||Marten, Neil||Temple, John M.|
|Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Mawby, Ray||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Heath, Rt. Hon. Edward||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Thomas, Peter (Conway)|
|Henderson-Stewart, Sir James||Mills, Stratton||Thompson, Richard (Croydon, S.)|
|Hendry, Forbes||Morgan, William||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. Peter|
|Hicks Beach, Maj. W.||Morrison, John||Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin|
|Hill, Dr. Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)|
|Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe)||Nabarro, Gerald||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)||Nicholson, Sir Godfrey||Turner, Colin|
|Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Noble, Michael||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Hirst, Geoffrey||Nugent, Sir Richard||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Hobson, John||Oakshott, Sir Hendrie||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Hocking, Philip N.||Orr-Ewing, C. Ian||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir John|
|Holland, Philip||Osborne, Cyril (Louth)||Vosper, Rt. Hon. Dennis|
|Hollingworth, John||Page, John (Harrow, West)||Wade, Donald|
|Holt, Arthur||Page, Graham (Crosby)||Walden, A. D.|
|Hopkins, Alan||Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)||Walker, P. E.|
|Hornby, R. P.||Partridge, E.||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir Derek|
|Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Patricia||Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Howard, John (Southampton, Test)||Peel, John||Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold|
|Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral John||Percival, Ian||Watts, James|
|Hughes-Young, Michael||Peyton, John||Webster, David|
|Hulbert, Sir Norman||Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Hurd, Sir Anthony||Pike, Miss Mervyn||Whitelaw, William|
|Iremonger, T. L.||Pilkington, Sir Richard||Williams, Dudley (Exeter)|
|Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Pitman, I. J.||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|James, David||Pitt, Miss Edith||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Pott, Percivall||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Jennings, J. C.||Powell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Price, David (Eastleigh)||Woodhouse, C. M.|
|Johnson, Eric (Blackleg)||Price, H. A. (Lewisham, W.)||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Johnson Smith, Geoffrey||Prior, J. M. L.||Woollam, Marcus|
|Jones, Rt. Hn. Aubrey (Hall Green)||Prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho||Worsley, Marcus|
|Joseph, Sir Keith||Profumo, Rt. Hon. John||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Kaberry, Sir Donald||Proudfoot, Wilfred|
|Kerans, Cdr. J. S.||Pym, Francis||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Kerby, Capt. Henry||Quennell, Miss J. M.||Mr. Edward Wakefield and|
|Kerr, Sir Hamilton||Ramsden, James||Colonel J. H. Harrison.|
|Abse, Leo||Benson, Sir George||Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Blackburn, F.||Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Blyton, William||Chetwynd, George|
|Awbery, Stan||Boardman, H.||Cliffe, Michael|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Bowden, Herbert W. (Leics, S. W.)||Collick, Percy|
|Baxter, William (Stirlingshire, W.)||Bowies, Frank||Corbet, Mrs. Freda|
|Beaney, Alan||Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)|
|Bence, Cyril (Dunbartonshire, E.)||Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Beiper)||Cronin, John|
|Crosland, Anthony||Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Prentice, R. E.|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Jeger, George||Probert, Arthur|
|Darling, George||Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)||Proctor, W. T.|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Pursey, Cmdr. Harry|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Jones, Rt. Hn. A. Creech (Wakefield)||Randall, Harry|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Rankin, John|
|Deer, George||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Redhead, E. C.|
|de Freitas, Geoffrey||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Reid, William|
|Delargy, Hugh||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Reynolds, G. W.|
|Dempsey, James||Kelley, Richard||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Diamond, John||Kenyon, Clifford||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Dodds, Norman||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Donnelly, Desmond||King, Dr. Horace||Ross, William|
|Driberg, Tom||Lawson, George||Royle, Charles (Salford, West)|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John||Ledger, Ron||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. C.||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)|
|Edelman, Maurice||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Small, William|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Lever, L M. (Ardwick)||Smith, Ellis|
|Edwards, Walter (Stepney)||Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)||Snow, Julian|
|Evans, Albert||Lipton, Marcus||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Fernyhough, E.||Logan, David||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Finch, Harold||Loughlin, Charles||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Fitch, Alan||McCann, John||Steele, Thomas|
|Fletcher, Eric||MacColl, James||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Foot, Dingle (Ipswich)||McInnes, James||Stonehouse, John|
|Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||McKay, John (Wailsend)||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Vauxhall)|
|Forman, J. C.||McLeavy, Frank||Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles)||Swain, Thomas|
|Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. Hugh||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Swingler, Stephen|
|Galpern, Sir Myer||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Sylvester, George|
|George, Lady Megan Lloyd (Crmrthn)||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Ginsburg, David||Manuel, A. C.||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Gooch, E. G.||Mapp, Charles||Thomas, lorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Thomson, G. M. (Dundee, E.)|
|Gourlay, Harry||Marsh, Richard||Thornton, Ernest|
|Greenwood, Anthony||Mason, Roy||Timmons, John|
|Grey, Charles||Mayhew, Christopher||Tomney, Frank|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Mellish, R. J.||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Gunter, Ray||Mendelson, J. J.||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)||Milne, Edward J.||Warbey, William|
|Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Coine Valley)||Mitchison, G. R.||Weitzman, David|
|Hannan, William||Monslow, Walter||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Hart, Mrs. Judith||Moody, A. S.||Wells, William (Walsall)|
|Hayman, F. H.||Morris, John||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Healey, Denis||Moyle, Arthur||Wigg, George|
|Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur (Rwly Regis)||Oliver, G. H.||Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.|
|Hewitson, Capt. M.||Oram, A. E.||Willey, Frederick|
|Hill, J. (Midlothian)||Owen, Will||Williams, D. J. (Neath)|
|Hilton, A. V.||Paget, R. T.||Williams, Dudley (Abertillery)|
|Holman. Percy||Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)||Williams, W. R. (Ope[...]shaw)|
|Houghton, Douglas||Parglter, G. A.||Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Howell, Charles A.||Parker, John (Dagenham)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Parkin, B. T. (Paddington, N.)||Woof, Robert|
|Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)||Yates, Victor (Ladywood)|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Peart, Frederick|
|Hunter, A. E.||Pentland, Norman||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Plummer, Sir Leslie||Mr. John Taylor and|
|Irvine. A. J. (Edge Hill)||Popplewell, Ernest||Mr. Rogers.|
§ Bill read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Standing Committee, pursuant to Standing Order No. 38 (Committal of Bills).