HC Deb 06 November 1961 vol 648 cc634-756

4.8 p.m.

Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham)

I beg to move, at the end of the Question to add: but humbly regret that the Gracious Speech contains no proposals to provide an adequate supply of houses, to assist local authorities in dealing with the hardship caused by lack of accommodation, to prevent profiteering in land and house property, or to plan for the wise distribution of employment and population throughout the country. The hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mr. W. Yates) told us that he had had a telephone call from the Government Chief Whip before he began his speech. I think that he may expect another one now that he has finished it. If it is any help to him I can tell him that hon. Members on this side of the House will wish him the best of the argument.

We make no apology for moving an Amendment which, I think, is equal in substance and similar in wording to one which we moved last year, because the housing problem remains with us. It has certainly not grown less in the twelve months which have gone by. Perhaps of all the problems which we discuss in this House it is the one whose lack of solution nags and gnaws most continuously at the happiness of so many millions of people of all ages and conditions who are suffering from one or another manifestation of the whole complex housing problem.

We are encouraged to see a revival of interest in this subject in the Press, perhaps stimulated by the recent lively booklet produced by the Alliance Building Society, or by the attention which has been given to the special problem of the London homeless. For whatever reason, it is a very good thing that the nation should become aware more fully than before of the size and seriousness of the housing problem.

Now we have a new Minister to deal with it. It is customary to congratulate a new Minister on his acquisition of office. I will, at any rate, congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on having got out of his responsibility for overseas information just before the latest cuts were imposed on that service. Whether the nation is to be congratulated on his arrival at the Ministry of Housing and Local Government we may perhaps be able to judge better at the end of this debate, because we shall ask the right hon. Gentleman to produce a policy, some measures comparable to the size of the problem with which he is faced, which we did not get from his predecessor.

The contribution of his predecessor to the housing problem may be summed up under seven heads. The right hon. Gentleman told us that now house building is proceeding at a rather more rapid rate than it was ten years ago. He told us that slum clearance was going on very nicely; that the Rent Act was helping in bringing more privately rented accommodation on to the market; that it was neither necessary nor desirable to assist local authorities in their anxieties about high interest rates; that there was no need to increase the total amount of the Exchequer subsidy paid for council house building; that the high and rising prices in London were, if anything, a healthy sign and that they would right themselves in time; and finally, that the Government's new towns policy was satisfactory. All these views advocated by the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor were either inaccurate, irrelevant or complacent, as I hope to show in the course of my speech.

Let us consider, first, the centre of the whole problem, the total national need for houses during the coming decades. A good many estimates have been made of how many new houses this country is likely to need in the next twenty years. They range from the figure of 6 million, suggested by the Director of the Town and Country Planning Association, to the figure of 8 million, suggested by the author of the Alliance Building Society's booklet to which I referred a little while ago. I think that the lowest estimate which the Minister will find anywhere is 5 million, and in my judgment that is based on an insufficient assessment of how many new households will be coming into existence in the next twenty years.

As against the need for, I would say, certainly 6 million and perhaps 8 million houses in the next twenty years—an average of between 300,000 and 400,000 a year—last year we were building about 270,000 and the average for the last three years has been only 250,000. Hon. Members will be aware from the latest summary published that the figures for the first three-quarters of this year are slightly down on the comparison for the first three-quarters of last year. In particular, they are down in respect of council houses. In the first three-quarters of 1961, 8,000 fewer council houses were built in England and Wales than in the first three-quarters of 1960.

I stress the figure of council house building because so much of our housing need arises from the necessity to replace houses which are at present standing up. Some of these are not doing very much more than standing up, and many of them are not capable of standing up for very much longer. Estimates of our need for replacement vary, but I do not think that the Minister will find a reliable estimate which will work out at less than 150,000 a year for the replacement of existing houses during the next twenty years.

As a rule, the tenant of that kind of house is not a wealthy person. In most cases he will have to look to council house building for his new accommodation. The replacement of our stock of old houses, therefore, is clearly bound up with what we do about the provision of council houses. Against the need for replacement at a rate of 150,000 a year, at what rate are we replacing now? Less than 60,000 a year—barely 40 per cent. of what is required.

In the light of that kind of figure hon. Members on this side of the House say that one essential part of any solution of the housing problem must be a substantial increase in the number of council houses built in each year. We want to know whether the Minister disputes that. If he does, how does he envisage the rehousing of people now living in houses which ought to be replaced during the next ten years or so? If he agrees with us that more council houses should be built, what action is he prepared to take to deliver local authorities from the bondage into which Government policy on this matter has driven them over the last few years?

We see this need for replacement particularly if we look not merely at the houses which one might call unsatisfactory and due to be replaced, but those which indisputably are slums. In 1954, it was estimated that in England and Wales there were 850,000 such properties. That estimate by local authorities was a very cautious one; so much so that some well-informed observers said that it looked as if the authorities had estimated not so much the total amount of slums in their areas, but what they hoped to achieve in the matter of slum clearance in the next ten years or so.

But let us take that figure of 850,000, which is certainly an underestimate. In 1955, the Government advocated as a target getting rid of 380,000 of them by 1960. In fact, by 1960 they had cleared only 255,000, leaving us with at least 600,000 slum properties to be dealt with. We are now dealing with them at the rate of 50,000 a year. At that rate it would cake twelve years to get rid of those properties which even on the most modest estimate are considered to be slums, and during those twelve years more properties would be added to the category which must be considered. It is astounding, therefore, to find that the right hon. Gentleman who is the new Chief Secretary to the Treasury, and the former Minister of Housing and Local Government, said, in December, 1960: In a few years no slums will be left in most of Britain. The words were well chosen. No slums would be left in most of Britain. But most of the slums are not in most of Britain. Most of the slums are the problem of about fifty great local authorities in whose areas about half of the slum property is concentrated. One could, of course, walk over most of the square miles of this country and say that one had not seen a slum, if the square miles walked over were chosen with only reasonable care. The problem is not to get rid of them in most of Britain. Our problem is to get rid of most of the slums—a very different matter.

The same deception—I do not think that that is too harsh a word—was practised in the Government White Paper on Housing, which said that by 1965 well over half of the 1,469 housing authorities will have got rid of their slums. Of those 1,469, 1,419 could get rid of their slum problem by building at an average rate of 30 a year for ten years. It is the other 50 that would create the greater part of the problem. The former Minister's description of this matter and the reference to it in the Government White Paper are indicative of a complete failure to understand the magnitude of the problem and where it is concentrated.

I have not the gifts to depict what this problem means, not in the figures and task of building, but to the human beings who live there. I shall merely quote one sentence from a report in the Sunday Timesof 30th April this year, describing certain slum properties. In one family with three children under 10, two have been to hospital in the last six months, one with tuberculosis and one with pneumonia. That is an exceptionally heavy case of misfortune perhaps, but a great many stand very near to that all the time that the slums are still in existence.

I beg the Minister to realise that why we are so emphatic on this problem is that what is lost to a child or adolescent in not having had a decent home in childhood and youth is something which can never be made up to him in after life. That is why I said at the outset that this is a continuing problem. Every month of neglect of it is a reproach to us. The nation is at present celebrating the birth of a child to the Royal House. The nation could not better show its loyalty nor conduct its celebrations than by resolving that it will make a real, determined effort to devote enough of its resources to housing and to ensure that no child shall be brought up in conditions like those I have just quoted.

Why do I stress specially council house building? While I suppose that I would carry every hon. Member on both sides of the House with me in what I have said about the need to get rid of slums, we now face something that has become—I think unfortunately—a party issue between the two sides of the House. The plain fact is that we cannot deal with this problem unless we increase the rate of council house building. I beg the Minister to cut away from the Conservative doctrine which inhibited his predecessor and to recognise that fact.

I say that for this reason. We are all glad to see any increase in the number of people who are able themselves to own the houses they live in, but we all know very well that for a very great number of people that is an impossible answer and the policy of this Government is putting it as an answer beyond the reach of more and more people. As we were told by the chief of the Building Societies Association not long ago, if one has not an income of £20 a week or more one may as well give up the idea of becoming an owner-occupier.

What about the private builder? Cannot he build houses to rent to meet the needs of the many overcrowded families, families now living in slums and families on the waiting lists? In the first place, as officials of the Ministry told the previous Minister more than two years ago, the private builder is extremely reluctant to build in those parts of the country where it is needed most. He wishes to build in what are already the more attractive residential regions where the need for them, although no doubt existing, is not so bitter and acute as elsewhere. Secondly, he will not build for rent. Of the houses built in recent years by private builders about one in 50 has come on to the market for rent. When they do come on the market for rent, how rarely do they come on it at rents which can be afforded.

I have dealt with the previous Minister's assumptions about the rate of house building and slum clearance. I now take up his assumption that the Rent Act is the solution to this problem. This was supposed to be the answer. This, he said, will bring more private rented property on to the market. I asked the Minister, where is this accommodation? I think that all hon. Members who were in the House then will know the answer the Minister gave. It was, "Look in the advertising columns of the London evening newspapers." It would be difficult to devise a more callous and flippant answer than that.

I have such a London evening paper here. I invite the Minister, if he can, to find an advertisement in it of a property to which any of us could send the kind of constituent who comes to us so often—the head of a family with a wife and two children and an income of about £12 a week. I do not believe he can find a single property there or elsewhere which will meet that need. It is not surprising that a Conservative member of the London County Council said in a recent debate that private enterprise cannot build today at rents which working men can afford to pay. Does the Minister question that? I do not think he can. If he does not question it, he must admit our case for more council house building.

Before leaving the question of the private builder, I want to say a word on the very frequent practice of private landlords of saying, "We are not going to let our rooms at any rent where there are young children in the family." I ask the Government to realise that it is as a result of their policy that the job of housing the people is mainly a private enterprise responsibility. That is what they have made of it and this is how private enterprise carries out its responsibilities. If any nationalised industry treated its customers in that fashion what would hon. Members opposite say about it? Our case is that private enterprise as a way of housing the great bulk of our people is falling down. Whether that is agreeable to the political doctrines of the party opposite or not, hon. Members opposite must recognise the facts.

The next part of our Amendment refers to the need to assist local authorities in dealing with the hardship caused by lack of accommodation. Why do local authorities need assistance if they are to provide more council houses? I will give a recent example. A local authority has been putting up a fifteen-storey block of two-bedroom flats. Looking at the cost it found that if it charged an unsubsidised rent it would have to charge £8 7s. 9d. a week for a two-bedroom flat. It would be able to get the Exchequer subsidy, the higher rate of subsidy under the recent Act and the expensive site subsidy, which would be £1 14s. 6d. That would leave the rent, less Government subsidy, still at £6 13s. 3d.

Without imposing an impossible burden on its rates, how is it to offer that kind of property to the people for whom it is really needed? We know the cause of this. More than anything else it is rates of interest. During the last ten years, for every 1s. which rises in the cost of labour and materials have added to the price of a dwelling, the rise in interest rates has added 14s. It is against this problem that local authorities are struggling, and against this background that they are trying to see where they can put those whom they move from the slums and how they can make at any rate some provision for those on their general waiting list.

I take as another example of the special problems of local authorities that of the homeless in London. Hon. Members have had a good deal of opportunity to read and hear about it lately. The Minister should be well informed about it. No doubt my hon. Friends from London constituencies hope to catch your eye today, Mr. Speaker, and to develop the problem. I will mention only the bare bones of it.

The London County Council now provides for 3,000 persons as homeless persons. It tries to provide for them in a way which does not, as the old institutions did, divide the family. It opened an institution to which homeless families, man, wife and children, could be brought, and in a fortnight it was full. There are 3,000 such people, whereas just before the Rent Act was passed there were 1,200, so that it has multiplied by two-and-a-half in those four years, and the rate of entry is double what it was eighteen months ago.

In passing, it is not possible to avoid the connection between this and the Rent Act. The time lag is partly due to the fact that since the Rent Act was passed the three-year agreements have run out which protected some people and partly due to the expiry of the Landlord and Tenant Act, 1958. It is significant that of these people driven into homelessness five out of every eight came from furnished accommodation. Why? Because the owner of furnished accommodation at present can be limited in what he charges by the Rent Tribunal. But, under the Rent Act, if he turns the tenant out of his furnished room and then lets it unfurnished, it becomes a new, uncontrolled tenancy and there is no tribunal or form of inquiry which can stop him from getting as much as the most eager and the most wealthy prospective tenant will afford. That is why people are being turned out of furnished accommodation.

I mentioned earlier the failure of the Rent Act to do the good which the Government prophesied of it. I now draw attention to the reverse side of the medal, the positive evil which it is inflicting and the impossible burden which it is imposing on some local authorities—because if London is the largest and most spectacular example of this, it is not the only example. It also means 1,000 children in care, because their families are homeless, at a cost of about £500,000 a year to London ratepayers—but the cost is a triviality compared with the point which I made earlier, which is the cost to the nation of allowing these members of a rising generation to grow up in these conditions.

It is no good the Minister saying that London is a housing authority which has a responsibility to deal with this problem. With interest rates as they are, with subsidies as they are and with the basic problem of finding somewhere to build what it is, how can it? Will the Minister at least consider this suggestion? It might be possible for London to do more if the authority could be helped over the financial difficulty of compensation which arises if it causes land which otherwise would be covered with commercial and industrial buildings to be devoted to residential purposes. I will not go into the complexities of that; we hope that by now the Minister is familiar with them. But it is at least one suggestion. If he will not accept any of our major recommendations on housing, he might at least lend a hand in this particular respect.

I have given these illustrations. I have developed the need for more council houses and the burden imposed on local authorities who try to meet that need. Surely it adds up to this: the Government must come to their help either with an increased amount of subsidy or with specially favourable rates of interest. I have mentioned the way in which the previous Minister always handled this matter. He kept telling us that the total subsidy was all right if only it were properly distributed among the local authorities and if only they used it wisely. But no amount of fiddling with the fringes of the problem like this will raise our total of houses built to between 300,000 and 400,000, which is the figure needed or the figure which will ensure that we replace old and dilapidated houses at a rate of 150,000 a year rather than 60,000 a year.

Our charge against the Government, under the previous Minister, is that they were devilishly ingenious in playing with the edges of this problem and resolutely blind to the great measures which were needed at the centre, and that when we pressed the need for a major change of interest rate policy we were invariably told—it became one of the Government's stock phrases—that housing could not expect to be shielded from any economic difficulties which afflicted the country. So far from being shielded it has been pushed almost into the forefront of any difficulties which there are.

Let hon. Members look at the recent White Paper on public investment, which gives the figures for the current year and the two preceding years of the amount of investment in publicly built housing. Two years ago the figure was £245 million and it is now £230 million. It was shown to be falling, while the need for houses was obviously growing and while the amount of total public investment in all projects was rising.

I have mentioned the great extent of the need. I now consider whether any added difficulties may be created in housing by immigration into this country. We must keep this in perspective. I have shown that 150,000 houses a year are needed for replacement. Next is a figure of which I believe very few of the general public are aware—the increase in population in England and Wales alone by natural growth, by excess of birth over death, of more than 250,000 people every year. It is that which creates the housing need, and we must not allow any comments which are made about immigrants in this respect to get wildly out of perspective. In face of the real need I would say—and I trust that the Minister will support me, because I think that he knows that I am right—that anyone who suggested that we could solve the housing problem of this country by stopping immigration would be practising a most cruel and dangerous deceit.

Further, we must recognise that immigrants who have come into our economy in recent years has been absorbed by our economy; there has been work for them. Indeed, the expansion of our economy has been in no small part due to the fact that they were there. They have done a great many essential and often ill-remunerated occupations. The people who empty our dustbins, the people who make it possible to keep our hospitals open, the people who drive our buses and drive our tube trains have to live somewhere. If we decide to have an expanding economy, as we have decided, and as one of the features of that expansion we have the introduction of an immigrant population, we must accept that they have to live somewhere.

The Government's own legislation is based on the assumption that we shall still be receiving a good many of such visitors, for whom there will be work and for whose work there will be a need. That is all I need to say on that aspect of the matter. It is important not to get it out of perspective. If that problem did not exist at all, everything I have said about our housing need would still be true.

Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)

And the Six.

Mr. Stewart

My hon. and learned Friend said, "The Six". He is drawing attention to the fact that it is about to be the Government's policy to embark on a policy which would ultimately mean further immigration into this country from Europe. That is a factor which must be borne in mind, but against the solid facts of natural increase, and the need to replace houses, neither of these is a major element in the problem.

If the Minister will not help local authorities either with interest rates or with subsidy, will he, at least, be more favourable to the acquisition of properties by them? When families are faced with eviction, or when families have had a three years' agreement and it has run out and they are asked to pay an intolerable rent, the council can come to their help by saying to the landlord, "If you are to behave like this, we shall have to apply for compulsory purchase of your property."

But we have had cases—my right hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) had one—where the Ministry has refused to confirm a compulsory purchase order on a landlord who was proposing to charge a rent five times the gross value of the house. The new Minister should look at that again. He should make it clear that he recognises that increased acquisition of rented property by councils is an essential part of the solution of the whole problem.

In my own Borough of Fulham, the chairman of the Housing Committee recently drew my attention to three cases of attempts to charge the most exorbitant rent, which were only stopped because the Council could at least suggest that it had the power of compulsory purchase. Unless councils feel that the Minister will back them up, that weapon against profiteering will be blunted It is a quaint reflection that the last Minister of Housing and Local Government told us, whenever we complained of hardship caused by the Rent Act, that this could be remedied by compulsory acquisition of the property by the local authority.

It is curious that the right hon. Gentleman should advocate what is, in fact, our policy as a remedy for the results of his own Rent Act and then refuse to implement what he has said. Perhaps the present Minister, whose personal influence in the Conservative Party is wide and deep, I am sure, can urge some Conservative members of local authorities not immediately and automatically to oppose every proposal for compulsory purchase that is brought before their council. If they would do that, it would help the local authorities.

I have spoken about the first two parts of the Amendment—the need for an adequate supply of houses, and the problems of the local authorities—and I now turn to the last part of the Amendment and to what really underlies the whole business. On the top of inadequate subsidies, inadequate powers of acquisition and excessive interest rates, councils are being faced more and more with the problem of where they are to get the land at anything like reasonable prices. Each time we debate this matter in the House new examples can be quoted. I will give two.

Elstree proposes to build a group of three-bedroom houses. The cost of the site alone would be £1,000 per dwelling. That means a weekly rent of £1 2s. 4d.

before a brick has been laid and before any arrangement has been made for sewerage, water or any of the other services. This is for the bare land. What will be the rent of the flat when it is completed? Islington had to abandon a proposal to build a group of houses when the district valuer told the local authority that the land on which this proposal was to be carried out would cost £100,000 per acre. That is the sort of thing that the last Minister of Housing and Local Government regarded as a sign of good health in our economy.

There is a twin evil about this. One is the gross example of how to get an income without working for it. The hon. Member for The Wrekin referred to the new philosophy and ideas emanating from the Conservative Party. Here is a bit of it from the Prime Minister's speech of 31st October. The Prime Minister, speaking about the blessings of restraint and the importance of all groups in the community exercising restraint, said: Restraint could be restored if we, in our own society, could develop a sense of interdependence between those responsible for fixing wages, salaries and profits, and if this new sense of duty were generally recognised. This is our object. It will take time to achieve. In the meantime, the Government have a duty to give a lead in supplying some part of the restraint required in relation to the increase of incomes. I would remind the Government that income does not mean only wages and salaries. It means income from capital gains.

The Prime Minister, I would repeat, at that stage of his speech when no one appeared to be listening very much, said: …the Government have a duty to give a lead in supplying some part of the restraint required in relation to the increase of incomes"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st October, 1961; Vol. 648, c. 40.] Will they supply some part of that restraint to income—for that is what it is—made by capital gains from the sale of land to local authorities desperately needing it for housing purposes?

The other part of the evil is more fundamental. These feverishly high prices are not only an opportunity for immediate profiteering. They are a sign of the lack of plan to deal with problems created by the growing economy and a growing and expanding industry. In essence, we are bound to have an increased demand for land in the next twenty years and there is no need to regard this as undesirable. It is the fruit of a rising population and, we hope, a rising standard of life. It will be unmanageable if it is concentrated unduly in certain regions of the country.

I have drawn attention in earlier debates to the excessive concentration of new types of employment in the London region. A former Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry said that according to the figures it was not so bad in the London and South-Eastern Region. I should like the Minister to look at what Mr. A. G. Powell said in a journal called "The Advancement of Science" in March, 1960, Mr. Powell comments that the boundaries of the standard regions might almost have been drawn with the object of camouflaging the real nature of the London region's problem.

If we look not only at what is officially called London and the South-East Region, but what is happening in the Southern and Eastern Region, we notice that the greatest concentration is in the part of Southern and Eastern Region nearest to Central London. If we look at the whole area, the 40 miles around London, into that area, which contains rather more than one quarter of our population, came nearly one half of the new jobs that came into existence between 1952 and 1959. I have just seen a letter from Birmingham describing a similar problem there. The hon. Member for The Wrekin referred to it and for that part of his speech, as, indeed, for quite a number of other parts, he would find support on this side of the House.

What is the remedy for this? It is not just allowing housing estates to be built on the edge of the conurbations without any provision for industry. That merely increases the number of commuters and makes the traffic problem of our great cities impossible. The remedy is the deliberate long-term creation of new magnets for employment and for dwelling—new towns or, to think more bigly, some new cities. Yet at the moment the number of new dwellings going up in the new towns is only about 7,000 a year.

That disposes of the last of the points which I listed as the previous Minister's contribution to the housing problem, namely, his conviction that there was no need to go any faster about the development of the new towns than we are going at present. I ask the new Minister to realise that the problem of where our industries and houses are going to be in the next twenty years should now be accepted as a major function of government. Some people say that we should have a special Minister to deal with it. My comment on that is that to solve this problem such a Minister would have to have almost powers of direction over Ministries concerned with industry, traffic, defence, agriculture, housing, and so on.

I believe that this is a function for a major Cabinet Committee, of status inferior only to the Cabinet itself. We are becoming more populous. We hope we are becoming richer. All the evidence of history is that when a community does this it must set to work to make itself better governed. That means adapting its machinery of government to that end. At present, we have no adequate piece of the government machine to bring together the various problems of transport, industry, agriculture, defence and housing. This will have to be done if we are not to suffer for the next quarter of a century from fantastic land prices, wretchedly overcrowded cities, and insoluble traffic problems.

There the matter stands. Our case is and has been that a housing policy needs these things:—First, the devotion of a bigger proportion of the country's resources to housing so that we can have a solid increase in the rate of house building, in particular an increase in council house building, which means a complete revision of policy with regard to subsidies and interest rates. Secondly, we must prevent the deliberate aggravation of the problem by reimposing at any rate some measure of rent control and strengthening the hands of councils to get more and more rented property into their own hands. Thirdly, we must, either by the method which we on this side of the House have urged or by any other method which appears likely to work, stop profiteering in land. Last, we must resolve that the nation recognises the need to direct the major industrial growth and the movement of population in the coming years.

That is our view and those are our proposals. They may be argued. The magnitude of the problem cannot be disputed. If the Minister cannot accept our proposals, it is up to him to show that he has proposals of his own that no longer tinker with the fringes, but go to the heart of the problem.

4.53 p.m.

The Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs (Dr. Charles Hill)

The hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) has made a forceful, sincere and stimulating speech, for which I am grateful, because he has not only dealt with current problems but has put them in the setting of some extremely difficult and long-term problems which confront us.

The hon. Member would not expect me to accept his so-called summary of the purposes of my predecessor in this office, who, in my view, did a magnificent job. If the hon. Member will forgive me, I will make one brief reference to what was said before he spoke by my hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin (Mr. W. Yates)—not on Dawley, but on what I thought was an unjustified attack on the Civil Service. I felt that in his enthusiasm my hon. Friend made allegations of a kind which those hon Members on both sides of the House who have served in office know to be basically untrue. I want to say that before I come on to the subject of the debate.

We have many problems, but it is right that we should see them and the criticisms of the hon. Member for Fulham against the background of our present position and what has happened since the war. By the end of January, 4 million new houses and flats will have been built in Great Britain. The preliminary census for England and Wales brings out an interesting fact about the relationship of households to dwellings. Let me say at once that this is within the terms of the definitions of "households" and "dwellings" adopted by the census. The census shows that today there are for England and Wales 14.7; million households and 14.6; million dwellings. They are not all in the places of greatest need. Some are unfit and some are obsolescent, but this is a fact that we should take into account as the position from which we start.

Another interesting fact which emerges from the preliminary fruits of the census is that since 1951 the population in this country has increased by 5.3; per cent. and the number of households by 12.1; per cent. The hon. Member mentioned changes in social habits, people marrying younger, and so on. The figures show that the number of households for the same population is increasing. While that increase in households of 12.1; per cent. was taking place, the number of dwellings increased by slightly over 21 per cent. These are the bare mathematical bones of the position, but for all the troubles which remain they provide an indication of the great progress which has been made since the war.

The problem to which the hon. Member for Fulham sought to address our minds today was: what is the future need? In assessing present and future needs there are at least four main factors. The first is slums. The hon. Member said that the figure as estimated by local authorities some years ago was 850,000. Slum clearance has already resulted in the demolition of about 360,000 houses since 1956 and the target of 60,000 houses a year has been exceeded. Slum clearance is now proceeding at the rate of 70,000 houses a year. As the hon. Member pointed out, this problem is heavily concentrated in some towns in some parts of the country.

A larger problem numerically is that of obsolescence. If, for the sake of calculation, we take the stock of houses in Great Britain as 16 million, and if, for the purposes of this calculation, we assume a life of a hundred years, a figure rather higher than his—160,000 houses—would be needed to replace the stock. Indeed, the sights would probably have to be put a little higher when we bear in mind the fact that about 4 million were built before 1880.

The third factor, of course, is that the number of families continues to increase. Many will remember the forecasts we used to make—I certainly used to make them—based on obtaining population figures, of what was going to happen. We were going to become a smaller population of higher average age. Those estimates have been confounded by events. Nevertheless, it is reasonable to estimate that up to 2 million new families will appear in the next twenty years. If that be so, it will need an average of up to 100,000 more homes a year for that factor alone.

Then there is the definite but quite incalculable factor of the extent to which greater prosperity is leading, and will lead, people to expect higher standards of housing and amenities; and, of course, there is the question of the present shortage. I will, if I have time, refer to immigration later on, but let me say at once that I agree with the hon. Gentleman's point that it cannot be pretended that if there had been no immigration at all that would have solved the housing problems which confront us today.

These estimates, put forward with the caution that we must use in this matter, probably add up to about 6 million houses or so in the next twenty years for Great Britain as a whole. Some have estimated less and some have estimated more. I see that the estimate of Mr. Lewis Cohen, of the Alliance Building Society, is 8 million. The main difference there is the different guesses he makes as to the increase in the number of households in the next twenty years. The only accurate guess will be that made by hindsight at the end of that period of twenty years.

In relation to this—and I am seeking objectively to set out the facts—at present rates of building, and ignoring for the moment such questions as the shortage of land, about 6 million houses will be built in Great Britain during the next twenty years. But that is not the complete answer. On this, the first, occasion on which I have spoken on the subject, I say to the House quite frankly that I want to see the rate of house production increased in this country, particularly in some Northern and Midland areas.

We have to face the cold, hard fact that our capacity to do this job as quickly as we would like depends on productivity in industry generally— productivity in the building industry. Given the fact that housing is not the only social investment making demands on our wealth—I put that forward not as an excuse but as a fact of the situation that has to be faced—[Interruption.]—I shall be obliged if the House will allow me on this occasion to go through a long speech without other than absolutely essential interruptions.

May I now pass to the prospects and problems? First, the present position. This year's figures for completions is likely to be over 290,000 for Great Britain and about 265,000 for England and Wales. The number under construction has grown from 271,000 in September, 1959, to 307,000 in September, 1961. There is, and not for the first time, too much in the pipeline. So, quite apart from any restrictions necessitated by the economic situation, it is good sense to slow up on new starts so as to increase the possibility of completing the new houses which really matter.

The hon. Gentleman asked, and others may well ask, how many houses local authorities would be allowed to build next year. The answer depends very much on the plans of local authorities and the urgency of the purposes for which they propose to build. They were asked in August last, in Circular No. 37, to review their plans and to concentrate on urgent needs, with priority on slum clearance. Up to now only a minority of local authorities have submitted plans, but my broad expectation is that next year's completions will be of the same order as this year's.

What of the longer-term housing prospects, bearing in mind the estimates of need about which, as was revealed earlier, there is no substantial difference between the hon. Gentleman and myself? It remains the policy of the Government to maintain the level of house building at as high a rate as is consistent with a sound economy and the many competing demands on the building industry and our resources of skilled manpower.

There is no need for anyone to remind me of the tremendous importance of good housing in relation to the health and happiness of the people. But housing— alas, this has to be faced—is not our only social investment. What we feel it necessary to do in the matter of hospitals, schools, roads, factories, and the like, must inevitably affect our capacity for housing.

The hon. Gentleman referred to the subsidy issue, but he did less than justice to the change which has recently been made, a change which in the case of the authority of proved financial need is a change not only to a level of a £24 subsidy but with the possibility of additional subsidies, including additional subsidies for expensive site and overspill. But the hon. Gentleman made no reference to the fact that under the new arrangements the appropriate rate of subsidy will not be confined to certain kinds of house building but will be put on all houses.

I want now to grapple with the point which the hon. Gentleman raised about the respective contributions of public authorities and private enterprise. Of 270,000 dwellings built in England and Wales last year, roughly 105,000 were built by local authorities, new town corporations and housing associations, and practically all the remainder by private enterprise. The hon. Gentleman argued that local authority building should take precedence over private enterprise building. In my opinion, a man who is able and prepared to stand on his own feet and to house himself is as much entitled to consideration as the man who looks to the local authority to house him. It is a fact that at a time of rising living standards it is both natural and right that an increasing proportion of people should aspire to own their own houses.

Those who criticise the fact that at present private enterprise is producing something like three-fifths of the houses should recall that since the war local authorities in England and Wales have built 2¼1;million houses as compared with little more than 1¼million private houses and I think that they now own in all about 3½million houses. If rent policies were framed so as to require those who can afford to pay an economic rent to do so and so encourage them to find their own accommodation, a great many houses would be released for occupation by those who really need assistance.

The hon. Gentleman did not mention what is being done, as we cannot go as fast as we would like in replacing older houses, to adapt them to the requirements of modern living. Improvement grants were made in respect of 130,000 houses last year to enable owners of soundly built houses to bring them up to date. That 130,000 compared with 35,000 three years earlier, and today half a million houses have been improved with the aid of such grants and many without such aid. This year's approvals are running at roughly the same level as last year's, and the new Housing Act, which comes into operation on the 24th of this month, will enable local authorities to attack the problems arising from multi-occupation.

The part of the hon. Gentleman's speech that interested me most, and perhaps the most important subject of all, was that dealing with population distribution and the housing and other problems that will arise in consequence. The hon. Gentleman emphasised that the likely increase in the next twenty years will be heavy, and also emphasised the associated problems of its distribution. Recently —and I have studied their remarks with particular and peculiar care— many speakers have urged the recasting of our planning structure so as to enable it more effectively to apply wider conceptions to development plans and decisions.

I readily accept that planning in local authority areas must take place within a concept of a much wider area, that it is my responsibility to ensure this, and that if administrative or other changes prove necessary they should be faced. For myself, I should be very reluctant to depart from the basis of local authority in administration, but a local authority structure that is admirable for one purpose is likely to be less admirable for another. That is a fact of life. I hope, however, that by co-operation between central and local authority a solution to the problem can be found, provided that the central authority sets against area conceptions the local proposals it receives.

Much is being done at the centre to develop this area idea or conception. For example, my Department is making intensive studies in the South-East, the Midlands, Tyneside and South-East Lancashire, those being areas where this problem particularly arises. But, as everyone knows, really tough problems are presented by this likely heavy increase of population, particularly in the next twenty years, and especially in the great conurbations of, for example, London, the West Midlands, Manchester and Liverpool. These population increases will bring in their train formidable planning problems in relation to the supply of land, provision for overspill, maintenance of the green belts, and so on.

The Department is doing its utmost to see that, as development plans come forward for review, they are reassessed on a realistic basis which takes into account the need to provide, in one way or another, for that additional population— including the movement of overspill, planned or unplanned. This process— which started last year, when authorities were asked to review their town maps, consider the allocation of more land for development, and encourage the full use of urban land by means of higher density, conversion, and so on—goes on, and we must press it forward with vigour. Already, it is resulting in more land gradually being made available.

Nobody denies that in many areas the price of land is high, very high—[An HON. MEMBER: "Too high."] I have listened to the arguments, and I will comment on them. This fact expresses the shortage of land in many places, and the pressure on it. Moreover, by protecting agricultural land by the green belt policy, we ourselves are helping in the process of putting up the price of land which is allowed for development. Despite this, I want to make it perfectly clear that we intend to adhere to the green belt policy.

The Government's policy on this issue, and I want to spend a moment or two on it, is to see that more and more land is brought forward for development; to see that enough land is brought forward in the right places within the existing urban areas as well as beyond the green belt. Oddly enough, the high price of land in some areas, particularly in the older lower-density areas in and around the outskirts of big towns, produces some benefit, in that it is bringing forward for redevelopment some of those areas.

We want much more economical use of urban land, both old and new. We have to accept and encourage higher-density development in suitable areas, and in many cases this means going up. A great deal of valuable urban land is under-used today. There is still a reluctance on the part of some developers and some authorities to go in for this more economical use of land, but if we are to meet the pressure on land that is likely in the next few years we must make better use of the land coming forward for development and redevelopment, and do that without sacrificing good planning or living standards.

Incidentally, the House may be interested in two examples of what we are doing to get more land in London. My predecessor made a brief reference to the first example during the debate in July. In Kidbrooke, it has been settled in principle that about a hundred acres now accommodating Government establishments will be transferred to the L.C.C., and will house about 8,000 or 10,000 people. This will be a particularly valuable contribution to London's housing since, unlike slum clearance areas, there will not be a rehousing problem to face before the site is clear. Detailed discussions are going on with the London County Council, and the planning of the project is in hand.

In addition, discussions are going on with the British Transport Commission about the possibility of using some of the Commission's land in London, not required for railway purposes, with a view to its being used for housing. It is too soon to say how much can be done here, but it is hoped that we can find land there for housing.

To sum up this part of what I have to say, the Government believe that their policy of increasing the supply of land for development is the right way to tackle the problem of high prices. I shall not go over the arguments that were used in the July debate—for the hon. Gentleman did not—on the Labour Party's proposals to this end, except to say that the evidence seems to be that the effect would be a slowing up in the supply of land rather than a bringing forward of it. In any case, I suspect that scheme would go, with the scheme for municipalisation of land, into the limbo of forgotten things.

I should like, now, to say a word or two on overspill and town development before coming, as I want particularly to do, to the London position. As I see it, on coming to the Ministry afresh, the provision for overspill is probably the biggest challenge of all. Clearly, the population increases forecast for the bigger conurbations—an ugly word, but there it is—will mean a very substantial overspill in the next twenty years, and our present policies have to be, and are being, correspondingly reassessed.

In the London area, steady progress has been made not only with new towns but with expanded towns, and that movement is gathering momentum. Swindon, Haverhill, Bletchley and Thetford will come to mind, with Basingstoke and Andover likely to come forward soon. In addition, there are firm agreements for nearly 50,000 houses, with a rising figure for houses under construction. In the West Midlands, there was the announcement made in August of measures which, in the Government's view, will provide a satisfactory solution to the immediate problem of Birmingham's overspill. There is development at Worcester, Daventry, Redditch and the possibility of a new town at Dawley.

I can inform the hon. Member for The Wrekin that the survey of Dawley, which is being undertaken on the Government's behalf, is well under way and we expect to get a report in the next few months. The decision to form a new town, if and when taken, would of course include other questions which my hon. Friend raised, such as transport facilities, including roads.

In the Manchester and Merseyside area arrangements, as is now known, are being made for new towns at Skelmersdale and a number of town development schemes at Winsford, Westhoughton and Runcorn. On Tyneside and the North-East, Durham, plans for considerable expansion are under consideration. They include a small town at North Killingworth, and many other ideas are being explored.

Town development so far has mainly been a matter of expanding the quite small towns and this should go on, but the reassessment of the overspill problems of the South-East—with their new estimates of population increase and household increase—means that we shall have to examine the possibility of the expansion of a number of bigger towns which, by the nature of things, can take a bigger expansion. Something of this kind is almost certainly necessary if adequate provision is to be made over the next twenty years.

There is in the Amendment, rather surprisingly, an allegation that we have failed to …plan for the wise distribution of employment and population throughout the country which seems to me to be the opposite of the truth. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Well, I ask the House to recall what has happened. Since the war a series of Measures has been passed by Governments of both parties designed to achieve just what this Amendment is seeking, and the legislative powers have never been more vigorously operated than today, illustrated by the negative power of the refusal of I.D.Cs. and the positive inducements to industry to go to areas of high unemployment. This policy, since the war, has resulted in the transformation of the industrial scene of many parts of the country, including many parts of Wales.

I now come to the question of urban renewal, about which we hear a great deal nowadays, the rebuilding of the centres of our cities. This subject was referred to by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Fulham. It is not a new process. The replacement has been going on. It is a natural, slow and continuous process, but public attention has recently been concentrated on it.

It is a plain fact of observation that the centres of some of our larger towns are worn out. Patches of redevelopment, while welcome, fall short of what is needed. Major redevelopment is the only solution, and a great deal is going on. In fact, at this moment, about 250 redevelopment schemes of the central areas of our towns and cities are the subject of advice being sought from my Department—a measure of the great deal of work that goes on. In order to focus interest on this activity a special planning group will be set up in my Ministry and will be charged with the task of making a comprehensive study of 'the problems of urban renewal. The group will work in close association with the Ministry of Transport.

I now come to the question of London's homeless. This has recently come into prominence as a result of the increasing number of families having to look to the L.C.C. to provide them with temporary accommodation. There are about 650 families involved—about 250 more than two years ago. The number is increasing and the impression is—and no doubt this will be brought out in the long-term survey—that the character of this homeless population is changing.

No hon. Member need be reminded of the evil of homelessness and what it can do to undermine and destroy family life. It is an urgent problem which must be tackled energetically and effectively. This is how the L.C.C. sees it. Uncertain about the causes of the situation, the L.C.C. has set on foot an inquiry which they and I hope will throw useful light on the causes and on any long-term trend. I need hardly say that I shall be glad to discuss with the L.C.C. any long-term trend that that inquiry reveals when the investigation is complete.

The immediately important thing is action now to cope with the problem as it exists today and to bring some relief to the families involved. For this the L.C.C. has the power and the resources. The hon. Member for Fulham put to me a specific example of financial aid that might be given. Another example was given to me when I met the L.C.C. I put to that delegation the specific point in this question: is lack of money preventing you from tackling this problem? They replied, "No" and it is only fair that I should say that to the House.

The L.C.C. has the power and the resources and when we met last week there was a useful discussion on the practical steps that could be taken now to help these homeless people. Among these steps was the point made by the hon. Member for Fulham; the acquisition of empty properties with the use of compulsory powers, if necessary. I must not prejudice any decision on any particular case, but I say to the House what I said to the L.C.C.; if such steps are taken there will be no delay in dealing with the proposals that come forward to my Ministry.

Then there is the question of temporary dwellings on vacant sites, of which there are a sizeable number in the L.C.C. area. I understand that the L.C.C. considers that 80 to 90 acres are immediately available for this purpose. Then there is the setting aside, as an emergency measure, of a small number of L.C.C. houses falling vacant for re-let. There are about 4,000 a year of these although I hardly need say that the bulk of them—indeed, all of them—are needed for other people. But we are now considering this extremely difficult problem of homeless persons. That is a further way in which the problem may be tackled.

However, the L.C.C. has the responsibility for housing and welfare and I should say to the House what I said to the deputation; the L.C.C. has the power, the responsibility, the resources, and I am confident that it will proceed very speedily to a solution of this problem. I fully recognise that when the long-term inquiry is completed there may be material of interest to us all that will lead us to rethink our attitude on this matter.

Of course there are some who seek to make the Rent Act the whipping boy for each and every problem that arises. They have done it before and, politics being what it is, they will do it again. But the L.C.C. saw this problem as one of such special complexity as to lead it to set up a special inquiry. It decided to do this last July and the Committee met for the first time a few days ago. When the study is complete there will be more material for us to study objectively. This sort of thing does not prevent some people, whose gloomy forecasts of what the Rent Act was going to do—

Mr. R. J. Mellish (Bermondsey)

Is the right hon. Gentleman saying that at the interview that he had with the London County Council last week they made no complaint about the Rent Act? Could he tell us, since he says that they have the power and the resources, why they came and saw him?

Dr. Hill

I cannot answer the second question. But I will reply to the first. This was a little difficult for me. There was an agreed statement issued, but I see no objection to answering the question. In the presentation of the subject, there was no mention of the Rent Act except for one phrase in the opening speech and one phrase in a subsequent question. It is fair to say that they came to me, as I think is right and proper, not on the basis of a political view but on the basis of a problem that is here and needs to be solved. That is how I discussed the problem with the L.C.C.

Anyway, this does not prevent people, some of whom made gloomy forecasts of what the Rent Act was going to do and were proved to be wrong by events, from blaming on the Rent Act all the troubles that occur, without waiting for a study of the causes of those troubles to be made.

Mr. G. W. Reynolds (Islington, North)

May I interrupt the Minister, as this is so important? He has suggested that because the London County Council has 4,000 re-lets a year the L.C.C. could rehouse people who are homeless in some of these re-lets. Could I get this clear, because it is important? All these premises are at present being used under the L.C.C. for slum clearance, rehousing, roads and everything. Is the right hon. Gentleman saying that the London County Council should give priority to homeless people, many of whom have only been in London for a few years, as against 50,000 people on the housing list, living in terrible conditions and who have been on the housing list for years?

Dr. Hill

I am saying that this is the London County Council's own decision. I am referring to some of the issues which were discussed.

On the second point, I fully recognise the difficulty. If it was thought that homelessness was a way to jump the housing queue, those of us who have been confronted with this problem in our constituencies can see the dangers of this without my elaborating the point. But we are confronted here with homelessness, and I imagine that the London County Council, like every other housing authority, must be confronted from time to time with cases for which their normal points scheme and their normal procedures cannot operate. All I am saying is that that is an element to be considered in the solution of the problem, considering the fact that the circumstances of people in this category are, by the definition of homelessness, the worst that are conceivable. But again that is a matter for the London County Council itself.

There is one point that I want to make about the Rent Act, as so much has been said about it in the opening speech. I want to draw attention to what has happened under compulsory purchase orders. The House will recall what my predecessor undertook to do in appropriate circumstances. The remarkable thing, if there was such widespread profiteering, is that the local authorities did not make more use of compulsory purchase orders. In fact, six orders which were based on Rent Act difficulties were confirmed, six rejected and eleven withdrawn. Another sixteen have not yet reached decision stage. That makes a total of only 39 orders in fourteen months. This is a significant element, a significant fact, and I cannot see much there to support the allegations of widespread profiteering.

Mr. Douglas Jay (Battersea, North)

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that my local authority, Battersea Borough Council, applied for a compulsory purchase order and the Minister refused to confirm it, although the landlord was proposing to charge a rent five times the gross annual value? As a result of that experience, the council did not think it was worth applying for any further compulsory purchase order.

Mr. Austen Albu (Edmonton)

And the same thing happened in my constituency.

Dr. Hill

As the hon. Gentleman will understand, I cannot comment on individual cases.

Mr. Robert Jenkins (Dulwich)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that his predecessor last year suggested to local authorities that they should apply for compulsory purchase orders and said that he would give consideration to them? Is he further aware that many local authorities, having regard to what his right hon. Friend advocated, in fact threatened on many occasions throughout the whole of London, including Greater London, that they would apply for these orders and as a result they achieved a great deal of satisfaction for many thousands of tenants in Greater London? As my right hon. Friend has given figures of the effect of certain actions by local authorities, has he any figures relating to the point which I have mentioned, which, in my submission, has greater strength than the figures already given?

Dr. Hill

I fully recognise, as will the whole House, that the existence of these powers of themselves had a persuasive influence not expressed in these figures. Nevertheless, the figures themselves indicate at least that the allegations of profiteering so widely noised abroad were not fully justified by those figures.

To sum up, there has been striking progress in the creation of new homes in the last ten years, and it is from that position that we start, as indeed we must start, in tackling our current and prospective problems, whether they be the overall increase in housing provision, the continuance of slum clearance, the replacement of obsolete houses or meeting the needs of a growing number of families.

We have increasingly to plan in terms of wider areas, to bring more and more land into development without departing from the green belt policy or recklessly eating up agricultural land, and we have to use urban land much more economically, to press on with overspill and town development and with urban renewal. We are tackling these problems and we shall continue to tackle them, but, the Amendment, coming as it does from a party which left office with such a melancholy record in housing, exhibits as much irrelevance as it does effrontery.

5.38 p.m.

Mr. John Dugdale (West Bromwich)

It is customary to congratulate a new Minister on his speech. I shall do so because I think he has graduated very well. He has used more words to say less than anybody I know, except the Prime Minister, and he is doing exceedingly well. He has told us nothing at all that we did not know already.

The right hon. Gentleman complained about the rising population. It seems to me very peculiar that the Minister should complain because the population of his country is rising. He said that he had a difficult task. Of course, he has a difficult task. We know that. The question is whether he is capable of performing it. From what we have heard in his speech so far, we have no reason to suppose that he is. He told us nothing whatever about what was to be done about the higher price of land. Apparently, nothing at all is to be done about it. Nothing at all is being done about the Rent Act. The Minister is perfectly happy with its operation. He thinks that everything is going splendidly. He told us virtually nothing.

I do not propose to detain the House long, because I know that a great many hon. Members wish to speak, but my constituency is a place with one of the most concentrated housing problems in in the country, not even excepting London which, heaven knows, has a problem which is enormous. I wish to speak about our difficulties in the Black country, in Birmingham and in my constituency in particular.

Sixteen years after the war, at a time when, according to the Prime Minister, we have never had it so good, at a time when large sums are being spent on the production and advertising of detergents, hair dryers and a whole host of other goods, there are thousands of people who simply cannot get houses. Why is this so? Thousands of people today suffer from living in conditions which many people in Europe and in America have long given up because sufficient houses are being provided for them. Why are houses not obtainable for people in this country?

I make no apology for speaking about my own constituency where, today, in a population of about 80,000, there are 4,600 people on a waiting list which was drastically pruned only recently. Those 4,600 people need houses and are quite unable to have them. There are 3,750 slum houses which have already been condemned as slums but about which it has not yet been possible to do anything. The rate of building is approximately 600 houses a year. What hope will there be of people in those conditions having a house at all? What hope have they of moving out of the houses they are living in now?

What houses are they living in now? I will give a few particulars to show the sort of amenities which are absent. There are 10,000 houses with outside lavatories. Is that right, in 1961, with conditions as they are today? Is that a fitting tribute to ten years of Tory Government? The Tories have been in power, both since and in between two wars, for over twenty years, yet that is the situation in one town. Most of these houses have no bathrooms at all. The walls are peeling and the ceilings are falling down. Not only that, one of the most important defects is that many of the houses have only one sitting room. We hear talk from the Minister of Education about education problems and the need for advance. What hope is there of children being able to study satisfactorily and carry on their work as well as they should when there is only one sitting room for the whole household and everything goes on in that one room?

Many people sit in a dream world, watching their television sets and thinking how nice the world is, dreaming of all the things they would like to see and do, but when they look about their homes and climb up their own stairs they see the truth of the conditions in which they live. This sort of thing happens to very many people in my constituency, and, as my hon. Friends at least will readily agree, in the homes of thousands of people in other constituencies, too.

Many people are living more and more like Eskimos, huddled and crowded together, trying to keep warm in one small place because there is not even enough warmth for them in the rest of the house. I heard a curious story the other day about how even Eskimos can improve their conditions. A small group of Eskimos wanted to build some houses; they thought it would be a good thing to spend the money they had earned on that purpose. Some prefabricated building parts were sent to them from abroad. Although all the directions included with the parts were written very well, none of the Eskimos could read. But they were very successful in their efforts. Parts for six houses were bought, but such was their skill that they managed to build seven houses out of them.

We have immense difficulties here. Of course we have. But there is one thing the Government cannot do, and that is blame the trouble on the immigrants, although some hon. Members are inclined to do it. The right hon. Gentleman did not do so; he was careful not to say it, but some of his hon. Friends blame our housing problems on the immigrants. This is grossly unfair because all the problems which I have mentioned existed long before the immigrants arrived.

I do not speak as one who has no immigrants in his constituency. There is a large number of West Indians, Indians and Pakistanis there. Never- theless, out of that large number, only about five have had council houses allotted to them. This is not because of any colour bar but merely because, according to the points scheme, their length of time on the list, and so on, the vast majority of immigrants are not entitled to a house. What do they do? They crowd into large houses which probably were occupied in the past by small families who could not afford to keep them up and who, therefore, got rid of them. I do not say that the immigrants live in the houses they occupy. I say that they camp in these houses in conditions which leave a great deal to be desired. They are not conditions of the kind we should like to live in at all.

The point is that, if all the immigrants left tomorrow, the housing situation would be much as it is today. Many other things would happen, of course— I shall not go into the matter now, because there will be an opportunity to discuss immigration later—and many of our important services would have to stop. But that is not the point. The fact is that they do not have a tremendous influence on the housing problem compared with the general situation which existed long before they came.

Why are things as they are? There are several causes. As my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) said, one cause is the failure of the Government to subsidise house building for overcrowding. They withdrew the subsidy, and building to replace overcrowded premises is not now something for which the local authorities may have a subsidy. No doubt, the Minister and many of his hon. Friends will say that a solution to the problem is perfectly easy. Houses are built for those who can afford to buy them and then, it is said, immediately the houses in which they have been living become empty people in overcrowded areas can move in.

It all sounds wonderful, but, of course, it does not work like that. In my own constituency, quantities of houses are being built by speculative builders— goodness knows, they are hideous houses and the council houses are far better to look at—but who will move into them? People from Birmingham and elsewhere who happen to be able to afford to buy houses—not the people on the Birmingham housing list—'buy these new houses and Live in them, while my constituents cannot possibly move into the houses they vacate. It is absurd to expect them to do so.

Money is not everything, as the Minister himself said. He quoted the London County Council as saying, apparently, that it had all the money it needed. That sounded rather peculiar.

Dr. Hill

Let there be no misunderstanding. I asked the representatives of the London County Council whether they were prevented by lack of money from dealing with the problem, and immediately they frankly said "No". That is all.

Mr. Dugdale

One problem in the Black Country and the Midlands—no doubt the same applies to London—is the shortage of labour. The reason for the shortage is that labour is being used to build many things other than houses. Some of the buildings going up, of course, are necessary—schools, hospitals and so on—but many of them are completely unnecessary. Many are built purely for prestige reasons by companies which make so much money that they do not know what to do with it and prefer to use it in that way rather than pay more out in taxes.

Mr. Frank Allaun (Salford, East)

There are the two Shell-Mex buildings.

Mr. Dugdale

As my hon. Friend says, there are the two buildings erected for the glory of Shell-Mex by workers who might have been building more houses to help the homeless and overcrowded people of London. Housing should have a far higher priority, and building workers should be engaged not on building big office blocks but on building homes.

What must we do? First, there must be a real sense of urgency in the matter. It is this sense of urgency which, plainly, the Minister does not feel. He does not regard the problem as urgent but as just one job to be done by a Government Department. It is not an urgent matter calling for attention at once, in his view. I think that obviously he should restore the overcrowding subsidy—the general subsidy. He should, too, lower the interest rate for local authorities. He should subject all office building costing over £10,000 to scrutiny to make sure that it is really needed. If that were done, it would release labour which could be used to build houses.

In addition, my personal opinion—I do not know whether I speak for all hon. Members on this side of the House—is that the Minister should nationalise a very large section of the building trade industry. We often hear of the troubles in this industry and how the workers are not doing this, that or the other. It is said that they are not working hard enough, that they are not working as hard as German, French and Italian workers. Much of the trouble in the industry, however, is due to bad organisation. I should have thought that it needed a great deal of reorganisation. If it, or a large section of it, were nationalised, we might have that better organisation and we might be able to build far more houses at greater speed than we are doing today.

Today, there are not just two or three but many thousands and indeed millions of people living in conditions such as those that I have described. How long have they to live in those conditions? As far as I can see, if this Government continues in office, they will have to live in such conditions, not for five years, but for 10, 15 or 20 years, which is the greater part of many of these people's lives. It is because we on this side of the House think that it is intolerable that they should be made to continue to live in these conditions that we say to the Government, "Do the job of housing these people. If you cannot do it, get out".

5.51 p.m.

Mr. W. F. Deedes (Ashford)

I should like to begin with a word of welcome to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government and to wish him well in the most exacting job in which he finds himself. It is likely to prove every bit as exacting as he indicated in his speech this afternoon. On the housing figures alone, I find it difficult to decide whether he has good cause to be disgruntled with his inheritance.

I have never known a debate on housing in this House in which the Opposition have not been able to prove, with the figures, that the position was quite deplorable and the Government have not be able to prove, on the figures, that the situation was well in hand. However, let me endorse one thing which was said by my right hon. Friend and by the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart). For reasons less than clear to me, immigration has been included, or is supposed to be included, as part of this debate. I should like to echo what has been said about getting the matter into perspective. There might be good reasons for taking action on immigration, but I should not have put housing among the principal ones. There are many difficulties facing us in housing, but I should not put immigration in the forefront of them. If immigration must be so considered today then we have reason to suppose that there is something seriously wrong with our housing policy.

What worries me about the position confronting my right hon. Friend is not the record but the prospect. I think that there are signs—and I am sure that my right hon. Friend accepts this—that we are running into a series of difficulties which, unless resolved fairly quickly, will either slow down the whole programme or seriously unbalance it.

One of the Opposition's complaints, which was levelled this afternoon by the hon. Member for Fulham, concerns the share in building which is held by private enterprise. They find a source for aggravation in the fact that, whereas nine-tenths of the houses built in 1951 were council houses, the proportion built by public authorities today is something like two in five. Home ownership may have its drawbacks, but it continues manifestly to satisfy the wishes of very many people. The political demand that more council houses should be built seems to me to draw a very faint public echo. I should have said that socially there was the strongest impulses behind home ownership which I think it would be well to recognise.

The trouble that I see on the horizon is due not so much to the failings of private builders but to the failure to get more sensible arrangements between the public authorities which own most of the land and have the populations to house and the private builders who are building most of the houses. I say to my right hon. Friend that if the Government want private builders to continue to do most of the job—and there are compelling reasons for them doing it— economically and in conformity with at least some principles of town and country planning, more must be done to ensure that they have the right conditions for the job. Today, industry has the money, labour and "know-how" to do this. The public authorities have the land and the means to acquire it.

It seems to me that there is far too big a gap between the two sectors. We are getting, not only messy results—this is becoming very evident in a large number of areas—but diminishing returns, because so much private enterprise building is being done in tiny packets, which is often uneconomic and unsightly. The shortage of big sites on which, subject to overall conditions laid down by the public authority, the private builder can conform to a plan, do a tidy job and, in many places, make a very big contribution to slum clearance is being overlooked. It seems to me that our present planning policies favour fragmentary development, and that is development on the wrong scale.

The second problem which I think is marching up on us is the growing conflict between industrial and commercial policies on the one hand and housing and social policies on the other. This relates to what my right hon. Friend called and I shall call overspill, and it is perhaps the biggest problem of all. I do not hesitate to say that the Government appear to have lost their grip on it. Admittedly there are aspects of this balance between commerce and industry on the one hand and housing on the other which are very difficult to control, although it would be easier if we took steps to get more reliable information about not only what is going on but what is likely to go on in the course of the next five years.

Consider, for example, the migration of people, which I think is increasing in speed, from the declining areas in the North and West towards the new and expanding enterprises in the South, and, in particular, the South-East and to the Midlands conurbations. This is a movement of enormous social consequence, and apparently at the moment it is beyond our control. It is a movement which, if we enter the Common Market, will greatly increase in south-east England. This is something which, I should have thought, should be provided for and forecast and on which we should get all the information that we can.

I am aware that the Ministry of Labour and the Board of Trade do what they can to steer new industrial development against this stream. In so doing, they inevitably cut across certain policies pursued by the Ministry of Housing. That situation has obtained for a very long time, and it is much easier to criticise it than to find some way of resolving it. The Local Employment Act cuts across practically every stream pursued by almost every agency. However, that is a subject in itself.

A question to which I should like to know the answer is how much of this tremendous concentration of population in London and south-east England is due to industrial and how much to commercial development. Do we know the figures? My right hon. Friend has announced that the London County Council will hold an urgent inquiry into the housing situation in London, the extent of which is better known by hon. Members who represent London constituencies than by me. I suggest to my right hon. Friend that half the inquiry, if it is to discover how these people come to be here and why they are here, answers itself.

A policy which over the years has drawn more and more people to the commercial development of London and which has been allowed to proceed unchecked will inevitably build up a bigger head of population than London is able to accommodate. A policy which, I am bound to say critically of the L.C.C., has tended to favour development which builds up high rateable values—that is high commercial development—must inevitably build up to this pressure, the consequences of which we are now feeling and into which this inquiry must be held. I hope that the inquiry will not be into housing alone but will take some recognition of the growth of commercial development and what ought to be done about it.

In the last seven years nearly half the new jobs in Great Britain—45 per cent. —have come into London or south-east England, an area which already holds 27 per cent. of the population. Surely in that figure we have the heart of the London problem into which the inquiry is to be conducted.

I do not know whether the Government accept this as inevitable or not, but what is absurd—we really must try to get some control over it—is a situation in which one Government agency, the Board of Trade, continues to provide, stimulate or countenance employment in areas from which it is the Government's wish to move large numbers of people. That policy does not make sense.

Have we a policy about commercial building? Surely that ought to be almost the start of this inquiry. Have we said where we want it to go, and what initiative have the Government themselves taken to encourage the decentralisation of commercial building and work not only from London but from other places with which we are all familiar?

I feel sure that the housing programme will run into increasing difficulties unless the Government feel themselves able to express more clearly and distinctly their wishes in respect of this kind of development. They may be on record as having said what they want, but it is not clearly or widely enough understood.

This bears heavily on another big obstacle in the way of getting on with housing, and, in particular, with slum clearance, and that is land shortage. It is true that local authorities were instructed last August to extend their plans to cover land allocation up to, I think, 1981, which should make more available.

But the problem which is confronting many local authorities, particularly in South-East England, is in getting even the wildest forecast about what they are to expect in the way of prospective development. Unless it can be made a little clearer by research and intelligence what the indications are of future trends —at least, of what the Government want to see—and unless we are prepared to try to influence these changes, planning for many of the local authorities becomes simply a lottery.

It is my view that, in the absence of any reliable guidance, many local authorities round London are now devising policies of their own which may or may not conform with what the Government want. Many of them are now preparing their own immigration policies, putting up barriers in their own way, and the planning officer is becoming the instrument for resisting further development which there appears to be no other way of avoiding. One county wishes to declare itself a green belt area. Another county refuses planning applications in such quantities that the number of appeals is greatly increased.

Partly due to this difficulty, public inquiries are threatening to become an industry. I do not know the number of inspectors at present required by the Ministry, but it must be about 200, which is twice the figure required five or six years ago. While I should be the last to question the conduct of the inspectors—most of the inquiries seem to be carried out with great patience and skill and the utmost fairness to both parties—the multiplication of these inquiries and the weight imposed upon my right hon. Friend are very great.

There is another problem which bears even more on slum clearance namely, overspill, to which my right hon. Friend referred to as the biggest challenge of all. I do not think that London, nor the Midland or Northern conurbations, will make make much real headway with slum clearance without stronger guidance and policy on the subject of finding physical space not only for the big voluntary exodus which is going on—which reflects the movement of the more prosperous society, and perhaps we have not yet fully appreciated that—but for the worst housed in the largest cities.

Among the planners, as I think many hon. Members are aware, a great deal of thought has been given to this problem. More than one possibility has been advanced. It would be helpful if we could know on which of these the Government are inclined to put their money. One possibility is more new towns, not only for the Midlands and the North but perhaps for the South as well. I think I am right in saying that we have had only one in England since 1951, the one mentioned by my right hon. Friend— Skelmersdale, in Lancashire. Is the new town policy now favoured or disfavoured? How does the new town idea stand in relation to the next five or ten years?

A second view is that certain of the bigger towns—my right hon. Friend just touched on this—should be deliberately scheduled as what might almost be termed new cities. The attraction of the idea is that it offers one of the few real hopes of providing a counter-magnetism to London, to the megalopolitan capital, encouraging people to go to places which are cities in their own right, and attracting them not only industrially but socially and culturally as well.

A third view is the expanding town as prescribed by the 1953 Act, which is, I think, widely known as a horse now running on three legs. I have given my views on what I regard as the fundamental weaknesses of the overspill idea before, and I will not repeat them, but one might be added to everything which has been mentioned before. It is that overspill is far more susceptible to chilly economic winds—such as Bank rate changes—than almost any other form of development. It is very noticeable how overspill rises and falls almost with the economic climate.

I suspect that overspill is making no serious contribution to slum clearance at all. I believe that if it were examined statistically that would be found to be the case. The question which the Government ought now to ask themselves and to which they ought to find an answer is the following. In the light of the experience of this Act, which has now been operating for eight years, and even with the very indifferent intelligence which we seem to have on the subject, does it appear to be harder to get people to hop the prescribed distance—some 60 miles, was, I believe regarded as the optimum distance—not only to new homes but to new jobs than to persuade them to move to planned zones nearer their home cities?

I ask this question because it is noticeable that we have not had a long-distance new town—Skelmersdale is not a long-distance new town—since 1950. Is the long-distance migration, conceived for overspill in the interests of planning, breaking down socially? If it is, we ought to make a decision about this and decide whether it is a horse to continue to back. Is not the overwhelming social trend today for people to concentrate on the perimeter of places which afford a wide range of employment, of new and lucrative industries, and, as they see it, of personal prospects not only for themselves but for their families? In short, do we not see now the most compelling social trend lying in peripheral sites round big towns, particularly in the Midlands and the North? If this is so, would it not be better to face it, accept it and try to plan it properly?

What are the alternatives? My right hon. Friend touched on the question of building up and higher densities. I myself put a very strict limit on what higher building and higher densities, particularly in our present society, will achieve in the way of providing the accommodation required in overcrowded cities. Secondly, we have the expanding towns offering a fractional contribution. We are really left with peripheral development—the garden cities, satellites, or whatever one might call them. This may be wrong or right, but What I think is futile is to turn a blind eye to what is clearly the principal social trend and try to pursue contrary policies. At present, we have a great many people who can afford to do so struggling to buy land on the periphery of areas, squeezing in between green belts and developed land, and such fragmentary development imposes huge pressure on planning officers, provokes the bulk of the public inquiries, leads to bad planning, and, I predict, is storing up immense transport problems for the future.

Surely to accept broadly the policy to develop large periphery sites, separate but within the daily communication of the main cities and not involving the start of a new life, and to invite private enterprise developers, subject to the public authority's overall plan, to tackle it might produce a tidier result, relieve the cities, speed slum clearance, and in the end help resolve a lot of prospective transport problems.

This raises the last point I want to make. In all development on this scale, whether for central redevelopment or periphery development, one major difficulty clearly arises, which is the co-ordination of public and private enterprise. This was the first point I made, and I emphasise it. Private enterprise has the money to buy land and the labour, but not the power to acquire sites. The public authority has the second but not the first. Do we need some new agency in order to try to posit better co-ordination between those two elements? Whether it might be a development commissioner or a development corporation —whatever it is called, does not, I think, matter. As things are, we make too large a demand on a Ministry which already has a great deal to do in respect of the co-ordination of central and periphery development. I think that the essential thing to do first is to close this gap between the two and properly to organise what the building industry can achieve.

I have a feeling—I would be very happy if my right hon. Friend would like to contradict this—that the Government are nervous of the financial implications of any move in this direction. I think it is possible that the Treasury has shaken their nerve on what the Government commitment would appear to be if they were to speak too much about development commissioners or other agency to try to co-ordinate central redevelopment or anything else. If that is so, I think it would be as well to say so and to relieve a great many doubts.

I would say, in conclusion, that what is chiefly needed from my right hon. Friend is to give the planning of our physical development the right emphasis need not cost any money at all. I think that what is lacking is not money, but a central theme. I am bound to say that I think our aims have become very muzzy. Our town and country planning almost inevitably has become a series of negative and, I think, increasingly complex controls and decisions. In this tangle, sense of direction, certainly inspiration, on the part of public authorities, seems to have been lost.

It would be a help if, from time to time, senior members of the Government —not associated with the Ministry of Housing and Local Government—could suggest to the public that this is a matter of immense importance. If aesthetics only were at stake I would not stress it, but far more than that is at stake in these issues. Planning is, after all, the disposition of investment. We argue a great deal in this House about the financial implications of our investment, yet we appear quite astonishingly casual about the physical consequences. They have a profound bearing, in my view, upon the capacity, the productivity and the efficiency of this country, quite apart from social well-being, and I think it is time that we awoke to a sharper sense of responsibility here.

It does not require any grand design or Royal Commission or new planning, but only a proper direction of agencies at our disposal. I should have thought that both sides of the House would have agreed that in this matter the Government should be in charge of the strategy and the local authorities should handle the tactics. That is the best way we can do this. I think that the strategy requires to be more carefully formulated and more forcibly expressed. It is really not enough simply to deny all the time. The Government must be ready to show a little more initiative. While nobody expects the Government to command their ideas should commend themselves more forcibly. I suggest to my right hon. Friend, beginning, as he is, in a new and extremely difficult office, that the status of physical planning should be elevated and the contribution which it can make to the national effort be recognised.

6.15 p.m.

Mr. R. J. Mellish (Bermondsey)

The hon. Gentleman the Member for Ash-ford (Mr. Deedes), quite rightly I think, criticised his own Government for what he called their lack of initiative in the overall planning of housing. I would agree with him there, because it is fair to say that this is a national problem. Being a London Member I want to concentrate on London affairs, but this is also a national affair, having a connection with national resources, and it has to be planned at that level, and the Government themselves must have a firm plan which is understood by county councils and other local authorities.

I would add to what the hon. Gentleman said about the strategy in planning which must be operated by county councils and other local authorities must always be done on the understanding that at the end of the day they can afford it. They are not given an incentive to do it. I would say, too, in adding to what the hon. Gentleman said, for I think that he made a worthwhile contribution to the debate, that there is one thing which must be emphasised above all else. It is no good asking the local authorities to take over responsibilities for housing planning if at the same time the Government say to them, "To borrow money you must borrow it at rates up to 7 per cent."

That alone imposes a burden upon many local authorities which they are just not prepared to accept. They just cannot. Once that happens any plans we may have, any hopes, any dreams we may have, vanish. The Treasury, as we know, is the villain of the piece, but, even so, anyone would have supposed, knowing the "'fluence" in the Ministry in the past, that it would be given some privileges in the matter of housing.

I believe that that is the main difference between this party and the Conservative Party in this issue of housing; it is the difference in the fundamental approach of this party and that party. I say this very sincerely. We on this side of the House do regard housing as an absolute social need. It is a must. It is something people have got to have, and it is not a commodity to be exploited for private profit. That is the difference between the two parties. The two parties almost crash into each other over and over again on this.

I know that hon. Gentlemen opposite say that there is nothing immoral in a person owning a considerable amount of housing property and making a vast profit out of it. But I think that that is immoral. It is immoral to exploit people, to take exorbitant rents from them and to threaten them, "If you do not pay we take your home." It is immoral, no matter what sort of regulations we try to fix around it in law to "protect", as it is called, tenants. That is something I have never been able to defend.

We have seen now and we have heard of that sort of thing in the private building industry. The vast majority of privately built houses have been built not to rent, but for people to buy—at prices which, I know, some can afford to pay, but always at profits to the builders who rent or sell the houses. Never is the question of need considered. It is always a question of how much one has in one's pocket. If I already have a house, if I am already perfectly comfortably housed, and I have £5,000, or £7,000, or £8,000, or £10,000,I can afford to buy a house, and no questions are asked.

That is the only yardstick, and that is the difference between what we on this side have said and what hon. Members opposite have said, and that is why we want county councils and local authorities to build, in the main, and to have control of this property. It is not something which comes out of anything that Keir Hardie said way back in 1900. It is a matter of plain, sheer, common sense. The yardstick is need, and that is the factor which we must face and cannot avoid in housing today.

The hon. Member for Ashford spoke of planning and referred to immigration. It is right and proper that it should have been said here that immigration problems have nothing whatever to do with housing. I was glad to hear the Minister say so. It was to his credit that he said it. I do not know whether his predecessor would have said it, but that is something which can be quoted back against the right hon. Gentleman's critics. My local party has been accused of wanting control of immigration. I want to make it quite clear that we do not ever want control of immigration from this side of the water to stop people coming in, but it is monstrous to allow them to come here without caring a damn what is happening to them. It is monstrous to allow them to come to Victoria Station, as I have seen 500 or 600 of them arrive, wearing summer dresses in the depths of winter, with nowhere to go and being exploited right, left and centre. To allow that sort of thing to go on and do nothing about it is monstrous.

There has been the terrible eruption in Tristan da Cunha recently. The Government quite properly dealt with the inhabitants' problems. They took responsibility for moving them to this country. They have found hostel accommodation for them. They intend to try to rehabilitate them and fit them into the community, but what have they done for the West Indians, the Pakistanis and the Southern Irish? We have said to them, "If you come over here, find your own way, and the best of British luck to you." The party opposite says that these immigrants can be controlled only by stopping them coming into the country. I do not believe that at the end of the day that is the answer, and I am glad to hear that immigration is not to be argued as a reason for our housing problems.

Mr. Godfrey Lagden (Hornchurch)

So that we may have it on the record, would the hon. Member agree that a good deal of the exploitation of which he spoke in the housing of unfortunates from the West Indies is by West Indians themselves who have come here in advance and have found it extremely profitable to exploit their own people?

Mr. Mellish

I have no doubt at all, knowing the rapacity of private landlords, whether white or black, that they would exploit them. This only confirms the principle which I mentioned earlier when I said that property should never be allowed to be the subject matter of exploitation.

I apologise for concentrating the remainder of my speech on the problem of the London homeless and on London housing generally. I have been a London Member of the House of Commons for fifteen years and I had always thought that the time would surely come when the number of people coming to see me about their housing problems would get less and less. Why is it that I get more and more? The Minister gave figures and did his comic turn at the very end of his speech when he tried to knock the previous Labour Government on their housing record. I will not indulge in that kind of argument. This is much too big a problem for that. One of the things which the Minister had better get clear in his mind is that we do not have people coming to us in as vast a number as before with problems about the housing of elderly people or matters concerning the installation of a bath, and so on. It is the young married people who are in the vast majority of those who come to see us.

This is a social trend. People get married at 20 or 21 or 22 years of age nowadays. I ask the Minister where he thinks a young married couple earning £12 or £14 a week will find a place to live nowadays. They cannot get anything from the building societies. They do not even ask them, because they know the answer before they get there. The cost of any worth-while house in London today is between £4,000 and £5,000. Anything that costs £2,500 in London is a slum. It is because the cost of property has gone up like this that young married couples finally go to the town hall and say, "Can we put our names on your housing list?" Every town hall list is virtually barred to these people.

What am I to tell them? Am I to tell them that they must stick it out with their "in-laws" and hope that they do not get evicted? Many of these families have become homeless and, let us face it, many of them do quarrel with their "in-laws". The Minister said that he is quite convinced that the Rent Act has nothing to do with it. He said that to talk about the Rent Act was merely to play party politics. If that is not saying that this is no fault of the Rent Act, I should like to know what is.

Every house that becomes vacant becomes prohibitive in rent. If a tenant lives in a house of £40 rateable value and it is controlled, what is forgotten is that when he moves from that house it is immediately decontrolled and the landlord can then charge what rent he likes. I could give instances of property in London—and my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) has already mentioned some advertised in the newspapers today—where a rent of 4 guineas a week is asked for one room. A flat of two rooms which was worth only 50s. a week a few years ago now bears a rent of 6 guineas to 8 guineas a week.

It may be said that some coloured people take these flats, but what the Rent Act has meant is that the prices now being asked make this accommodation so prohibitive that the vast majority of families cannot move about as they were accustomed to do. The Government make this doubly sure by making certain that the Bank Rate is so high that people cannot go in for buying their own houses.

I believe in a property-owning democracy. I have always said to my party, "Do not let it go out into the country that we believe only in council houses. It is not true." We want a property-owning democracy. I want to see 100 per cent. mortgages at a fixed 2½per cent. interest for the whole period of the loan. What is immoral about that? Why cannot Britain do it. Cannot we afford it? If we cannot afford that, we cannot afford a single shell. The party opposite is making a sham of a property-owning democracy. It is destroying it, because it will not allow people to buy. Hon. Members opposite say that they believe in people owning their own houses, but they make it impossible for people to afford to buy and by doing so they are destroying many decent families.

As to the homeless, it is the figures that count and it is the figures that impress. Forty-five families a week are coming to the London County Council and saying, "We have nowhere to go. We have no roof over our heads." An analysis has been made of the position of 60 families. I believe that the Minister knows about this analysis. It showed, first of all, that the great majority of these families are Londoners, born and bred. They are not strangers, they are not Midlanders or foreigners. And the vast majority of them are homeless because the house was sold with vacant possession. Is that the Rent Act? It cannot be anything else.

What is to be their future? I do not want to be too emotional about this, but I was told the story the other day of a couple who became homeless and were taken to one of these centres. They are by no means the best of places, because they cater for the problem family and people do not provide luxuries for problem families. I know one case of Londoners, born and bred, who had been tenants in a house for a considerable period. The house was sold because the original tenants moved away and, therefore, they as sub-tenants, without rights, had to go.

The wife ended up in one of these centres where she sobbed her heart out all day. They had nowhere to go, and this mighty Britain had nothing to offer them. There was "no room at the inn". This is happening to 45 families a week. It has happened to 681 families or about 3,000 people, the vast majority of whom are the people of London. We want an answer from the Government on this problem in the immediate future.

The Minister said that he felt sorry for the homeless families. So do I. But they do not want sympathy. I do not see why, without offending any Conservative principle, we should not now amend the Rent Act to provide that any disagreement between the landlord and the tenant must be referred to a tribunal. Is there anything immoral in that? Cannot the Minister give way on that? Why not provide that no one can be evicted unless a magistrate finally decrees that it shall be so, and also provide that cases shall be decided on the basis of hardship, so that if hardship exists the magistrate can decide in favour of the tenant? When tenants have to go to court now, although magistrates may cry over them they can do nothing for them except apply the law.

Let us change the law. Let us get it straight that unless both parties face the housing problem together, as something that is a national need, we shall go on arguing party politics at the expense of thousands of ordinary people.

6.32 p.m.

Mr. John M. Temple (City of Chester)

It is my intention to begin where the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) left off and to concentrate mainly on the national picture. Before I do so, however, I congratulate my right hon. Friend, our new Minister of Housing and Local Government, on his appointment. He has a considerable task ahead of him, but a very substantial record of achievement behind him.

The Conservative Administration have nothing to apologise for in their success story in house building over the last ten years. I agree with the hon. Member for Bermondsey that home ownership and good housing form the cornerstone of our society. It is essential for our community that it shall be healthy in body and mind, and a good home is a quite essential part of our social life.

My right hon. Friend admitted that there was a long-term problem. I agree. I am not satisfied that the building industry today is turning out the number of houses of which it is capable. My hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Page), speaking outside this House comparatively recently, drew attention to the need for new techniques in the building industry. Those new techniques are overdue, and with our present labour force we could get a very much larger output of homes year by year.

In this connection, I draw attention to the success of the agricultural industry. It has been losing land to housing, and it has been losing farm workers, yet, at the same time, the output from the industry has gone on rising year by year. Are we not entitled to look to the building industry to increase its output similarly?

My right hon. Friend referred to certain statistics which emerged from the recent census, but those statistics are altogether misleading. The task ahead of us is still challenging. There is still a great latent demand for housing. I start with the fact that we still have 600,000 slum dwellings to clear, and draw attention to the remarks of Professor Michael Wise, of the London School of Economics, speaking at a town and country planning association conference on 25th October. He pointed out that there were 6½million pre-1919 dwellings in this country, and went on to say that only half were capable of being modernised.

That means that we still have 3 million dwellings which were built prior to 1919 and which are incapable of being modernised. These must, therefore, be dealt with under the rehousing programme, in the not too distant future. I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) that this factor must be kept well in mind when we consider the future.

Several important factors, most of which are well-known to hon. Members who are taking part in this debate, are increasing the demand for good housing as the years go by. We have higher living standards, and a greater proportion of old people wish to have dwellings of their own. We have more separate households, and a smaller number of people per household.

The hon. Member for Bermondsey referred to the fact that people nowadays marry at an earlier age. When I was young a generation was reckoned to be about thirty years. In other words, there were approximately three generations each century. Today, a generation is about twenty-five years, and I submit that we are facing the prospect of having four generations each century. That means that the velocity of the human reproductive cycle is increasing. That in itself will create a considerable extra demand for housing.

There is another factor to be considered. Reference is often made to what is called the "bulge" in the educational programme. The young people of this bulge are in the secondary schools today and will be wanting to get married by the mid-1960s, and that in itself will create a supra-demand. It is significant that in 1938 there were approximately 350,000 marriages a year; between 1950 and 1960 that number had risen to 400,000 and it has been estimated confidently that in the mid-1960s there will be approximately 500,000 each year. We are, therefore, looking towards the time, in the not too distant future, when there will be yet another extra demand for housing.

I want to touch only briefly on the subject of immigration. It will have an effect on housing, but only a minimal one. Hon. Members on both sides have put this matter in the right perspective, but I want to make one observation on immigration which is of importance to the building industry. Irish labour is of immense importance, and if anything is done to restrict it coming into the country the effectiveness of the industry will be severely impaired.

Mr. Mellish

From the South or the North?

Mr. Temple

I now want to put forward some major considerations which I always have in mind when looking for a policy. First, the pull of a big city is absolutely inexorable, and is a factor which we must live with. As my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) pointed out, the Common Market will increase the pull of southeast England. It will be only part of a highly developed area, embracing the Low Countries, the Ruhr and the industrialised area round Paris. I believe that Brussels will be the centre of that community, geographically, but south-east England will be well within the heavily populated area which will develop as a result of Common Market industries being established there.

I do not believe that the building of high flats is the whole answer to the problem. I do not like it. I come from the north-west of England, and I can say with confidence that high flats are not popular with the people of those parts. Moreover, I do not believe that these high flats are good for our society.

I agree that green backgrounds have to be provided in our future policy. I use the phrase "green backgrounds" in the same way as Sir Patrick Abercrombie used it when he produced his Greater London plan. The increased development of urban centres will have to be encouraged. There will have to be more new towns, and more use made of town development schemes.

I now come to the three fresh approaches that I propose in order to grapple with this problem—and I recognise that there is a problem. The first two are minor proposals, but the third, which is an administrative one, has considerable substance. First, there are the improvement grant schemes. These schemes have been going exceptionally well, but in a great part of the country the landlords have shown a singular reluctance to take advantage of them. In provincial Britain there are many small landlords, and I am convinced that they do not know enough about these grants. Year by year I see the exhibit of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government at the Royal Agricultural Society's Show, but only the relatively large landlords visit that show.

Much more publicity should be given to improvement grant schemes. Let us make them known to the smaller landlords. I believe that the way to do this is to stage an exhibit, similar to that at the Royal Show, at our county shows, and to make available a mobile exhibit which could be sited outside the council offices of our smaller authorities. By this means, and by an extensive drive undertaken by local authorities, I believe that the value of improvement grants could be made manifest. That would do a great deal to prevent a high proportion of the 6½million pre-1919 houses from falling into decay, or becoming slums and having to be dealt with by the local authorities.

I fear that my second approach may prove controversial. I think that caravan homes could make a substantial contribution to the solution of our housing problems. I am not suggesting that caravan homes could be anything but ancillary, but I believe that they could play an important rÔle. In considering the development of housing plans one must take into account what is happening on the other side of the Atlantic. In the United States the caravan home is extraordinarily popular with many who are retiring and who have spent most of their lives among the professional classes. I could quote examples of residential caravan parks in California with upwards of 1,000 plots. The residents on those sites are happy with their homes.

If anyone doubts what I say, I should be glad to take him to see first class caravan sites [HON. MEMBERS: "In California?"] In England or in Wales, but not in California. In addition to their value for retired people there is an argument in favour of young married people starting their married life in caravan homes. They would enjoy the advantage of mobility and, at the same time, would be able to save money to buy a traditional type home.

I am sorry that my right hon. Friend the Minister is not at present in the Chamber. In his speech, he almost pointed the way to the major administrative approach which I am now proposing to advocate.

Sir Barnett Janner (Leicester, North-West)

Before he comes to the administrative approach, would the hon. Gentleman care to offer a comment on the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) about the Rent Act in view of the present situation?

Mr. Temple

I did say that I have rather a long contribution to make and that I wished to concentrate on the national picture. I have already mentioned the name of the hon. Member for Bermondsey three times and I Chink that I must leave another of my hon. Friends, better qualified than I am, to deal with the London problem. In any case, the hon. Member for Bermondsey is not in the Chamber now.

Paragraph 49 of the 1961 White Paper was very specific about the provision of land. It states: the important thing is to make sure that housing progress does not falter for lack of land. The hon. Member for Fulham referred to the excellent brochure sent to us all by the Alliance Building Society. This brochure is entitled, "The Housing Land Crisis". I regard it as a thoughtful analysis of the present position and I do not dissent from any calculation made in the brochure. It is not unrealistic to go for a target of 400,000 houses per annum. But that brochure ends with a "challenge to planners" which I propose to accept.

I believe that an entirely new approach in planning is required. When one is looking for a new approach which might be acceptable to the Government, it is as well to study certain Ministerial pronouncements and I have studied some of the comparatively recently pronouncements of my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary of the Treasury. He has been doing some thinking about the possible reconstitution of our river boards. It is significant that the years 1947 and 1948 saw the reconstruction of the administrative structure in the two very important spheres of town and country planning and river boards. It is not without interest that my right hon. Friend has been doing some fresh thinking about the organisation of river boards. He has referred to them as water conservation authorities and he proposed, in his confidential memorandum, which ceased to be confidential three months ago, that thinking should be encouraged on the lines of the new river boards being much larger authorities and with a greater scope.

I believe that my right hon. Friend has pointed the way towards the planning authorities, which came into being in 1947, becoming larger and with greater scope. I do not say that the present planners are inefficient, but I do say that there is something radically wrong with our present system of planning.

I recently had the advantage of hearing Sir Edwin Herbert speaking at a town and country planning conference. He is reported to have said: We seem to have reached a power vacuum and no machinery exists to re-examine major regional problems. I believe that Sir Edwin was entirely right. He is brilliant in analysing any situation. He did not claim to be a planner, but he produced an objective report on the reorganisation of local government in Greater London.

I believe that the present administrative structure of planning is faulty and that regional planning is the only way in which the power vacuum referred to by Sir Edwin Herbert may be attacked. My reasons for saying this are fairly cogent. I believe that a genuine conflict of interest exists between counties and county boroughs which are our present planning authorities. Naturally, both have a vested interest in rateable values. Normally, the county borough is the authority with the housing problem. To solve this problem it wishes to expand, and the only way it can do so is by increasing the area of its territory and encroaching on the preserves of the county. I know that my right hon. Friend may say that he has set up regional conferences to settle these matters, but I believe that the conflict exists and will continue until there is a larger authority which may take an objective view of the whole problem.

Sir Edwin Herbert also drew attention to the fact that many of the development plans do not run concurrently. I propose to mention only the London development plans, because I think that they are indicative of the way in which development plans mature throughout the country. The development plan for Croydon was approved in 1954. The development plan for the London County Council was approved in 1955 and that for Hertfordshire in 1958. The London County Council submitted the first review of its development plan in 1960, just over a year after the Hertfordshire plan was approved. I cannot see how any Minister can form an objective view of planning in the London region when these plans come in for review at different dates. It is physically impossible. He could form an objective picture of the situation in the London region only if all the plans come on to his desk at one and the same time.

I wish now to deal with what may be termed a possible criticism of the remoteness of regional planning authorities. I believe that their remoteness may well be advantageous. It would mean that the planning problem is looked at objectively whereas, as I have already said, the fact that there is rateable value in one area as opposed to another is probably a substantial consideration in the minds of the people representing local authorities. Remoteness will also be an advantage because it will lessen personal considerations.

My hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, South (Mr. Corfield), in a most interesting paper presented on 25th October to a conference of rating and valuation authorities, drew attention to the dangers of corruption. I believe that my hon. Friend was entirely right to draw attention to the possibility of corruption. If we remove the power from the counties and county boroughs and put it in the hands of the regional authorities there will be very much more chance of objective considerations being the major considerations in the planning sphere. At one and the same time that would remove any dangers of personal influence being brought to bear.

To outline very briefly my concept of a regional planning board, I should say that one must first consider planning in the "city region", but that also the whole country should be divided into regions. I submit, as my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, South did in his paper to that conference, that we might envisage 15 or 16 of these regional planning authorities. The structure of the boards might well be on the lines suggested by my right hon. Friend, now the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, in his memorandum on water conservation authorities. I suggest that as to three-fifths of their membership they should be drawn from local authorities and as to the other two-fifths the members of the boards should be representative of the nationalised industries, of industry generally, and any other special interests in their particular areas.

It is most important that these regional planning boards should be brought into being so that they can redirect the development which we see at present. This has been referred to as peripheral development, which appears to be a term describing leapfrogging the green belt which is generally unsatisfactory. These boards would have a chance of delimiting certain areas which would be suitable for new towns and expanded old towns.

I wish to say a few words about new towns. I am glad that my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary designated Skelmersdale as a new town, but I think that the concept is a little timid. Development corporations are experienced in these tasks and it is time that we allowed them to tackle something of the order of a new city. Let Skelmersdale have a population not of 80,000, but of 160,000. When I was talking about a year ago to the Director of City Capital Development in Tokyo, he told me of a project for 13 new towns round Tokyo each with a population of 150,000. Let my right hon. Friend be imaginative and let us have one much larger new town so that we can see what a development corporation can do. I am confident that it would do the job perfectly well.

I have taken rather a long time to develop this new administrative point, but I regard it as of immense importance. I believe that it is almost the key to all the difficulties to which reference has been made in this debate. I am convinced that we have to live in this country with expanding urban growth. More land in acceptable places must be found. Regional conferences I regard as hardly a palliative and certainly not a cure for our present difficulties. Regional planning backed by regional research staffs is, I believe, the missing link.

6.55 p.m.

Mr. Douglas Jay (Battersea, North)

I was sadly disappointed, particularly at the end of the Minister's speech, in my hopes that he would take this problem rather more seriously than did his predecessor. I hope he will cut out all the party stuff and treat it as the human tragedy it really is.

I assure the right hon. Gentleman that housing conditions in parts of London such as my constituency are a disgrace to this country. After listening to my constituents describing some of the conditions under which they have to live, and then being forced to tell them that there is nothing in present circumstances which can be done, either by the Government or the whole House, makes me sometimes almost ashamed to be a Member of this Parliament. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish), I have found, during the last fifteen years, that of ten constituents who come to me with their troubles, nine come to talk about housing and only one about all other subjects. The only difference in the last two years has been that the ratio of nine out of ten has risen to about nineteen out of twenty; and now there is absolutely no solution I can offer them.

I shall quote an actual case—only one —to the Minister to try to get him to understand what is going on at present. This is the case of a constituent of mine who works as a postman. He has a wife and two children. Until the Rent Act came into force, he had no reason to think that he would need a new home and, therefore, he never put his name on any local authority list. He was evicted under the Rent Act a few months ago because the landlord wanted to get vacant possession of his house. His family is now separated, living in two separate places with all that that means. His health has been damaged by his efforts walking round the streets of London in the evenings to try to find another home.

This constituent earns as a postman an income, determined by this Government, on which it is absolutely impossible for him to find three rooms for himself, his wife and two children in London. It is impossible for him to borrow money to buy a house. I always advise people to do that if they have any chance whatever; but because this industrial worker is over 50 he would have no chance of paying the instalments for the full life of the loan. He is perfectly willing to go to a new town and to travel from it every day to a job in London. But the new town authority says that he cannot have a house in the new town unless he takes a job in the new town. The Post Office says that if he does that, he will be transferred to a junior job at a lesser salary. That is one case showing the sort of thing about which we are hearing every day. I wish the Minister would tell us if he can think of any remedy that we can offer in a case like that.

There is no serious doubt about the cause of this situation—not just the immediate homeless crisis, but the general shortage of housing in the Greater London area. There are two reasons. The first, as the hon. Member for Ash-ford (Mr, Deedes) was perfectly right in saying, is the over-development of employment in the whole of the Greater London area, and in particular the overdevelopment of office employment in recent years, over which apparently we have almost no control. Incidentally, I do not believe that immigration has anything significant to do with this, because it is the total employment in the whole area which determines the demand for housing. If particular jobs on the railways or in the hospitals were held, not by coloured people but by others, they would still have to be housed in London. Unless we get control of the expansion of employment, we cannot get control of the housing problem.

The second thing which the Minister might as well admit to be an aggravating factor is the Rent Act. We know that of the cases which come to us now, a large number are of people who have been evicted. In addition, if people have not accommodation now, it is impossible to find it because of the high rents demanded on all sides; and that was not true until the Rent Act was passed.

I want briefly to suggest some of the ways in which I think we have to tackle this problem, especially in London but also in the country as a whole, if we are to put an end to the present state of affairs. It has to be a comprehensive attempt in which the whole problem will be treated as a real emergency in our national life. First, I am sure that what we have to do is to get similar control over commercial and office development in the whole London area as we have to some extent over factory development.

The only way which I can see in which it can be done is to bring office development under the same control as that of the industrial development certificates with which, as the Minister reminded us, he has partly succeeded in controlling factory development in recent years. Unless we do that, there is no possible way of overcoming this problem. It is no good increasing densities and then allowing the population to increase still further, because the problem will simply go on growing. Therefore, the Government must either extend the industrial development certificates or, if the Minister prefers, restore building licences for commercial development in South-East England only. That is the first, essential step which must be taken.

Secondly, we must extend local authority building on a large scale; and we must have lower interest rates and proper subsidies to enable that to be done. Thirdly, I would suspend the absolute rule now enforced that a badly housed family cannot get a house in a new or expanding town unless the applicant gets a job there first. As the hon. Member for Ashford said, that is why this overspill and new town and expanded town procedure is not making the big contribution to the housing problem which it could make. It seems to me that if a man, for the sake of his family, is willing to travel some distance to his job, at any rate for a time, he ought to be allowed to decide to do that, and no public authority ought to be allowed to rule him out.

Next, I would encourage local authorities—and I think that the Minister could do this—to end the present practice by which house purchase loan interest rates tend to be fixed for the whole period of the loan. Building societies normally arrange for the interest rates to vary with the Bank Rate and interest rates generally. But most local authorities fix the rate for the whole period; and therefore when the rate of interest rises to 7 per cent., they suspend house purchase loans altogether. I see no reason that that should be done, and I think that the Minister might encourage them to do it less in future.

In addition, the Government should now restore the public finance which was provided until last summer to building societies to enable loans to be given more easily, because, in present circumstances, with income limits and all the rest of it, it is becoming extremely difficult to obtain a house even by purchase.

I also believe that the emergency is so great in London that we ought to stop pulling down houses altogether for purposes other than slum clearance, while conditions are as they are now. All the new accommodation which the London County Council and the borough councils have available should be used to rehouse either people from the waiting list or those who have been removed by slum clearance. I do not believe it right at present to deprive people of houses in order to build new roads or anything of that sort.

I put these suggestions before the Minister, because we must do something drastic, determined and perhaps unorthodox if we are to treat this as the human problem which it is and not just as an argument between the parties. Unless the Minister tackles the problem of over-commercial development in south-east England, everything else will prove vain.

7.4 p.m.

Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)

The right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) has put forward some valuable points, but he started off by saying that they would be revolutionary. I do not feel that they went far enough, if I may say so. I should like to be more revolutionary than he was.

What has emerged, not only from this debate but from discussions over the past two or three years concerning housing, is that we have been working on two errors of fact. The whole of our past policy and programme, both that of the Government and that which has been put forward by the Opposition, has been working on two errors which I may perhaps politely describe as erroneous forecasts. One was the forecast about the rate of increase of the population and the other was the forecast about the rate of increase of households.

Those are two cardinal errors which we have committed in the development of housing policy and which we can put right, now that we know the facts. When the programme of 300,000 houses a year for Great Britain was fixed, ten years ago, we were working on a population forecast which has since been doubled. Taking the figures for England and Wales, the population in 1950 was 44 million and we were told that in 1970 it would be 46 million. In fact, it is very nearly 46 million in 1961. We were thus 100 per cent. wrong in the forecast of the population which would require to be housed.

As far as that population increase is an increase in the number of young children, it only indirectly raises the demand for homes. Where a young, married, childless couple might have stayed longer with their parents, now that more and more children are being born there is a greater and greater demand for homes for young married couples. As far as the rise in population reflects the fact that older people are surviving longer, there is a direct increase in the demand for homes by reason of the trend of older people not living with their married sons and daughters as they used to do. We are also faced with the bigger demand which will arise from the teen-age bulge; those teen-agers will soon be marrying and demanding homes. One can prove all this by statistics if it were necessary.

The hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) asked, "Why is it that I am getting more and more applications for housing? Why are more and more cases being brought to me?" I am sure that every right hon. and hon. Gentleman knows from his own observation and his own experience that the problem is just as acute, just as massive, as it was ten years ago, although it is not quite the same problem. Of course, it would have been infinitely more tragic and more disastrous if a Conservative Government, over the last ten years, had not given priority to the building of houses to a target of 300,000 houses a year.

The nature of the problem is not quite the same as it was ten years ago. The nature of the present problem is, first, the localised shortages and the need to concentrate our effort in certain areas where there is a real shortage of homes, and, secondly, the lack of building resources and the fact that we are overstretching the labour market in house building. Those are the present problems and I do not think that our present policy faces up to them; the policy does not concentrate the building where it is needed and does not use our limited building resources to their best effect.

The present policy is that we should aim at a target of 300,000 houses each year, partly provided by local authorities and partly provided by private enterprise, but scattered throughout the country without any real direction or any attempt to concentrate on the areas where homes are most needed. To my mind, the policy of scattering our building throughout the country has had its day. It has served its purpose well for the fifteen years since the war, but in the light of present circumstances it does not face up to realities.

I have looked at the Opposition's policy, and I do not think that that faces up to the realities, either. I cannot believe that the reintroduction of rent control, the creation of a special land-holding corporation and things like that will add a single home to our store of houses in the country, and I am looking for a policy which will produce half-a-million new homes a year.

I think that we need 5 million houses over the next ten years. I am not so bold as to forecast over twenty years, because social trends change. But I think that we can forecast over the next ten years, and I do not think that we can put the figure at anything less than 5 million houses over those ten years, which means an average of 500,000 homes a year. I do not think that anything less will meet the demand.

On how these are to be produced, as between the public sector and the private sector, I would say that we ought to keep about the same proportion as we have now, which is about two-fifths produced by the public sector and three-fifths by the private sector, because I do not think that anything less produced by the public sector would be, as the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) pointed out, an answer to the slum clearance programme.

Those in the public sector have to be built where the demand at present exists or where we determine that it shall exist; that is, we have to build where the demand already is or we have to adopt a deliberate policy to oblige people to live in certain areas. I do not think that that could be tackled by loading the subsidy to local authorities at one time for a particular purpose, such as housing old people, and a few years later loading it for some other purpose just to encourage local authorities to build for certain purposes.

In fact, I do not think that the policy can be now carried out by local authorities at all. I would aim to replace subsidised local authority building by new town procedure—not at once to stop all local authority subsidised building, but to aim to replace it by the building of new towns and by adopting new town procedure not only for building new towns out in the countryside, but for building new towns within towns.

I am sure that hon. Members can think of vast areas either in or near their own constituencies which should be bulldozed, flattened out and rebuilt. I believe that we should undertake that by new town procedure and not by subsidised local authority procedure. I ask hon. Members to forget for a moment the big towns, like London, Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds, and to think of the smaller boroughs and urban districts with waiting lists of 4,000 or 5,000 and with massive slum clearance programmes for which they have not the professional and expert people needed to carry them out. Those local authorities can see no prospect of doing it themselves even if assisted by all the subsidies that the Government like to give them. They have not the qualified men there to do it. It would have to be done by development corporations in those areas which form communities of their own and which could thus be developed by new town procedure.

If the Government would proceed on those lines, with new towns within old towns, they would tackle the problem of the localised nature of the shortage of homes and we should get a balanced development in keeping with modern thought. I ask my right hon. Friend, when thinking about this, not to spurn the offers of private enterprise to come in on that type of development. There have already been offers by private enterprise to develop new towns and to build whole new towns, and I believe that co-operation by cleared site offers to private enterprise could produce valuable results.

Mr. Percy Collick (Birkenhead)

I have been trying to envisage the hon. Gentleman's proposal in the area of Merseyside, Liverpool and Birkenhead which he represents. Can he give a practical illustration of how his proposal would affect the situation on Birkenhead and Merseyside? There, the problem is how can the local authorities on Merseyside build houses at rents that people can pay in the present economic circumstances. Private enterprise cannot do that.

Mr. Page

I can give the hon. Gentleman an exact example. He well knows, on my side of the Mersey, Seaforth and Litherland, an area in which there are very old properties over a very wide area which could be demolished and which ought to be demolished and rebuilt as a new town in itself. I believe that ought to be done not by means of subsidies to local authorities, but by new town procedure by a development corporation. That is an example of it.

The Local Employment Act is, I feel, a positive danger to development unless something of the sort that I am suggesting is used in conjunction with local employment development, otherwise we get industries brought to an area, as they have been brought to the hon. Gentleman's side of the Mersey, without any consequent development of housing.

I pass quickly to my second point— that we are not using our building resources as economically as we should. I realise that if we are aiming at a target of 5 million houses in ten years, we cannot achieve it without a radical reform in the building industry and in building techniques. We cannot produce 5 million traditional houses in the next ten years with our present building resources. I do not want to suggest that we should increase our building resources. I believe that it could be done by using new techniques in building.

Perhaps this is an unfortunate moment to mention new techniques when my right hon. Friend is sending out a circular about replacing aluminium houses. We still remember, too, the roofs at Hatfield. But do not these examples show how woefully we have ignored this subject in the past? The Ministry or the D.S.I.R. should have a team working on new building techniques, discovering and testing them, and trying out quicker method of building houses. Surely we do not have to go on taking the months that we do take to build modern houses.

Who is to blame? I think that there are many on whom one could put the blame. First come the byelaws. The building trade tell me that they cannot possibly build non-traditional houses to meet the present byelaws. Building societies are perhaps to blame for not making advances on non-traditional houses, and perhaps the Treasury, which has not been prepared to support local authorities who wanted to branch out in experiments of this sort. But it is not beyond the wit of man to produce a house which could be erected in a matter of hours rather than months. We ought to try to discover the techniques for doing that.

My proposals are: first, that we apply new town procedure to development both outside and inside existing towns; and, secondly, that we search for development in speed of building. By those means we should be able to produce the 5 million houses over ten years which are needed to meet not just the luxury demand for homes, but the absolute necessity for homes which there is at present.

7.19 p.m.

Mr. Charles Mapp (Oldham, East)

The debate has produced useful contributions from both sides of the House. The hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) put forward some ideas about which I and my hon. Friends may wish to think again, although we may differ from him about some of the details.

I thought that the Minister's diagnosis of the problem was in the main correct, but he evinced a complete lack of endeavour to try to solve it. He seemed to rely on legislation which was passed in the last Session. One of the first things I looked for in the Gracious Speech was a proposal for dealing with the great ulcer in our society, namely, housing. As I expected, I was disappointed, because there is no mention of housing, apart from a special reference to Scotland, where good legislation is long overdue. A brief examination of the proposed legislation does not suggest that any epoch-making decisions or policies are likely to come before the House in the near future.

Historically the Gracious Speech is always modest, but even a modest document can have life breathed into it by the appropriate Minister or Ministers if they are sensitive to the problems and react to the moving appeals which are made in the House. The speeches this afternoon should lift this subject above party. It should be dealt with as an outstanding problem on which there is common agreement and a common desire for great improvement. Yet the Gracious Speech does not contain any real proposal to deal with the problem.

As I come from the North-West I want to speak particularly about the problem of migration as a result of slum clearance. Perhaps the hon. Member for Crosby is right in suggesting that we should direct our thoughts away from the overall subsidy arrangement and start thinking in terms of areas. There is clearly a special problem in London. The Minister should have recognised that the slum problem is largely centred in fifty or sixty older towns. The Gracious Speech should have contained proposals to deal with it in the light of that fact.

The Minister referred to the preliminary census report. The signs and symptoms are already known to him as a member of a certain profession and he should not have to wait for the final diagnosis which his predecessor was so anxious to have before taking action. On 8th June the Guardian said: The dominant changes that have occurred over these past ten years, however, have been the accelerated drift of population from the coalmining and textile areas of the North and West to the Midlands and the South-East of England… This problem is very much in the minds of civic and industrial leaders, regardless of their political association. I deplore the fact that there is no proposal in the Gracious Speech to deal with this problem, but there is still time for the Minister to recognise what is happening in the older industrial areas, of which my constituency is one. Neither the Gracious Speech nor the Minister's statement contained any proposal for dealing with this problem this year or next year. In this respect this year's Gracious Speech would have been equally applicable in the thirties.

Many hon. Members thought that the Local Employment Act would not achieve all that we desired. However, we must be candid and acknowledge that it has achieved something noticeable. To that extent both sides of the House should regard it as a worth-while piece of legislation, even though it may be negative planning. However, employment is not the only lubricant or medicine of life. There is something beyond employment. It is not nationally wise to expect young and virile people to remain in the older industrial areas if proper provision is not made for them. I am not thinking only of my own area. I am thinking of the general feeling in the older industrial areas in which it is difficult to get the professional and technical people required for the civic and housing developments which are necessary. Housing is a problem which has as many facets and is as important as the problem of employment. If a man has been without employment it is a wonderful thing if he is provided with a job, but he has a home and a family. Our older towns badly need refurbishing. The Gracious Speech contributes nothing in this respect. During the next few months the Minister must think hard. He must ensure that in the Britain that we all want to build opportunities are evenly distributed.

I do not envy the new towns. The older towns do not envy them either. However, new towns are a good investment. Are we going to sit by and watch the cradle of our industrial system suffer greater and greater degrees of industrial fallout and finally decay? In these areas services such as schools and roads already exist. They may need renewing, but homes, places of work and know-how are already there. We should invest in these areas, because their continuing prosperity affects employment in the whole country. I hope that we do not throw completely on one side or put on the bonfire areas which have served us so well in the past. The Minister should look at the problem as a whole. He should consider the new industrial areas in the light of the old. Are there not chances of regalvanising these areas by vigorous action, by legislation and by investment in an energetic effort to keep people there?

7.28 p.m.

Mr. James Allason (Hemel Hempstead)

The hon. Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Mapp) said that the Government's policy was to allow people to drift away from the old towns and then supply new towns in which they may live. I represent a new town. I assure him that the people coming to the new town are much more the type of whom we have heard so much this afternoon. They have been living in desperate conditions in London. They have a chance of coming to a decent home and finding a job alongside it. I agree entirely that we must do all we can to direct industry to the old and decaying towns where the old types of industry have disappeared. The Distribution of Industry Act has helped a great deal in this respect.

I am sorry that the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) is not now in his place, because he made a very strong attack on the whole principle of landlordism. I should like to declare my interest. I am a London landlord and, had the hon. Member been here, I should very much have liked to have had this out with him. I utterly refute his suggestion that the whole of landlordism is bad and immoral.

I am quite prepared to agree that there are bad and immoral landlords, but the vast majority of us are good landlords, on friendly terms with our tenants. We feel ourselves to be in a position of responsibility and trust towards them, and we consider that we do a very fine job in providing homes for people who want to rent their homes—and, as we have heard, a very large number of people wish to rent their homes, and not to buy them.

The right hon. Member for Bermondsey absolutely rejected the idea of private housing or landlordism at all. He felt that all housing must be provided by the State, although I was not at all clear whether or not any rent was to be paid. In Russia, of course, they are aiming at a position in which even rent will not be paid.

What is perfectly clear is that when there are no private houses at all committees will have to judge who shall get what home. I presume that all Members of Parliament would then apply for houses connected to the Division Bell— because that is absolutely necessary to them in their work—and would get the homes around Westminster.—[HON. MEMBERS: "What's the present test?"] The present test is one of money, and that is not a bad test. Time has proved it's worth.

Some people prefer to spend a very great deal on their homes and not a lot on anything else, while others do not mind what sort of home they have because they want to spend their money on other things. We have to recognise that the official is not the best person to judge exactly where a person should live and what sort of home he should have. That is one of the great choices before the citizen—where he is to live and how much money he is to spend on his home, and it is a choice we all have to make.

The Rent Act has been suggested as the villain of the piece—the reason why many people are now short of a home, why there are homeless people in London and why there are great housing difficulties there. I remember that before that Act was passed the same number of people—or, perhaps, more of them— were searching for homes, but it was then said, not that the Rent Act was the villain of the piece, but that people were continuing to live in their old houses. That was marvellous for the elderly people who had been in those houses since before 1939, but the result was that young people getting married had not a hope of a house anywhere. They were in desperate straits, because everyone was staying put.

We have to recognise that someone who is renting a house has not the absolute right to stay there for ever. You, Mr. Speaker, live in a tied house, and one day you may be asked to leave. We were told a story of tremendous sadness by the hon. Member for Bermondsey about someone who was turned out of his house, but who, in fact, had no contract with the landlord to be there at all. He had scraped in as an illegal subtenant—

Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham, North)

No. My hon. Friend pointed out that while the man was a sub-tenant he had no legal tenure, and after the Rent Act became applicable and the old tenant died or left, the person referred to was "turfed out" of the property.

Mr. Allason

That is exactly what I was saying. The sub-tenant had no contract with the landlord to be there—

Mr. A. Fenner Brockway (Eton and Slough)

The man had the right to be there before the Rent Act; after it, he had no such right.

Mr. Allason

No, I am sorry; he was a sub-tenant, and, therefore, not a tenant of the landlord.

The Minister has agreed that we shall need at least 6 million houses over the next twenty years. I hope that he does not intend to divide that number by the twenty and say "if we build at the rate of 300,000 houses a year for the next twenty years we are home and dry." My right hon. Friend gave every indication that he will not do that. It is essential to consider as soon as possible increasing the number of houses being built but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby {Mr. Graham Page) has pointed out, there is a limit to our present resources. There is a limit to what the civil engineering industry can produce, and to the amount of material available. I ask the Minister to think ahead, and to consider a vast expansion of the industry and of available materials, just as was done in 1951.

It will be remembered that in 1951 the Prime Minister, as Minister of Housing, went to that Ministry with a firm intention of building 300,000 houses a year. He found that the advice being given to the Minister was that it was not possible to build more than 200,000 houses a year. My right hon. Friend then used to his advisers an old-world and courtly phrase which has recently been publicised by the Duke of Edinburgh, and they got on with the job.

I suggest now that our new Minister of Housing should try to reorganise our system so that, in the near future, we can build 400,000 houses a year. With his experience as "Radio Doctor", he may well be able to find a suitable phrase to rival that used by the Duke of Edinburgh, and stop people twiddling their thumbs. I have a very great respect for my right hon. Friend the Minister. He knows a great deal about housing; so much that he lives in my constituency.

Since 1951, we have had a very fine record of building a very Large number of houses, but I suggest that the time has now come when we might make a further step towards our target. This means examining priorities for building, and on that subject I have certain suggestions to make. First, there is the question of office building which is going on very much in London. Some of us regret it; some of us think that there is far too much of it, but we realise that office building is an extremely profitable occupation. Once planning permission for it is obtained, a lot of money is to be made in office building.

I suggest that in London and the large cities planning permission for office building should be made conditional on flats being incorporated in the design up to the limit of the density acceptable for that area. That would not produce a great many flats, but it would produce additional flats in the area where the employment is being provided. It would be a great help, and no great hardship, on those developers who are doing quite nicely, thank you.

Secondly, I would like to see investment allowances for houses which are being built to let. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) said that houses to let must come from the public purse, because no one in private enterprise was prepared to build to let. That is perfectly true and it is tragic because, in the past—in the Victorian age—a vast number of houses were provided to let at reasonable rents.

Now, it is extremely difficult for a local authority to build houses to let at economic rents and the same applies to private enterprise. I am, therefore, asking that private enterprise be granted an investment allowance.

Mr, A. Lewis

A subsidy.

Mr. Allason

It is not a subsidy. It is a return on taxation borne by a particular investor. If that were done it would be possible for private enterprise to build houses to let, and that is what we all want to see.

My third suggestion—and it may seem an Irishism—is that houses in public ownership should be sold to tenants. That, one might think, would reduce the number of houses available, but the contrary is true. This is done to a certain extent in council houses where they may be sold to sitting tenants. I would like to see that extended, even to the new towns. Obviously, if the sitting tenant buys the house the subsidy to be applied to that house becomes available for another house, so then a development corporation or council can build another house for another family, where it would otherwise not do so. That, obviously, would be of great value.

The people going to new towns are often young families. They have tremendous responsibilities. They may not have had anywhere to live previously, they must obtain furniture and they may be expecting their first children. Later, they find that they can afford to start thinking about buying a house—and they desperately want to—and in many instances they would like to buy the house in which they have been living. I ask, therefore, that the development corporations should be instructed to sell houses, grades 1 and 2, to sitting tenants who desire them so that the extra money coming to the corporations will enable them to build more houses.

We have a fine record to show, but I believe that a great deal can still be done to improve house building and, in particular, to provide more houses for letting purposes. If we can have, as my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby said, two-fifths of all houses built to let, then that would be an excellent thing There is a great demand for housing in Britain and I passionately want to see more and more being built.

7.44 p.m.

Mr. W. T. Williams (Warrington)

When the Minister began his speech today he seemed to be asking the indulgence of the House for a maiden speech. At least in one respect I am the same as he, for I appear on this occasion in a new guise. It seems appropriate that I should, at the beginning, welcome the Minister to his new job. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will not misunderstand me when I say that in welcoming him to his new job, I say that he is welcome to his new job.

I believe that the House of Commons will never see a worse Minister than the one whom the present Minister has succeeded. I think that the present Minister has some of the liveliness which his predecessor lacked. Yet I fear that the rich, fruity voice, that so often delighted me when I was a schoolboy in short pants, has still the same palliative effect in his present office as in the days when he was persuading many an ulcer sufferer that he merely had a bilious attack.

Today the Minister has done little more than put ointment—pink ointment, perhaps—over pale policies. Looking back over many debates on housing I find them, as the years go by, increasingly depressing. It seems that I begin my new maiden speech where I began my old one. There seems to be no point of communication between the two sides of the House.

Although we have listened to many interesting essays on the diagnosis of the present situation, and what can be done if new administrative machinery is set up, whenever the root problems have been touched upon by my hon. Friends the only replies have been the usual bubblegum remarks that we hear —and which we heard today—from the Minister about this side being tied to dogmatisms and the Government side being free to rove like the air. But what did the Minister say in that speech of his in which he refused to be interrupted because it was so long? He said that people who wanted to own their own houses should be encouraged to do so. No one disagrees with that. He out-platitudes the "Radio Doctor". He then went on to say that the major problem, in many senses, was the price of land, but that, he said, merely expressed the shortage of land. Then he made the shattering announcement that. in spite of that, the Government intend to maintain the green belt policy.

I am a simple man and it seems to me that two problems must be faced by the Government before this House goes into vast exercises as to what can be done when the millenium is reached and how we can build all the houses we need when we have all the land. The two problems are epitomised in many senses in the two constituencies in which I have had the honour to represent in this House.

When I represented a London constituency not a week went by when, in spite of the efforts of the Government with all the administrative and legislative changes they made in the interests of their friends, I did not hear at least a dozen people complain of the misery and pitiful tragedy of their lives because of the lack of housing. There has not been a month in Warrington when the same miserable story has not been told to me. The simple fact is that in Warrington the picture is more pitiful, because Warrington has the worst record of any town in Britain for diseases of the chest. Over and over again, the miserable story of overcrowding and slum conditions is allied to a picture of material ill-health. One hears people say that the doctors have told them—and the doctors always say the same thing—"If we do not get out we will not last three years."

When I listened to what surely must be the nadir of this debate—the speech of the hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Allason)—it seemed to me that we had reached the point at which it is plain that many hon. Members opposite do not realise the tragedy of the situation about which we are speaking. I am not referring to all hon. Members opposite. But when the hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead spoke with such self-pride and gratification at his own achievements, when there is so much tragedy allied to this picture of misery in housing, it seems to me that we have reached the point at which we are not even talking the same language.

In Warrington—indeed, in the industrial North-West generally, or wherever we find people working in semi-skilled or unskilled occupations and earning rather less than the national average—? the picture there is one of people who, unless the council builds them houses, will have to live in slums. Only this week I read in a report issued by the Warrington Borough Council that the council is still making grants to people to replace bucket lavatories with water closets. There are thousands of people living in such conditions in the North-West.

These are people who are earning £9 or £10 a week—as they tell me, after stoppages. Where then are these people to get houses? What a mockery it must sound to people like them to hear the Minister saying that people should have enough incentive, courage and guts to own their own houses. Certainly they should be encouraged to do so, but what are people who earn only relatively small wages to do when they cannot buy houses, whatever courage or guts they have?

The reality of the position is surely this. For the great mass of our people, home ownership is completely out of the question. Even if they were prepared to take the burden on their backs, no building society would take them, and few councils, thanks to the Government's policy, are in a position to do so, if they want to purchase their own houses.

I regard myself as one of the least doctrinaire of Members, and I am not passionately advocating that people should live in council houses if they can afford to buy their own. But when a man is in a position in which he has to live, as many people do, in primitive conditions, in back-to-back houses, in houses far too small and too old, the wicked relics of the Industrial Revolution—in which, to quote a former Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education, they were like animals creeping into their little brick boxes to propagate themselves—when people live in those conditions with no hope of escape except through the provision of housing estates such as local authorities have been building, then surely it is not doctrinaire or wrong or irrelevant of us to say to the Minister, "Please do something to make it posible for the great mass of our people who are not earning even the salaries of Members of Parliament to be able to live in decency and with dignity."

For all the fine words that the Minister used, for all the fine exercises that we have had this evening in discussions of what can be done administratively if only the means were there, all the Government are doing now is to make it impossible, by their policies, for many people to buy their houses, and tremendously difficult and in some cases almost equally impossible for the councils to supply them.

We heard a great deal in the course of past years about the tremendous increase in costs arising from the wickedness of building workers, plasterers and plumbers in demanding higher wages. At least that myth was blown up today by my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) when he made it plain—nobody disputed it—that for every 1s. increase in actual costs, the Government's interest policy has laid a burden upon the local authorities of 14s. —-fourteen times the amount of increases in costs.

In addition to that, whatever may have been the faults of the Town and Country Planning Act, it was at least an honest and genuine attempt to stop runaway inflation, profiteering and speculation in land. The Government have said that nobody in Britain understood that Measure except Lord Silkin, and so they dismantled it but they put nothing in its place. The consequences have been that many local authorities, of whom we heard one instanced this afternoon, have been unable to continue with their housing programmes because the cost of an acre of land was said to be as high as £100,000.

Surely it is not unreasonable to say to the Government that if they do not like the way in which the Labour Party is proposing to make this kind of rabid speculation in land illegal, they should at least offer something as an alternative in an attempt to bring the value of land into some kind of relationship with reality. It is nonsense to say that there is nothing immoral when people who themselves have done nothing to develop land, but which has been developed entirely by the community, rake off vast sums of money. Wherever new towns are going up, the price of land immediately jumps a hundredfold. If it is not within the capacity of the Government to municipalise land, if it is said that this solves no problems and builds no houses, cannot we cream off these vast profits by some kind of capital gains tax so that the community can at least profit in that way?

If I may again quote Warrington, it is still continuing, in face of the tremendous financial difficulties which the Government have placed upon its shoulders, to try to build houses and make accommodation available to the unfortunate people among its community. Why do the Government make it so difficult, even for local authorities which are trying so hard to continue their ameliorative process and their building programmes, to get the labour which they so badly need for their building? In the North-West in particular there is a constant drain on building personnel down to the South-East. The reason is that the people who are building factories, offices and luxury flats in the South-East are able to pay much higher wages than can the local builders in Warrington and such places.

The time has surely come for the Government to make a genuine effort in place of the platitudes to which we have become accustomed and the essays which we hear read over and over again from the other side of the House. If they cannot stomach our proposals, let them put forward proposals of their own, proposals which would be directed not to pious and, in many senses, insulting exhortations—such as that we recently heard about people who have the guts to buy their own houses being encouraged to do so—but a real effort to meet the problems of costs, labour and interest rates. These proposals should make it possible for the local authorities, which are the only authorities really doing the job, to provide houses for people who cannot afford to buy them.

8.0 p.m.

Mr. Geoffrey Johnson Smith (Holborn and St. Pancras, South)

I hope that the hon. Member for Warrington (Mr. W. T. Williams) will not think it impertinent of me, bearing in mind my own short service in the House, rather shorter than his own, if I congratulate him on what might be called his second maiden speech. He knows what my majority is like. I may be in the same position as himself one day. I am sure that he must have sensed, from the way in which his speech was received, that it was much enjoyed by the House. I particularly enjoyed the remark he made, that he was one of the less doctrinaire Members of the House of Commons. The way he made his speech proved that.

It is my contention that, too often, when the subject of housing comes up, particularly when it is debated in the local authorities, too many people approach the subject from far too doctrinaire a standpoint. I say that because I wish to put to my right hon. Friend a proposal which, should it be accepted by the House, would, I think, cause hon. Members on both sides to withdraw somewhat from their previously prepared and well dug positions. Before I come to that, I wish to join with those of my hon. Friends who have congratulated my right hon. Friend on his appointment to his present responsible post and wish him well.

So that there will be no misunderstanding between hon. Gentlemen opposite and myself, I make it quite clear at the outset that I have no doubt that in many areas of the country housing conditions are deplorable and shortages are quite acute. Apart from that, there are far too many towns in the United Kingdom which are eyesores. They are horrible places, miserable looking spots. Indeed, when I come down from the North and the Midlands—I mean no offence to hon. Members who represent constituencies in the North and the Midlands—it seems to me that Euston and the Hampstead Road are like the Champs-Elysé es in comparison with the dreadful, dreary and dismal areas which some hon. Members represent. Not that I have no shocking areas in my constituency. I have, of course.

I want to put this question of dismal housing conditions and the shortage of housing in perspective because it seems to me that one's judgment of the problem in areas of housing shortage, quite apart from one's judgment of the dismal aspect of much of our towns, depends very largely upon where one looks, the area one represents and the sort of evidence one reads. In common with many other hon. Members, I received a memorandum from the Alliance Building Society which argued that we needed in this country a programme for the building of over 400,000 houses. One read in that pamphlet a fairly frightening and dismal story. Nevertheless, I noted that the house building programme recommended was to cover a period of twenty years. I am rather distrustful of people who advocate plans covering such a long period. It is rather impracticable to suggest to any Government that they should embark on a twenty-year plan or draw up a programme based on work over twenty years. Whether they will be in office for that time is one matter to be considered.

One notices, also, that statistics or programmes based on a projection or extrapolation of statistics over a period like that have an unhappy knack of proving to be remarkably wrong. Many hon. Members have already reminded us that it was not long ago when we were saying in this country that we were a dying or decadent nation because our population was declining. That turned out not to be true. Now we are told that we shall have a housing problem more serious than that which at present exists because there will be an explosion of population. This, also, may turn out to be wrong.

Not long after I read the pamphlet from the Alliance Building Society, my eye fastened on a very interesting article in the current number of Lloyds Bank Review written by a Mr. J. Parry Lewis, lecturer in economic statistics at Manchester University. He drew a conclusion somewhat different from the conclusions in the Alliance pamphlet, and certainly very different as regards the next few years up to about 1966.

Mr. Parry Lewis in his article pointed out that, about ten years ago, we had 12 million dwellings in this country and 13 million households. There was a deficit of 1 million dwellings. He went on to say that this overall deficit in housing had virtually disappeared in this country. He drew attention to the preliminary report on the 1961 census which showed that the number of dwellings fell short of the number of households by about 54,000. I think most hon. Members will agree that that does not add up to much of a housing shortage, taking it over the whole country.

Mr. Leo Abse (Pontypool)

What about the problem of obsolescence?

Mr. Johnson Smith

Obsolescence is a different point, I suggest. I am at the moment considering the question of shortage. As I develop my argument, if the hon. Member will be patient with me, he will understand that I am prepared to concede that there are places where serious shortages exist. Mr. Parry Lewis in his article went on to say that he thought that there were two regions in the United Kingdom, as opposed to areas within regions, which did have a housing shortage, one, South Wales—

Mr. Abse

Hear, hear.

Mr. Johnson Smith

—I thought the hon. Gentleman would agree about that —and the other, London and the southeast counties, where the number of households exceeds the number of dwellings by as much as 250,000, a sizeable amount.

Several hon. Members have said already that the demand for new housing has a very close relation to the increase in the number of marriages taking place, and they have gone on to say that there has been an increase in the number of marriages. People get married younger, the population is increasing, and in the next few years we can expect the trend to continue.

The article to which I have referred does not confirm that point. In fact, the contrary. Bearing in mind that the birth rate during the early 1940s—in 1940 and 1941—was remarkably low, we can expect the number of marriages in the next few years to decline rather than to grow. Indeed, during the years 1958 and 1959, the number of marriages fell to a level lower than that which prevailed just before the war, to about 400,000 per annum.

One can go further. In 1958 and 1959, the latest years for which I have statistics, the number of houses built was probably more than twice as great as the increase in the number of households, even if a generous allowance is made for an increase in the number of single people wishing to live alone.

The conclusion which I at any rate draw from evidence of that sort, which I cannot ignore, is that, assuming that the population will increase between now and 1980, assuming that there will be more people getting married between now and 1980, one cannot assume that the number of people getting married each year will increase in every year or series of years between now and 1980. The first assumption, then, that I make in my approach to the housing shortage is that, speaking for the country as a whole, between now and 1966 there will not be a significant increase in demand for new housing because the marriage rate will have declined below the rate prevailing in the 1950s. In other words, we shall have a breathing space.

That is for the country as a whole, but, as I said earlier, I do not ignore the fact that, apart from regions, there are areas which are very badly affected. My constituency is one of them. The borough council in my constituency has produced an imaginative scheme within the framework of present legislation to try to tackle the problem of the waiting list, which seems to be as large as ever. I cannot help feeling that if other councils introduced such schemes they might be able to hold out greater hope to the people in their areas of being rehoused.

I should like to enlarge on the proposals put forward by the St. Pancras Borough Council, not necessarily because I want to be parochial, but to show that within the existing legislation councils can do more than they are doing. I do not refer to rent rebate schemes and things of that sort. My council believes that it might be able to encourage private landlords on a large scale to convert their property with the aid of Exchequer grants and local authority loans. With this in mind, it thought that, in order to encourage a private landlord to modernise his property, it would be necessary for it to purchase the property into which the landlord's tenant could be decanted while he could get on with the job of modernising the property and then the tenant, who would have the security of tenure which he had previously, could go back when the job was finished.

In addition, because it realises that this cannot be tackled on a piecemeal basis, this council wants a house-to-house canvass to try to get the scheme organised on a comprehensive basis. It also reserves the right, I think rightly, that if one landlord holds out it will use compulsory powers.

Secondly—and this is the imaginative part of the scheme which is open to any council in the country—it wishes to encourage the formation of non-profit housing societies and housing cooperatives. I should remind hon. Members that it is a Tory council which is proposing this scheme. By forming cooperatives, the council hopes to attract people who desire to rent accommodation with an element of ownership. The essential part of such a scheme is to find a sponsor. In this respect, this council has been remarkably successful. It has found a very powerful private organisation which is willing to undertake the purchase and redevelopment of a site and to transfer the completed dwellings to a board of directors appointed by the prospective shareholder tenants.

All that can be accomplished within the framework of present legislation, but very few councils are getting down to the problem in the way proposed by my council. If more did so, we should have heard a less dismal story than the one that we have heard this evening. I appreciate also that in certain areas even more imagination and drive is needed than that shown by the St. Pancras Borough Council.

The first problem which needs tackling relentlessly in London, despite the London County Council Development Plan, is that of density. I know that some hon. Members on both sides of the House feel that this problem can be exaggerated, but I cannot help feeling that our densities are far too low.

The average number of people per acre in the County of London is eighty-five. There are areas in Lewisham, which is hardly in the countryside, which were permitted densities of seventy persons per acre, but in the quinquennial review of the County of London Development Plan the London County Council suggests knocking it down to fifty. It seems to me that this is an absolutely crazy reversal of policy. By restricting the number to fifty little hope is offered to anyone who wishes to develop a site commercially which is so close to the heart of a great capital. It is essential that there should be a radical and drastic revision in an upward direction of London's densities.

Secondly—here I speak very parochially—I cannot help but resent the way in which policy about offices has been conducted in the past decade. It should have been much tougher. There are trends towards toughness now, but this policy smacks, at least concerning one end of my constituency, of closing the stable door after the horse is gone. The planning authorities should insist that, if it is proposed to build an office block of more than a certain number of storeys, people should be permitted to live on top. I remember that when I suggested this as a member of a London County Council in about 1955 I was accused of wanting mixed development. as though it was something immoral. The County of London plan was that people should live in one area and work in another. Take Holborn, for example. It is a desert at night. In eight years, we have had 15,000 new commuters who suffocate in the subway. The roads are crowded in the day and this contributes to the carnage on the roads. The place is a hub of activity during the day, and it has made an absolute mess of the plan.

I should like to make one proposal about office development. It arises out of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, which allowed office blocks to be built on sites which had been occupied by old office blocks. They were permitted to have a cubic capacity 10 per cent. greater than that of the old block. This is one reason why office blocks have become so large. The old office blocks had high ceilings, so that in the new ones ceilings were made lower. Builders could then build upwards, and outwards.

I respect the need for more office accommodation. If industries and factories expand, it is only right that the administration of businesses should also have the right to expand and that workers on the administrative side of business and industry should have the right to enjoy more modern working conditions. While appreciating that, however, there is no doubt in my mind that we have been far too lax in this respect.

Mr. G, A. Pargiter (Southall)

Surely the 10 per cent. to which the hon. Gentleman has just referred has nothing to do with the building of new office accommodation. That could have been added without planning consent.

Mr. Johnson Smith

That only makes the matter worse. I do not dispute what the hon. Gentleman said. All I know is that where a new office block has been built on an old office block site the cubic capacity has been increased by 10 per cent.

A third point which I should like to put to my right hon. Friend is this. I hope that in the task which lies ahead of him he will recognise the need for the creation of a new organisation which will enable whole areas in the heart of our big cities to be dealt with on a comprehensive basis. We all know that too often in our cities development takes place on a piecemeal basis. Some people will argue that there is no need to create a new organisation, saying that we should just leave it to the local authorities, that they will do the job and that all they need is lower interest rates and bigger subsidies. Armed with compulsory powers, they could go ahead and get on with the job.

There are arguments, against that approach. First, to rely on compulsory purchase orders, as local authorities do, in order to develop areas comprehensively is an elaborate and cumbersome method. It would involve local authorities in very heavy capital expenditure which is unacceptable from the point of view of the ratepayers. It would involve a very steady increase in rates. It would involve councils in varying but considerable interest charges. Also, it would invite local authorities, if they are to be encouraged to go in for comprehensive development in the centres of our cities, to lock up their capital over long periods. Their accounting methods are not geared to that as they are on a yearly basis.

Also, it would be disapproved of by many people because it would amount to inviting local authorities to become involved in speculative enterprises. Many people argue that it is not right to use rate revenues on such a scale for such purpose. Also, many people argue— this is a political objection put forward by many of my hon. Friends, and I share their view—that it is not healthy for our society to leave it all to the local authorities, because that would result in the municipalisation of land and ownership by one group.

I know that some people argue to the contrary and say that private enterprise companies should be allowed to do the job. There are objections to that policy, too. Very few companies could afford to develop areas in cities on a comprehensive scale. Secondly, having no powers of compulsory purchase, they would be involved in lengthy negotiation. What would happen if individual holders of freeholds refused to cooperate? They could hold up a private developer to ransom.

With these difficulties in mind, I am particularly attracted to the proposal set out in the summary conclusions of the Civic Trust Conference held in July, 1960. This proposed the setting up of a land finance corporation, to begin with pump-primed with a Treasury float, to buy and hold all land compulsorily acquired for the purpose of comprehensive development. The corporation would have the power to re-sell the land either to a local authority or to private enterprise for redevelopment.

A number' of advantages are claimed for this method of approach. First, it would bridge the gap between the purchase and disposal of a site ripe for redevelopment. Secondly, it could certainly do it without overburdening the rates. Thirdly, areas could be developed without unnecessarily disturbing the balance between public and private ownership in a certain area.

Fourthly, it would enable local authorities to acquire the land that they really need for reshaping road patterns or developing the amenities of a city. On occasions, in order to carry out the job of town planning and reshaping roads, local authorities have had to buy property which they did not actually need. Fifthly, an appealing point is that profits made on the re-sell of sites by the corporation could be used for redevelopment elsewhere, including areas which are not commercially attractive.

It seems to me that in considering such a proposal one might also consider the possibility of allowing local authorities to invest in such a corporation. I do not see why we should not consider encouraging owners of private property whose freeholds have been subjected to compulsory purchase orders also to invest in such a corporation.

In a nutshell, I think the proposal acts on three principles—one buys, one develops and one leases. I think it could be made to work, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will consider it. It would have the salutary effect of taking a great deal of politics out of the question of urban renewal and the comprehensive redevelopment of our cities. For that reason alone, I would hope that we should get a far greater degree of progress and more vim into the vexed question of overcoming the housing shortages which exist, as I maintain, in certain selected areas.

8.25 p.m.

Mr. A. C. Manuel (Central Ayrshire)

This is a United Kingdom debate, but I was beginning to wonder whether it was or not.

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

This is the first time that we have heard the voice of Scotland in it.

Mr. Manuel

I am very pleased that the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mr. G. Johnson Smith) recognised in the early part of his speech that there are some awful slums in the country. As he belongs to Glasgow, I was surprised that he did not mention the slums there. There are also slums in the middle of England and in the hon. Gentleman's constituency—vast problems, with which he was trying to deal.

There has been a great difference in the contributions from the two sides of the House. I do not say that hon. Members opposite lack sincerity or knowledge, but it seemed to me that there was a lack of feeling on their part. Their speeches have been delivered as very nice essays, very correctly and properly. They have been very nice to listen to if good English is all that matters. But to my hon. Friends and myself the housing problem is of much greater significance than the way we deliver our sentiments about it.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned with pride that his borough council had a great new scheme, and he thought it would be much better if other councils planned as well as his council does. Having had many years in local government, I can tell the hon. Member that it is not for want of schemes, plans and planning that we do not get on with housing. It is want of the will to tackle the job as it ought to be tackled.

The hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Allason) spoke of the inability of private enterprise to build houses. It showed how grossly out of touch he was with the problem when he suggested that private enterprise firms should be paid an investment allowance so that they might build houses to rent. It ought to be recognised on both sides of the House that it is private enterprise throughout the country which builds houses, whether for rent or for sale, because only a small proportion of local authorities have direct labour schemes, and there are very few in Scotland. As local authorities employ private enterprise firms to build their houses, this approach to get rented houses built is wrong. The local authorities do the job by employing firms, and that is where, in my opinion, these private enterprise firms should be operating in present circumstances.

In my opinion, our greatest social need in Scotland is still in the provision of houses, and it is still as great a challenge in this year as ever it has been. I have been rather amused today at the appeals we have had from each side of the House that we should take this great question of housing out of politics. It may be a trite thing to say. But can we? The whole of the provision of local authorities' houses is regulated by political Acts—the amount of subsidies they get; the number of houses local authorities can afford to build; the cost of interest rates which are laid down by the Government; cuts in subsidies—and the price of land, as one of my hon. Friends says.

So we really cannot take this question out of politics, whether we like it or not. We have got to do this job, recognising clearly, as I do from my years in local government and my years in this House, that the povision of houses for the people who need them most is much more difficult under a Tory Government than it is under a Government formed by hon. Members on this side of the House.

In Scotland, as I say, housing is our greatest social need. I estimate that we have still 270,000 unfit houses in Soot-land. I estimate that we have 200,000 people on the waiting lists of all local authorities. Then we come to the Government's repeated prating about Glasgow overspill, and they are talking about 300,000 families needing houses. So we get an overall problem of needing some 700,000 houses. I am prepared to admit to the Secretary of State that these figures may overlap a bit. I am told that there is a bit of overlapping between the overcrowding figures and those of the numbers of people Who may be shifted under overspill arrangements, but, no matter how we view this, by and large these figures are true, and there is no mistake about this, that still in this year, 1961, Scotland is one of the worst-housed nations—I say deliberately—in Europe.

The Government really are not facing this problem. We get stop and go, and stop-gap arrangements; we get cuts here and we get cuts there; we have our local authorities being impeded in practically every effort they make to get on with solving the problem in their own areas.

Let us consider the number of houses built, while remembering the problem as it is and as I have illustrated it with the figures I have just given. From all sources in Scotland, housing association and every sort of building we can bring into the picture, we produced, in 1955, 34,069 houses. With the problem still as large—and growing, in my opinion—we produced in 1960 only 28,592 houses. In the first three-quarters of 1961 we have built only 22,011 houses, and I do not see the next 6,000 or 7,000 houses being produced in the last quarter to bring this year's figures even with last year's. That is not tackling the problem. That is the progress under Toryism—progress backwards, with the need still as large.

When we consider the local authorities, the people who are really providing the houses for those in the most need, we see the picture is even blacker. In 1955, the local authorities built for the people in need 24,210 houses; last year, 1960, the number was down to 17,913 houses, a disgraceful picture; and in the first nine months of this year, we have built only 12,000 houses, and I do not see the other 6,000 houses going up to bring the year's figure to equal last year's figure

I want to put some questions to the Minister. I do not think that there will be a chance for another back bench Scot to get into this debate. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) will take his corner and pose certain questions —although I have not consulted him— and that we shall ask questions of considerable scope. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will try to reply to them.

What proportions of the materials available and building trade workers available are employed on local authority house-building and what are the proportions employed on private work? I would mention particularly offices and garages. There seems to be a rash of these things springing up all over the country. It is time that the Government did something about this blatant evasion of tax by oil companies which are ladling out money to provide not garages as we know them, but filling stations which do not even have a pit for the examination of cars. Even fair Ayrshire, the land of Burns, with its scenic beauties, and Renfrewshire as well, have been destroyed by these filling stations with their gaudy colours and bright lights. I agree that a proportion of these materials and a number of building workers have also been employed on private house building, but I will return to that later.

I should like to draw the attention of the House to the size of the houses which are now being built. There is here an internal Government saving. The Secretary of State for Scotland, in his speeches on housing, has been attacking municipal tenants and local authorities, a long-suffering race. One would think that local authority tenants were doing something immoral. The public spirit and selfless devotion of the vast majority of local councillors and county councillors go by the board when the right hon. Gentleman is talking about houses. They are not doing enough, apparently, to carry out his pet plan which would put up rents. However, there is a Bill affecting housing in Scotland to come before the House before very long and I must save a certain amount of verbal ammunition for that occasion.

I should like to give the figures for the provision of various types of houses in Scotland for the years 1957 to 1960. Of all the houses built in Scotland in 1957, 291 per cent. were four-apartment houses and 2 per cent. were five-apartment. In 1960, the proportions were 22.5; per cent. four-apartment and 1.6; per cent. five-apartment. The percentages of three-apartment houses were 58.2; in 1957, 61.0; in 1958, 58.5; in 1959 and 57.7; in 1960.

The two-apartment houses are the bane of Scotland and they are the cause of the gross overcrowding which has created most of the problems from which we are suffering in the larger cities. They were built by private enterprise, which is so much lauded by the Secretary of State. In 1957, they represented 9.12 per cent. of housebuilding. In 1958, the percentage was 11. In 1949, it was 14 per cent. and in 1960, 14.5. I dare say that a fair proportion of them were local authority houses.

Where they meet the needs of single persons and old couples who desire that kind of accommodation I am all for them, but I should like to be told the number of local authority houses, mainly three-apartment and two-apartment which are today overcrowded and what regard is being paid by the Government to this internal local authority problem in ascertaining the number of houses needed in Scotland. I hope that the Minister will try to get some information about that.

I have already mentioned the higher interest rates. Does the Minister intend to do anything about them? They are visibly impeding the construction of local authority houses in Scotland. What is in his mind for the future? Is the interest rate to run at 7 per cent, for ever and ever? Further, will he state the number of local authorities in Scotland who are not building any houses this year?

Just to show how the right hon. Gentleman's mind functions in connection with the provision of houses, I want to quote from a speech he made when the Scottish Grand Committee was debating the Scottish Estimates on 30th June, 1960. He then said: Hon. Members opposite have made a good deal of argument—and did again this morning —of the fact that completions have fallen in recent years and attribute that to some wicked influence on the part of the Government. As usual, they are wrong. There is a realistic and natural explanation of what is happening. In the first place, part of the rundown reflects the fact that housing needs in some places have been largely met."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Scottish Grand Committee, 30th June, 1960; c. 167.] I want to challenge the right hon. Gentleman: I say that the problem is still there, and that it looms as large as ever. He believes in dealing with it piecemeal, and spasmodically. If it is true that the position in certain areas has been cleared up, and there are no more houses to build there—although I do not know of any in that position— should not he be considering a national plan for Scotland, so that as the need falls off in certain areas arrangements can be made to carry out the work in those areas which are still faced with a grave problem, such as Glasgow, Edinburgh and other large Scottish cities? He should be trying to evolve a plan to tackle the problem realistically.

The right hon. Gentleman' reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. McInnes), in the Scottish Estimates debate on 4th July of this year, shows the way in which the Secretary of State's mind is operating. Referring to my hon. Friend, he said: The hon. Member pointed out that the rate of building by local authorities had fallen, and so it has, by 752 houses last year, but private enterprise building increased by 2,297 houses last year and, taking agencies into account, there was a net increase of 1,299 houses completed in Scotland between 1959 and 1960. I am quite certain that it is a healthy development that private enterprise should meet a larger proportion of our needs."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Scottish Grand Committee, 4th July, 1961; c. 14.] Does not this pinpoint the colossal ineptitude of the Secretary of State? The great need in Scotland is for houses to rent. The right hon. Gentleman indicated that 2,297 houses were built, but they were built for sale. I challenge him: has even as much as 1 per cent. of all the housing built in Scotland in the post-war years been to rent?

I am not against people having their own houses, or building their own houses, but if the Minister is to draw away from local authority housebuilding to provide the things that I listed earlier, such as garages and offices, and private houses built for those who can afford to buy them, let him remember that the pool of labour doing the two jobs is the same, and that he will not get the houses to rent that we need to relieve the festering slums in our cities. There are hundreds of thousands of unfit houses yet to be dealt with and tens of thousands of people live in greatly overcrowded conditions. Tens of thousands of people live in small rooms which have been sublet.

The Secretary of State for Scotland is bound to be aware of the concern of medical officers of health that so many families suffering from tuberculosis and similar diseases have to live in these insanitary conditions. When members of local authorities or medical officers are approached by such people and asked whether it is possible for them to obtain other accommodation the only answer which can be given in so many cases is, "According to your place in the housing queue you may get a house in about twenty years' time." That is the size of the problem. Is it any wonder that I ask for a national plan from the Secretary of State in order to mitigate such injustice?

Hundreds of thousands of families living in such conditions are anxious to obtain municipal houses, but are not able and will not be able to rent such accommodation. I hope 'that in this debate, which is preliminary to the discussions we shall have when the Minister's new Bill is presented to us, we have been able to draw his attention to some of the problems. This has been a debate referring largely to conditions in England, but I hope that my contribution will make an impact on the Scottish Office and result in some improvement in conditions in Scotland.

8.47 p.m.

Mr. Brian Batsford (Ealing, South)

I cannot claim to be a Scot, but I am pleased to follow the speech of the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) as it reminds me of the voices of my Scottish ancestors.

Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Govan)

They got houses.

Mr. Batsford

We have been concerned with a number of shortages in London and in the country and I wish to refer to the broader aspect of the question of land usage, especially from the point of view of town and country planning. Whatever the scale and scope of the housing problem, which the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) described as involving the building of 5 million or 6 million houses in the next twenty years, the land on which the houses must be built can be provided only by eating more and more into the countryside or by using land already built on. In other words, using land which is either new or second-hand.

The use of new land can mean only the provision of new towns or the extension of existing towns, which would make the transport situation far more difficult. The second alternative would mean a great deal of redevelopment of our towns and cities, what my right hon. Friend referred to today as "urban renewal", It was very good to hear those words rolling off his tongue. We are concerned not only with city centres but also with those indefinable areas, half town and half suburb, which exist around our large conurbations. These wasting and decaying areas of land, a hang-over from poor development and planning, should provide much of the housing space which we need today.

As the hon. Member for Southall (Mr. Pargiter) knows very well, mile after mile of single-storey shops stretch between his constituency and mine, together with disused buildings and industrial buildings. These provide the greatest possible opportunity for redevelopment but they are more difficult, much more difficult, to develop than the virgin countryside, which is so often advertised by that ghastly phrase, "Ripe for development". It is the sour areas which I hope my right hon. Friend will consider developing.

Urban development involves three main questions, ownership, planning, and design. Each depends on the other. We cannot have good design without planning, and we cannot have good planning without single or consolidated ownership—for specifically designed areas.

Dr. Barnett Stross (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)

The hon. Member is probably coming on to it, but will he not agree that in addition to the ownership of the area, ownership en masseand planning to get the design, there may be a financial consideration, and local authorities —because of annual public accountability—find it very difficult?

Mr. Batsford

I am grateful to the hon. Member. I know and respect his views on town and country planning, but I was coming to that point. Powers for compulsory purchase are already there in the local authorities, but they are rendered virtually useless by this question of heavy capital investment. That, I think, is the point he was making.

This applies, in particular, to the valuable and commercial business centres which have been mentioned already by several hon. Members in this debate. I think and hope that my right hon. Friend will seriously consider the question which was put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mr. G. Johnson Smith), of either a Land Finance Corporation or some form of public trust. There is no doubt that if we do not have comprehensive planning, which single ownership is bound to imply, we shall surrender all our cities to the ghastly disgrace of piecemeal development which they have at the moment.

I know that piecemeal development might have had relatively little effect in our old towns and villages. There we are apt to say it is all pleasant and accidental. That may be so. Some of our streets and vistas are attractive and they are accidental, but they were designed in those early days for a certain purpose and function which they fulfilled. It does not follow today that just because they were able to achieve that by accident we should tolerate any sort of haphazard development in the hope that we shall achieve the same result. Today, that would be an entirely mistaken idea and a completely pious hope, because we live in an age when proper planning and large-scale planning are absolutely imperative. The City of London, as rebuilt after the war, is a monument to neglected opportunities and also to planning inertia.

Mr. James McInnes (Glasgow, Central)

Under a Tory Government.

Mr. Batsford

Actually, it was under a London County Council controlled by the Socialist Party.

Must we, for lack of this planning, permit our streets to become vast through-ways for traffic? Must we allow each city centre to have pedestrians, urban dwellers and shoppers railed off so that this traffic can go through and keep moving fast, as the Minister of Transport would say? Why can we not have precincts in our city centres, places where people can shop and live in peace and quiet and from where traffic is banned altogether?

What sort of town planning allowed that brick wall behind the church of All Souls, Langham Place? What sort of town planning allowed that great concrete cliff as one looks up Whitehall? What sort of planning has allowed the dismemberment of the eighteenth-century squares in London, such as Manchester Square, Portman Square, and Cavendish Square, until there will soon be none left? It is not only London but other cities which are fast succumbing to this dreary fate, simply because whatever planning authority exists is not exercising the power which it possesses or providing the directive and the inspiration which the situation demands.

I should like to ask my right hon. Friend how many of the 400,000 planning proposals which his Department receives every year are part and parcel of local authority development plans and how many of them have to go through that expensive, frustrating and in some cases face-saving sieve of a public inquiry, often initiated, no doubt, by the local preservation or amenity society. I am not against preservation. I am all for preservation in the right place. But I have no wish to see Britain preserved as a museum piece, rather like the way in which it is portrayed in the advertisements of the British Travel and Holidays Association. I have no wish to see this perpetuated or even extended with a pseudo-Tudor and pseudo-Georgian pastiche.

I should like to ask my right hon. Friend how much of our country is reserved for preservation, in areas, in entities and in units. I do not mean scheduled by the National Trust, but scheduled by my right hon. Friend in conjunction with other authorities, in order that we may keep unspoiled specific worthy examples of our heritage as part of a national plan. Or are only individual buildings earmarked for this purpose? Are only individual buildings preserved, even when their surroundings and environments, which are certainly an important part of them, are utterly incongruous? I have often felt, in such a case, that if a small building has to be preserved, why should we not follow the Scandinavian method and move it bodily, placing it in a part with others in what is called an old town, thus making an outdoor museum?

It seems strange that the responsibility for preserving buildings in this country is so decentralised and divided. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Works is responsible for ancient monuments, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government is responsible for the classification of historic buildings, and when the question of the demolition of the Coal Exchange arose as a result of a road widening scheme, it was not a question for the Minister of Transport, but one for my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government. But when it is a question of the Euston portico, it is the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport. Is it not possible for one Department to decide what to destroy and what not to destroy?

When he was the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Board of Trade, said on 5th May last year that planning was concerned not only with where buildings should go but with what they looked like. He added that any form of design dictatorship would be death. Sometimes when I look across the river and see that monolithic tombstone on the other side of the Thames I wonder whether British architecture has not already one foot in the grave. We do not want dictatorship in design. Buildings cannot be designed by Government Departments or by Committees.

In this country, we have a very large number of first-class architects. All they lack is the freedom to express themselves. They are too hampered by restrictions, and they lack the more comprehensive planning to which I have referred. I also suspect that far too many of our buildings are not designed by architects at all. Surely my right hon.

Friend would hesitate before he recommended one of his patients to go to an unqualified doctor. [An HON. MEMBER: "No."] Maybe he would not. But in spite of the fact that some amateur doctors and amateur architects have been successful, I think it better to keep building as the responsibility of fully-qualified architects.

I hope that, in a debate principally devoted to housing, you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, will not mind my finishing on this point. I know that my right hon. Friend is also responsible for such things as outdoor advertising and litter. Far the worst litter is not the wrapping paper that we find in the streets, but the permanent litter of badly-designed, poorly-planned housing development, accompanied by the excrescence of street furniture which we see all over the place. I suggest that the answer is that it is not enough to send comparatively mild directives to local authorities, because the time has come in town and country planning when we want stronger measures. The whole future of Britain and the countryside is involved, and if we do not do these things now we may well find that very soon it will be too late.

9.1 p.m.

Mr. Thomas Fraser (Hamilton)

We have had an excellent debate today, as I am sure the Government Front Bench will agree. Many constructive speeches have been made on both sides of the House, but I hope that I shall be permitted to say that hon. Members opposite in their speeches have been, by and large, on the periphery of this great social problem, whereas my hon. Friends have invariably got to the core of the problem, namely, that we need greatly to increase the supply of houses. That is not an unfair criticism, because, for the most part, hon. Members opposite did not seek to show the way in which we could increase the number of houses, whereas my hon. Friends did precisely that.

Unfortunately, we have been denied the advice of the Liberal Party in this debate. No member of the Liberal Party has been present at any time during the whole of the debate. That is strange from a party which is claiming at present to be so representative of the rising generation, which is playing an increasing part in local government and which is getting so much publicity in the by-elections. I should have thought that, since the Minister who opened the debate is a renegade Liberal, as is the hon. Gentleman who is to wind up for the Government—we have not had a pure Tory speaking for the Tory Government—this was just the occasion when the Liberal Party might have made its presence felt in the debate.

The Minister made far and away the worst and the least constructive speech in the debate. He paid tribute to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) who opened the discussion. He commented on my hon. Friend's calculation that about 150,000 houses a year were needed to replace older, unfit houses. The The Minister put the figure at 160,000 a a year. He was not to be beaten by my hon. Friend. Having said that he would put the figure at 160,000 a year, he did not tell us of any plans that he had to increase the rate of demolition and replacement beyond the figure of 60,000 a year which is the present rate. That is a very strange omission on the part of the right hon. Gentleman.

He dismissed all that my hon. Friend said about the effect of the Rent Act as if it just did not matter and as if it Was somehow or other irrelevant to the great housing problem. The right hon. Gentleman gave the impression that somehow or other the Rent Act was irrelevant to the problem of homeless families in London, the Midlands, Glasgow and other congested parts of the country. I hope that the Secretary of State for Scotland will have a little more to say than his right hon. Friend about the relevance or otherwise of the Rent Act.

It was rather odd that the right hon. Gentleman could agree so wholeheartedly with my hon. Friend's diagnosis of our present ills and could repudiate so completely the cures which my hon. Friend prescribed. I wondered what comment I would make on the right hon. Gentleman's speech by the time he sat down, when one of my hon. Friends put into my hand a note which suggested to me that perhaps Hilaire Belloc summed up the Minister's speech better than any of us here could when he wrote: Physicians of the utmost fame Were called at once; but when they came They answered, as they took their fees, 'There is no cure for this disease'. The right hon. Gentleman certainly admitted that there was a disease, but he had no cure to offer, no remedy, no suggestions.

The right hon. Gentleman admitted in the course of his speech that over 4 million existing houses were built before 1880. The hon. Member for Ealing, South (Mr. Batsford) said that the Minister of Works was responsible for ancient monuments. He was wrong. The Minister of Housing is the one who is responsible for replacing ancient monuments.

Mr. Willis

And the Secretary of State for Scotland.

Mr. Fraser

The Minister of Housing has not been long enough in the job to get down to it. Perhaps we shall hear some of the remedies proposed by the Secretary of State for Scotland. It is important to get this problem into perspective and realise that 4 million of our stock of houses—one-quarter of the total —were built before 1880. It is important to realise that every year 150,000 houses become 100 years old. Most of them are lacking in modern amenities. Only an infinitesimal proportion of them will ever be dealt with by these improvement schemes. The Minister gave us the figures of current works being done under these schemes. He will agree that they only touch the fringe of this colossal number of houses, but in any case a great many of them are not worth treating in this way. They are not worth replacing.

A study of the figures indicates that my hon. Friend's request for the replacement of about 150,000 houses a year is much too modest. I do not know whether he included our Scottish needs in his figures. It is reasonable at this time to aim at replacing 200,000 to 250,000 of these houses every year. If one adds to that the number of homeless families, the number of families living doubled up with sub-tenancies and living in a single room, and if one bears in mind the expanding population and takes into account marriages at an earlier age, it is self-evident that we should be aiming at a far higher output of houses than anything which has been contemplated up to now.

The hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mr. G. Johnson Smith) said that in the next few years the marriage rate will decline. He could not have been more wrong. The Minister of Education and the Secretary of State for Scotland have been worried for many years about the post-war birth-rate bulge coming through the primary schools and getting into the secondary modern and grammar schools where it is now. In another three or four years this age group will be married.

This is not a funny business; it will make very much worse a problem that is of very serious proportions today. I should have thought that now, in the 1960s, we really should be raising our sights and looking forward to building about 500,000 houses a year in Great Britain as a whole—and most of these houses will require to be built for letting, and most of them will require to be built by local authorities.

I do not want to dwell at length on the Scottish problem, but the Secretary of State knows that, apart from the 4 million existing houses in England that were built before 1880, we have in Scotland about 510,000 houses that were built before then. He knows, too, that almost all of those are houses of one and two rooms; that, of course, they do not have baths or inside toilets; that, for the most part, they do not have hot and cold water —or, indeed, an independent water supply at all. He knows, too, that these houses will never be modernised and made fit for people to live in decently at the present time.

It became all too clear in the Minister's speech that Her Majesty's Ministers are far more concerned with getting more profit for the speculators than getting more houses for the people. Only some eight years ago capital expenditure on housing amounted to a little over £400 million.

We see how that figure has come down when we look at the White Paper, "Public Investment in Great Britain". There we see that in 1959–60 the total figure for Great Britain was £287 million and that the approved estimated capital expenditure on housing for 1962–63 is down to £272 million—a drop of £15 million on top of this great fall from the £400 million of only eight years ago— and that at a time when we still have rising prices and rising costs, so that all the other public services are going up.

The total for public services over the same period from 1959–60 to 1962–63 will go up from £735 million to £925 million— an increase of £190 million. As I say, the housing figure goes down by £15 million and, as the Secretary of State well knows, the Scottish figures account for the only fall there is between 1960–61 and 1961–62. Apparently, two-thirds of the English figure will remain steady, while the Scottish figure comes down by £1 million in that period.

My hon. Friends have said much about the high interest rates, about which the Minister said very little. Let me remind the Minister, particularly in the presence of the Prime Minister, what has happened in the years of Conservative power since 1951. In 1952 the Tories started putting up interest rates, but since the present Prime Minister was then the Minister responsible for housing, and was enjoying certain preferences within the Cabinet, he got an increased subsidy to compensate for the increased interest rates at that time. After he left that Ministry, the interest rates kept on going up but the subsidies came down—and they have continued to come down, while the interest rates have continued to go up.

When the Prime Minister was the Minister responsible for housing and he gave local authorities increased subsidies to compensate for increased interest rates, of course he got more houses built. Local authorities had to pay higher interest rates for all the other services. So they concentrated their efforts on building houses during that period. That went on for a few years, but when the interest rates went up the output of houses went down and, over the years, the cost of financing houses has doubled.

There is an overwhelming case for preferentially low interest rates for housing, and I hope that the Government will give this matter sympathetic and serious consideration. There is also an overwhelming case for preferentially higher subsidies for local authorities with large slum clearance problems. It cannot be right to ignore the size of the slum clearance problem of some of our larger local authorities and to pay the same kind of subsidy whether for slum clearance or costly development as for easier development on the perimeter.

At the end of his speech the Minister gave the usual, rather foolish knock by saying, "We did better than the postwar Labour Government." The Secretary of State has said that over and over again, and I will not waste the time of the House by making this useless kind of comparison, except to say that from the end of the war until 1951 Britain had the best house building record of all the countries of Western Europe. We were the best. Now let us compare what this Government—this lot here-—are doing compared with other countries in Europe in the provision of new dwellings.

For my figures I have consulted the report on housing trends by the Economic Commission for Europe. So that I would not be unfair to hon. Gentlemen opposite I have not taken a period of one or three months or one year, but three years; from 1958 until 1960. I am absolutely fair to hon. Gentlemen opposite in that I have not taken—I can give the total number of houses built in different countries if it is required—the overall figures, but I think the better comparison is to see how many houses they built and how many we built per thousand of the population. Over this three-year period France put up 20.6; dwellings per 1,000 inhabitants. The Netherlands put up 22.9; per 1,000, Norway 22.5;, Sweden 26.8; and West Germany—they lost the war incidentally— 30.5; dwellings per 1,000 inhabitants. Where does the United Kingdom come? We built 16.8;—easily the bottom of the league.

Some hon. Gentlemen opposite may say that the war was fought over Germany and that Germany probably suffered more than did we and that they would therefore be replacing houses at a faster rate. Some would say that that is why they can build twice as many houses a year as we do, relative to the population. I do not believe that that is the answer. In any case, Sweden was not involved in the war. In fact, Sweden started this period as probably the best-housed country in Europe. Yet that country has built about nine houses per 1,000 inhabitants per year while we are building a little over five houses per 1,000 inhabitants per year.

It cannot be that this Government are using our manpower resources so heavily, to put them into the manufacturing industries to supply the export trade, because the Germans are beating us there as well. We are, in fact, doing less well than any other country in Western Europe in the supply of new houses, except Belgium. We are not quite at the bottom of the league. Belgium just keeps us from being at the bottom. When I was asking for 500,000 houses a year, if anyone thought that I was asking for the impossible, I would point out that I was asking for a little less than West Germany has been doing in recent years. In that country they have been building more than 500,000 a year, and if we were building at the same rate we, too, would have been building more than 500,000 houses a year. If we were to do just as well as Sweden and built about nine houses per 1,000 inhabitants a year, we would require a build something like 450,000 a year.

Is there any reason why we in the United Kingdom should not do as well as those other countries in Western Europe in supplying the houses we need? Does the Secretary of State for Scotland appreciate that his noble Friend the Minister of State has been going about Scotland in recent years saying that Scottish housing is the worst to be found anywhere in Western Europe? Of course, the Secretary of State's performance in building new houses is the worst in Europe. It is about time that we were really getting down seriously to satisfying the housing needs of this country.

A lot has been said about the cost of building land. The Minister did not really think this was important, and, in any case, there was nothing that he could do about it. As some of my hon. Friends have said, right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite have complained that the post-war Town and Country Planning Acts introduced by Lord Silkin were unworkable and could not be understood. I do not believe that at all. I think it was because they could be understood that they had to be repealed.

In any case, having repealed those Acts, the Minister has put nothing at all in their place. So many examples have been given of profiteering in land that it is not for me to waste the time of the House by giving more examples, but the Minister and the Secretary of State must know that in recent years, and in these last three or four years in particular, many plots of land have been changing hands at prices five, eight, ten and twelve times what they were only three, four or five years ago. This cannot be right. It is bound to make the provision of new houses more costly. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to say whether this can go on. Are the Government not going to take any steps at all to curb the profiteers?

The Minister may remember that in one of his election broadcasts a few elections ago—the 1951 General Election, I believe—he talked about "throwing a planner in the works". It was the Socialists, of course, who at that time were guilty of throwing a planner in the works. Today I wondered whether he had been converted to the desirability of having a planner introduced into the works. He certainly has not got the works working very well. He personally is not responsible for this because he has just arrived at the Ministry, but he is surrounded by a lot of guilty men in this matter, and if he can do anything at all to get this planner dropped back to help us to get housing better planned and to get an increase in the supply of houses, particularly for the people who need them most, he will do a very useful job for the nation.

The Prime Minister has been forecasting that in ten years time the workers will have £20 a week, or £1,000 a year. He must know, and every hon. Gentleman opposite must know, that the present Government's housing policy would have relevance only if the average worker in this country at this present moment had at least £1,000 a year at present-day prices because only then would the worker have the ability, not the guts or the courage which was talked about earlier, to provide his own home.

However, inasmuch as the Prime Minister thinks that it will be another ten years before the worker has £1,000 a year, between now and then the Government ought to do a little more to enable the local authorities to provide the houses which ought to be there for the millions of people who are living in those ancient monuments about which the Minister himself spoke. The local authorities must do this job. They are producing only about two-fifths of our houses now, or perhaps a little less. They are doing rather better in Scotland, not because the local authorities are encouraged to do better there but because private enterprise does not have the same rich pickings in Scotland as it has in other parts of the United Kingdom.

We have had a little discussion about the distribution of industry, and the Minister wondered why we should criticise the Government fox having failed in that desirable policy. Then he went on to tell us about the long-term problems in London and the south-eastern counties and the Midlands of England reaching up to Merseyside. What he was really saying was that the Government had not learned their lesson at all and there was not to be any proper distribution of industry and there would be no effort made to reverse the current drift of population from Scotland to the South, from the north-east of England to the South and, indeed, from all over England and Wales to the two great centres of London and the southeastern counties and the Midlands area. He was telling us that this would go on but it would be dealt with by planners in the future who would sort out the social problems.

It cannot be good for the country to allow these things to go on. It would surely be far better to keep some of the Scots who are adding to the homeless in London up in Scotland by letting them work in Scotland. We have heard about 45 per cent. of all the new jobs in Britain in recent years occurring in London and the South-East. Scotland happens to have one-third of the land area of this country and 10 per cent. of the population, but it has only had 2 per cent. of the additional jobs. This must be wrong. This is where the Government ought to start tackling the problem.

If the Government would ensure that industry was a little better spread and distributed, they would save the migra- tion of 25,000 or 30,000 Scots coming to the South each year, and they would save a lot of people from the North-East coming South. There would always be some coming South, but, if the jobs were there, there would always be some travelling in the other direction, too.

We talk a lot about overspill in London and the problem of 200,000 people to be accommodated elsewhere. What is the sense of talking about over-spilling people out of London and out of Birmingham if, at the same time, the President of the Board of Trade gives his industrial development certificates to bring in more industry to those very areas. What is the sense of talking about overspilling population if the Government will not take any steps at all and will not even take power to stop the building up of the great commercial enterprises in London?

Some hon. Members opposite today asked for control of office building. When the Local Employment Act was going through, they had the opportunity to support us in seeking to give the Minister power to control office building in London or in any congested part of the country, but they declined the invitation to support us and now, when it is safe to criticise the Government and to vote in favour of giving the power, they can see the consequence, the result, of completely unplanned development of great commercial enterprises in London and other congested cities.

Mr. R. Gresham Cooke (Twickenham) rose

Mr. Fraser

I shall not give way. The hon. Gentleman has not been here during the whole of the debate.

We have a serious problem of overspill and of location of industry. In some of our cities, we are starting to build at far too great a density. Glasgow is now forced to build flats as high as 24 storeys. The Gorbals, which has been mentioned so often in our past debates in quite another connection, has a density which is greater than that of any other city in the country. There, I believe, there is a density of 165 persons to the acre. Admittedly, under the new schemes, it has been reduced from 400 persons to the acre. People want to live reasonably near their jobs and they want reasonable amenities. It is up to the Government to ensure that people have jobs near to where they live- and that they get reasonable amenities.

We on this side of the House want employment to be spread sensibly throughout the country in order to prevent over-concentration of demand for housing in a small number of centres. We want a land commission to secure the proper use of our land at fair prices. We want more new towns and existing smaller towns expanded to take overspill from the congested centres of population. We want lower rates of interest of housing. We want preferential subsidies for slum clearance. We want a new drive greatly to increase the supply of new homes.

There is no evidence that the Government will adopt our proposals or do any of those things, and there is no evidence that they have any alternatives to offer. It is not a question of offering alternatives to us. It is a question of offering alternatives to the unhappy people we have the honour to represent. It is because of the failure of the Government that we on this side of the House will register our protest in the Lobby tonight.

9.33 p.m.

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

This is not the first time that I have spoken immediately after the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser), nor, I imagine, will it be the last. I have noticed this in common with all, or most, of the hon. Member's speeches. While I am listening to him, I am moved by what he is saying. Emotion comes into his voice. He supports emotion by figures, but he draws some very strange conclusions. When he sits down, and I try to think about what he has said, I cannot find much on which to bite. This was most noticeable in the concluding part of his speech tonight.

Towards the end of the hon. Gentleman's speech, he talked as if nothing whatsoever was happening in relation to the redistribution of industry. I must admit that it was interesting that he was almost the only hon. Member who referred directly to the last line of the Amendment, which reads: …or to plan for the wise distribution of employment and population throughout the country. As I say, the hon. Gentleman spoke as if nothing was happening. However, he cannot ignore the tremendous movement of industry into Scotland which has been going on over the last two or three years. I say—and I know exactly the reaction which will come from some hon. Members opposite when I say it—that there are 31,000 jobs in the pipeline. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Hon. Members invariably react in that very strange way whenever the word "pipeline" is used. Is it possible that they are really not very pleased about it because it takes away a political attacking point? I have wondered that on many occasions.

If hon. Members opposite ask what the pipeline is, I would ask them to go along the Glasgow-Edinburgh road, past Bathgate, and see what was a green field fifteen months ago now producing some of the best motor vehicles that can be made in the United Kingdom. That is an example of the pipeline flowing. The 31,000 jobs will not, of course, appear overnight. The factories have to be built and tooled up. These jobs come into existence in stages. It is nonsense to talk as though nothing is happening. It does us no good in Scotland or the United Kingdom generally to talk as though nothing is happening.

The hon. Member also said that he had no intention of quoting figures to show what the Labour Party did when it was in power compared with what the Conservative Party is doing now. He considered that unnecessary, out-of-date, useless and a waste of time. I will not do it either, except to say that it comes a little odd from a party which said that the proposal to build 300,000 houses a year was dishonest election propaganda and something which could not be done, now to tell us that we ought to be building 450,000 houses a year. I expect that if we said we would build 450,000 a year, the Labour Party would say that it was dishonest propaganda, and yet, at the same time, that we ought to do better. Hon. Members opposite cannot have it both ways.

The truth is that hon. Members opposite who were here while the Labour Government were in power know very well that any given moment only a proportion of the nation's resources can be allocated to our different priorities. It was a deliberate act on the part of hon. Members opposite to hold down house building in 1950 and 1951. I am not saying that they were wrong to hold it to a figure which they believed was consistent with the allocation of resources between the country's essential needs, for that is a problem which any Government is up against. I am not saying they did it maliciously. Of course they did not. They did it because they were conscious of the fact that at any given moment we have to decide which of our priorities are most essential.

Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)

No one disputes the principle which the right hon. Gentleman has laid down, but has he forgotten the 5 million houses which were destroyed during the war and which we helped to replace? Also, why is he now repudiating all the silly speeches and comparisons which he was making in the past, which were quite ridiculous according to his new principle?

Mr. Maclay

If the right hon. Gentleman will look at the text of speeches made in the past he will find that, so far from failing to do so, I always pointed to the problem of the immediate post-war years. The problem was the sort of system which the Labour Party was working—a tightly planned and detail-controlled system which was suppressing the effort which was available.

That is precisely what happened. The Conservative Party was able to build 300,000 houses a year and factories as well. We were able to build a great deal more than the Labour Party thought could be done on the basis of its calculations. I have no doubt that the reason was that we released locked-up energies and resources which hon. Members opposite had succeeded in locking up good and proper.

All this is relevant, because the debate has shown a difference of approach between the two sides of the House. A number of hon. Members have commented on this. Most of the speeches from this side have dwelt on the problems which we have to face, but the attitude has been that we shall solve them. Hon. Members opposite have merely stated the problems; some of them have made detailed suggestions, but they have not tackled the big issues. It is most unfair to suggest, as one or two hon. Members have done, that the approach to this very grave human problem on this side of the House is a less sympathetic and understanding one than that from the other side.

My right hon. Friend made very clear the progress we have made in England and Wales, and I will give some of the figures for Scotland, because the hon. Member for Hamilton has been dealing with some Scottish points. I am glad that he did, because this is a United Kingdom debate. He referred, as have other hon. Members—the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire anyway—-to the drop in actual and prospective housing output in Scotland in the public sector. The tendency was to blame the Government for just failing to do anything about it. It is true that decline in the building in the public sector in Scotland has existed for some years, and I have in the past given the reasons for it.

Mr. Willis

Inadequate reasons.

Mr. Maclay

Before I repeat them I must emphasise that in that period which I have been discussing Scottish local authorities have been free to build as required to meet approved needs in their districts and have, of course, constantly been urged by me to deploy their forces on the priority tasks, particularly slum clearance and urban renewal. There is no question of any obstacle having been placed by the Government in the way of catering for genuine needs. I repeat, therefore, that we must accept the existence of realistic and natural causes for the decline.

Permanent houses to the number of 429,000 have been built in Scotland since the end of the war, 313,000 of them by local authorities, about 48,000 by the Scottish Special Housing Association and 12,512—the figure now is—by new towns. Nearly one-third of the total of the population of Scotland is living in post-war houses. Really, it is not right to pretend that this is a very poor achievement. It is a very remarkable achievement considering that, at the same time, we have been fulfilling all our other obligations.

With the best will in the world, of course, we have reached a stage where progress must be slower. There are a lot of authorities with considerable needs who are now having to face the difficult task of slum clearance and renewal of urban centres, and comparisons with what was done in the days of rapid development of the open peripheral sites are just not relevant. Even the increasing use of multi-storey building—which hon. Members opposite will not quarrel about, I think—so often necessary to make the best use in density terms of precious central sites, often results in slower output.

I therefore do not by any means accept that current figures are evidence of a rundown in the provision of needed accommodation in Scotland which flows from central or local indifference to need. I think that there are perfectly natural explanations for it.

All the cities and some of the larger communities have turned their attention to slum clearance and urban renewal in its various forms, and a good many are encountering the natural delays which must come with this type of work. The revitalised central areas which will result will, I am sure, be worth a great deal of the thoughtful planning which goes into their remaking, and it really cannot be overrushed. Local authorities have every encouragement from me to press on with this important task.

Lastly, of course, I cannot fail to mention, when hon. Members are criticising our record in Scotland, the decision about the fourth new town. If I have time I may say a word about that later, because it links with the whole structure of the general planning of the development of Scotland, with which we are all so concerned.

The real problem in housing, as in so many other fields, is to achieve the best way of distributing the resources available to us, to make certain that they are directed where they are most needed. We have to achieve the best distribution of the resources among the different building agencies and among the different types of housing need. We have to see that public authorities and private enterprise play their proper part, for each has got its own job, and within that job I want the agency most qualified to get on with it.

In housing—and this is where I quarrel with hon. Members opposite who have spoken with emotion—there cannot be and ought not to be doctrinaire concentration on any one agency, or monopoly of building. We are not making the best use of our resources if local authorities build houses for those who are well able to look after themselves. In the White Papers which have been presented to Parliament, last Session by my right hon. Friend and this year by me, we have attempted to sketch out the housing problems which still remain and to indicate how they should be shared between the different agencies, the local authorities, other public authorities, housing associations, and ordinary private building.

I would say to hon. Members opposite —and mostly English Members raised the point—that if we swing too far to local authority building we shall have a gross distortion of building, which has caused so great a difficulty in Scotland, and that during a period when we are trying to steer new industries to Scot-land and when the varieties and types of houses needed in some areas are simply not available.

I shall not deal tonight with low rents, on which the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) expressed some views, but he must realise that I have never attacked the tenants of local authority houses. I have said that there are many tenants whom I know from personal experience would be happier if they were paying realistic rents. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Yes, certainly. Some of them do not like being subsidised at other people's expense. I have steadily urged local authorities all over Scotland to try to get their rents up to a more balanced level. This is not a doctrinaire approach. It is because, from years of experience as Secretary of State, I know that the incidence of unnaturally low rents has distorted our whole housing picture in Scotland, with very bad results for some of the things which all of us in the House want to do.

Some of my hon. Friends raised extremely interesting points about regional planning and urban development. My hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes), in a very thoughtful speech, developed that point at some length. He referred to the problems of land allocation, overspill and town development. As my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government said in opening the debate, these problems are at present under serious consideration in the Ministry in relation to the South-East and other major conurbations. My hon. Friend referred to migration figures and the growth of commercial employment. These things are, of course, known to us and they must be taken into account in any examination of the whole problem.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ashford also asked about the agency for overspill. The answer is very much the same in Scotland as in England. Shortly, it is that there are bound to be a number of different solutions which may well be right. As part of a comprehensive policy, both new towns and expanded towns of one kind or another may well have their place in the right circumstances. The recent decision to build another new town in Scotland and, in England, to build the new town of Skelmersdale shows that the possibility of further new towns has not been excluded.

Reference has also been made to the need to study planning problems over wide areas. As my right hon. Friend has said, the problems of individual planning authorities must obviously be fitted into a planning concept for wider areas. This is a responsibility which is accepted by the Government but, as he said, my right hon. Friend believes that a reasonable basis for individual plans should be arrived at by co-operation between the central Government and local government. There is already very close and continuous contact between the Departments and the local authorities.

This applies to England and it certainly applies to Scotland. As an example, I might point out that my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Scottish Office, will shortly be meeting two or three local authorities together with the industrialists concerned in development in their areas, to try to bring together and co-ordinate planning for the next few years to meet the needs of all concerned. There is also the question of the need for co-ordination of public and private efforts in urban redevelopment. It is clear that the redevelopment of town and city centres is, above all, a field in which public authority and private enterprise can fruitfully cooperate.

It is for the planning authority to draw up the plan for the redevelopment which it wishes to see, while private enterprise can in many instances be the most effective instrument for carrying it out. The ways in which this co-operation can take shape will have to vary in particular cases, and it would be difficult at this stage to comment on individual suggestions put forward from time to time. In general, however, the closest co-operation between the public and private sector in this field is something of which we are very much in favour.

I am sorry that I cannot go into too much detail on all the questions that have been asked. It is not a simple matter to wind up a rather mixed Anglo-Scottish debate, but there are still some points with which I intend to deal. The hon. Member for Hamilton made great play with some figures of European house building. He mentioned Sweden. Repeating what I said before, I say that we must consider carefully what are the other commitments of a certain nation, and how that nation is deploying its resources.

The hon. Member mentioned other countries. Does he know how much building they did in the years after the war, and on what scale their building has to be to catch up with the position Britain reached some years ago? It is true that those who were in France and Italy after the war, up to 1951, 1952 and 1953, saw on what a very small scale building was going on. They had to increase their figures remarkably to catch us up. These comparisons can be most misleading unless they are analysed very carefully right the way back to the war.

The hon. Member took the figures for only three years, and he took the years that are very difficult to relate. Certainly, I cannot relate them, without adequate notice, to what happened immediately after the war. We must treat these figures very carefully, and we must also study the different stages reached before we choose any particular period. Finally, we must bear in mind the other commitments for which national resources are needed.

I want to pick up what I regard as the most important theme running through many of the speeches, especially those made by my hon. Friends. They asked whether long-term planning is working out, and whether new agencies are needed. Scotland provides a good example of the way in which the present agencies are combining to produce the desired results. During the last two years Scotland has benefited greatly by the measures taken by the Government to persuade big industrialists to locate their major expansion projects in Scotland. This applies not only to the motor car industry, but to a great many others.

The advent of these new firms will not only transform the local employment situation, but also it has made possible the movement of population on a big scale from the congested areas of Scotland to parts of the country where there is plenty of space for building, and where the prospects of other industrial development in the future are very good. This is just the kind of redistribution of population that the Amendment is calling for. AH that is made possible only by the co-operation of local authorities in building overspill houses, together with the direct Government contribution through the Scottish Special Housing Association. That is how it is working in Scotland.

Mr. W. Yates

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the reply of his right hon. Friend about the new town to be built in Shropshire is satisfactory? Will he also bear in mind that during my speech I never at any time attacked the Civil Service as a whole?

Mr. Maclay

I thought that the hon. Member was rising to a point in respect of which I ought to give way. He was on a different point. My good manners were mistaken on this occasion.

We have gone further than this general policy of trying to steer industry into the desired areas and to an extent have deliberately sited our new town in Scotland in an area which is not only physically suitable for building, but would also assist with the spread of industry and employment throughout a wider area. A few years ago it would have been diffi- cult to believe that the shale mining area of the Lothians would shortly be one of the most important areas of industrial expansion. But this is now the case.

The choice of the Bathgate site by the British Motor Corporation was a vote of confidence—I say this deliberately—in the skill and adaptability of the people and of the local authorities in the area and this has already been justified. The local authorities have responded well to the need for houses for the workers from Glasgow to supplement the local labour resources and have given assurances that they will build as many as are needed.

I have made clear that I regard this new town—it is an example of the kind of thing for which hon. Members have been asking—as the centrepiece of a scheme of regional development which, with the co-operation of the local authorities, will improve the physical appearance of the countryside, parts of which have been much scarred by the activities of former industries. It will also attract industries with a big growth potential on which the prosperity of Scotland must increasingly depend. This is a co-operative effort between Government and local authorities, and ultimately industry. It has begun well, and I am certain that it will be one of our greatest and most important single factors in redressing the concentration of a far too large proportion of our population and industry in small areas in the country.

I have time to deal with only two more points. I am anxious to make absolutely clear the position regarding the planning which goes on under the present system without the addition of new bodies which were not defined during the debate and which are difficult to visualise. One or two hon. Members again raised the question of interest rates. Although our position is very well known I must again make absolutely clear that we consider that the rates of interest generally must reflect the economic situation and the monetary policy of the nation as a whole. We see no reason why local authorities should be exempt from economic trends reflected by rates of interest which they are called on to pay for housing or other services.

It is argued that housing should have an especially low rate of interest, but where is such a policy to stop? Is it to be applied to water, or electricity, or to a number of other services which could equally qualify for a lower rate of interest? This is a question which comes up time and again and I think that hon. Members opposite do nobody any service by continuing to talk about it. They never define the point at which they would stop the application of this suggested specially low rate of interest, whether it should be confined to housing or be carried on to other services which must be equally involved.

Our policy is to have subsidies for housing which are quite open and not concealed and allow them to be debated, as they will be debated during our discussions on the coming Bill dealing with Scottish housing. Then the House

knows precisely who gets what and what are the arguments for getting it. Hon. Members opposite tend to confuse well-meaning people by talking about specially low rates of interest.

My right hon. Friend made clear that in the ten years since 1951 great progress has been made in England and Wales in the provision of housing, and I have made clear the same thing in relation to Scotland. I cannot see how hon. Members opposite can possibly justify going into the Division Lobby in favour of their Amendment.

Question put,That those words be there added:—

The House divided:Ayes 227, Noes 334.

Division No. 1.] AYES [10.0 p.m.
Finch, Harold King, Dr. Horace
Abse, Leo Fitch, Alan Lawson, George
Ainsley, William Fletcher, Eric Ledger, Ron
Albu, Austen Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale) Lee, Frederick (Newton)
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Forman, J. C. Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) Lever, Harold (Cheetham)
Awbery, Stan Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. Hugh Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)
Baxter, William (Stirlingshire, W.) Galpern, Sir Myer Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J. Ginsburg, David Lipton, Marcus
Bence, Cyril Gooch, E. G. Logan, David
Benson, Sir George Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C. Loughlin, Charles
Blackburn, F. Gourlay, Harry MacColl, James
Blyton, William Grey, Charles McInnes, James
Boardman, H. Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) McKay, John (Wallsend)
Bowden, Herbert W. (Leics, S.W.) Griffiths, W. (Exchange) Mackie, John (Enfield, East)
Bowles, Frank Gunter, Ray McLeavy, Frank
Boyden, James Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.) MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley) Mahon, Simon
Brockway, A. Fenner Hamilton, William (West Fife) Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Hannan, William Mallalieu, J.P.W.(Huddersfield, E.)
Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper) Hart, Mrs. Judith Manuel, A. C.
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Hayman, F. H. Mapp, Charles
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Healey, Denis Mason, Roy
Castle, Mrs. Barbara Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur (Rwly Regis) Mayhew, Christopher
Chapman, Donald Herbison, Miss Margaret Mellish, R. J.
Chetwynd, George Hewitson, Capt. M. Mendelson, J. J.
Cliffe, Michael Hilt, J. (Midlothian) Milne, Edward J.
Collick, Percy Hilton, A. V. Mitchison, G. R.
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Holman, Percy Monslow, Walter
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Holt, Arthur Moody, A. S.
Cronin, John Houghton, Douglas Morris, John
Crosland, Anthony Howell, Charles A. (Perry Barr) Mort, D. L.
Crossman, R. H. S. Hoy, James H. Movie, Arthur
Darling, George Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Mulley, Frederick
Davies, Rt. Hn. Clement (Montgomery) Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Neal, Harold
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Hunter, A. E. Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)
Davies, Harold (Leek) Hynd, H. (Accrington) Oliver, G. H.
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Hynd, John (Attercliffe) Oram, A. E.
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill) Oswald, Thomas
Deer, George Irving, Sydney (Dartford) Owen, Will
Delargy, Hugh Janner, Sir Barnett Padley, W. E.
Dempsey, James Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas Paget, R. T.
Diamond, John Jeger, George Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)
Dodds, Norman Jenkins, Roy (Stechford) Pargiter, G. A.
Donnelly, Desmond Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) Parker, John
Driberg, Tom Jones, Rt. Hn. A. Creech (Wakefield) Paton, John
Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John Jones, Dan (Burnley) Pavitt, Laurence
Ede, Rt. Hon. C. Jones, Elwyn (West Ham, S.) Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)
Edelman, Maurice Jones, Jack (Rotherham) Peart, Frederick
Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly) Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Pentland, Norman
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Jones, T. w. (Merioneth) Plummer, Sir Leslie
Edwards, Walter (Stepney) Kelley, Richard Popplewell, Ernest
Evans, Albert Kenyon, Clifford Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)
Fernyhough, E. Key, Rt. Hon. C. W. Probert, Arthur
Pursey, Cmdr. Harry Sorensen, R. W. Weitzman, David
Randall, Harry Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank Wells, Percy (Faversham)
Rankin, John Spriggs, Leslie wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Redhead, E. C. Steele, Thomas White, Mrs. Eirene
Reid, William Stewart, Michael (Fulham) Whitlock, William
Reynolds, G. W. Stonehouse, John Wigg, George
Rhodes, H. Stones, William Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.
Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Strachey, Rt. Hon. John Wilkins, W. A.
Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon) Strauss, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Vauxhall) Willey, Frederick
Robertson, John (Paisley) Stross, Dr-Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.) Williams, D. J. (Neath)
Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.) Spain, Thomas Williams. LI. (Abertillery)
Ross, William Swingler, Stephen Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)
Royle, Charles (Salford, West) Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.) Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E. Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.) Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)
Short, Edward Thornton, Ernest Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Silverman, Julius (Aston) Thorpe, Jeremy Winterbottom, R. E.
Silverman, Sydney (Nelson) Timmons, John Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Skeffington, Arthur Tomney, Frank Woof, Robert
Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.) Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn Wyatt, Woodrow
Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield) Wade, Donald Yates, Victor (Ladywood)
Small, William Wainwright, Edwin
Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.) Warbey, William TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Snow, Julian Watkins, Tudor Mr. John Taylor and Mr. Rogers.
Agnew, Sir Peter Coulson, J. M. Harrison, Brian (Maldon)
Aitken, W. T. Courtney, Cdr. Anthony Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)
Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.) Craddock, Sir Beresford Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)
Allason, James Critchley, Julian Harvie Anderson, Miss
Amery, Rt. Hon. Julian Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. Sir Oliver Hastings, Stephen
Ashton, Sir Hubert Crowder, F. P. Hay, John
Atkins, Humphrey Cunningham, Knox Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel
Balniel, Lord Curran, Charles Heath, Rt. Hon. Edward
Barber, Anthony Currie, G. B. H. Henderson, John (Cathcart)
Barlow, Sir John Dalkeith, Earl of Hendry, Forbes
Barter, John Danoe, James Hicks Beach, Maj. W.
Batsford, Brian d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Hiley, Joseph
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Deedes, W. F. Hill, Dr. Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)
Bennett, F M. (Torquay) de Ferranti, Basil Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe)
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Cot & Fhm) Digby, Simon Wingfield Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)
Berkeley, Humphry Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M. Hinchingbrooke, Viscount
Bevins, Rt. Hon. Reginald Doughty, Charles Hirst, Geoffrey
Bidgood, John C. Drayson, G. B. Hobson, John
Biggs-Davison, John du Cann, Edward Holland, Philip
Bingham, R. M. Duncan, Sir James Hollingworth, John
Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir David Hope, Rt. Hon. Lord John
Bishop, F. P. Eden, John Hopkins, Alan
Black, Sir Cyril Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Hornby, R. P.
Bossom, Clive Elliott, R,W.(Nwcstle-upon-Tyne, N.) Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Patricia
Bourne-Arton, A. Emery, Peter Howard, Hon. G. R. (St. Ives)
Box, Donald Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn Howard, John (Southampton, Test)
Boyle, Sir Edward Erroll, Rt. Hon. F. J. Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral John
Braine, Bernard Farey-Jones, F. W. Hughes-Young, Michael
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter Farr, John Hulbert, Sir Norman
Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry Fell, Anthony Hurd, Sir Anthony
Brooman-White, R. Finlay, Graeme Hutchison, Michael Clark
Brown, Alan (Tottenham) Fisher, Nigel Iremonger, T. L.
Browne, Percy (Torrington) Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)
Bryan, Paul Foster, John James, David
Bullard, Denys Fraser, Hn. Hugh (Stafford & Stone) Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)
Bullus, Wing Commander Erie Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton) Jennings, J. C.
Burden, F. A. Freeth, Denzil Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)
Butcher, Sir Herbert Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D. Johnson, Eric (Blackley)
Butler, Rt. Hn. R.A. (Saffron Walden) Gammans, Lady Johnson Smith, Geoffrey
Campbell, Sir David (Belfast, S.) Gardner, Edward Joseph, Sir Keith
Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn) Gibson-Watt, David Kaberry, Sir Donald
Carr, Compton (Barons Court) Glover, Sir Douglas Kerans, Cdr. J. S.
Carr, Robert (Mitcham) Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham) Kerby, Capt. Henry
Cary, Sir Robert Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.) Kerr, Sir Hamilton
Channon, H. P. G. Goodhart, Philip Kershaw, Anthony
Chataway, Christopher Goodhew, Victor Kimball, Marcus
Chichester-Clark, R. Gough, Frederick Kirk, Peter
Churchill, Rt. Hon Sir Winston Gower, Raymond Kitson, Timothy
Clark, William (Nottingham, s.) Grant, Rt. Hon. William Lagden, Godfrey
Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.) Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R. Lambton, Viscount
Cleaver, Leonard Green, Alan Lancaster, Col. C. G.
Collard, Richard Gresham Cooke, R. Langford-Holt, J.
Cooke, Robert Grimston, Sir Robert Leather, E. H. C.
Cooper, A. E. Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G. Leavey, J. A.
Cooper-Key, Sir Neill Gurden, Harold Leburn, Gilmour
Cordeaux, Lt.-Col- J. K. Hall, John (Wycombe) Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry
Cordle, John Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough) Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)
Corfield, F. V. Hare, Rt. Hon. John Lilley, F. J. P.
Costain, A. P. Harris, Reader (Heston) Lindsay, Martin
Linstead, Sir Hugh Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth) Stevens, Geoffrey
Litchfield, Capt. John Page, John (Harrow, West) Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)
Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfield) Page, Graham (Crosby) Stodart, J. A.
Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral) Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale) Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm
Longbottom, Charles Partridge, E. Storey, Sir Samuel
Longden, Gilbert Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe) Studholme, Sir Henry
Loveys, Walter H, Peel, John Summers, Sir Spencer (Aylesbury)
Lucas, Sir Jocelyn Percival, Ian Talbot, John E.
Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Peyton, John Tapsell, Peter
McAdden, Stephen Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
MacArthur, Ian Pike, Miss Mervyn Taylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.)
McLaren, Martin Pilkington, Sir Richard Taylor, W. J. (Bradford, N.)
McLaughlin, Mrs. Patricia Pitman, Sir James Teeling, William
Maclay, Rt. Hon. John Pitt, Miss Edith Temple, John M.
Maclean, Sir Fitzroy (Bute & N. Ayrs.) Pott, Percivall Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret
McLean, Nell (Inverness) Powell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)
Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.) Price, David (Eastleigh) Thomas, Peter (Conway)
MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty) Price, H. A. (Lewisham, W.) Thompson Kenneth (Walton)
McMaster, Stanley R. Prior, J. M. L. Thompson, Richard (Croydon, S.)
Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Harold (Bromley) Prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho Thorton-Kemsley, Sir Colin
Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax) Profumo, Rt. Hon. John Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)
Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries) Proudfoot, Wilfred Tilney, John (Wavertree)
Maddan, Martin Pym, Francis Turner, Colin
Maginnis, John E. Quennell, Miss J. M. Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H,
Maitland, Sir John Ramsden, James Van Straubenzee, W. R.
Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R. Rawlinson, Peter Vane, W. M. F.
Markham, Major Sir Frank Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hon. Sir John
Marlowe, Anthony Rees, Hugh Vickers, Miss Joan
Marples, Rt. Hon. Ernest Rees-Davies, W. R. Vosper, Rt. Hon. Dennis
Marshall, Douglas Renton, David Walder, David
Marten, Neil Ridley, Hon. Nicholas Walker, Peter
Mathew, Robert (Honiton) Ridsdale, Julian Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir Derek
Matthews, Gordon (Meriden) Rippon, Geoffrey Wall, Patrick
Maudling, Rt. Hon. Reginald Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley) Ward, Dame Irene
Mawby, Ray Robertson, Sir D. (c'thn's & S'th'ld) Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold
Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Robson Brown, Sir William Webster, David
Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C. Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks) Wells, John (Maidstone)
Mills, Stratton Roots, William Whitelaw, William
Montgomery, Fergus Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard Williams, Dudley (Exeter)
Moore, Sir Thomas (Ayr) Royle, Anthony (Richmond, Surrey) Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
More, Jasper (Ludlow) St. Clair, M. Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
Morgan, William Scott-Hopkins, James Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Morrison, John Seymour, Leslie Wise, A. R.
Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles Sharples, Richard Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Nabarro, Gerald Shaw, M. Woodhouse, C. M.
Neave, Airey Shepherd, William Woodnutt, Mark
Nicholls, Sir Harmar Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir Jocelyn Woollam, John
Nicholson, Sir Godfrey Skeet, T. H. H. Worsley, Marcus
Noble, Michael Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'rd & Chiswick) Yates, William (The Wrekin)
Nugent, Sir Richard Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood)
Oakshott, Sir Hendrie Soames, Rt. Hon. Christopher TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Orr, Capt. L. P. S. Spearman, Sir Alexander Mr. Edward Wakefield and
Orr-Ewing, C. Ian Speir, Rupert Colonel Sir Harwood Harrison
Osborn, John (Hallam) Stanley, Hon. Richard

Main Question again proposed.

Mr. Ray Mawby (Totnes) rose

It being after Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.

Debate to be resumed Tomorrow.