§ 3.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham)
The Votes before us will enable hon. Members to discuss a wide range of topics, but I propose to concentrate on two, housing and local authority finance, and of those, as I think is right, I shall give pre-eminence to housing. We are, of course, concerned today with the affairs of England and Wales only. In Scotland, the citizens are already engaged in passing a verdict on Conservative housing and local government policies, a verdict which, no doubt, the Committee will take into consideration.
It is reasonable now, after more than ten years of Conservative government, to review the nature and general effects of Conservative policy towards housing. We notice, first, that it is not a policy based 1024 on any consideration of real needs, but a policy based on an ideology, on the belief that one should seek continually to discourage public enterprise in the provision of housing and act in the faith and hope that private enterprise will somehow provide an answer to our problems. To that view the Tories have stuck year after year in the face of mounting evidence that they were not travelling along the right road.
The objectives which the Government and their supporters had in mind in pursuing their policy were, I think, these. First, they sought to make owner-occupation more attractive. In this, they have failed. It is not that owner-occupation is decreasing. It is, indeed, increasing. But this is not because it has been made easier or more attractive, but because other aspects of Conservative policy have made owner-occupation obligatory on a growing number of people, often against what would in other circumstances have been their better judgment.
If owner-occupation is a good thing to encourage, as it is, it is a bad thing to thrust down people's throats. In their aim of making it easier or more attractive, the Government have failed. We must note also that, whatever one succeeds or fails to do in this connection, owner-occupation still cannot be the answer to the housing problems of a very large number of people.
Another of their objectives was to encourage the private landlord to build houses for rent. In this, they have notoriously failed. Next, it was their objective to encourage the private landlord if not to build for rent at least to make more of existing accommodation available for letting at reasonable rents. In this objective, also, they have failed. They sought also to encourage the private landlord to fulfil more adequately his responsibility to care for the condition of property. In this, too, they have failed.
Their next objective was to discourage, save in the single case of one-bedroom dwellings, council building. Here, at last, we reach an objective in which they have succeeded, although even success in the provision of an increasing number of one-bedroom dwellings intended mainly for elderly people can be regarded as such only in comparison with the discouragement of 1025 municipal building of almost every other kind. We were told that this discouragement of the provision of houses for general needs was part of a policy—this was their last objective—designed to give us a slum clearance drive adequate to the size of the slum problem. In this also they have failed.
I take, first, owner-occupation. It must be apparent to anyone who studies the problem that recent trends in this connection have been extremely disquieting. If the movement of house prices which has gone on during the past few years is continued, it will become increasingly difficult for young couples to set themselves up in what they hope will one day be their own house. Let us consider what has been happening to the prices of houses. I take, first, an example which was given some publicity in the Press, a house in Hendon which, before the war, cost£900. By 1951, it was changing hands for£3,275.
When one considers what had happened to prices and incomes in general and the value of money during the intervening period, that may not be unreasonable. However, after reaching the figure of£3,275 in 1951, the price had gone up to£4,200 in 1960. That is a rise of about one-third. That this is not an isolated example is shown by the Ministry of Works index number for the price of new houses. Taking 1956 as 100, in 1961 that index number stood at 122, a rise of nearly a quarter in five years.
What are the causes of this rise in the price of new houses? We are very familiar with them after a number of debates. One is the increasing rise in the price of the land on which houses are built. The Chairman of the Building Societies Association recently estimated that it is not uncommon for the cost of the land to be 40 per cent. of the cost of a new dwelling. I do not think that anyone can contend that that is a healthy situation.
The other main cause is the high interest rates which spring from the Government's general policy. We have usually discussed that evil in the context of its effect on municipal building, but it also affects owner-occupiers. It is the cause of the letters which the person 1026 buying his house receives from time to time informing him regretfully that it will take him longer and will cost him more to complete the transaction than he had hoped when he started.
Those are the two main causes of this rise in the price of new houses. What is the result? For that, we can consult a recent survey made by the National Institute for Economic and Social Research. The cost of a new two-bedroom dwelling was examined. Figures for dwellings of other sizes were given, but I take a two-bedroom dwelling, which is the most modest accommodation that a young family would be expected to require. To acquire a new two-bedroom dwelling by purchase would involve the payment of about£5 a week.
If we assume that a man should be expected to spend a quarter of his income on house room, what result do we get? I think that the calculation that a man should be required to spend a quarter of his income on house room errs on the high side. I should have thought that one-fifth was plenty. When we considered these matters before the war we did not think in terms of a proportion as high as that. However, let me take that figure. Let us assume that we have moved into a state of society in which people should spend a quarter of their income on house room and set that against the cost of acquiring by purchase a new two-bedroom dwelling.
The answer that we get is that only about one family in eight can hope to do it. That is why I say that, judging by the way things have been moving, owner-occupation is not being made easier. It certainly cannot be regarded as an answer to the housing problem of more than a small minority of the population.
Not only can only one family in eight be reasonably expected to buy a two-bedroom dwelling, but only about one-third of the population could afford to rent such a dwelling unless it was subsidised. That is the situation in which we find ourselves. The great majority of the population cannot afford to buy or to rent a new house without a subsidy or some kind of outside aid. That is on the basis of a two-bedroom dwelling. Many families will require larger accommodation than that.
1027 We know that some people meet the problem by spending, in effect, more than it is really wise for them to spend on house room. One effect of the Rent Act has been to drive a number of people into owner-occupation which eats a larger hole in their income than is socially or personally desirable. This is not something which applies only to new houses. It also applies if people are considering buying existing properties.
I am indebted to Councillor Russell, of Romford, for a study which he made of houses advertised in the Romford, Dagenham and Hornchurch newspapers. It was the Minister's predecessor who advised us to go to the advertisement columns of the newspapers for evidence of the success of the Government's housing policy. Councillor Russell found that of the houses advertised only one in seven cost less than£3,000. Among that one-seventh were houses built even before 1914. What proportion of potential buyers could afford houses priced at above that figure? Probably, again, only one-seventh of the potential buyers. Six-sevenths would be competing for one-seventh of the houses offered for sale.
When people think of becoming owner-occupiers, they look for help to a building society or to a local authority, but one of the results of the Government's financial policy towards local authorities has been to oblige one council after another regretfully to decide that it must suspend its service of help to house purchasers. Therefore, while we may hope that there will be families who will be able to solve their housing problem in this way, we must face the fact that it will be increasingly difficult for them to do so and that, in any case, it does not touch the main housing problem.
Let me now deal with the next objective of Government policy, namely, to encourage private landlords—by higher rents, by improvement grants and by this, that and the other—to fulfil the duties which should belong to a private landlord. Let us see what has become of that. What was the private landlord supposed to do as the result of the sunshine of Conservative government pouring down upon him? He was supposed to build new houses for rent. I wonder 1028 whether the Minister will tell us to what extent he does that. There was a calculation, I think, in the Guardian, some time ago, that not 2 per cent. of new houses built by private enterprise were built for rent. It is a generally known fact that we do not look to this source for houses for rent.
When we have raised this point we have usually been told that the reason why the private landlord will not build houses for rent is that he is terrified of what a future Labour Government would do to him. Will the private landlord build houses for rent only if he can have an assurance that everyone will vote Conservative until the end of time? If that is what he wants, as one looks round the country at the moment, it does not look as if he will have such an assurance. In view of that, the Government had better reconsider their faith in the ability of private landlords to build houses for rent.
Secondly, the private landlord will not build houses either to rent or to sell in those places where the need is greatest. I take some comparisons from figures published by the Minister. First, let me deal with two towns each of which has a population of 50,000. In Harrogate, private enterprise has built 2,800 houses and in Merthyr Tydvil 250. I think that probably the need is greater in Merthyr Tydvil than it is in Harrogate. In two towns each with a population of 100,000, Twickenham and Gateshead, private enterprise has built 2,400 and 600 houses respectively. This only emphasises something which was brought out in a Ministry inquiry some time ago, when attention was drawn to the fact that private building was done generally in the more attractive parts of the country and not in those parts where the need was greatest.
Quite apart from building, the private landlord has not come up to the Government's expectations and the faith in him in the task of making existing accommodation available for letting. The great instrument of the Government's policy to this end was the Rent Act. It was this, we were told, which would encourage private landlords to make more accommodation available for rent. A former Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry was bold enough to suggest that after a year of operation 1029 of the Rent Act the housing problem would be solved in many parts of the country. He has now received promotion.
With the Government's help, we are able to see how far that has been successful, because in 1960 the Government published the results of an inquiry into the effects of the Rent Act. It showed, among other things, that the Government's calculations about how many houses would be affected, either by the initial decontrol or by creeping decontrol, were wildly inaccurate. For the moment, however, I leave that aside. My concern is that from that inquiry we find what had happened by 1959 to the 320,000 dwellings examined by the Government which were rented unfurnished in 1957 and were decontrolled under the 1957 Act.
We find that, of those 320,000 dwellings, by 1959 one-quarter of them were no longer rented unfurnished; they had vanished from that market. One-eighth of them had become owner-occupied. This is the kind of owner-occupation, not always in very happy circumstances, that this item of policy has encouraged. One in twelve of the houses were standing empty, presumably because the landlord thought that, if he waited a bit longer, in the conditions of the market he would be able to do very well indeed, a hope which is quite often fulfilled.
It is evident from the information provided by the Government that the Rent Act has not brought more rented accommodation on to the market at reasonable rents. It has, I believe, brought some kinds of rented accommodation on to the market. I read recently an account by a student of these problems who had visited certain conversions that were being carried on in the neighbourhood of Sloane Square—tiny dwellings which were to be available for rent, but very unsatisfactory to live in. When he pointed out their undesirability, he was told, "Well, we do not regard these really as homes. These are pied-à-terre for people who have homes elsewhere". I agree that the Rent Act may be helping to bring that kind of rented accommodation on to the market, but it has no relevance to the housing needs of our people.
Next, the Rent Act has not remedied under-occupation. The Ministry's sur- 1030 vey told us that, if anything, under-occupation has slightly increased since the Act was passed. It has actually increased the number of properties standing vacant and, of course, it has made it easier for the landlord to neglect the property. Take the position of the landlord whose tenant is in the house on a tenancy of, if he is lucky, three years, and often two years or twelve months. The house is notoriously in need of repair. It may even call for action by the public health authority. The tenant knows very well that if he requires the landlord to do what he ought to do under the lease, or if he invokes the public health authority, his chances of getting his agreement renewed are slender indeed.
What the Government succeeded in doing is putting the landlord in so strong a bargaining position that it is remarkably easy for him simply to drop his obligation to care for the property and to hope that the tenant, if he is an active and diligent person, will do the job himself. But what if the tenant is not active? What if age or infirmity prevents him from using ladders and paint himself and doing the landlord's job? What becomes of the property then? Those are the results of the Government's convictions that if they encouraged the private landlord sufficiently, the problem would be solved.
In what I have said I have used the expression "the private landlord" as if all private landlords were of a class. That I must correct. They are not. They vary a great deal in their humanity and in their sense of responsibility. What the Government have succeeded in doing, however, is creating a kind of society in which the good private landlord, the man who wants to fulfil his responsibilities, looks round at what the others are doing and decides that virtue and responsibility are a mug's game in the kind of society that the Government have created.
Of the number of people who come to me with housing problems, who are tenants of private landlords, who are being asked for exorbitant rents, whose repairs are being neglected and who are told that when their agreement runs out in six months' time out they go, what impresses me is the number of times they tell me that the property has 1031 changed hands on two, three or four occasions since the Rent Act was passed.
I have sometimes interviewed former landlords who sold the property believing that their tenants would be justly and humanely treated and who are deeply distressed at what has happened after the property has changed hands. The general drive in landlordism today is to encourage the landlord who regards the house as something to bring him in an income and nothing else and to discourage the one who has a sense of responsibility, is content with a reasonable rent and is prepared to keep the property in proper repair. That is the situation today.
We are moving towards a position in which only one family in eight will be able to think of buying a new house and only one family in three can, unless they put an undue burden on themselves, even rent a new dwelling unless it is subsidised. For not new dwellings, but existing properties, the level of rents is now such that the majority of our people cannot unaided solve their own housing problem. Many of them solve it by living for as far ahead as they can see in accommodation that is patently too small for them.
The moral of that is an important social and political one. It is that we have to accept the idea that housing should be regarded, as education is regarded, as a social service. Education is by its nature 100 per cent. subsidised. Nobody would suggest that housing should be treated in that way. We have, however, to say to ourselves that for a man to be ill-housed is an evil, not only to him, but for the whole community, and that for a man to be well-housed is an advantage, not only to his family, but to the whole community in which he lives, and that, therefore, this is a proper subject for some kind of subsidy, arranged through whatever channel or called by whatever name one wishes. The idea that we can solve the problem as a whole by reliance solely on private enterprise and the forces of the market is being repeatedly disproved. The rising figures of house prices and rents are disproving it all the time.
We have already accepted that principle in certain directions. We accept the idea of helping, in effect, from the public purse the owner-occupier. We do that 1032 by the Income Tax rebate which he can get on his mortgage repayments. It is proposed to do it by the treatment of the Schedule A tax. Those are right developments. They recognise the principle which I have enunciated, that if a man desres to have a good home for himself and his family, that is, like educating his children, something in which he ought to be helped by the community as a whole. We recognise it also in the case of the council tenant who pays less, though not always so very much less, than the economic rent. We recognise, again, that in his case for him to be well housed is a social advantage and that the cost of it should, therefore, be partly met by subsidy.
There remains the group for whom we have refused to recognise this principle, the tenants of the private landlords, and it is for that reason that more and more of the sharpest edges of the housing shortage and the housing problem are driving in upon them, and that is why it is wrong for the Government to regard private landlordism as the main way of solving the housing problem. Indeed, of the various ways of solving it it has become inevitably the least satisfactory.
I can think of one other possible approach to the housing problem other than that general idea I have just enunciated, and that is this. Could we not consider whether the technical cost of building houses could be substantially brought down so that, therefore, the cost of a good home could be brought within the reach of all our citizens without the need of subsidy? I do not think that that is a matter to which we have given in our debates sufficient attention, and perhaps the Minister will have something to say about that.
It is true that recently, during, I think, about the last twelve or eighteen months, there have been improvements in the productivity of the building industry, but it is a slow process, and I do not think it can be expected to continue for long at the rather exceptional rate of improvement of the last twelve or eighteen months. It will be a big problem. It will need the co-operation of the trade unions with regard to methods of building and what kind of worker is appropriate for what kind of job. It will need the consideration of this question: can we really build 1033 properly and efficiently when so many firms in the industry are such tiny firms?
It will need also, I think, consideration of whether we could not make better progress if it were a more usual habit of local authorities to join together in the giving of orders for the purchase of materials. The Minister will find, though he will not like this, that a number of local authorities who have done the work by direct labour have done it very economically indeed. In considering the matter he should not, for ideological reasons, rule that out.
A number of years ago, under the initiative of George Tomlinson, we made quite remarkable improvements in the cost of building of schools. Some people thought—and I think that I would agree with them—that perhaps we went a bit too far there and skimped on the buildings, but it would not be denied that many of the economies made as a result of that inquiry were real economies and got us something as good for substantially less money. I find it difficult to believe that something of what was done there could not be done in house building, and I think that it is up to the Ministry to take an initiative in this field; and if the Ministry does not like the idea of housing subsidies it must recognise that this is really the only other possible road, unless it is to be prepared to see millions of our people going on being ill-housed for years.
Whatever is done in improving the techniques of the building industry is bound to be a slow remedy which could not yield fruits quickly. It will be true, therefore, for a good many years that the bulk of our citizens cannot, without some kind of subsidy or public help, be housed as, viewing the whole wealth of the country and the standards of civilisation which we expect, they ought to be housed at the present time.
Now, subsidised housing means council housing, and that means, therefore, that unless and until we can produce very substantial reductions in building costs—and we do not know at all how much progress can be made in that field till we have examined the question further—but unless and until we can do that, if we hope to solve the housing problems of many of our people we have got to have more council houses, and 1034 there is really no escape from that conclusion. Yet this is the one field in the whole range of housing in which the Government have succeeded—in cutting down the number of council houses built.
We know the causes of that decline and the amount of it, roughly 100,000 houses built in England and Wales in 1960, slightly more than 90,000 in 1961. It is too early to judge yet what the outturn at the end of this year will be. My guess would be that it will lie somewhere between those two figures for 1960 and 1961.
What are the causes of that decline? They are mainly those I mentioned when I was speaking of the costs of houses for sale—land prices. If the Government are not prepared to do anything to control land prices, or to bring land into public ownership, will they at least do a little more to try to spread industry, and, therefore, the demand for land, rather more evenly over the country? That has been urged on them from many parts of the House in the past. We have never had any clear statement of the Government's intentions in this field, but if they go on as they are now in certain parts of the country the rises in the price of land we have been having in the last few years will look tiny compared with what will happen in the next few years.
As I say, if the Government will not tackle the problem of the ownership and price of land they should at least consider the influence which location of industry has on the demand for land, because the shortage of land, of course, is not a shortage over the country as a whole. It is a shortage in certain regions, tied up with the flow of employment to certain regions.
The other cause of the decline is the burden of interest rates which hangs round the necks of local authorities and troubles them not only in carrying out their housing programmes, but in performing all their other duties which Parliament lays upon them. Here again, we know that it is idle to ask the Minister to make money available to local authorities at favoured rates of interest. When he went into office somebody handed him a little chit of paper which no doubt his predecessor had had and which contained the stock answer to 1035 that one. It is, "You must not shield housing from the economic situation of the country. You must not regard housing as in any way more important than any other kind of enterprise." Which is, in my view, an imbecile proposition. But we know that the Minister has got to stick to it.
But will he, at least, since he cannot solve the real problem, look at this? Local authorities are still excluded from the Public Works Loan Board. Last year, I think, only about 7 per cent. of their borrowing was from the Board. The result is that they compete with one another in the open market and that, I believe, is one reason why they are having to pay the rates they are. Would the Minister at least consider reopening to them the facilities of the Public Works Loan Board, so creating some kind of centralised agency which could do the borrowing for the local authorities as a whole, and put an end to the inter-authority competition, which is one of the causes of the high rates of interest they have to pay?
Those are, I think, the causes of the decline in council building. As to the results, I mentioned that, in 1961, 93,000 houses were built in England and Wales. Of those, 24,000 were one-bedroom dwellings, and that is gratifying when one thinks of the number of old people who will be helped in that way, but it means this, that 69,000 council houses were built for people who require more than one bedroom, and in that same year slum clearance and other causes of demolition pulled down 74,000 houses, and we were left at the end with 5,000 fewer houses available for people on ordinary council waiting lists, and not living in clearance areas, and requiring more than one bedroom.
In 1960, we added just 1,000 to the number of houses available for these people. In 1961, it was 5,000 on the wrong side. What we must have, and this is about the tenth time of asking in recent months, is an answer to one question from the Government. Do they regard this low and declining figure of council house building as satisfactory? They have always told us that if the councils would put up the rents more people would be squeezed out and would buy their own houses, which is so easy 1036 an occupation these days, and there would be lots more room. Or the Government say to the councils, "When you have old people whose families have dwindled, fling them out. Do not let them stay with their lifelong friends."
Let us suppose that every local authority dutifully followed the strictest path of Conservative ideology in its treatment of tenants. Are the Government saying on that assumption that this figure of council house building is adequate? I do not believe that that can be maintained and I do not think that they will try to maintain it. What are the Government going to do to increase the figure again? One of the first remarks made to me by the Minister's predecessor, when we first began to have exchanges across the Floor of the House about housing some years ago, was that I should be glad to see the amount of council house building going up. The figures issued at that time gave some colour to that remark, but I have had no cause for gladness since.
What do the Government think about the future of council house building? We shall be told that 74,000 houses were demolished last year, of which 60,000 were for slum clearance and 14,000 were demolitions for other reasons. What about the slum clearance drive? When we urged the Minister a few weeks ago to do something about urban renewal he said that he was delighted at the idea, but that slum clearance must come first. It is one of the characteristics of this Government that if we urge them to do A they explain that they cannot because they are eager to do B.
Let us look at what they have been doing about slum clearance. The programme is running, says the Minister—because I know his speech almost by heart by now—at 60,000 a year. I see from a glint in the Minister's eye that it is a few thousand above 60,000.
§ Mr. Stewart
Splendid. There are about 5 million houses in the country at present which are over sixty years old. In the next ten years a good many of them will become slums, or something very like it. This figure of 60,000, or 1037 even 64,000 a year, is barely keeping pace wish the rate of obsolescence at present.
If that, rate is maintained it will take about nine years to get rid of the dwellings reckoned to be slums in that famous estimate made in 1955. That by itself might sound cheerful enough, but there are two things to be noticed. We cannot place much reliance on the estimate that there were 850,000 slum dwellings in 1955 because the way the estimating was done was so remarkably haphazard. I find it difficult to believe that the percentage of dwellings properly to be called slums is the same in Cardiff as in Sutton and Cheam, yet that is the kind of estimate on which this figure of 850,000 in 1955 is based.
Even if we assume that that is correct and we go on as we have been going and get rid of those 850,000 in nine years' time, there will be in nine years' time at least that number which we shall be obliged to regard as slums when we look at the ages of houses at present. The Government have cut down the whole process of municipal building to a concentration on slum clearance, and even so, with the rest of the hopes of people who want to live in council houses in ruins, it is not adequate to the situation.
I conclude, therefore, that when we review Conservative policy on housing we must decide that we are not on the right road. Here are some of the things to which the Minister might give attention if he wants to get on the right road. First, there is the land question. If he will not do anything about the ownership of land, or the control of the price of land, what are the Government doing to prevent the excessive and growing concentration of industry and the potential seekers of homes in certain areas of the kingdom that creates in those areas an almost intolerable land problem?
Secondly, there are the interest rates. If the Minister will not consider favourable rates of interest, will he consider some form of centralised borrowing for the needs of local authorities, and that not only for housing, because these high interest rates affect all their work? Over the last nine years the amount of money paid in rates, averaged per head of the population, has doubled, but people's 1038 incomes have not doubled during the last nine years.
Next, in the field of local authority responsibility generally, cannot the Minister do what a number of his hon. Friends have asked him, and we on this side have asked him even earlier, namely, consider alternative methods of local government finance? I do not believe that we can combine the desire to make local authorities our chief instruments for civilisation and amenity with our present rating system. The two things just do not add up.
Will the Minister set in train concentrations in the building industry to see whether, if he does not like the idea of subsidising housing, he can make it physically less expensive? Until he can obtain some results in that field, will he accept the necessity that council house building ought to be increasing as the years go by and not decreasing? These are the kind of questions to which the Minister's energies ought to be directed. If he devotes to them half the energy which he devotes to dictating rent policies to the local authorities, or to distorting and dismantling the education services of London, we shall all be better off.
One of the items which we are discussing today is an item for the Minister's salary—£5,000 a year, almost enough to provide two new two-bedroom dwellings. We look at the Minister, we look at the Government's policy, and we ask whether he is worth it. The right hon. Gentleman will have to consider whether he should not put his energies to things that would really matter, that would give some hope and some comfort to the millions of ill-housed and frustrated families throughout the country.
§ 4.19 p.m.
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Mr. Geoffrey Rippon)
The hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) has made, as usual, a skilful and, indeed, a clever speech. I think that it was Sydney Smith who said:There are some men who continue to please and astonish the world even in the support of a bad cause. They are mighty in their fallacies and beautiful in their errors".The hon. Member is one of those. He always sounds so moderate and so 1039 reasonable. Unfortunately, when he and the majority of his party deal with housing they always bring forward the same fallacies and errors. They have a very curious idea of what constitutes failure in a housing programme.
I should like, at the end of my speech, to deal at some length with home ownership, because the hon. Gentleman concentrated on it. This is something which is fundamental to the Conservative philosophy, as the hon. Gentleman said, but I should like, first, to put in a broad perspective, some of the matters which he raised.
It is unfortunate for the Opposition that they are completely stuck with the fundamental fallacy that we can in some way improve our existing stock of accommodation, or our use of it, by returning to the full rigours of rent control or interfering in some further way with the freedom of contract. But I think that many of our problems stem directly from the operation of the Rent Restriction Acts over the years. They have been a ferocious obstacle to better housing, so much so that our biggest housing liability at the present time lies in the millions of houses which are structurally sound, but which lack elementary amenities.
I do not want to cover a lot of ground that we have covered many times before, but the truth is that the freezing of rents stifled investment in houses to let and created widespread and unnecessary decay which it has taken Conservative policies to arrest. The truth is that the only way in which we can provide better homes is not by imposing more controls, as the Opposition would like us to do, but by building more new houses and by improving and converting more existing ones.
We have already done a great deal. We all know the basic figures—the hon. Gentleman was careful not to quote them himself—4 million new houses since the end of the war, 3 million under Conservative administration. This means that one house in every four is a new house conforming to modern standards. That is not failure, I should have thought. We sometimes overlook, although it is becoming of increasing importance, that over 250,000 houses 1040 have been modernised even since 1959. This is nothing to be complacent about, but it is not failure. This is a formidable achievement.
So much have we done that what we are often considering now is a problem Which is not so much quantitative as qualitative. It stems from the rising standards and general prosperity that Conservative administration has created. We look now far beyond slum clearance and the rehabilitation of blighted areas. We are considering now meeting the increasing demand for self-contained accommodation that comes from an increasing number of separate households.
The actual assessment of the long-term demand for new houses is inevitably speculative. The Alliance Building Society has put the figure at 400,000 a year over the next twenty years. The National Institute of Economic and Social Research, on which the hon. Gentleman relies for some of his information, has suggested only 225,000 a year. Maybe what we are doing at present, about 300,000 a year, will prove sufficient.
The trouble with these statistics, especially if they are projected forward, is that they assume a vacuum with no motive power coming from any source. They cannot contemplate the changing pattern of events, and so they are almost invariably wrong. Indeed, the hon. Gentleman pointed out some occasions on which estimates have proved inaccurate, particularly when they are looking forward.
The Government's policy, therefore, is to allow as many houses to be built and modernised as are required to meet the demands made by a nation with continually rising standards of life and labour. The actual rate of progress is limited solely and necessarily by the physical availability of resources, including particularly land and labour, and our ability to make the best use of them.
There are two questions to which I would say the House has to address its mind. They are not so much those that the hon. Gentleman put, but there are two which are, clearly, relevant. First, are we devoting to building and improving houses as much as our resources permit? Secondly, are we allocating 1041 those resources sensibly between the various demands for private and public housing, housing for purchase and housing to rent, housing for slum clearance and all the other special needs?
The hon. Gentleman really did not address himself to the first question at all. He was not able to say in any way how we could devote more of our resources to house building. The fact is that at present, as we all know, the level of construction shows the building industry still suffering from a measure of overstrain. The effect on public housing can be graphically illustrated by looking at the ratio between the number of dwellings under construction at the beginning of a year and the number completed. If we look at the figures for the last three years we find that, in 1959, 97 were completed out of 100 under construction at the beginning of the year. In 1960 it was 84 and in 1961 it was 72.
I should have thought that with the pressure on the building industry being so great, with completions lagging and with prices consequently rising, it was quite sensible last July to say that we should be careful about putting further work into contract. There are already some signs—I am sure that the House and particularly hon. Members opposite will be glad to hear this—that results are beginning to appear. During the past six months local authority tender prices have ceased their abrupt rise and something like stability has been achieved. Moreover, we are finding that work is moving faster from the approval stage into the construction stage.
I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that that is one of the ways in which we can bring prices down. The way the Opposition would like to bring prices down, as he indicated, would be by having lower interest rates. Certainly, everyone in every field of activity would rather have a lower interest rate. If the hon. Gentleman would lend me£1,000 at 2½per cent.—I think that that is the magic figure for bon. Members opposite—I should be very glad to accept it.
It is, however, a fallacy to believe that low interest rates quite unrelated to the economic situation of the country would mean lower prices. As the 1042 International Monetary Fund said in one of its reports:Countries which used monetary policy promptly and firmly were more successful than other countries in checking the rise in prices, credit and money supplies.If the Labour Party had understood that philosophy when it was in power we should not have been on the verge of bankruptcy in 1951.
It is argued that housing should be treated, as the hon. Gentleman suggested, exceptionally by giving it a low rate of interest. The hon. Gentleman does not like the answer that he gets, but surely it is right to say that if one can make a special case for housing one can also make a special case for education, housing, or essential industrial development. The hon. Gentleman said that local authorities have to compete in the open market for their money; but so does everyone else. If we made a special arrangement for housing or some other service, it would clearly destroy the general economic policy, and the volume of housing investment is already very high.
In any event, if we did it the difference between the market rate and the specially low rate would have to be met out of taxation. It would, in fact, be a concealed subsidy. I, for one, believe that if we are to have subsidies we should let them be direct and let them be distributed according to need. This is the fundamental basis of our housing subsidy policy.
Local authority subsidies, as the hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well, cannot be related to a particular house, but must be related to the condition of the housing revenue account as a whole If the Exchequer subsidies, which now total about£70 million a year, are pooled, as they must be, and if all council tenants pay a reasonable rent, there is no financial consideration that should hold up essential local authority building. The subsidies themselves can be reviewed as the situation changes.
That is What we have done from time to time since the end of the war. They can be reviewed to meet a special need or a new strategic requirement. But I believe that, however calculated, they should not be indiscriminately applied. If subsidies are distributed indiscriminately they not only inflate demand, but 1043 deflate the hopes of those in real need while wasting both national and local resources.
Whatever view one takes of interest rates and subsidies, it is clear that juggling—which is what it would come to—with the real cost of house construction will not produce any land, labour, or material. In the short term, more houses can only be secured by accepting less of something else. It is up to the Opposition to suggest what the choice should be—houses or schools.
We know what pressure the building industry is under. Of course, from time to time the Opposition have said that we should build fewer shops, offices and garages. But it is living in a fool's paradise to imagine that if we eliminated every unnecessary office or shop or garage we would see a decisive difference. No one, not even the Opposition, suggests that we should not replace slum offices or should not redevelop city centres or provide shops on housing estates. Planning considerations may affect where we put them, but no one doubts the need.
Last year, the value of the new work undertaken by contractors in the building and civil engineering industry came to£1,881 million. Of this total, housing already accounts for 37 per cent. and other work for public authorities for 26 per cent. Industry takes only 22 per cent. and the rest—offices, shops, garages and miscellaneous buildings of every kind—total 15 per cent. There really is no reason to believe that a further diversion of resources to houses would be justified, much less that it would work miracles.
In the long run, there are only two ways in which we can bring about a large-scale increase in house building. The first is by securing, as we are endeavouring to do through a sound national economic policy, a real growth in the national economy, because then we would have greater resources for housing and the other things we want. The second way, upon which the hon. Member for Fulham also touched, and which we must pursue vigorously, is to increase the productive efficiency of the building industry. No doubt he has studied the recent report by Sir Harold Emmerson, which highlights the pro- 1044 blems to be tackled—better liaison between all concerned in the planning and creation of buildings, more standardisation of components and fittings, and a new look at methods of training.
This is one of the roads forward, but we must always recognise that the potential of the building industry is only one factor in the story. Our capacity to pay for the things we want will depend on the rate of growth of the economy and on the savings available for investment. Given that we have about as much building work as the resources of the industry and nation can bear, the question remains: are we allocating these resources sensibly between the various demands for private and public building? The hon. Gentleman, on behalf of the Opposition, says that we are not doing so because we are not allocating enough to council house building to let.
The hon. Gentleman sought to prove this by taking the figures for one year, but that is another irrelevant statistic and a fallacy. We have to look at the total pool of local authority houses. Since the war, the local authorities have built almost two houses to every one built privately. I would not have called that failure, as is suggested by the hon. Gentleman. Local authorities now have 3½million houses, probably producing at least 70,000 relets a year.
I reiterate what I did not think the hon. Gentleman liked to hear, although he must like it because he raises this matter time and time again. It is that if the rent policies of local authorities were such as to make houses available for people in the greatest need, no further public building at all would be wanted in a great many areas, except to meet a special social need, such as housing for old people.
In congested areas like London, Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool, and others of our older towns and cities, no one doubts that there remains a vast job to be done. In the Government's view, the public housing problems calling for the most urgent attention—as the hon. Gentleman suggested—are slum clearance, building for old people, the relief of overcrowding and other bad conditions, and overspill. The extent to which these tasks individually call for continued building of council houses 1045 varies from one authority to another. It is for this purpose that the new housing subsidy structure, under the Housing Act, 1961, enables local authorities to concentrate on those things which they consider most urgent in their own areas.
The hon. Gentleman suggested that we have not done much to clear the slums. Since 1955, over 348,000 slums have been been cleared in England and Wales. That has meant the rehousing of 900,000 people. The evidence is that the pace has grown as local authorities have gained experience. In the exchange between the hon. Gentleman and my right hon. Friend, my right hon. Friend was able to point out how the figure had risen last year to 64,300. That is not failure. It is nothing to be complacent about, but it is a real achievement—much more real than a recent article in the New Left Review, from which I think the hon. Gentleman drew some information and which I was invited to read before the Easter Recess. The article had the curious title, "But Nothing Happens". But some people never understand what happens.
Even so, I accept that the hon. Gentleman's estimate that over 500,000 slums remain and that other houses will become unfit with the passage of time. In the Conservative Party's 1959 General Election manifesto, we pledged ourselves to rehouse at least another 1 million slum dwellers by 1965. That is a minimum, not a maximum aim. Of course, some local authorities complain, especially around election time, that their allocation of houses has been cut. We certainly try to see that, in the allocation of local authority housing, the impetus is given to solving the problems in those areas which have the greatest difficulty. In such places, allocations must be related, for the reasons I have explained, to the amount of work which can reasonably be expected to be done.
If we look at what the local authorities sometimes ask for, at what we give them, at what they did the year before, and at what they asked for the year before, the allocations often look generous. But if faster progress is made than anticipated, the Minister has always said that he is willing to reconsider the position.
We all know the general nature of the obstacles that have to be overcome 1046 in these congested areas. The difficulty is not finance. It includes the shortage of technical staff, demands on building labour and the physical lack of land. It is our policy, often reiterated, to secure the most intensive use we can of urban land by encouraging building, wherever appropriate, at higher densities, and by better use of urban land not fully developed.
We will shortly be publishing a booklet on residential densities which, I hope, will stimulate local authority interest in this topic. But however intensely we develop our cities, after we have made the proper provision for shops, parks and other amenities, there is always an overspill problem remaining—or almost always. This can be met by long-term allocation of land in development plans. Development procedure provides for periodic review, but we have already told local planning authorities that where additional allocations of land are needed they are to proceed without waiting for the quinquennial review.
We also envisage—and this may be of more fundamental importance in the long run—the extension of town development schemes. The hon. Gentleman did not mention that, for these schemes are not part of the queer story of failure which he told. By December, 1961, agreements had been made to provide for 82,750 houses. Another eighteen schemes, which are expected to provide homes for over 250,000 people, are being negotiated. In addition, we are examining the possibility of expansion of a number of large towns, with a consequential bigger contribution to the solution of the overspill problem.
Here, again, the new powers and the subsidy provisions in the Housing Act, 1961, provide a framework on which further progress may be made—as hon. Members will know, the provision of subsidy was substantially increased. It may well be that in the coming years town development schemes will play a much more important part in our efforts than hitherto.
The scheme for the expansion of a certain number of small towns for the transfer of people out of the big centres of population has provided valuable experience, but the great cities continue to be a magnet to immigrants of every kind. We want to be sure in future that 1047 the towns which are to be expanded are of a size sufficient to attract people independently and to offer a wide range of careers to young people. They must be magnets themselves to immigrants and so really take some of the pressure off the big cities. In these circumstances, it seems to follow that town development schemes should provide the framework for releasing the positive energies of industrialists and private householders and developers and not just provide a means for shifting a number of people out of the big cities.
Slum clearance and overspill are the overriding problems which now face the local authorities. That is not to say that they may not, in their own particular cases, feel that there is a higher claim for old people or the relief of overcrowding. There is certainly a widespread need, for example, for the small labour-saving houses in which old people can live their independent lives. As the hon. Member for Fulham acknowledged, housing authorities have been given every encouragement to build for this purpose and over the last four years about 100,000 such dwellings have been provided. That, I suggest to the hon. Member, is not failure.
While local authorities have this important and continuing part to play, I believe that private enterprise is rightly catering to an increasing extent for general needs. In a prosperous society there is no reason why the vast majority of people should not be quite prepared —as I think many of them are—to pay the economic price for a better home. The Blue Book—amidst a wonderful collection of statistics—showed that consumer expenditure on alcohol and smoking was£2,140 million in 1960, 40 per cent. more than the entire amount spent on rent, including the imputed rent for owner-occupiers, rates, water charges, housing maintenance repairs and improvement.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham, North)
Do those figures include the tax on cigarettes and pipe tobacco which goes back to the Treasury?
§ Mr. Rippon
That is an interesting economic argument, but does not falsify my point, which was that if people choose to spend their money in that way 1048 they can also choose to spend it in others which they may believe to be less beneficial to Her Majesty's Treasury.
For many people, including those who frequently move, home ownership is not the solution. I accept what the hon. Member for Fulham said about that. Those people are looking now to the existing pool of local authority and private accommodation available for renting. I think that they have a much better chance of finding a house to rent in most parts of the country today than they had a few years ago. One of the difficulties which was created by the Rent Acts was that they gave special protection to those who had accommodation at the expense of those who had not, including young married couples.
We always hear about the people who move out, but we do not hear about the people who move in, although their claim may be as great. To strike a fair balance between the position of the two groups, we have to consider where such people had previously been living and how long they had been on a council's waiting list. We had a short debate on housing just before the Easter Recess, when it was argued that landlords frequently sell houses which come into their possession rather than let them again.
The hon. Member for Fulham quoted the social survey prepared by the Central Office of Information, which showed that since the operation of the Rent Act and up to the point when the survey was made 12 per cent. of the houses becoming decontrolled through changes in the rateable value limit were sold to owner-occupiers. It is not a very high percentage, but I have no doubt that many people wished to buy and there is no reason why such houses should not be attractive to the tenants, although the hon. Member seemed to think that there was. What is certain is that if rent control had been continued, the percentage sold would certainly have increased.
I do not believe that the Rent Act has done nothing to help those who want rented accommodation. With the enormous influx of population into London and south-east England in the last few years it is not surprising that demand outstrips supply here, but that 1049 is not true of many other places and this is a housing debate about England and Wales and not simply about the London problem. Many people are finding it possible to rent houses and rooms and flats, but I am sure that before the 1957 Act it was almost impossible for many young people to find anything to rent. They were entirely dependent on the housing waiting lists unless they happened to be some of those people who were in accommodation which was "frozen" both as to rent and as to occupation. As we know, before the operation of the Rent Act and up to 1957 we could not get any rental evidence on which to base a revaluation of housing. That is an indication of the state of the market before the 1957 Act.
I accept that the only answer to the difficulties of tenants is not more controls, but more houses. I agree with the hon. Member that not enough new houses, certainly not as many as we would wish, have been built by private enterprise to rent. That is because investors are reluctant to put their money into that form of investment, and I am afraid that they will remain reluctant so long as the Labour Party threatens to impose rent restrictions. The hon. Member for Fulham may not like that answer, but I cannot change it. It is a fact.
I hope that the£25 million fund made available to housing associations under the 1961 Act, will enable these bodies, who have been great pioneers in social housing, to extend their activities and will encourage them to build accommodation to let at cost rents at a level rather above those of local authority dwellings, thus making it easier for people who have not the wish, or perhaps the means, to own their own homes to get accommodation.
I will conclude by dealing with what the hon. Member had to say at some length on the subject of home ownership. The desire for home ownership, which it is Conservative policy to promote, is widespread and very strong. The House will recall that the party opposite did nothing to encourage it. Only 22,000 new houses were purchased in 1951 and there was little or no alternative to the waiting list.
§ Mr. Rippon
The hon. Members seems to think that low interest rates produce bricks, but they do not.
We think that we have been right to free private developers to meet this demand for home ownership. The hon. Member says that home ownership is beyond the means of ordinary people, but that is not borne out by the facts. Last year, the building societies' advances amounted to about£545 million compared with£517 million in 1959. Indeed, one of their difficulties has been the pressure of demand upon their available funds. People are anxious to buy their houses. During 1961, local authorities alone lent£99 million compared with£66 million in 1960 and£55 million in 1959. I do not believe that the statistics which purport to show that a man must be able to earn about£20 a week before he can buy a house are correct.
The hon. Member for Fulham obviously relied on the report by Mr. Needleman, of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research. The figures which he gave assume that no house purchaser has any ready cash with which to pay the deposit or the costs of purchase—costs which, incidentally, have been reduced three times by a Conservative Government in a reduction in the Stamp Duty, and eliminated altogether on small houses. Under Conservative administration people have been able to save much more than was possible between 1945 and 1951. As the hon. Gentleman said, regard must also be paid to the tax allowance on mortgages, and ultimately to the inducement which will arise on the Chancellor's proposals on Schedule A.
§ Mr. Albert Evans (Islington, Southwest)
What about the interest rates that owner-occupiers now have to pay? The hon. Gentleman is aware that in recent years the rates to be paid by purchasers have risen considerably. We have learnt in recent weeks that these high rates are to become stabilised and permanent. These rates of interest have risen due to Government policy.
§ Mr. Rippon
I do not think that it is fair to say that they have become 1051 stabilised and permanent. The building societies say that the pressure of demand on resources is so great that they cannot meet the requirements of everybody, and they say also that whatever the Bank Rate may be the pressure on various important parts of the economy is so great that they cannot borrow money at a lower rate, and they cannot lend money until they have first borrowed it.
Increases in interest rates have taken place for many reasons. Nobody does it just to be malicious to the community. It is necessary for the general strength of the economy. If one considers the position over a number of years it will be seen that it does not work out too badly. One has also to have regard to the effect of tax concessions on these repayments.
I want to deal with the point put strongly by the hon. Member for Fulham, that people cannot afford to buy their own homes. This is the key issue. What I want to look at is not merely the rate of interest, but at the price of the house and the expense, If interest rates were reduced to an artificially low level, it may be that the price of houses would rise.
§ Mr. A. Evans
The hon. Gentleman knows that during the last three or four years the Government's dear money policy has resulted in a crippling impost on owner-occupiers. We understand that the high rates of interest are to be permanent, despite a reduction in the Bank Rate.
§ Mr. Rippon
It is untrue that the present interest rates are to be permanent, and the hon. Gentleman knows that as well as I do.
I want to deal with the point made by the hon. Member for Fulham, that people of ordinary means cannot afford to buy homes. I commend to the hon. Gentleman and to the House an interesting article by Mr. Arthur Seldon, in the April issue of the Statist which gives striking evidence of the demand for home ownership and the way it is being met. The author points out thatHouse ownership is within the means of possibly millions of manual and wage paid workers. 9,545 mortgages to owner-occupiers were completed by the Co-operative Permanent Building Society between December 30, 1959 1052 and March 31, 1960…The Society believes the sample was large and varied enough to be representative. Of 2,462 new houses, 926 were bought by wage earners. Of 7,083 existing houses, 3,945 were bought by wage earners.Supporting figures from the Alliance Building Society show that of 4,253 mortgages completed between January and November, 1960, 2,644, or more than half the mortgagors, earned less than£800 a year, and 1,380, or nearly a third, earned less than£650.
More recently—because I want to bring these matters as far up to date as I can—Mr. J. C. Dunham, the Chairman of the Co-operative Building Society, had this to say at the annual general meeting on 24th March of this year:It has been stated that the recent rise in property prices has put home ownership beyond the means of all except those in higher income groups. This argument, however, does not stand up to close examination. Existing house prices it is true are now on average four times higher than in the immediate pre-war period."—I think that that is what the hon. Gentleman proved in his example from Hen-don—But earnings have risen even more: the earnings of adult male workers in manufacturing industries are now reported to be 4½times higher than the comparable figure for 1939. Admittedly, the high and rising cost of accommodation in the London and the South-East areas is a matter for concern, but, taking the country as a whole, a wider section of the community can now afford house purchase than before the war.Mr. Dunham went on to say thatthe closing weeks of 1961 showed a welcome increase in the flow of savings to building societies. I am pleased to report that this trend has continued into 1962 and is making possible a modest expansion in the volume of lending.This shows that an increasing number of people can, and are, buying their own homes.
§ Mr. George Brown (Belper)
Was not it Mr. Dunham who recently pointed out that at the rate things were going nobody with less than£20 a week would be able to get a mortgage?
§ Mr. Rippon
I think that he made another statement. I am not sure that he was not torn somewhat out of context, and I think that he tried to put it right at the annual general meeting.
I think that we can survey in this debate today steady progress in every 1053 part of the housing field. To listen to the hon. Member for Fulham, one would not imagine that the supply of new houses had risen by 300,000 every year. Slum clearance, housing for old people, and for urgent social needs are being given a high priority. Home ownership is rising, and the improvement of existing houses is gathering momentum.
When all the evidence is weighed, and we vote at ten o'clock, we can only come to the conclusion that what the Opposition say about providing more housing accommodation by repealing the 1957 Act and by fiddling about with interest rates is not just plain nonsense—it is nonsense upon stilts.
§ 4.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Clifford Kenyon (Chorley)
Having listened to the Parliamentary Secretary, I think he must live in a different world from that in which I live. I understand that his constituency is Norwich. Mine is Chorley, in the industrial part of Lancashire. There seems to be a vast difference between the resources of the citizens in these two constituencies.
We have these debates from time to time, and similar arguments are used from both sides of the House. The hon. Gentleman gave us a technical and somewhat academic statement. I want to look at this question from a different angle. Having had some experience of housing both as a minister and as a member of a local authority for over 20 years, I want to draw on my experience from the human angle. When I went on to the council in 1923 this was one of our major problems, and it is one of our major problems today. It is remarkable that today the number of applications for houses in that local authority area are little different from what they were in 1923. This housing problem has been with us for the full lifetime of the oldest Member of the House, and at the rate at which we are moving it will be with us for the full lifetime of the youngest Member. It will not be settled in that period.
Yet it is a phase of human life which affects our whole existence and the whole strata of our society. It is not possible to estimate the effect of overcrowding or the lack of adequate housing upon disease, crime and a whole range of human relations. The cost to the nation 1054 in terms of disease, especially mental disease, and crime, especially juvenile crime, is totally unknown, but if the housing problem were solved and it was possible for every family to live in a separate house, the saving to the nation would be immense. I am glad that the Minister recently spoke out against the small houses that are being built. Overcrowding does not necessarily mean too many individuals living in a house. It can mean too small a house even for a small family. The need for individual privacy in the home is not often realised, and in the most closely-knit families the need for such privacy is often the key to family unity. Every house should be so built that each member of the family living in it can make it a home and not merely a dwelling place.
I now turn to the problem of the house owner. I do not know why the Minister should claim house ownership as a purely Conservative principle. There is nothing in Socialist principles which is against anyone owning his own house, and there never has been. A family owning its own house is in a very good position, provided that such ownership does not become a burden. It becomes wrong when a family has to mortgage its whole future in order to live in a separate house. People just cannot obtain rented houses. It is an utter impossibility in my constituency. This is one of the overwhelming burdens of thousands of families. It is one of the causes of mental strain and breakdown, which often results in family strife and even separation.
As a magistrate, I often come across cases in which, owing to difficulties and strain, separation is requested by the members of families. It is not a question of a family being able to afford to buy a house; thousands of families today have bought houses which they cannot afford. The cost of the mortgage is not the only cost which has to be borne; too often one finds that a family which is buying a house then has to buy furniture on hire purchase. This means a weekly payment for the house and another for the furniture, added to which there is the cost of running the home.
So many different demands are made upon wages and salaries that conflicts of desire inevitably arise, often with unfortunate consequences to both 1055 parents and children. The affluent State or the prosperous State is an absolute myth when people own things merely by way of debt. This is the burden of the 1960s—the national debt, the municipal debt, the industrial debt and the individual debt. We are absolutely surrounded by debts, and we are living in a State which never faces that fact. I want to face the facts as they affect housing today.
I am expressing entirely my own views. They have nothing to do with the Labour or Socialist movement; they are my own views, which I am putting forward because I have come across this problem so often in the various spheres in which I have had to work. Every decent council wishes to see its citizens properly housed, but it cannot do so when it is faced with the present system of borrowing money at high, or even so-called low rates of interest. We have reached a position in which we consider a Bank Rate of 4½per cent. as a low rate, but it is not a low rate. Local authorities have borrowed so much money in order to carry out so many different ventures that the rates have become far too high for them to undertake comprehensive housing schemes.
The Minister has quoted the number of houses built, but he has not quoted the net figure. What is the net figure we get, year by year, after all the slum houses have been wiped out, and all the houses that are falling down have been pulled down? What is the net contribution being made by the resources of the Government and private resources towards improving housing conditions? There is no sense in either a council or a private owner building a house the final cost of Which, because of interest rates, will be twice its value, or even more than that. So long as it is necessary to borrow money on a twenty-, forty- or sixty-year term basis extortionate costs are inevitable.
I want to put forward a suggestion for eliminating this interest burden. This is a national issue, and not one merely for the Government. The housing problem is an issue for the nation—Government, municipalities, societies, and individuals. Everyone is concerned in it. It will call for a great deal of effort from all parties to overcome this problem. 1056 Under the scheme that I am going to propose the main burden must fall upon local authorities. The authorities must build houses to rent. The Parliamentary Secretary said that private builders cannot do so under present circumstances, and the local authorities must bear the burden of building the houses and raising the money.
I ask, first, that a Government grant be made for every house built by a local authority; not a loan, but a grant. Already this is done for the private owner who is willing to modernise his house. Anyone who proposes to save a building from becoming a slum, provided the local surveyor guarantees its life for a certain period, can receive a grant from the Government. Let the Government make an equivalent grant for a new house. There would be some saving, and in doing this the Government would give a lead.
Secondly, I ask that each local authority taking up this scheme should set aside an annual contribution from the rate fund to be placed in a housing fund until such time as sufficient money became available to make building continuous. I say that the money should come from the rate fund because when the scheme became self-sufficient the authority could always repay the money. It would be free of interest, of course. Thirdly, thousands of people today are saving money so that when they marry they can put down a deposit on a house. With proper organisation the money saved by those people could be put into a council housing fund and be used to build houses to let to those who had placed their money with the council. People do not want houses all at the same time. Provided that there was an accumulation of money from the Government, from local authorities and from individuals, a start could be made, and the finance involved in building the houses would be interest-free.
The amount of money in the country in the form of small sums is remarkable. If this money were pooled for this purpose it would meet the requirements of a large number of people and enable them to become, in turn, tenants of houses. When a couple or a family became house tenants, the council would have two choices. It could repay the money loaned by the tenant, or the tenant could be given a free tenancy up 1057 to the value of the money. I feel that this could be done. It has been estimated, even by the Minister, that it will take twenty years to fulfil the housing requirements, and, according to past experience, I do not think that we shall have succeeded even in that time.
A council could start a savings scheme in which anyone expecting to require a house in the future could contribute money week by week. Appeals could be made for interest-free loans and gifts could be made from organisations, or from churches, in order to accumulate a fund with which to start. I was the mayor of a borough where for four years during the war we made periodic appeals to the citizens for money for the war effort. From the point of view of the nation this housing question is as urgent as was the need for funds at that time. I am confident that if the matter were put to the citizens of this country by the local authorities, and they were asked to make contributions, they would rise to the occasion and we should be able to get rid of the tremendous burden of debt which bears so hardly on so many families.
What are the advantages? The first advantage would be that from the moment a house was tenanted the local authority would have an income which could be placed in the building fund. In time—it would take time, but, my word, this problem has itself lasted for some time—according to the amount accumulated in the fund, the scheme would become self-supporting. The rents from houses thus built would accumulate according to the number of houses. The scheme would become a credit to the borough concerned and there would not exist an everlasting debt.
I have put this scheme forward in all sincerity because I am deeply concerned about the conditions under which thousands of families have to live and the burden of debt with which they are faced. Recently a visited a private housing estate not far from here and spoke to a number of people. I met a number of ministers associated with this estate, where thousands of people live, and I discussed with them the problems confronting the residents. I was told 1058 that the biggest problem for the people on this estate was the problem of debt. They are mortgaged up to the hilt for their houses. Many have borrowed money in order to put down a deposit. The house furniture is mortgaged and many of the children are not receiving the necessities of life. In an affluent State it is time that we moved as a nation, as a Government and Opposition, as municipalities and as individuals, in order to put right this tremendous and evergrowing evil.
§ 5.19 p.m.
§ Sir Martin Lindsay (Solihull)
This is the fourth housing debate we have had within three months. I cannot recollect our having had four debates on one social subject within such a short period before. I think it reflects the great anxiety there is in all parts of the House on this subject. It is perhaps the most important, certainly the most intractable, problem in the domestic field. I do not believe that our relative success or failure with any other service, such as health or education, causes one-tenth of the human misery now being felt year after year by thousands upon thousands of our people who cannot get a home.
In opening the debate from this side of the Committee my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary—I was going to say in his clever speech, but that word now has a sting which I should certainly not wish to use—in his able speech, kept referring to our prosperous society. I wish he had shown a much greater realisation of the fact that our prosperous society, with all its modern inventions and achievements in science, up to now has failed so abjectly in doing something which seems so elementary as the provision of enough homes for our people. Quite frankly, I did not feel that the Parliamentary Secretary's speech showed any realisation of the very serious position in which we are in this respect at present.
In my constituency of Solihull there is a live waiting list of families, whose needs have been examined and accepted, of over 1,500. That represents about 3,000 adults, with perhaps another 2,000 children. Approximately it is 5 per cent. of the population of the borough. If in Britain we had 5 per cent. unemployed there would be an outcry. Surely it is 1059 just as important that this high proportion of no less than one family in twenty should be properly housed. The housing shortage is the cause not only of the greatest unhappiness in our society, but also, as the hon. Member for Chorley (Mr. Kenyon) said, of much ill-health and nervous strain and the breaking up of families, as well as making a contribution to juvenile delinquency.
As I have said, there are rather more than 1,500 families on the books in Solihull, which means a five or six years' building programme. Unhappily, the list is growing all the time as more young people get married and come into the housing market. It is terrible to think that young couples getting married have to wait for five or six years before they can get a home of their own. Yet I know that there are many constituencies, for example, in the City of Birmingham and also in London, which are far worse off than my constituency.
As the Parliamentary Secretary said, we have built nearly 4 million new houses and flats in Britain since the war. Both sides of the Committee are entitled to take credit for that. It is unquestionably a great achievement. And it is good to know that one family in four is living in a post-war house. Nevertheless, we sometimes overlook the fact that the war has been over now for seventeen years, and the housing problem is still a long way from being solved. We have gone a great way towards solving it for those who can afford to buy their houses. The figures for owner-occupied houses have gone up steadily year after year, from 25,000 ten years ago to 180,000 last year. Let us be thankful for our success in that field, which certainly has benefited my constituency.
Where we have relatively failed is in council house building. There the trend has been exactly the other way. Five years ago we built 170,000 council houses and flats, but each year since 1957 the figure has dropped, falling to 116,000 in 1961. The hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) quoted the figure of 90,000. I do not know where he got that. I looked up the figures last night in the Library and, according to my reading, the number was 116,000. If it was 90,000 that makes the point stronger. Whether it was 90,000 or 1060 116,000, it was the lowest figure since 1947, the second complete year after the war ended.
§ Mr. Eric Lubbock (Orpington)
Do those figures relate to the whole United Kingdom, or is the hon. Member talking about England and Wales alone?
§ Sir M. Lindsay
No, my figure relates to the Whole of the United Kingdom. Perhaps the figure of the hon. Member for Fulham is for England and Wales only.
Houses to purchase are, of course, fine for those who can afford them, and I do not want to decry our success in getting so many houses privately built. But it is our responsibility to make provision for those who need our help most; I take it that that is what most of us are sent here for. There are plenty of good, steady family men in responsible jobs earning£12 or£13 a week. At that level of income no building society will touch them. Nor, paying inflated rents, have they had any chance of saving£200 or£300 for the necessary deposit. For the great majority of our people nothing but a high rate of council house building can suffice. That is indisputable. I get annoyed by Ministers on our side of the Committee who keep boasting about our success in house building when they know that the rate of council house building is going down year after year.
I have three suggestions to make. One is in regard to the shortage of land. What is being done to ensure that local authorities increase their density and by building upwards with blocks of flats where necessary, expensive though that is? Of course, these must be on suitable sites. How strict is the Ministry in comparing local authorities' development plans with their housing waiting lists? I should like the Minister to say quite firmly that if their proposed density is not sufficient to make a real onslaught on these long waiting lists, then he will not approve their development plans.
The second and a minor suggestion is in regard to the provision of old people's dwellings. Local authorities on the average are building 25 per cent. for the elderly. We have a progressive council in Solihull and our percentage is 40 per cent. The provision of this type of 1061 accommodation often means the release of a three-bedroom house which goes on the market and is then bought by some stranger from far away, who often has less need for it than a family on the council's waiting list. Local authorities can obtain loan sanction and buy these houses as they come on to the market and let them to people on their waiting lists.
A little while ago I asked the then Minister of Housing what he would do to encourage local authorities to do just this, but I am afraid I could not arouse much enthusiasm. He said that he would always be willing to give local authorities loan sanction for this purpose, but that he,did not wish to encourage needless municipalisation through the back door.I do not like saying this about a respected and highly successful Minister, but it seems that that is carrying political prejudice altogether too far. Of course, proposals such as this can do no more than be of marginal assistance.
The hon. Member for Fulham and the Parliamentary Secretary both mentioned a matter to which I am sure much greater attention must be devoted, and that is to get greater productivity out of the building industry by, perhaps, rationalisation and the use of more modern methods, and of other means for bringing down the cost of building. What is really necessary is to lighten the burden on the building industry so that contracts for more council house building can more easily be placed.
The Parliamentary Secretary said that this was quite impossible. He told us how the allocation of building for the whole country was worked out and explained that it was impossible to give greater priority for house building. As far as council house building is concerned, I do not accept that. I am perfectly certain that greater priority must be given to building more council houses, if necessary by restricting other and less desirable forms of building. I hope that the Minister will examine this once again. One thing which is quite certain is that the present housing situation calls for a dynamic and altogether new approach.
§ 5.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Frank Allaun (Salford, East)
The speech which we have just heard from the hon. Member for Solihull (Sir M. Lindsay) has put the case for building more council houses so clearly and effectively that I hope the hon. Gentleman will cross to this side of the Committee in order to let the Government know fully his discontent with the results of their policy.
I intend to show that not only is it true that one half of the world does not know how the other half lives, but that it is also true that one half of a city does not know how the other half lives. I am one of the 21 million viewers who watch "Coronation Street". It is the most popular programme on television, and deservedly so, because it shows working men and women in an honest way and deals so naturally with their lives that viewers come to know the characters as if they were real people. Harry Hewitt and his wife Concepta and Elsie Tanner and her son become people we know personally. But what many viewers do not realise is that these fine men and women are living in houses which are a disgrace to our society, in houses without a bath, hot water or an inside toilet.
I happen to know this for one very good reason. The shots which open and close each episode of "Coronation Street" are taken in my constituency. I know the street very well. These terraced houses are typical of the great industrial areas of Lancashire, Yorkshire and the Midlands, of houses without a bath, without hot water and without an inside toilet. In these areas, particularly in Lancashire and Yorkshire, we find a Coronation Street in every town.
After which coronation were they named? If we look at them we can see that it was clearly no recent coronation. It was the coronation of Queen Victoria in 1837. Indeed, we in Salford have just pulled down a slum called Waterloo Place which goes back, if my history is not mistaken, to just after 1815. It may have been considered good enough for working men and women to live in this type of houses in 1837 but it is certainly not good enough in 1962, in an age when we are constantly told of this wonder of the Welfare State. I do not believe that the Welfare State 1063 has even begun. There is a great deal of nonsense talked about it. Not to be able to provide families with a bath in an age of automation, atomic energy and space travel shows, I think, a wrong sense of values altogether.
Some hon. Members and, if I may say so, some Ministers have no conception of what it means for parents to have to live in a house without a bath and to try in those circumstances to bring up their children healthily and properly. Take the case of the typical industrial worker who comes home from work covered with oil, dust or sweat and who has no bath to use. Take, too, the case of the building worker who comes home after a day on the job and who wants to wash his feet. His wife has to boil a kettle of water and to bring an enamel bowl from under the cupboard to enable him to do so.
An engineering friend of mine said to me that when he feels a cold coming on or feels at all unwell he knows that if he could take a hot bath and go to bed he might in the morning be all right. But there is no bath available to him. We should realise what it means to have to bath children when every drop of water has to be ladled out of the saucepan off the gas stove and into the bath. This filling and emptying of the bath in some cases needs the strength of an athlete. I know of cases where children have been seriously scalded owing to the water having to be heated in this way in an overcrowded kitchen.
Take another aspect of this matter, the serious health cases, and let us admit that the housing shortage is so acute and the council house list so long that in many areas unless one is practically dying of T.B. one has no chance at all of getting priority. I am indebted to a London social worker, Audrey Harvey, for supplying details of one or two cases, admittedly of a terrible nature. She tells about a London doctor, one of whose patients was suffering from a skin disease. The doctor said that the patient must take a daily bath, but she had no access to one. The doctor was so struck by this that he made a survey among 500 of his patients and found that 44 per cent. of them lived in houses in which there was no bath.
Another case mentioned by Audrey Harvey was that of a woman who had 1064 had a major operation on the intestine through the abdominal wall and this required the constant changing of the dressings and her clothing. It is a very distressing state of affairs, but there are quite a number of people in this condition. The woman had to haul buckets of water up from the ground floor tap to the top floor in order to wash her dressings and clothes. Not unnaturally she was soon back in hospital.
Another case was that of a man of 75 who had undergone a similar operation. When he came out of hospital his daughter took him into her house although she and her husband and four children were living in only two rooms. The poor old man had to change his dressings and wash himself at the kitchen sink. The daughter was so upset by this constant sight and the fear for her children's health that she developed a nervous skin disease which covered her arms, legs and face with festering sores.
I have known cases of women being driven into nervous breakdowns through trying to cope with three or four young children in houses of this character. I had some correspondence recently on this subject. Although by no means everyone agrees with the point of view which I am putting forward, nevertheless no one so far has contested the fact that in 1962 there are 5 million houses or, roughly, 15 million men, women and children living in houses without a bath.
The solution quite obviously is to replace these houses with modern houses. At the present rate of progress, however, it will take fifty years before some of these families have houses to go into. The alternative is the Government grant to install a bath, inside toilet and hot water. The Government have generously increased this grant recently, but, with a few honourable exceptions, landlords just will not be bothered to make use of it, although the owner-occupiers will. One out of every twenty-seven owner-occupiers in the country has used this grant, whereas only one out of every two hundred private landlords has made use of it.
The recent change in the 1961 Act has enabled the landlord, apart from getting half the grant free from the Government, to raise his rent by 12½per cent. over twelve years, so that in twelve years he 1065 receives back 150 per cent. of his outlay. I know that there are certain expenses to put against it, but nevertheless the landlord is on to a good thing. What is the result? Strangely enough, the situation is often worse.
Yesterday, the Minister gave me some figures. I admit that when one gets an answer from a Minister at Question Time one cannot always work it out on the spot, but I have since been studying his answer. It shows a remarkable state of affairs. In the year ended 31st March this year 24,687 grants were made for houses owned by private landlords. Since the more generous grant came in last year, only 7,073 such grants had been made in the last four months. So in a year the rate will be 21,000 grants, which is 4,000 fewer than the rate obtaining before the increased Government grant came in. This does not seem to be a very good way of encouraging the landlords. It seems to be encouraging them to go backwards. At this rate of installing baths, it will take about 170 years before each family has a bath in the house.
Another remarkable feature of the Minister's answer is that, although private landlord-owned houses greatly outnumber owner-occupied houses, only one in three of the applications made for grants are coming from private landlords. Twice as many are coming from owner-occupiers, although there are fewer owner-occupied houses.
What does the Minister propose? He proposes further publicity. This has been tried and failed. There has been national publicity on television. I saw it myself a year ago. There has been specialised publicity in certain areas, including my own, and greater public interest taken in this matter, but there has been no response by the landlords. So the public health inspectors, who are people who really know, and many local authorities have been driven to the conclusion that there must be some form of compulsion on the landlords to use the existing Government grants. This was proposed in a Motion, just before Easter, signed by 110 Labour Members of Parliament.
I have recently received some very enlightening letters on this matter, mostly from landlords, and one or two from Conservative Members of Parliament. 1066 These letters fall into two categories. The first takes the line that it is the tenant's fault—that tenants do not want baths in their houses. Many of us remember the pre-war fairy story, "If you build council houses for working people, they will put coal in the baths". This story, while commonly told, was never substantiated.
Today, the modern version is slightly different. The hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. John Page) has said that tenants do not want baths and are not prepared to pay a little extra rent for them. I challenge him to go to Manchester, Salford, Birmingham, Newcastle, Glasgow and parts of London and repeat the claim that he made about families living in these conditions. I warn him that they will scalp him.
§ Mr. John Page (Harrow, West)
I based what I said in my letter on my particular knowledge of the East End of London, and I shall be very happy at any time to take the hon. Gentleman along and show him houses where three out of four of the families living there refuse to have improvements done by a housing association, with a charitable background, because they do not wish to pay extra rent for them. That is the case quite clearly.
§ Mr. Allaun
All I can say is that it is absolutely in contradiction to my experience, not of three or four families, but of thousands of families living in the North. I would say that the dearest wish of many of those mothers is to have a bath in the house. I find it very hard to credit that kind of remark, because I do not think that the wishes of people in London are very different from those in the North.
§ Mr. J. Page
I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman would like to come with me to visit those houses. I should be delighted to pay him a visit in his constituency to see if I could help there in the installation of baths or of any other appliances which are necessary.
§ Mr. Allaun
I accept the hon. Member's offer with pleasure and I will go with him this week. But I challenge him also to repeat to a meeting of families in these circumstances what he has said on this matter.
§ Mr. Allaun
Certainly. I am sure that he will be welcome to see their homes.
Some people think that opinion has changed in this country and that we have all become more civilised. But I have received letters of such a degree of snobbishness and spite that I begin to wonder if that is so. I have a letter here from a gentleman, whose name I shall not mention. He is an Army captain, writing from Salisbury. He writes:A house without a bathroom is not necessarily a slum. In my lifetime I have lived in three houses without bathrooms but they were far, very far, from being slums. One was a modern vicarage in England, one was a flat in the fashionable Parc Monceau quarter in Paris and the third was in a perfectly good street in Cologne.I should like to wager that this gentleman has never had a dirty job in the whole of his life.
§ Mr. Allaun
A doctor in Brighton writes as follows:Mr. Page's letter to The Times today correctly sums up the situation. Having lived and worked in slums in the North of England and the Midlands, I know every word of his letter to be true. Many families I visit as their family doctor have three or four or more 'breadwinners' yet they are too shiftless to at least distemper their walls which often show bare plaster and well-holed also. When I suggest to them to brighten up the interiors, I am usually met with either a blank look or abuse. The popularity of the 'pub' is due to people resorting there to get away from their self-imposed miserable interiors.As a postscript, he adds,There are no lazier people than the British working men and they are fortunate in having militant trade unions to help them in their laziness. But just wait for the Common Market!The second argument—and this is a serious argument—is that it is said that some of the smaller landlords cannot afford even their half of the cost of installing baths. This certainly does not apply to the big property firms whose dividends have boomed ever since the Rent Act. It would be very interesting to have an investigation into the rise in property shares since the Rent Act was introduced. But I agree 1068 that there are some small landlords who would find difficulties even in raising, let us say,£100 as their half of the cost of putting in a bathroom. Until recently they could borrow from building societies, but the Government have put a stopper on this because the Government's policy since 1959 has been that the building societies are not allowed to lend on old property.
There is another alternative, and that is being used in some area; councils will make 100 per cent. loans on old houses where they think that they are in reasonable condition and have at least fifteen years of life. I am glad to say that Salford is doing that.
I was pleasantly surprised—in fact, amazed—to find this morning from the Order Paper that two Conservative hon. Members, both present this afternoon, had put down an Amendment to the Motion signed by 110 hon. Members accepting the general principle of compelling landlords to use the grant provided that they could obtain a loan from the council for their half of the costs. I appeal to the Minister, if he is genuinely concerned about the families living in those conditions, to accept this proposal.
May I say a word about the Rent Act which, according to the Government, was supposed to solve the housing problem? Last week I was called to a street in Salford which was in turmoil. This was a street of typical Salford houses. They had two up and two down, no bath, no hot water and no inside toilet. The rent before the Rent Act was 9s. 6d. a week and the rent under the Rent Act was 16s. 6d. a week.
But the serious point about the Rent Act, which we made at the time it was being forced through Parliament, was that as houses change tenants they became completely decontrolled. Four of these houses had changed tenants. About three years ago four young couples came into this street, each with young babies. They were all working people on very modest incomes. The rents were raised by the landlord to 20s. 6d. That is only the beginning.
The House should know that at the moment there are men representing property companies going round the back streets of our land buying up old houses. This happened in the case 1069 which I have mentioned. A new landlord took over. He bought thirty houses at£200 each. A few days after he had taken over he sent a letter, which I have here, to those four families telling them that from now on their rent would be not 9s. 6d., not 16s. 6d. not 20s. 6d., but£2 10s. a week. These families could not afford it. They knew that identical houses on the opposite side of the road, owned by another landlord, were let at the old rent of 9s. 6d. a week. Hon. Members can imagine the feeling.
I went to see the landlord, and in this case there was a happy ending because he turned out to be a man of principle. He withdrew the letters to these four families. But I put it to hon. Members that he is a very unusual man and that very few landlords would do that. Most of them will take what the market will give. There is such a terrible housing shortage that they will naturally exploit this situation.
One case which is even worse came to light, again in Salford, this week-end. It was near the docks. It is the same kind of house. There are a mother, father and eight children and the house has two bedrooms. Hon. Members can imagine what family life is like in those circumstances. It is a decontrolled house. They paid£14 to go into the house and their rent is no less than£4 a week. These are things which are happening in our cities. A rent of£4 a week may not sound much to hon. Members who live in luxury flats in London, but it is a monstrous rent for this type of house and for this type of wage earner.
The Government have agreed that 320,000 houses a year are becoming affected by creeping decontrol, which is decontrol when there is change of tenant. This is three times as many as they said they expected when they were pushing the Rent Act through the House. It means that shortly nearly all tenants in this country, for the first time since 1915, will be faced with an almost complete absence of defence against rent exploitation. That will be the first time since 1915, when Lloyd George had to catch the night train up to Glasgow because there was a threat of strike action throughout the Clyde. He was forced to introduce the first rent restriction Act. For the first time since 1915 the British people will be faced with 1070 almost complete absence of defence against rent exploitation.
Lastly, may I say a word about slum clearance? From 1953 onwards successive Ministers of Housing have made speeches to the effect that there would be a great drive to cure the slum clearance problem and that the slums would soon be ended. Speaking on 3rd December, 1960, the former Minister of Housing said,In two or three years time there will be no slums left in Britain".But four months later, on 18th April, 1961, he said.The wonderful fact is that if we continue the slum clearance drive for another twenty years the slum disgrace will be almost unknown".That was quite different from his earlier statement.
But nothing happens—and I use those words because "But Nothing Happens" is the title of the article referred to a few minutes ago by the Parliamentary Secretary, written by Ralph Samuels, James Kincaid and Elizabeth Slater in the New Left Review. I am indebted to them for that article. In 1955 there were reported by the local authorities to be 847,112 houses in England and Wales unfit for human habitation. That figure excludes Scotland, and if Scotland were included the total would be well over a million. But this was a gross underestimate. There are startling disparities, as these three authors prove. between the estimates supplied by local authorities with similar problems. Indeed, many of the authorities put down only the same number of houses unfit for human habitation as the number with which they could cope within the first five years. For example, Swindon reported 0.8 per cent. as being unfit for human habitation, exactly the same percentage as Cheltenham. The Rhondda reported 1 per cent., which is the same percentage as Hemel Hempstead, which is obviously nonsense.
There were further implausibilities. By 1961, a number of towns said, there would be no unfit houses to clear, and yet all those towns had over 35 per cent. of their houses without a bathroom. These towns include Barnsley, Middlesbrough, Cardiff, Barrow-in-Furness and Crewe. At the present snail's pace it will take ninety-four years to remove the 88,000 houses unfit for human habitation 1071 in Liverpool, and in Manchester, where I live, it will take forty-six years to remove the 46,000 houses unfit for human habitation if the present rate is maintained.
Last week I was in Germany. I spent three days marching across that country in a demonstration against nuclear weapons. I was deeply impressed by the housing that I saw there. The people of my city would go green with envy if they could see those houses and flats. I say, "Good luck to the Germans". They are hard-working, intelligent people. They are entitled to decent housing, but our people are also entitled to it.
What is needed? I believe that a programme, not of the present size, but of 400,000 houses a year, is necessary. Sir Richard Coppock, until recently the General Secretary of the National Federation of Building Trade Operatives, once told me that this was a practicable figure for this country. What is holding it back is undoubtedly the doubling of interest rates by the Government, which has halved the number of council houses built since 1954.
At Question Time yesterday we again heard the excuse that the Government cannot insulate housing from the general interest rate. Why not? The Government are responsible for the interest rates. Furthermore, they insulate Fords, Colvilles and other people from the general interest rate, because they allow them to build at cheap interest rates.
As for the new subsidies, the subsidy rate of£22 1s. a year per house is going down to£8 a year under the new Act for Manchester and Liverpool. Yet for Bournemouth it is rising to£24 a year. This is a crazy way in which to solve the housing problem. France, which is a capitalist country, can provide interest rates of 1 per cent. for house building. In England we can build roads entirely free of interest charges. Therefore, why cannot something better than what we are now suffering be done for housing?
Equally, owner-occupiers are being squeezed by the Government's high interest rates. I hope that the people of this country will not be divided and that they will not allow a wedge to be driven between the owner-occupier and 1072 the council tenant, because they are both being hit equally by the high interest rates imposed by the Government. The people should force this Government either to ease their lot in housing or give way to a Government who will.
§ 6.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)
In the early part of his speech the hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun) did a great service to the Committee by drawing attention to the older type of house which has not got the amenities which it ought to have and to the conditions of life in such houses. Any of us who represent northern constituencies know these conditions only too well and do all we can to encourage not only owner-occupiers but landlords to install bathrooms, larders, inside lavatories and hot water systems. The hon. Member poured a little scorn on the difficulties landlords experienced in installing these amenities. However, there are real difficulties. There are oases in which the landlord owns perhaps a row of houses where it would be economical for him to install the standard amenities in the whole row but where perhaps there are one or two tenants in the row who are not prepared to give up the space in order to have a bathroom. I can sympathise with such tenants in those circumstances. It is often necessary to give up one whole room to install a bathroom and the tenant may not be prepared to give up the space.
Another difficulty which landlords face is that some local authorities deliberately obstruct a landlord in his applications for the standard grant and are much more generous in letting applications through for owner-occupiers. If my right hon. Friend can do anything to persuade those local authorities to be a little more generous when dealing with landlords' applications and not require so much decoration to the house as part and parcel of making the standard grant, many more applications would be granted and more standard amenities installed. I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the circular which he sent out on this subject only yesterday. It is a very comprehensive circular. It will be very useful. It makes good reading.
In opening the debate the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) said that the Votes which he had chosen to 1073 put down opened up a possibility of a very wide debate. In fact there is the opportunity, within the rules of order, of discussing where we are going in the division of financial responsibility between the taxpayer and the ratepayer. I believe that is one of the subjects which we ought to discuss when considering the housing problem. It may be a paradox to say that while housing is a national problem it could be a local service, but that now that it has become more of a problem of certain localities it should be more of a national service. I will explain what I mean by that paradox. For ten to fifteen years after the war houses were needed everywhere and for almost everybody. Therefore, the burden was fairly evenly spread over the local authorities. Now the need is concentrated in some of the large towns, but it is even more a national need, though it is a local problem.
For example, the rebuilding of houses in Liverpool and Manchester is not merely the concern of the councillors and ratepayers of Liverpool and Manchester; it is the concern of Members of Parliament and of the taxpayer. It is just as much a national problem as the housing situation of the whole country. I fear that in large towns, where the problem is very great, if it is left to local effort it will not get done within a reasonable time, with the best will in the world. It will not get done merely by increasing the number of subsidies for general needs.
I am not decrying in any way what has been done in the past in partnership between central Government and local authorities. However hon. Members opposite juggle with the figures, they cannot deny that 300,000 houses a year have been built for the last ten years; that is 3 million houses in ten years. I am speaking of Great Britain as a whole, within which what we are discussing today—housing in England and Wales—is comprised. It means that successive Conservative Governments have carried out a promise made, before a Conservative Government took office, to build that number of houses. It is also some consolation to know that so many small old type houses are being improved. From 130,000 to 140,000 a year are receiving the improvement grants. We cannot tell how many more which might 1074 have become derelict are being improved without grants.
Without being complacent, I think this is a record of creation and re-creation of homes of which the Government need not be ashamed. It appears even more impressive when one uses such figures as these: one in four are in new homes since the war; one family in six has moved into a new home in the last ten years. Furthermore, by variation of the subsidies from time to time the Government have ensured that, generally speaking, houses have been built in the right places and for the right people.
All this is costing the nation some£720 million a year in public and private money—£300 million a year in public money Anyone who advocates a greater expenditure and a greater effort on housing must justify the need for that increase. I do not think that that is a difficult task, particularly for those of us who usually attend housing debates. There is no difficulty in justifying the fact that there should be a greater housing effort and that more money should be provided to enable more houses to be built.
First, there is an absolute insufficiency of homes for the existing number of households requiring them. Secondly, there is the immense task of slum clearance and of replacing old and derelict houses with new ones. Thirdly, there is the increasing number of separate households in comparison with our total population. It is probable that over the last ten or fifteen years the total population has increased by 5 million. In addition to that. however, the number of households within the population has increased. The number of those who wish to live in separate homes has increased, so that the demand for homes is far greater than the substantial figure of 300,000 new houses a year.
I have for long adhered to the view that the figure of need is half a million new homes a year for the next ten years. With that figure, I think that we could just about meet the demand. The fact is that the more successful we are in slum clearance the less successful we are in adding to our housing stock. We fixed the target at 300,000 new homes a year twelve years ago, and that figure is now a little out of date. Apart from that, when we started with that figure we 1075 were adding that number to the housing stock. Now that we have a good slum-clearance programme going and are demolishing 70,000 houses a year we are adding to the housing stock only 230,000 houses a year. That is very simple arithmetic, and I must ask the Commititee to forgive me for putting it so simply. We are not adding to the housing stock at the rapid rate of ten years ago.
Anyone who advocates a greater effort has some obligation to say where the money for it is to come from; whence should come the public money, or how we are to encourage private money into that greater development. If we succeed in introducing that extra finance into a greater effort, where do we get the labour and material to carry out that task? I only pose those questions, of course, because I think that I have the solution.
I suggest that my right hon. Friend must be specific about the methods to be used in a greater housing effort. General exhortations and general subsidies are now quite inadequate. The problem should be tackled town by town. We must say, "This town has a housing waiting list of X, and its number of derelict houses is Y. That number of new homes can be supplied in such and such an area of the town and a development corporation shall undertake that redevelopment." In some areas, that type of corporation might be almost entirely the local authority; in others, almost entirely private enterprise. In yet others, a consortium of the two—but always with the Government as the third partner, and all on the new towns model.
It should be financially backed as far as necessary by the taxpayer and not by the ratepayer. We have now reached the stage where the ratepayer cannot be called upon to contribute any more towards the solving of this national housing problem, although it is so great in the local areas rather than generally over the country. We shall succeed in an urban housing redevelopment, as in urban commercial redevelopment, only by a policy of new towns within the old cities, and developing on the same sort of principle as has been successful in developing the new towns.
1076 Hon. Members representing constituencies in the North will know of the acres of derelict land within the towns themselves, with a few houses sticking up like decayed teeth in shrivelled gums. There is this waste of land within and between the towns, and it is a great and challenging opportunity for development. All can be done within my right hon. Friend's existing powers. By a stroke of the pen in these present Civil Estimates he can say, "I shall so adjust these grants and subsidies, which it is within my power to adjust, as to make them available for a form of new-within-old-town development."
He will have to be a little more dictatorial than that. I was highly flattered by the hon. Member for Fulham who stole two articles of clothing of mine; one, the rates review and review of local government finance, and the other the necessity for a reform in the building industry and in building techniques and methods.
I should like my right hon. Friend to take this rather dictatorial attitude over the use of non-traditional building. Building resources—that is, labour and materials—are at present stretched to the limit of the industry's present restrictive practices. I do not doubt that even within purely traditional building the building employees could, without any hardship to themselves, increase their output by about one-third. Building employers, too, could, by more efficient organisation in place of small-firm muddle, make a very substantial increase in building output. But that is not enough; it is essential that we should adopt modern techniques. In all other major industries, we have seen advancement in techniques and production. A small contribution to house building might be obtained by switching from commercial building, but I have not much hope of substantially increasing housing output by that means.
The only major contribution can be made by breaking away from tradition and prejudice in our methods of building. The Minister has all the powers for farcing those to whom the taxpayer makes a grant by way of housing subsidy to adopt types and methods of building that will increase output. He can say, "I shall not give these grants, I shall 1077 not approve local authority schemes unless they show me that houses can be built in X weeks instead of X months, or unless they are prepared to adopt a system completely devoid of wet construction "—and that type of traditional building.
My right hon. Friend may think that I am advocating Ministerial control of the building industry, but it is nothing of the sort. Merely to say that the man who pays for the goods—the taxpayer—is entitled to order what he wants, is not controlling industry, and a really firm attitude could be taken at Ministerial level to force the building industry to adopt modern techniques. I urge my right hon. Friend to adopt this simple policy; five million houses over ten years by organising and sponsoring local development corporations, Exchequer-supported where necessary, which are prepared to adopt speedy methods of building.
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric Lubbock (Orpington)
In thirteen years' time we shall reach the centenary of the Public Health Act, 1875. That Act enabled local authorities to pass byelaws regulating the structure of walls and foundations of new buildings on health grounds and not merely on grounds of stability and fire prevention. It was followed by a series of model byelaws in the late 1870s, and the houses that were erected after 1880 conformed to a higher standard than those built before that date.
For this reason most experts look upon the year 1980 as a sort of watershed, because it is generally considered that houses have a useful life of about a hundred years The Minister has said that himself—although there is no overriding reason for taking a hundred years as being the figure for the life of a house any more than 80 or 60 years. Taking these two factors together, this has been treated as a kind of watershed.
Mr. Needleman has been quoted widely already. In his article he said that by 1980 we shall need 5.7 million new houses. Other experts have given different estimates and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page), whose opinion is valuable, referred to 10 million, for if I 1078 understood his comments aright and if my arithmetic is correct he said that we should need 500,000 houses a year, and I have simply multiplied that figure by twenty. The Town and Country Planning Association has said 6 million, while the Alliance Building Society has put forward the figure of 8 million.
There are two points one should notice about these estimates. One is that they differ widely and the other is that the Government are apparently content to leave the assessment of our housing needs over the long term to private organisations and individuals, none of whom can possibly have resources equal to such a task. If the Government are to pay more than lip-service to the idea of planning, surely this is one of the problems that should be tackled first. Or are the leaders of the Tory Party still engaged in trying to combat the belief which they encouraged for so long that planning must be equated with Socialism?
Top priority should be given to a definitive survey of the long-term housing needs of the nation. That is the only way to set targets for the building industry—something which has already been stated as being necessary by all hon. Members who have spoken—and to avoid a repetition of the situation which arose last year when arbitrary restrictions were placed on building by local authorities, while at the same time the activities of the speculators were allowed to continue unhindered.
The resources of the Registrar-General could be used to make an estimate of the number of households and occupied dwellings twenty years hence and local authorities should be invited to cooperate by compiling housing lists on a common basis and by making housing returns which could be collated centrally. The Minister could then announce his policy for the replacement of obsolete dwellings, bearing in mind that, with a rising standard of living, older houses are likely to be considered to be obsolete, even if structually sound. The problem facing us is not so much a matter of how many houses are needed. It is also a question of where they are to be situated. We have not even begun to tackle the problem of urban sprawl and the Government's 1079 laissez faire attitude to this will be regretted by future generations.
If present trends are maintained there will be another 200,000 jobs in the Greater London area in the next ten years. Where are these people to live? The shortage of houses is already acutely embarrassing in the Greater London area and in my constituency alone the population has risen from 61,000 in 1951 to 80,000 in 1961. In the next ten years, at this rate, it will rise to 100,000. Where are these people to be housed?
An undertaking has been given that the Green Belt will not be violated. How is this to be done if we are to abide by the Third Schedule of the 1947 Planning Act under which owners can enlarge existing buildings by 10 per cent. or increase cubic content by 10 per cent. upon rebuilding? More and more people will be attracted to the magnet towns—and London is the biggest magnet of the lot—and these people must be given somewhere to live. Direct control should be exercised by the Board of Trade over new office building projects. The Town and Country Planning Association's plan for financial disincentives for people to build in these magnet towns merits careful study.
Even if no additional employment is created over the next few years in the large cities, a great job will remain to be done in redeveloping congested city centres at density levels acceptable to today's standards. In 1956 the Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government stated that, taking a fairly conservative view, the number of people to move out might be approaching 500,000 from the congested areas of Greater London, 240,000 from Manchester, 200,000 from Birmingham, 150,000 from Liverpool, 70,000 from Leeds and nearly as many from Sheffield.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing stated on 7th March last that strap-hangers to and from work in London should regard new towns as the "commuters' dream". They do, but since the Tories came to power only one new town has been designated in England and Wales, let alone built. In their place we have the 1080 policy for expanded towns, which has been singularly unsuccessful.
There are, of course, economic advantages which accrue to firms willing to move out into the expanded towns, as well as amenity advantages to their employees. But the inertia of most employers when faced with a decision of this kind has not been sufficiently appreciated and new means of persuading them must be found if major cities, London in particular, are to avoid slow strangulation. I am talking about the long-term solutions of our housing problems first, because I freely admit that no complete solution can be found in the short-term. We could not suddenly double the capacity of the building industry, even if it were economically desirable to do so. There are, however, one or two measures which could be taken at once which would alleviate the shortage—although they would not cure it.
I agree with the contention of the hon. Member for Chorley (Mr. Kenyon) that anyone who has served as a member of a local authority cannot view this situation merely as a set of figures showing a tiresome imbalance between demand and supply. The harmful and sometimes tragic effects on the lives of individuals one has tried to help impresses one with the reality of the crisis in a way which no statistics could possibly do. I could quote many cases similar to those about which we have already heard; about a family with four children living in a caravan and about evictions of old-age pensioners who must go into council homes. There are many cases one could quote. In fact, I could quote them all day.
Clearly, under these circumstances, we should not tolerate more vacancies than are absolutely necessary to cater for movements of population. One obvious means of discouraging landlords from allowing their houses to remain untenanted would be to levy rates on vacant property. Apart from increasing the availability of houses, this would also help to stem the rise in property values, which is the delight of the speculator. Landlords would not be so likely to hang on in the hope of securing higher rents if they were paying rates all the time. The same applies to those who are trying to sell their property. Furthermore, if rates were levied on vacant 1081 property the burden falling on the genuine occupier would be eased to that extent.
As has been pointed out, the shortage of houses falls entirely on those who are having to live in rented accommodation. In recent years the expenditure on private housing has accounted for a steadily increasing proportion of the total. As we have heard, very little of this private housing is for renting, and the Rent Act has failed to achieve, as one of its declared objects, an increase in the supply of private rented accommodation at economic rents.
Therefore, the position should not have been aggravated last year when restrictions were imposed on house building by local authorities as part of the Government's measures to meet the economic crisis. I suppose that is an example of the Tory freedom that we used to hear so much about. If there were valid arguments in favour of these restrictions, why were they not applied to private developers as well as to local authorities? Can it be that such a measure would have lost them even more votes than the measures which were actually taken?
Bearing in mind that private developers account for nearly two-thirds of the expenditure on housing, the application of restrictions in this sector would have been a far more effective means of relieving the pressure on the building industry.
§ Mr. A. P. Costain (Folkestone and Hythe)
Surely the hon. Gentleman has overlooked the fact that the credit restrictions stopped the private developer?
§ Mr. Lubbock
I have not overlooked that fact. The local authorities were subject to the same high interest rates as the private developers. This was an adequate disincentive to them, without these additional restrictions which were imposed by the Ministry's circular 37/61. I was not suggesting that these restrictions should have been imposed. I was saying that I would have liked to see these restrictions on local authority building removed altogether because they should never have been imposed in the first place.
Indeed, can the pressure on the building industry ever have been so severe as it was made out to be? If so, it 1082 certainly was not due to housing, because the value of constructional work other than housing was nearly twice as great as that of housing. We are only just building today the 300,000 houses which the Tories promised us when they took office in 1951, although since then there has been an unforeseen increase in the population and a trend towards younger marriage which has made the problem more acute. I think that this is one symptom of the Government's failure to plan, which has had such disastrous results in every facet of the economy.
The last comprehensive survey of housing needs was that of the Royal Commission of 1884–85—under a Liberal Government, be it noted. Since then there have been far-reaching changes in the standard of housing inspected and in the agencies through which housing is provided. A new survey is urgently needed as a basis for the planning which we hope to see in the future, so that we can redress the mistakes of the past before it is too late.
§ 6.34 p.m.
§ Mr. John Page (Harrow, West)
When the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) opened the debate this afternoon his two main suggestions for meeting the housing situation were, first, that a larger percentage of houses built should be council houses and, second, that the building industry should streamline its methods. I wholly agree with him on the second point, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will give some attention to suggestions for more prefabrication of interior parts for houses which are to be newly built.
As to the first point which the hon. Member made, and which was echoed by the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock), I do not see why the total number of those without houses would be lessened if there were a larger proportion of council houses compared with other houses. I do not believe that a large number of these privately built houses are exclusively for those who already have one house and who regard the second house as a pied à terre. I should have thought there was every reason to expect that these new houses would be occupied by people who previously had been council house 1083 tenants. I should have thought that would be an admirable move for those who can afford to support their own housing, and that they should be encouraged to do so.
I feel that I must deal more with the challenge made by the hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun) whose letter in The Times on Easter Monday ruined my Easter holiday. I was so fired with enthusiasm when I read it at breakfast time that I immediately wrote a reply, and for the past ten days the telephone in my home has hardly stopped ringing, so many people wishing to make suggestions about the letter which I wrote.
He and his 101 hon. Friends who signed the Motion relating to improvements to old properties were working on the right lines, for it is extremely disappointing that private landlords, as opposed to private owners, have not taken advantage of the improvement grant scheme. It was with pleasure, therefore, that yesterday I supported the Amendment to the Motion, in the name for my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page), some of whose admirable speeches I am always delighted to have attributed to me. Those are the ones which always receive the most favourable comments from my well-informed friends. In supporting that Amendment, we have put to the Minister a suggestion that not only should the 50 per cent. grant be made but also that local authorities should be empowered to make a loan for the other half. I have not discussed this matter with my hon. Friend, but I wonder whether it would be possible for the increased rent which would have been paid to the landlord to be paid direct to the local authority with the rates when they are paid.
I also read in The Times a further letter inspired by the hon. Gentleman's original letter, stating:It is not, perhaps, generally known that in addition to offering a grant of 50 per cent. of the cost (to a maximum of£155), the Government had made arrangements through building societies to lend the other half on favourable terms.That is another aspect of this improvement grant proposition which I did not know about and which I think should be publicised as much as possible.
1084 Before the standard grant can be applied for, there must be a bath, a hot water system, a basin, an inside lavatory and a hygienic food storage unit. Such improvements constitute a major alteration to old premises. It is, therefore, something that not all landlords are prepared to tackle, because they cannot finance it, and not all tenants wish to pay the increased rents. Further, the grant can only be allowed if the house can be said to have a minimum fifteen years of further life.
What worried me in the original letter which the hon. Gentleman wrote to The Times was what was going to happen to many of these houses—he seemed to think that there will be an increasing number of them, though I personally think that there will be a decreasing number—which will have less than fifteen years of useful life left. Are the people in these houses merely to be left without proper modern facilities during the rest of that time? Whoever the occupants may be, are they to be without these modern facilities for the rest of the time the house is occupied? I do not think that they should.
I think that the people who are best able to put this situation right are the tenants themselves, and this is where the hon. Member for Salford, East and I cross swords. He and many of his hon. Friends feel that any improvements to a house of which the occupier is the tenant should only be done by the landlord. I should like to say that I and many of my hon. Friends, as well as those who answered my letter, take a different view. Though the house may be the property of the landlord, surely it is the home of the tenant. My experience—and in this matter I speak from eight or nine years' work with a housing association in the East End of London and in constituencies other than my own—is that the people who occupy sub-standard houses do not make nearly enough effort to improve those houses themselves.
§ Mrs. Harriet Slater (Stoke-on-Trent, North)
Does not the hon. Gentleman know that many people have done a great deal to improve their houses, but that When the Rent Act was introduced the landlords immediately put up the rents of those houses, and got away with it? Most people did not know that 1085 during the first few months they could have got their rateable value altered. It is most unfair to say that the majority of people have not made improvements in rented houses so that they could live in them more comfortably.
§ Mr. Page
The hon. Lady, whose intervention I welcome, is at variance with her hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East, who tells me that in his constituency 50 per cent. of the houses are without baths. What I am saying is that these houses without baths are very often without baths due to the fault of the occupiers of the houses. I would say that any occupant of a house who can afford a television set should be able easily to afford a bath and a modern hot water system. [Interruption.] If I may develop the argument, after reading the hon. Gentleman's letter I took it upon myself to consider what I should do if I lived in a house without a bath, and to find out how cheaply a bath and a modern hot water and heating system could be installed.
§ Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, West)
Would the hon. Gentleman tell us whether he thinks that the landlord should compensate the tenant for having installed these improvements in his property, and, if the landlord wishes to sell the property at a greatly enhanced price, who should get the profit, the landlord or the tenant?
§ Mr. Page
If the hon. Gentleman will wait a few moments he will get all the answers to the questions which his active mind is suggesting.
My investigations—and I am not a lawyer, though I have taken some advice on this matter—is that a modern gas or electric water heater which could be installed in a house would remain the property of the tenant, in the same way that a washing machine or a kitchen stove would do. Therefore, from that point of view, and this is the major expense in this operation, the tenant can either remove it or sell it to any incoming tenant if he leaves the house.
§ Mr. Richard Marsh (Greenwich) rose—
§ Mr. Page
If the hon. Gentleman will allow me, I should like to go on for a few moments. 1086 With regard to a bath, although I believe it is not necessary for this to be considered as a fixture, it might have to be, and that is why I suggested that the people in Salford, East and other constituencies who are at the moment bathless should try to buy themselves second-hand baths, which they can get for£5 or less, and put them in their houses. With such a bath and their own modern water heater, they would then have a decent system.
§ Mr. Allaun
If the hon. Gentleman thinks that these houses can be improved so cheaply, why does not the landlord do it? It is his property, and these houses have been paid for over and over again in rent. Furthermore, many of these tenants, I can assure him, have wall-papered their houses, but the walls are so damp that the paper peels off, so that they are no better off than when they started.
§ Mr. Page
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. What I said was that the major standard improvements are costly, costing something like£300. One cannot get a grant for these houses which have not got a long life, but if I had to occupy one of these houses which had not got a modern hot water system, whether it was the fault of the landlord or anybody else, and I could afford a television set, I would jolly well put one in. This seems to me to be a perfectly sensible way of approaching the problem.
The hon. Member for Salford, East mentioned the tragic story of one of his constituents who had had her children scalded because all the hot water needed in that house had to be boiled in a saucepan on a gas stove. Though I am extremely sorry for that family, I do not think they need the sympathy of others, because they could easily afford to put in a hot water system. Let me tell the hon. Gentleman how they could do it.
A second-hand bath would cost under£5 The down payment needed for a bathroom or sink water heater is£3, and the instalment charge over four years would be 4s. a week. For that sum one can have a modern, safe, efficient and economical hot water system in a house, and I think it is very surprising indeed that people have not bothered to put them in.
§ Several Hon. Members rose—
§ Mr. Page
I have said that I think that a lot of these bad conditions are self-imposed, and I believe that there is a kind of masochistic martyrdom in some parts of the country where people, in order not to appear to their friends to be surrendering to the brutal landlords, continue positively to live in squalid conditions which they need not tolerate. It is the philosophy of "Keeping down with the Jones'", if I may call it that. As the hon. Member for Salford, East has made me a challenge to meet his constituents, I should like to say that I previously made a challenge to some of my own constituents. I said that I would help any of them who had not got a bath by seeing if I could influence the provision of a bath in their houses. Secondly, I have said that if any of them would like to do it on a "do-it-yourself" basis, I would help them do it and provide the bath.
So far, after a week, none of my constituents has been brave enough to accept this offer. I am glad to say now that I should be happy to transfer the offer to the constituents of the hon. Member for Salford, East should he wish to take it up. Not only would his constituents avoid having to have the inferior second-hand bath which I was proposing to provide but they would, in fact, become the delighted owners of a brand-new bath with which I have been presented for this particular purpose by a bath manufacturer. That offer stands.
Perhaps I have been dwelling for too long upon the subject of baths. [Laughter.] As hon. Members opposite are taking such a happy and uncontroversial view of what I have been saying, I will quickly put some other suggestions which may spark them off a bit more. Here are eight points which would, if acted upon, greatly improve within a period of months the housing conditions of the people of this country. They require Government action, action by Members of the House, action by local government and action by occupiers and tenants of property.
Firstly—I am sure that this will receive universal approbation—when anyone is given a council house he should be given it for the term of a five-year or seven-year lease. At the end of that period his 1088 need should be reassessed in the light of the need of others on the housing list. After being given proper notice he should be asked to provide his own accommodation should he be able financially to do so.
Next, there is the extraordinary situation, particularly in the London County Council area, where some council houses are under-occupied and others are overcrowded. I made a rather brilliant speech on this subject some months ago, though, unfortunately, I could not find it in HANSARD in order to quote the figures, but I believe that there are about 70,000 families who are overcrowded in London and there are 70,000 families under-occupying their houses, with, in those under-occupied houses, a spare room still not being taken into account in the assessment. I should have thought that the pack of those houses could be reshuffled. It is a sensible suggestion, if I may say so, and I am surprised that the London County Council has not taken it up.
Thirdly, I hope that hon. Members who take the housing situation seriously will give much greater support than they have hitherto to the implementation of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act. It is quite absurd to allow large numbers of people to pour into our already overcrowded towns and cities and then complain, on the other hand, that there is a housing shortage. The two just do not add up.
Fourthly, I hope that my right hon. Friend will consider again the suggestion that half the improvement grant should be advanced as a grant and that the other half should be a loan by the local authority.
Fifthly, I wonder whether the gas and electricity authorities could, for a time, have displays in their showrooms of modern systems for the provision of hot water which any tenant, for£3 down and 4s. a week, can have installed in his house within about a week.
My next point is a little difficult. Perhaps hon. Ladies opposite will be able to give advice about it.
§ Mr. Page
As the Marriage Guidance Council and other social workers know, the incidence of marital difficulties among younger married couples is far greater than it is among those who marry at slightly more mature ages. I entirely agree that a large part of the cause of the trouble is housing difficulties. I should have thought, there-fore, that it was incumbent on young people, before they got married, to see whether they could save some money, before the day came, to provide themselves with a house of their own.
Lastly, I ask the Government to continue with their excellent record and excellent progress in the building of new houses. By the eight-pronged attack which I have outlined, a great improvement could be made in the housing conditions of our people.
§ 6.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Mapp (Oldham, East)
With the exception of two, the speeches we have heard today, including those from the benches opposite, have been helpful. One exception is the speech of the hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. John Page) to which we have just listened. It was an intensely disappointing speech. What he said was clearly quite impossible, and one could not, if one were thinking of the subject seriously, go with the hon. Gentleman even one foot of the way. More disappointing still was the contribution of the Parliamentary Secretary in which he gave a halting account of halting progress. One hon. Gentleman opposite spoke of the need for a dynamic Ministry in this problem. In effect, that will be the theme of my remarks.
First, I quote from a document which I read a little while ago:It is a striking condemnation of present housing policy (and the Government's social priorities) that with far greater material, financial and technical resources than before the war and a larger building labour force we are plodding along at a rate of slum clearance which has only in the past year"—that was 1960—reached two-thirds of the 1938 level".I shall concentrate on slum clearance land the modernisation of older properties.
1090 In the main, we find the slum clearance problem in our older towns, and it is in the North where we meet it in its most acute form. Unfortunately, it is in those areas that the housing problem is linked with the problem of the gradual erosion of population. The young and adventurous working people are moving to other areas, principally in the South. The civic authorities in our older towns, in tackling the great task of slum clearance and rebuilding, have to face at the same time the fact that there is a loss of confidence in the areas with which they are concerned. The cradle areas of the Industrial Revolution are now meeting the consequences of earlier mistakes. The old industries are losing in the race with the new industries and, in consequence, depopulation to a serious extent is gradually taking place.
The older towns, of which I represent one, are faced with a legacy of thousands of houses, many built over a hundred years ago, which still have many of the facilities originally installed. In many cases they have the civic furniture which was there when they were constructed well before the turn of the century. Since then, the appeal of industrial expansion has drifted to the South and the old tag that "where there is muck there is money" does not appeal these days to the modern finance houses. It may be that our affluent society has forgotten the patent and basic link that prosperity must be tied ultimately with the basic truth of honest labour.
The problem of migration from the older areas has engaged the minds of many people over many years and the Minister must be acutely aware of informed opinion which places on him the responsibility of constructive action for rejuvenating the older areas. So far, we have had no action, and, although the problem has been evident for many years, the Government and their predecessors have not yet departed from the principle that the market forces will finally determine the industrial and housing pattern of our country. It is exactly that fallacy which prevailed in past centuries which we face today. We do not want either industry or people to be regimented, but, nevertheless, it is the duty of the Government to shape the general pattern of industrial and social development. To neglect that 1091 duty now is to leave the older and perhaps the greyer areas to their own resources and inevitable decay.
The problem has been sharply pinpointed this last few weeks by the work of the Lancashire and Merseyside Industrial Development Association, a body representative of all shades of opinion. In a report made to it by its Director which deals in the main with the industrial prospects of the county and with which the question of housing is closely linked, it is stated:The North-West has shown a consistent loss of population over a long period. The 1961 Census statistics show that during the period from 1951 to 1961 the loss was 124,000 people. Of that total, 40,000 were workers. During the same period the rate of growth of the insured population of the region was the lowest of all standard regions and in 1960 alone employment opportunities fell by 20,000 due in the main to the further contraction of the cotton industry".
On the question of urban renewal, an associated problem, the Director goes on to say:
In considering this question, it should also be borne in mind that much of the country's wealth was created in the industrial North and it therefore seems reasonable to expect some additional financial aid from the Government towards the cost of improving the environment in many of our industrial areas. Local authorities are doing whatever they can but they are quite unable to undertake remedial works on a scale sufficient to match the problem.
§ I gather that at a meeting last week the Association decided, in the light of what is at stake, to seek an interview with the Minister and with the President of the Board of Trade to pinpoint these acute difficulties in the hope that, perhaps after discussion, some policy might evolve.
§ I return to the problem of slum clearance. In Oldham, despite a long haul over the last few years and more recently a marked leap forward in our efforts, one house in every four still remains unfit for human habitation. Even at an accelerated rate of improvement, it is likely that it will be nearly 1980 before this problem is overcome. Experience in Oldham is reflected in the list of fifty areas incorporated in the White Paper of some months ago.
§ While sitting on the Committee considering the Housing Bill last year, it because apparent to me that the former Minister of Housing and Local Gover- 1092 nment had made up his mind that the market yardstick was, in his view, the ultimate weapon which must prevail in general housing and that municipal efforts to meet the needs of those not able to buy or rent houses at competitive prices were to be helped only to the extent that the existing Governmental financial commitment would be redesigned so that a form of Whitehall rent discipline would be introduced. In the light of that, the subsidy for slum clearance was withdrawn and new subsidies of£8 or£24, subject to a valuation test, were introduced. In spite of the energy of those authorities about which I can speak from experience, authorities in which this great problem is centred, the financial inducement and obstacles are such that it is impossible with the present policy to overcome the problem as I should like, and as I think the country expects, this side of 1970.
In reading a debate which took place in February, I thought that I detected a spark of hope. In talking about this problem, this ulcer of the bad housing spots in the older towns, the Minister himself said:
I aim not only to maintain the present rate of slum clearance over the country as a whole, but, as soon as circumstances permit, to start a special drive on the worst slums in the big cities and towns, particularly those in the North and in the Midlands. Those who see this problem only in the South and from the South often have no idea of the extent of the slum problem in some of our older cities.…It will need to be a long and sustained drive, but it must be undertaken.…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd February, 1962; Vol. 652, c. 1509.]
§ The right hon. Gentleman continued in that vein. I thought that perhaps here was the forerunner of some dynamic policy, some Departmental drive to deal with this problem which is largely confined to forty to sixty areas about which the country is so perturbed. The Minister might have announced such a policy today, but we heard not one constructive suggestion to deal with the problem.
§ I listened to the speech of the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) with the greatest interest. He said that what seemed to be a local burning problem which outraged the minds of most men and women is now a national responsibility. Authorities in the older areas which bore the brunt of the Industrial Revolution rightly look to the 1093 Government to help them in this new era. If we think it right that financial assistance should be given in the building of a new "Queen" liner, if it is thought right to give financial inducements under the Local Employment Act to bring labour to those areas where it is needed, and if it is right that financial assistance should be given to the agricultural industry, why should not something be done for the older areas of the country?
§ If this House feels that the cotton industry, because of its special circumstances, needs a big shot in the arm and that public money should be used for that purpose—it is uncertain as yet whether it will succeed—if injections of public money are right in that direction, surely they would be right in the area of the bad housing spots, where the existing implements used by the Minister for housing purposes are hardly applicable. At least, they do not measure up to the problem which faces those areas.
§ The Minister is disappointing those men and women in public life in all parties who have the tremendous task of trying to reface the old towns to modern conditions. They need encouragement. Instead they find that when they try to get technical people they are in many cases unable to do so, because the more affluent parts of the country take them as well as competing for the labour resources. This is what happens in the area within 15 or 20 miles of Manchester, where the labour frequently moves instead to office and marginal building of that kind. The prosaic job of building ordinary houses for ordinary people does not win the inspiration of many building firms.
§ At the same time, the same financial implements are applied in Oldham, Liverpool, Batley and Manchester as in Torquay or Bournemouth. If we are at the stage of having overcome the main hump of the national housing problem and are faced now with the remaining crux, surely it is time that the Minister was able to discern that something special—a real surgical operation—to deal with this problem is necessary.
§ I should like to put to the Minister three propositions concerning the kind of action of which I should like him to be thinking. First, even in Lancashire, even in Oldham, the land problem is a 1094 difficult one. It should be dealt with on the basis of priority for slum clearance first. The policy of land acquisition should have regard, not to this year or to next year, which is the question which has faced Manchester Corporation, for example, but should have regard to the complete task of slum clearance.
§ Secondly, the available physical building resources should be properly disciplined to ensure that slum clearance requirements are fully catered for. Industrial buildings should rank nearly on a par with slum clearance building, but other marginal building should definitely be discouraged. These twin problems should take first place. The technical and building labour that is required should be channelled to the slum projects as may be necessary. In this connection, it seems to me that the only lever that can be used is one of financial inducement.
§ Then, I come to the last problem of finance. Concerning the case for the£8 or the£24 subsidy, my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun) confirmed that the great city of Liverpool will be trying to face its slum clearance problem on a subsidy of£8 whereas two years ago it was over£20. Fortunately, Oldham, in which I am interested, qualifies, but it equally might not have qualified. This is not the kind of implement that will save the industrial towns.
§ The Minister should consider making strong subsidy improvement representations to his predecessor, who doubtless would discourage him. Whatever may be the general housing subsidies as we now know them for general housing purposes, whatever may be the merits of subsidies for slum clearance in areas which can foresee completion of the task, there is a powerful case for special slum clearance subsidies—I suggest 50 per cent. more than now—in respect of the older areas. In many ways, the case has by inference been made by the Minister.
§ I am prepared to vary my argument for additional subsidy. The Minister can use either one or other subsidy or both. The Parliamentary Secretary made great play this afternoon with market rates and the borrowing of money. The time is coming, as we on this side have 1095 for many years believed, when the Government will be facing a political dilemma and it is not unlikely that in the next two or three years, not out of conviction, but for political convenience, they will begin to change their minds to the idea that for prior social obligations of this kind there should be modified rates of interest. People believe that money or capital should be for their convenience and that it should not be their master. This is one way in which, by using the right priorities and the right judgment, even the use of money can be dovetailed to fit the main problem of the priorities of our time.
§ I will close with one or two words on an equally absorbing problem, again affecting the old towns, although it is to be found elsewhere also. The hon. Member for Harrow, West tried to touch upon it but not in a way that appealed to me. What disturbs me about the older houses is that in 15, 20 or 30 years' time, they are likely to be in the slum class. Many of us know that there is much to be said for these houses in terms of structure and substance.
§ In the main, however, those houses are without baths, proper toilet facilities, hot water, and so on. Despite what the hon. Member said, those of us who face the problem realistically know that where these rented houses are in professional management or ownership, often something is done. We are faced with the fact that the residue of landlordism is disappearing. Unfortunately, too many houses are in the hands of landlords who have only half a dozen, ten or twenty. One or two may be awkward. Many of them have a disposition to help, but they are unable to do so because of lack of financial resources or of technical advice, or because they are themselves in the late period of life and do not wish to be troubled with the responsibilities of this sort of thing.
§ When tenants want a tangible improvement in their house, I have always been able to get them to accept willingly and happily the consequences of additional rent for a facility that they can enjoy. At present, however, there is a vacuum. A landlord might be unable or, possibly, unwilling to put in the facilities that people desire.
§ I beg the Minister to be a little more flexible about the provision of these 1096 amenities. It was all right to write into the Bill last year what these amenities should be, but it is not always the case that a house can be so rearranged to enable all the amenities to be provided. Nevertheless, in ninety-nine cases out of one hundred the local health inspector, acting in concert with the owner and the tenant, could probably find ways of making a 90 per cent. improvement, and this would be preferable to the old arrangement.
§ I suggest that we should bring local authorities into the existing vacuum so that with the goodwill of the landlord they will be able to carry out these improvements, not merely house by house, but in areas such as mine, street by street, and use their influence with the tenants to make them see that the improvements are necessary not only for them but for those who may next occupy the houses, and in this way get the improvements carried out and then decide what would be the right rent to charge. The figures suggest that the people most interested in this idea are owner-occupiers and professional managers of estates.
§ These, then, are the two outstanding problems. First, slum clearance in these old areas. Secondly, alongside these old unfit houses are houses which in a few years will themselves become slums. Unless the Minister discards his complacent attitude and injects some realism and dynamism into dealing with the problem, it will never be solved. Only the Minister is in a position to provide this realism and dynamism, and I hope he will do so.
§ Sir Eric Errington (Aldershot)
I was interested in what the hon. Gentleman said about the problem of improving houses, but does he realise that in a number of cases there are tenants with large families and there is no opportunity for them to give up the necessary accommodation to make the kind of improvements that the hon. Gentleman has in mind?
§ Mr. Mapp
My experience is that older people tend to resist these improvements being made, but with families with one or two children there is no difficulty in getting this point accepted. If there is a chance of succeeding in nine cases out of ten, 1097 surely we should go ahead with our efforts to improve these places? If one case in ten decides to be awkward, perhaps the local authority concerned could use its good offices to try to find a way out of the impasse.
§ 7.23 p.m.
§ Dr. Alan Glyn (Clapham)
The hon. Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Mapp) said that it would take until about 1980 to solve the present housing problem. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that the problem really exists in forty to fifty areas in England. I think that we must give the Government a certain amount of credit for what they have done in other areas, but there remains this bulk of hard-core areas where the problem is very real indeed. In these areas one cannot tackle the problem in the same way as it would be tackled in the central parts of London or any other great city.
The horn. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun) referred to the human miseries and gave details of hardship suffered by tenants. He referred to houses with no baths, no inside sanitation, families being separated, and so on. It is not necessary to go north to meet these problems. I have said repeatedly that a journey of only seven minutes across the river brings one to housing conditions which are so appalling that it is hard to believe that one is in England. They axe the sort of conditions more likely to be found in the Middle East.
We have many problems in these central areas, but I think that we have a duty to tackle the problem nationally because it is no longer a local one. It is so big that it has become impossible for local authorities to tackle it single-handed. It is now necessary to provide from some central source not only for guidance but finance to help them deal with this problem. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for what has been done, but there is still a lot to be done in these special areas.
London has a population of roughly one-fifth or one-sixth of England, and in almost every area of London, apart from the very centre, we have these real human problems. After all, housing is something which is vitally important to us all As has been said—and one cannot deny this—there are cases in which tenants do not do what they should to 1098 maintain the property in good repair, but this is not the basis of the problem. The basis of the problem is that property which tenants are incapable of improving and which cannot be improved without a major reform, and in many cases without being pulled down and rebuilt.
When rent control was first instituted in my area, it did a certain amount of good. For about two years accommodation was freed, but now we are back to the same freezing of accommodation that we had before the Rent Act began to operate. The difficulties of finding accommodation are very much the same as they were before the Act was brought into operation.
Reference has been made to the possibility of reducing office building and the amount of private building, but I am not sure that this is the answer to the problem. I was most interested in what my hon. Friend said at the beginning of his speech. I was not sure whether it was really the case that there was not sufficient labour to carry out any greater building programme than we are conducting at the moment, but this is a point to which I shall return.
One of the problems mentioned is the cost of land. It is not a major problem, because the cost of land is not important if one builds upwards. It was said that the cost of land represented 40 per cent. of the cost of building. It may be 40 per cent. if houses of one, two or three storeys are built, but if one builds higher the cost of the site versus building is proportionately reduced. I have always advocated that in the centre of London we cannot afford to under-develop the sites still at our disposal. In central London there are very few sites available for development, and it is up to the Minister to make sure that these sites are fully used even if it means compelling local authorities to adopt a slightly higher density rate. I know that some hon. Gentlemen opposite will not agree with this suggestion, but if land is expensive and limited it is obviously far better to use such land in the most economical way possible.
Reference has also been made to building houses to let. Costs are high, and private developers are genuinely afraid of investing their money in property to let, because a change in legislation might cause them to lose the 1099 money they have invested. All landlords are not bad, and many property owners have been very badly hit by the fact that the property they bought bona fide in reasonable conditions before the war has involved them in a loss of money because of events that have happened since. They are, therefore, the willing to hazard the chance of losing their money again. One cannot blame them. It is far easier to sell property for cash and make a fairly reasonable profit rather than to wait for a number of years and then possibly be caught very badly at the end of their period of tenure.
The hon. Member for Oldham, East referred to the question of the change of ownership. We all know that many properties which were formerly owned by extremely good landlords have passed to what one can only describe as spiv owners, whose wish is to get the tenants out of the property as quickly as possible in order to sell at a profit. Those bad owners are giving an extraordinarily bad name to the many good landlords in London.
§ Dr. Glyn
In many cases they could have. The hon. Member is a Londoner, and he knows what can be done. There are many ways of getting round the difficulties. I am only saying that this proportion of extremely bad landlords is setting a bad example and is giving landlords in general an extremely bad name.
In the last housing debate I referred to the possible purchase of municipal property by private purchasers, but I received no answer to the point I made. It seems advisable that where a prospective house owner has£500 or£600 to put down but cannot find a suitable house he should be able to purchase a unit—a flat—in a local authority block. Everybody would benefit. If the unit cost£2,000 or£2,500, the local authority would have the£500 and repayment coming in weekly. This would free money which could be used to build other properties.
§ Mr. Julius Silverman (Birmingham, Aston)
Is the hon. Member including the sitting tenants in municipal houses?
§ Dr. Glyn
The system should apply to sitting tenants, if they wish to take advantage of it. I see no objection. This system is often adopted on the Continent. In France there is a system of co-proprietaire, under which blocks of flats are owned individually by the people living in them. The cost of all repairs is shared. This is a good method of making capital available for building other property. I am grateful for the hon. Member's intervention, because I see no reason why that system should not be applied to sitting tenants.
§ Mr. J. Silverman
I must make it clear to the hon. Member that I am not supporting his suggestion; quite the opposite.
§ Dr. Glyn
I am sorry. I am all for a property-owning democracy. I do not mind whether the property owner owns a small house in Wandsworth or owns merely one unit; he still has his own front door and the pride of ownership. He has security behind him. I shall be grateful if my hon. Friend will consider this point.
My hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, West (Mr. John Page), in a very interesting speech, referred to tenants helping themselves. Few tenants do not want to help themselves, but the large majority are afraid of doing so because they know that at the end of their tenure they may lose the value of the improvements that they have made. I would remind these tenants that What my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, West said has a great deal of truth in it. A second-hand bath costs about£5, and if a tenant goes to the local gas or electricity board he can get the bath heater fitted very cheaply, and the initial payment on a multipoint is only about£3 15s. Tenants could do more to help themselves. I am sure that if they went to their landlords and said, "We are going to put in these improvements. Will you give us some security of tenure?" in many cases the landlords would be agreeable.
My hon. Friend's point is that many tenants do not realise that these facilities are available from the electricity and gas companies. There is, of course, some difficulty with older houses which were built fifty or sixty years ago, in that 1101 they do not have sufficiently large gas or electricity mains to take these appliances. But there are many cases in which, if tenants knew what they could have installed by the supply companies, they would avail themselves of the service.
In the earlier part of the debate mention was made of the rents of council houses. I have always said that where there is a shortage of accommodation in London tenants should be charged the rack rent, unless they can prove that they cannot afford to pay it. The additional amount of money would provide a further form of finance, which could be used by local authorities in building and improving property, thereby helping other tenants whose need is greater than that of those Who are comfortably installed in a corporation block. I see no social injustice in asking people to pay a reasonable rent in order to help other less fortunate members of the community to get a decent home.
I know that my hon. Friend will agree that it is ridiculous to have two housing authorities for the same area—the borough authority and the L.C.C. In my area many very good sites have been taken by the L.C.C., leaving the borough with very few sites which are capable of development. This has made development extremely difficult. I know that my hon. Friend will say that when the new Act comes in there will be only one authority. I hope that will be the case, because I am sure that boroughs are capable of dealing with their housing needs. I look forward to the day when Wandsworth is responsible for housing the people of Wandsworth.
Many hon. Members on this side of the House have raised the question of density. I will not enlarge on this point. I have often stressed the importance of an alteration in density in central London. My right hon. Friend should decide, taking into account questions of transport and sites, whether the density which a municipal authority has adopted is correct, in the existing circumstances. I go further. Even within a borough, densities in one area can be much greater than in another, if one area has a better transport system, so that the people living in it can be brought easily to work in the centre of London. I hope 1102 that that point will be considered carefully.
There must be a completely new approach to this problem. We must give credit to the Government for what they have done, but they must be pushed much harder. I do not agree that we are doing enough. The substance of my hon. Friend's argument on the availability of building labour and materials—if I have got it correctly—was that we could not do much more because the building industry is fully stretched. I am not sure whether that is correct. If the Exchequer were prepared to advance larger sums of money, would the block still be the availability of labour, and the general building situation?
I was also interested in the point raised by many hon. Members on this side of the House concerning the possibility of ensuring that those builders who receive contracts are extremely efficient and economise in building labour. I hope that my hon. Friend will deal with this point. He made great play with it. He said that the building industry was fully stretched. But I think that something must be done, and if that is what is blocking progress, somehow we must get round it. We cannot leave conditions which—
§ Mr. Rippon
I should like to explain that I was saying that the building industry was under a serious strain. I explained how that was brought about by pressure on land, labour and materials. If the money were provided, it would not enable more houses to be built at the present time. That was why I said, taking a long-term view, that so much importance attached to the Emmerson Report and increased productivity in the building industry.
§ Dr. Alan Glyn
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that intervention. This seems to me the crux of the whole situation. If we cannot get an efficient industry and increase the amount of building, as I see it, we are left with a situation in which the only possible way of increasing housebuilding would be by cutting down on other private building or on the building of office blocks and shop premises. To me this is an alarming situation. We must all be extremely 1103 alarmed that progress in housebuilding has not proceeded at the speed we should like.
Other hon. Members have made suggestions for improving the situation. But if what I suspect is the case we are in a serious position. I do not know what improvement my hon. Friend expects to take place in the efficiency of the building industry or whether it will amount to 5 per cent., 10 per cent., 15 per cent. or 20 per cent. in the next five years. I do not think that the argument is completely correct. I think that we could improve the situation by a more efficient use of building sites. By increasing the density figures we could increase the amount of building, which is something that must be done.
The hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) read us a delightful and a long speech, but I found it difficult to interpret from it how he proposed to meet the immediate needs in congested areas except by levying rates on unoccupied property. I do not detect any way in which the Liberal Party proposes to deal with the existing serious housing conditions.
§ 7.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Julius Silverman (Birmingham, Aston)
The hon. Member for Clapham (Dr. Alan Glyn) referred to the selling of municipal houses. I would oppose such sales. There were one or two matters which the hon. Gentleman did not make clear. He was suggesting, apparently, that not only should sitting tenants be allowed to buy municipal houses but that anyone else who had£500 or£600 available should be able to buy them. This would result in the abominable situation that houses would be allocated not according to the need of the applicant but because someone had£500 to lay down. I do not think any local authority would be prepared to tolerate such a situation.
The hon. Member for Clapham did not say at what price municipal houses should be offered to sitting tenants. There are obvious objections to the sale of flats where a whole block could not be disposed of if some tenants were municipal tenants and some were purchasers. There would be similar objections to selling municipal houses on an estate where the tenants included owner- 1104 occupiers. One question is, however, at what price should municipal houses be offered for sale? Supposing that offers were confined to sitting tenants of municipal property as has been suggested by the Minister. Would the houses be offered at the market price? Is that what the hon. Member for Clapham is suggesting?
§ Dr. Alan Glyn
I should not be in favour of municipal houses being purchased in advance of the housing queue, so to speak. One hon. Member opposite suggested the figure of£500 and I did not interrupt him at the time, although that figure sounded to me rather like a premium. I should propose that a tenant be allowed to buy a house if, for example, he was the next on the waiting list. In that case he would be in almost the same position as someone who had moved into a house. I think that the houses should be offered at the market price.
§ Mr. Silverman
If municipal houses were offered to tenants at the market price, I do not think that there would be many purchasers. The majority of municipal tenants and applicants on the housing list, as well as a large number of people who actually buy houses, would much prefer to rent their houses.
Young married couples buy houses not because they desire to be owner-occupiers but because they have little prospect of obtaining rented accommodation for a long time. Their only method of getting a house is to buy one. They do so because they have no other choice and not because of a desire to become part of a property-owning democracy. If people on the housing lists of local authorities were told that if they wished they could have a house to let or that if they cared to put down£500 they could buy a house, I know from experience—as would anyone else with knowledge of housing registers—that there would be little response to the opportunity to buy.
§ Dr. Alan Glyn
Would not the hon. Member agree that many council house tenants earn a fair wage and would welcome the opportunity of buying a home for themselves?
§ Mr. Silverman
Some people who live on council housing estates may earn good wages, although often the pros- 1105 perity and incomes of such people are greatly exaggerated. There are a number of municipal housing estates in my constituency, and what is true of Birmingham is true of the rest of the country. Suppose a man earns£15 or£16 a week. If he has a family of two or three small children, there is not much left over to be used to pay a deposit on a house or even, as was suggested by the hon. Member for Clapham, to pay a rack rent, which means the market rent, and that is another point I wish to discuss.
The suggestion that tenants should buy their houses has been made by Conservatives on local authorities, but it is obvious that this practice would make no contribution to solving the housing problem. If a house is sold to a sitting tenant or anyone else it must be replaced. An authority would find that if a house were sold at less than the market price, or at such a figure as is suggested in the Ministry circular of about£1,200, the sitting tenant might benefit and might jump at the offer to buy a house at less than the market value. But when the authority wished to replace the house, say, by flats as in Birmingham where 85 per cent. of the building is flats, it would find that it costs more than twice the price at which the house was sold to provide another dwelling. So the authority would not be better off but worse off.
I come to another point raised by the hon. Member. That is the question of rack rents. I deal with that now because it relates to a particular point which I want to raise. What is meant by rack rents? So far as I understand, it means the rent which one can get in the market in a situation in which houses are very scarce. I know some of the rack rents being charged where rent decontrol has come into operation. Houses in my area which used to be rented at about£1 a week are being rack-rented at£4 or£5 a week. Is it suggested that that sort of rent should apply to local authority houses? Is that what the hon. Member suggests?
§ Dr. Alan Glyn
I was not suggesting that a rack rent was something which could be obtained, as it were, by putting someone on the rack. What I meant was a rent not including a premium. Before the war one paid a small rent or 1106 what was called a rack rent. I think tenants ought to pay the cost—in other words, what the building cost and what it is worth per year. I would not agree that the house should be sold for less than it is worth.
§ Mr. Silverman
A rack rent has nothing to do with an instrument of torture, although in many cases it amounts to that. It means the rent which can be obtained in the free market. When there is a scarcity situation in the open market that has to be taken into consideration. That is the situation created by the legislation brought in by the Government, rent control, land speculation and the rest, so that rack rents amount almost to an instrument of torture, such as the hon. Member described, for putting people on the rack. If local authorities have to charge rack rents, 90 per cent. and probably more, of the tenants would certainly not be able to afford those rents at present.
§ Dr. Alan Glyn rose—
§ Mr. Silverman
I do not want to have a duologue with the hon. Member all the time. I wish to come to another matter.
Dwellings which are being put up at present are very expensive. This is something causing great concern to local authorities. Because of the shortage of building land we find that to a greater and greater extent most of the dwellings erected by local authorities have to be in the form of flats. The average cost of erecting a flat is somewhere between£2,500 and£3,000. The economic rent—I am not now talking about rack rents—which would need to be charged would be in excess of£5 a week. There is not the slightest doubt that the overwhelming majority of tenants could not contemplate paying a rent such as that.
I hope the Minister is listening, because this is a very important point in the financing of housing. Even allowing for the special subsidy for high flats, plus the ordinary subsidy, every flat put up in the City of Birmingham costs the city, after it has met the equivalent of the old statutory local Government subsidy and made its normal contribution to the flat,£60 per annum. This means that every time we put up new houses—say 1107 2,500 a year—there is this additional cost on the housing revenue account of something like£200,000 a year. This is accumulating year by year.
How are local authorities meeting these charges? When there is an additional charge on the housing revenue account it goes on to all existing tenants, especially those tenants who have been paying less. The authority says, "We will put up your rents," and there is a general increase of rents, especially those of pre-war tenants. So far as I know, most tenants of pre-war houses are now paying an economic rent without allowing for any question of subsidy, that is, they are meeting the cost of those houses, but every time this charge goes on to the housing revenue account the authority must put up the same people's rents.
In a recent speech the Parliamentary Secretary said he thought that these tenants should pay a higher rent. Even assuming that he was right—and I do not think he was right—that cannot go on indefinitely. Birmingham's problem is the problem of all local authorities. It is the problem of the finance of local authorities, which will come to a head in the next few years. They will have the intolerable situation of increasing rents beyond the level which tenants can be expected to pay, or, alternatively, of asking the ratepayers for increased rates.
§ Mr. Victor Yates (Birmingham, Ladywood)
My hon. Friend mentioned the Parliamentary Secretary having said that more could be done by Birmingham. The Parliamentary Secretary quoted a figure which was quoted in an earlier debate, but since then all the municipal rents of Birmingham have been increased. The Minister did not take that into consideration.
§ Mr. Silverman
That is correct. In the recent debate the Minister said that he thought the rents, especially those of pre-war tenants, could be further increased. It is obvious, even taking the most Ministerial view of the matter, that these increases cannot go on and on. There must be some limit. This is not merely a problem for Birmingham. There is the problem of increased housing costs which have to be borne either by pre-war tenants and other 1108 tenants of houses for which the rents at present are not too high, or by the rates. This will lead to an intolerable situation. It will put a burden on tenants which they cannot be expected to bear.
I do not agree that there are large numbers of wealthy municipal tenants. In the nature of things, those coming on to the register now have families, usually of two or three children. Otherwise they would not get houses. Usually there is one wage-earner. Even with a reasonably good wage—which is not uncommon in the City of Birmingham—there is a limit to what the wage-earner can be expected to pay in rent if he has three or four children. This applies to the great majority. Here and there one may find one or two municipal tenants who are comfortably off. Sometimes there is an old municipal tenant who has been living in a house for many years and whose family has grown up or left. It may be that such a tenant has been in the house for a year or two with a reasonably good wage coming in. There are such cases in which for a period some people who are reasonably well off are tenants, but for the great majority there is not the capacity to pay big rents.
§ Mr. A. Evans
Am I right in understanding that my hon. Friend is saying that the cost of building today, including the cost of land, results in an economic rent which is beyond the purse of large numbers of wage earners?
§ Mr. Silverman
I think my hon. Friend may put it like that. This is due not merely to the cost of building. We must not forget that two-thirds of the cost of building a house consists of the cost of building materials, and that has risen enormously. Then there is the cost of building land and, an extremely important part, the cost of interest. The cost of interest forms by far the greatest part of the rent people pay. We know that there has been a reduction in the Bank Rate recently, but that has not seriously affected the conditions under which local authorities are able to borrow at the present time. They have still to borrow for long-term loans on much the same basis as they borrowed some time ago.
All these factors have made the economic rent far in excess of what 1109 most tenants should be expected to pay. The difference must come from somewhere. If it does not come from the payer of rent to the local authority, it has to come from the ratepayers, which is politically difficult. It seems quite clear that the Government will have to do something about this or its natural effect in a good many cities will be to inhibit the building of new houses. This problem does not only affect the building of new houses for people on the register. It affects the building of housing especially for slum clearance, because almost always flats are used for rehousing.
This problem will come to a head in the next two or three years and the Government must do something about it. Whether it will be done by means of increased subsidies, or in the way that we have pressed for on this side of the Committee—that is, to reduce the rates of interest for local authorities—or whether it can be done by reducing building costs, I do not know. First and foremost, I think that the question of interest rates should be looked at urgently. In the absence of this, there is likely to be an impasse in the housing finances of local authorities, which will have extremely serious effects upon the construction of houses. I hope that we shall hear something from the Minister about this when he replies. This accumulating burden upon housing revenue accounts cannot go on. It must come to a head unless the Government do something about this very quickly.
I do not know whether this is an occasion when we can expect something to be said by the Minister about Birmingham's special overspill problem.
§ Mr. Silverman
I am not suggesting that my constituency problem is unique, but this was a matter that the Minister was dealing with. I do not know whether he would be willing to say anything tonight on the general question of Birmingham's overspill. That matter has been raised before. It is a matter which obviously affects the question of pressure on land. I hope that the Minister will say something tonight on these points, particularly on the question of the future financing of local government.
§ 8.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Victor Goodhew (St. Albans)
The hon. Member for Birmingham, Aston (Mr. J. Silverman) has dwelt on the subject of rents and whether there is any source of increased revenue for local authorities by bringing these up to market rents, rack rents, or economic rents if the tenants can afford to pay them. There is a divergence of opinion between the two sides of the Committee as to how much money is available from these sources. I should like to pursue the question of what rents should be charged from the point of view of seeing justice as between tenants.
The Parliamentary Secretary referred to the fact that the Government do not like indiscriminate subsidies, but in fact this is what the individual tenant is getting. I have made my pleas about this in the past without success. I intend again this evening to beg my right hon. Friend to have another look at this question. When we look at the position throughout the country today we find no logic and no justice as between tenants who are living in local authority houses. We have the position in which some people are living in subsidised accommodation because they happen to have applied for it earlier, and of others, who are in equal difficulties financially, receiving no subsidy at all. This seems unfair to those who are not receiving a subsidy.
Among those who are living in local authority houses we find that there is great inequality. Varying rent schemes are adopted by local authorities. Some local authorities have a flat rent charge for all property, regardless of the income or finances of the tenant. There are others which have some sort of rent rebate scheme, or differential rent scheme, and they attempt to charge a rent according to the income of the tenant. There again we find that there are considerable differences. For instance, some authorities charge an economic rent to those who can afford it. Others charge an economic rent, less the Government subsidy, and some will allow a rate subsidy as well. This means that we have people throughout the country who are getting the benefit of subsidised housing but who feel, as between themselves even, that there is no fairness as to the rents that they have to pay.
1111 We have heard in the House in recent months of cases in Scotland where people have been paying under 10s. a week rent for their homes. This scale rises in different areas to 15s. a week and so on, and we get up to£2 a week or more. That is being charged in most cases quite regardless of the tenant's income. We must decide that it is the Government's task to say that where people can afford it they should pay a standard rent throughout the country, and that they should pay a standard proportion of their income if they cannot afford that rent.
The hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) discussed the question of how much of a person's earnings should be spent on the provision of his home. He suggested that one-quarter was very high and that one-fifth was plenty. I have served on a local authority, which was 100 per cent. Conservative at the time, which had a rent rebate scheme and charged only one-seventh. Other authorities charge one-sixth. Even where there is a rent rebate scheme, people are not being charged the same proportion of their income for their homes.
It is high time that the Government took a firm line to see that there is some sort of justice. In London one sees that the London County Council has no differential rents scheme at all. The result of this is very serious, because recent buildings are more expensive and very modern flats are much more expensive than those pre-war. The unfortunate person living on a low income today probably cannot afford the highly-rented property of the L.C.C. Perhaps he has to wait for somebody to die in one of the pre-war properties before he can be housed, and yet he may be the person most in need of help.
I saw cases in London in which, for example, someone in the lower income groups, such as a railway porter, with two or three children, was living in rather cramped basement accommodation of two rooms when one could walk down the road and see outside a modern council housing block Jaguar oars and Zodiac cars. This is quite wrong. We have reached a stage in which people are being housed at the expense of their fellows and in which the porter of whom I am speaking, living in the damp basement, is contributing by rates towards 1112 the rent of the people with the Jaguars. This is absolute nonsense.
§ Mr. Goodhew
I am asked the name of the road in which I have seen the Jaguars. I saw some when I was on the housing committee of the City of Westminster. This is a case in which a rent rebate scheme was being applied, but my complaint is that it still resulted in people paying nothing like the true value of that property.
§ Mr. Goodhew
I do not see why people should not pay the proper rent if they can afford it. Let us look at the example mentioned earlier by the hon. Member for Aston of young people struggling to buy a house of their own because they could not get accommodation in any other way. How do they feel when they are struggling to buy their own homes and they see someone down the road living in a subsidised house and able to enjoy a motor car and other amenities which they themselves cannot afford? We must realise that this is a source of great discontent. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where?"] It causes a feeling that one section of the community is doing very nicely at the expense of others.
§ The Temporary Chairman (Mr. Malcolm MacPherson)
I hope that hon. Members will not interrupt without rising to do so.
§ The Temporary Chairman
I thought that the number of interjections from a seated position which I had heard in the last few minutes was not quite reasonable, and that is why I rose.
§ Mr. Goodhew
I apologise to the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) if I have been rather too provocative for him, but this is a matter on which I feel strongly, as I know he does. We have to face it sooner or later, and my view is that it should be sooner and not later.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
The hon. Member need not apologise. Previous speakers have appealed for good Parliamentary cut and thrust, and this is Parliamentary debate.
§ Mr. Goodhew
I am grateful to the hon. Member for his kindness in telling me that I need not apologise. I accept his advice.
If we look at the matter further we see that the question of rents is colouring the attitude of the people towards housing. We have long passed the position in which people felt that they should pay the actual cost of the home. The hon. Member for Fulham suggested that a fifth of a person's income should be spent on housing, but how many people consider spending as much as that on their homes? Most of them feel that they should have the benefit of a motor car or a television, or a refrigerator, and many other things before they pay the full rent of their house. This means that the private developer who might build houses or flats to rent in many cases will not do so simply because people would not pay the market rent for those properties as long as they could put themselves on a waiting list and hope later to be subsidised by their fellows—and who can blame them as long as they are allowed to get away with it? My right hon. Friend has a perfect opportunity to do something about this when revaluation takes place.
§ Mr. J. Silverman
The hon. Member said that he was on a housing committee. Does he know of any cases in which houses were provided by that committee for people with substantial means who could afford to buy homes?
§ Mr. Goodhew
I was coming to that point. There were many people who managed to run large cars. Probably some of them were paying the so-called economic rent. But in fact they were not paying the rent which the flat was worth. They were getting a benefit at the expense of ratepayers in the area who were helping to keep the housing account in balance
§ Mr. Silverman
In the City of Birmingham, as in all large cities, there are people who have been on the housing list for ten years and who are living, with children, in cramped conditions. 1114 Does the hon. Member believe that people like these would wait on the housing list if they could afford to buy a house?
§ Mr. Goodhew
The hon. Member misunderstood me entirely on this point the last time I spoke in the debate. I am not saying that. I am saying that a large number of people who could afford to buy accommodation or to pay the market rent prefer to wait on the housing list because they know that they will have the benefit of a subsidy. I could show the hon. Member plenty of those cases in the area in which I served on a local authority.
§ Mr. A. Lewis
Would the hon. Member extend that principle to the farmers? We know many farmers who are getting subsidies but are doing very well and are living in farm houses which are completely derated.
§ Mr. Goodhew
I am sorry, Mr. MacPherson, that you prevent me from following that point because I have a very good answer. Clearly I should be out of order to give it.
My right hon. Friend has an opportunity when all private property is revalued and when there is a standard rateable value assessed on modern market rents, for this value could be the standard rent to be charged for all local authority housing, provided that the person could afford it. The Government could then impose a standard rent rebate scheme so that everybody throughout the country in local authority housing paid a fifth or a sixth or a seventh of his income for housing, whichever figure was chosen, and everyone paid a fair amount and knew that there was justice in it.
§ Mr. Edwin Wainwright (Dearne Valley) rose—
§ Mr. Wainwright
I appreciate the point which the hon. Member has put, but has he taken into account the fact that millions of workers in the country 1115 who are living in the kind of accommodation which he described have weekly wages which are not guaranteed for any length of time? It is a great risk for such people to undertake the heavy burden of purchasing a house.
§ Mr. Goodhew
I am still being badly misunderstood. I do not insist that these people should buy their houses. I think that they should be allowed to have local authority houses but that while they can afford to do so they should pay the proper market rent. The hon. Member mentioned people whose earnings suddenly fall. In the local authority on which I served, if a person's income went up it was not reassessed until the following year, but if his income went down he could go straight to the council and get an immediate reduction in rent.
Again, in many cases a council which is applying a rent rebate scheme assesses the rent only on the income of the tenant. In some cases there are two or three grown-up people in the house, also earning. I have known cases of£30,£40 or£50 going into the household. While these other pepole are also bringing money into the house, the rent should be assessed on the income of the household and not just on that of the tenant. When the sons or daughters marry, they leave the household, and the rent can be adjusted downwards
It is high time that the Government awakened to the fact that this matter is causing a great deal of unease throughout the country and that there is unfairness in the whole housing position. If we cannot build all the houses we want, and as long as there are limited resources for building and a shortage of accommodation, the one thing that we should try to do is to see that there is justice among those who need to be housed.
§ 8.18 p.m.
§ Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, West)
I am glad to have the opportunity to follow the hon. Member for St. Albans (Mr. Goodhew) who advanced the Conservative case on housing, as did the hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. John Page) earlier. I want to refer to both their speeches and to that of the hon. Member for Clapham (Dr. Alan Glyn).
1116 It is already clear that there is a great gulf between the two sides of the Committee, and it is not a gulf of how much money should be spent on local authority housing but a gulf in philosophical approach to the rehousing of our people. It is a matter of party conviction and attitudes of mind towards those who live in council house estates. Clearly hon. Members opposite do not like council house estates. They have made that clear time and time again.
We heard the hon. Member for Harrow, West say that people who live in council house estates should be allowed to stay there for only five to seven years and should then have their personal affairs reviewed to see how much money they are earning. If they were over a certain level they would be sent marching. I gave the hon. Member notice that I should refer to him. Everyone with any knowledge of working-class families knows that there is a time in the affairs of a working-class family when it is riding on prosperity because the youngsters in their early twenties are home and working, but that is a short period in the life of any working-class family. Soon the youngsters leave the nest. What is to happen to the people Whom the hon. Member for Harrow, West would turn out of a council house because their income is too high at a given period?
This attitude that only the poor who stay poor shall live in council houses is resented by the people who live there. There are two very large housing estates in my division. I should be appalled if the word went out in Cardiff that only people who can guarantee that they will never go above a certain income level will be allowed to have a council house.
§ Mr. Goodhew
I hope that I did not give the impression that I thought that only the poor should live in council houses. I said that I was concerned that in some cases those who were poor and needed it were not being housed, whereas those who were better off were being housed in their place, which is wrong and unjust. I also said that once they were housed if they could afford to do so and whilst they could afford to do so they should pay the economic rent rather than be subsidised by their 1117 fellows who might not be earning as much as they are.
§ Mr. Thomas
The hon. Member has a guilt complex. I was dealing with the hon. Member for Harrow, West, who addressed us earlier tonight and made the most remarkable Tory speech that I have heard for a long time. I only hope that the Press will do justice to it. I shall seek his permission to circulate it in my division.
Our charge against the Minister is a very serious one. The housing problem is a major problem, if not the major problem, on the home front. It is a problem which is bound to grow in the coming years. A glance at our population statistics is enough to tell us that whoever occupies the position of Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs will have on his plate for the next quarter of a century or more a major housing problem. Our charge against the Minister is that he is too complacent and has no sense of urgency. This problem should be tackled with the drive and precision of a military operation. The country ought to be mobilising its resources for the homeless. Hon. Members know of the demonstration in London with the bishop and the churchpeople leading the homeless in a procession. How long is it since we were reduced to that level in our national life?
In the City of Cardiff during the past week the South Wales Echo—a Thomson newspaper—had a banner headline concerning the hundreds of families in Cardiff living in one room with inadequate sanitation. I know of a family in Grangetown Ward, Cardiff, where the mother of 52, a girl of 21, a lad of 17½and a boy of 14½all live and sleep in one little room. In 1962 the Minister ought to be ashamed if he cannot tell us that he is going to use a greater proportion of our national resources to tackle this problem. The mother of whom I speak has not been able to go to bed for months. She has to sleep in the armchair. The girl of 21 sleeps across two chairs. The two lads of 17½and 14½press together in a little camp bed. No one here would like that for his children. None of us would—of course not. It is appalling. The tragedy is that every hon. Member, whether he represents Harrow, West or 1118 an urban industrial area, can give the same sort of tragic stories.
These people have never had it so bad in their life. These people are without hope, because the council house lists of people waiting their turn are not getting shorter. They are getting longer. It is no good telling these people, "Look at the way private houses are going up". It is no good telling these poor creatures that. That is not giving them hope. It is smacking them in the mouth. The Minister stands condemned because he gives no evidence of a willingness to treat this as a top priority.
§ Questions of subsidies, greater subsidies to help local authorities, and loans at lower rates of interest, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Aston (Mr. J. Silverman) referred, should be commanding the Minister's urgent attention, but he does not give any indication that they are. The hon. Member for St. Albans referred to the Jaguar question. This Jaguar keeps cropping up in our debates, like the poor widow who used to crop up whenever we were going to nationalise an industry. Now it is the council house tenant with a Jaguar. The spleen of the other side of the Committee towards council house tenants is shown by the way in which they repeat this silly sort of story. People can be very rich and have Jaguars. A farmer can collect as much subsidy as he likes if he only tills his field. Hon. Members opposite have their priorities. They are pouring public money into the pockets of rich people who own land, but they resent subsidy for working-class people if they earn more than£15 a week.
§ Mr. Goodhew
The hon. Member must not say that it is silly to talk about council house tenants with Jaguars, because it happens to be true. Perhaps he has not seen them, but it does not lie within his power to say to those of us who have seen them that it is not true. It is true. If he intends to pursue this point about farmers' subsidies, let him remember that the ultimate beneficiary is the housewife.
§ Mr. Thomas
Who is the ultimate beneficiary of a subsidy for a family that is growing up? Is not the whole of the community the beneficiary if these people have a satisfactory home life? I 1119 am astounded at the hon. Gentleman's mixed-up view on what should be done to re-house the people of this country.
There is the problem of overcrowding. Any hon. Member interviewing constituents must feel appalled at what he hears. I confess that when I meet my constituents at these interviews the hardest thing of all is to tell them that I can do nothing. The one who has tied my hands behind my back is sitting facing me—the Minister of Housing and Local Government—and he must accept responsibility for the fact that there is no scope for local authorities to go ahead as they should.
The right hon. Gentleman may say to me that the building industry cannot do this, and ask, "Where will it get the men?"—[HON. MEMBERS: "And the previous Minister."]—I always refer to the Minister. The present Minister is used to giving medicine, and I hope that he is used to taking it. There is no malice in what I say, but I mean what I am saying.
Of course the building industry is strained. Of course it is at full stretch. Every time we see these luxury offices and all sorts of other things going up we realise that they have priority over house building. That is where the building manpower is going, because that side of the Committee is unwilling to accept power to control our resources. What is morally wrong in a democracy about a Government elected by the people using their powers to see that our national resources are used in the national interest and not in the interests of the privileged few who can buy their privilege?
It is a scandal that people living in the way I have described can see those luxury buildings going up in Cardiff, as in other great cities in the land. The reason for that is that we have a Government that threw away the power to control building, gave unlimited rein to people to look after themselves, and never minded other priorities.
On this matter of building labour, is the Minister taking steps to ensure that an adequate supply of building apprentices is coming forward? Is he building for tomorrow? Is he looking after the awful and mounting problem of providing houses for the next twenty-five years? It is his responsibility; he must 1120 show some initiative in that direction, and not just leave it to the industry—
§ Mr. Graham Page
But, surely, it is the industry itself that was stopping the apprentices coming. There has recently been a reduction in the period of apprenticeship, and that is very welcome but, up to then, the building industry was stopping apprentices coming in.
§ Mr. Thomas
I know about the industry, but I want to know what the Minister is doing. It is he whom I want to tackle. He is there to answer publicly for the Government's policy for building trade apprentices. No hon. Member has the right to shrug his shoulders and say that it is the fault of the industry. If the industry is not meeting the demand, the Minister must do something about it and tell us what his plans are—not just shrug his shoulders and blame the industry, as the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) does.
With slum clearance there must be social justice. The right hon. Gentleman knows that there is a great problem in Cardiff, where the local authority has got itself into the most astonishing mess over slum clearance. Having granted ten- and twelve-year mortgages three years ago, it moves in now and condemns those houses as being unfit for human habitation. It will give only site value for those properties and allow nothing for the bricks and mortar. As a consequence, those of my constituents who are affected will have to pay off those mortgages ad infinitum. There is also the problem of those who paid outright for their houses.
Since I did not receive an adequate reply in the Adjournment debate on this subject, I want to know whether the right hon. Gentleman has any plans for providing greater social justice for people caught in the claws of a local authority as my constituents in Riverside have been caught. Has he any hope to hold out to those whose houses are to be pulled down? The houses I have in mind are acknowledged to be in a reasonably good state of repair. Under the 1957 Act my constituents will get£200—perhaps£250—but that is not enough for the deposit on a house in Cardiff at present prices. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will give attention to that matter.
1121 The Minister knows that I crossed swords with him on the Floor of the House yesterday at Question Time about his dilatory approach to the leasehold problem. I do not want to go into this matter again tonight, for other hon. Members wish to speak, but every week that he postpones a decision he is making the housing problem in Cardiff and in other leasehold areas worse. If people do not know where they stand with regard to the renewal of their leases or whether they will lose their homes in five years' time, the question of repairing the property is put on one side. The Minister is making slums by his policy of delay. This inactivity, this pushing us off, this dilly-dallying, has gone on for too long. The time has come for action and not for words.
§ 8.36 p.m.
§ Mr. R. J. Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)
Slum clearance affects parts of my constituency, and I expect that it affects parts of the constituencies of most hon. Members. First there is the question of compensation, particularly when a person, possibly an elderly person possessed of a small shop, has that shop demolished in the course of slum clearance and is left without a livelihood after its demolition. It is true that in some cases new shops are erected by the local authority and the lease is put out to tender.
However, many of these are large shops. The cost of erecting them is high and the cost of the lease is beyond the reach of the people who have been displaced by the development. Naturally this means two things. First, the people who are displaced are not able to recommence their business activities, and, secondly, in many cases the only people who can afford to take up the new leases are people or firms from outside the district.
Regarding the proportion of building effort which should be put into housing and that which should be put into offices, unless my recollection is at fault I do not think it is very long ago that many hon. Members, particularly those opposite, were pressing the merits of legislation for office workers to ensure that the standards laid down to protect the conditions under which they work should be as stringent as the Factory Acts. Certainly we cannot both increase the proportion of office building in order to 1122 carry out this excellent motive at the expense of house building, and increase house building at the expense of office building in order to deal with the housing shortage. To endeavour to do both is self-contradictory.
§ Mr. J. T. Price (Westhoughton)
I am somewhat amazed that the hon. Gentleman should have introduced this argument. Surely the motives of the speculators who put up the magnificent office blocks in practically every large city have nothing to do with rehousing the people working in the offices. The Government have neglected to implement the Gowers Report for many years, despite the repeated pledges that have been given. These blocks have nothing to do with better conditions for office workers but are merely to give the owners better profits.
§ Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop
That is absolute nonsense, unless the hon. Gentleman is suggesting that the people working in the new office blocks are able suddenly to go in for office work from outside. They must have been moved from somewhere else to the new block. I do not follow the logic of the hon. Gentleman's intervention.
While on the subject of offices, my mind goes back to the situation in the Borough of Derby where for many years, I think even now, a Labour council has been in control. Unless my recollection is at fault—and it would surprise me if it were on this issue—I seem to remember that for many years the Labour council which controlled Derby refused to pay out improvement grants for privately-owned property. It was, I believe, one of the few councils in the country to refuse to do this. I thought this information worth imparting to the Committee because it surprised many of us at the time as being somewhat inconsistent with some of the representations made by hon. Gentlemen opposite.
§ Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop
To the best of my recollection, at the end of 1958 or the beginning of 1959. If that is inaccurate, perhaps my right hon. Friend will correct me.
As we know, improvement grants on property can be paid only if a number of conditions are met. That is to say, 1123 one cannot get an improvement grant merely for bringing the lavatory up to reasonable standards. It is also necessary to have a bathroom of acceptable standards, and, I believe, a hot water system and a larder. There are parts of the country, for instance in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Torrington (Mr. P. Browne) and in my own constituency, where there are cottages in which it may not be possible to put a bathroom but where it is possible to improve one or more of the individual items. Yet under the existing system these improvements cannot benefit from the improvement grant unless they are all considered together.
On the basis of spending the very modest period of about 6½minutes a day in a lavatory, a person with an average expectation of life will spend about four months of his lifetime in the lavatory. I therefore think that my right hon. Friend should give some attention, not to the case of the landlord who does not wish to spend sufficient money to bring the whole of the premises up to standard, but to the situation where, because of some structural reason—possibly because the cottage is built into a cutting in the side of a hill or because of the configuration of roads—it is not possible to extend the building and to meet all the requirements, but where there is every possibility that the premises concerned will still be in use in fifteen years' time.
When we talk of slum clearance most of us think of privately-owned property, although in many cases there is council property which one could call slum property, not necessarily because it is derelict but because of the inadequate facilities offered. For instance, in my constituency there is a block of four council houses which I am informed were constructed in 1919. They have one pump and one drain between them. None of them has a bathroom, and indeed there is nowhere for a bath to be installed except temporarily in the kitchen. Outside there are four buckets in a wooden shed, these being the four lavatories. The buckets are subsequently tipped at the end of the garden.
That is an example of what one could call slum council house property, but in this case there is no reason why the 1124 premises should not be extended to enable the provision of facilities which are so obviously required, and in other respect the situation of the houses is much more pleasant than some. They are in a pleasant locality, with a pleasant view. But we should bear in mind that to think in terms of 100 years, or 60 years or even 40 years in specific cases must be misleading, and we must apply the standard of specific investigation rather than generalisation by the age of the buildings concerned.
Many people have rather strong views about urban redevelopment, when through traffic is taken through the centre of a town rather than round the outside of it. This involves a fairly massive loss of rateable value to the town, even if the scheme is sponsored by the county council and the Ministry of Transport rather than by local authorities. Certainly, in my own constituency in Teignmouth, there is a considerable number of people who feel that the convenience of the traffic which has no intention of stopping either in that town or in any other in the locality is being catered for literally at the expense of the ratepayers of the town concerned.
I should like to hear from my right hon. Friend tonight in his winding-up speech some indication of what hope there is for people who lose their livelihood as a result of redevelopment. I do not just mean a capital sum which represents the value of the premises, even at their existing use, but a capital sum which, if invested—and it may be necessary to invest it, if they cannot purchase any similar premises anywhere else—would leave them no worse off from the point of view of income than they would have been if they had been left to continue their livelihood until the end of their natural lives.
I wish to make a suggestion to my right hon. Friend on the following lines. When a local authority, for very good reasons indeed, decides to clear the centre of a town or some portion of a town on redevelopment, and reduces the number of shops and businesses there, again, possibly, for very good reasons, and has to charge an economic rent that may well be outside the reach of the people who have been displaced, one way of meeting this problem in equity—and, with the passage of time, it would 1125 cease to be a problem at all—would be to grant leases at a reduced rate to the people who have been displaced until they come either to the end of their natural lives or until they come to retire, at which time the lease could be let by the local authority at whatever rate the market would bear.
If, during the temporary period when the people displaced are still in business, these leases could be given, I think that many of the people now feeling a sense of injustice, which is experienced by people who suffer personal inconvenience, and, in some cases, unhappiness, in having their life's business taken away from them, would nevertheless feel that they had been justly treated, and that the greater benefit of the community in which they live had not been imposed upon them at an expense which is unreasonably great. If my right hon. Friend could give me some indication that he is thinking on these lines, I should welcome it. I suggest that probably many other hon. Members in this Committee would do so, if they have constituents who are perhaps facing problems of this kind.
Lastly, on the subject of slum clearance, I should like to stress to my right hon. Friend the importance not only of the quality of the buildings provided for the people who have been displaced but also of their location, particularly in the case of elderly people. The latter have a very tight circle of friends, in many cases, and do not very easily make new ones. If these people are moved, for fairly sound economic reasons, from the centre of the town to some outlying areas, they are faced with two problems. First, they are removed from the personal associations with which they have grown up, and, secondly, they are put to considerable expense when they want to go back, for shopping or any other reasons, to the location from which they have been moved. I think that this is a consideration which one ought to bear in mind when areas are declared as slum clearance areas. We ought to endeavour to maintain a cohesive pattern for the redevelopment of the population rather than move individual sections of the community like draughts to different parts of the board. I hope that I shall hear that my right hon. Friend's thinking on this subject gives ground for encouragement.
§ 8.50 p.m.
§ Mrs. E. M. Braddock (Liverpool, Exchange)
It is unfortunate that the women Members of the House of Commons have not had more time to put a point of view during this housing debate. I have sat in the Chamber ever since half-past two, except for about half an hour, and I have heard every speech but one. I am very disturbed that my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Mrs. Slater), the only other woman Member in the Chamber, has not, although she has tried to do so, been able to get into the debate. Now, since I have only about five minutes, I cannot possibly say all I want to say, and I shall draw particular attention to the special problem facing Liverpool.
Liverpool has on its housing register 46,406 families waiting for accommodation. It is a list recently prepared and checked so that there is no duplication. It is composed of five different categories. In group 1, those who should have housing at once, there are 2,410. In group 2, those who can wait perhaps a little longer, there are 3,500. In group 3, those who have to wait very much longer but should not have to wait so long, there axe 5,000. In group 4 there are those for whom there is no possibility in the present situation of providing accommodation within the next ten, twelve or fifteen years, and they total 33,038. In addition, there is a special register of aged persons totalling 2,458.
It is a formidable problem, and it is not being tackled as it ought to be. When any industrial city such as Liverpool has a problem like that, special arrangements ought to be made. The Government should take special action to ascertain to what extent the local authority is able to meet the problem and to what extent it is prepared to meet it. If it means that extra and special methods and special Government action are required, the necessary steps should be undertaken. Liverpool is not the only city in this position, but Liverpool and Glasgow are two of the worst.
The ordinary regulations apply in Liverpool just as they apply throughout the country where the problem is nowhere near the same. Confronted by a situation like this, any Government calling themselves a progressive Government 1127 ought to want to know exactly what the position is, what the plans are, how they will be achieved and how long it will take to deal with the situation. If they find that there are special needs to be met, they should act accordingly and help in seeing that they are met.
Liverpool people who are waiting for housing are often very disturbed to find that all sorts of luxury building, notably in areas scheduled for special development, is going on. I shall refer to one example in Liverpool. I am not grumbling about it. I put it as an individual illustration of a serious problem. Liverpool has been requested to extend its university. The local authority produced and agreed with the university authorities a plan providing for a university precinct in the central area of the city. In this area of very bad and overcrowded slum houses, special facilities were given to the university so that, so soon as they could be emptied, houses were handed over to the university for demolition, new buildings being put up.
In an area of very bad housing, houses are being emptied and demolished for the university precinct and, in the wake of demolition, new university buildings are going up. People do not understand that sort of thing when they have to live in shocking conditions such as those in Which people in the immediate areas live. We realise that additional facilities must be made available for education, but since it is possible to take special steps and make special arrangements for university building, surely there is a way to make special arrangements for people who desperately need housing accommodation, and this should be done more quickly than Liverpool seems to be able to do it at the moment. When people in Liverpool see a bowling alley built in a very short time at a cost of£150,000, involving any amount of building labour, with a huge opening ceremony and all the people of some importance present—I was invited, but I considered that I was not important enough to go—they wonder why they have to wait so long on housing lists. Building labour can be found for everything in Liverpool but not for providing housing accommodation.
When it comes to slum clearance in Liverpool, the number of houses which 1128 need major repairs and amenities or which should be demolished because they are no use for housing purposes is over 88,000. An extra effort should be made to deal with problems of this sort. Although the housing department in Liverpool is doing all that it can in face of financial difficulty, something more needs to be done. I hope that the Minister will take special notice not only of Liverpool but of other areas with similar difficulties to see Whether it is necessary to introduce special legislation to the effect that the building of luxury buildings will be restricted until people have decent accommodation in which to live.
I could speak for much longer, but I know that my right hon. Friend on the Opposition Front Bench has to get up at a certain time. I am sorry that I have had to curtail what I wished to say. I leave the matter there, having drawn attention to the position I hope that when he replies the Minister will say that, in view of the difficult circumstances in Liverpool, he will have another look at the problem in Liverpool and in other areas to see whether "hurry-up" legislation is needed to solve a problem which will otherwise take the next ten to twenty years to solve, when many people will be past wanting a house.
§ 8.58 p.m.
§ Mr. George Brown (Belper)
I am sure we are all glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Exchange (Mrs. Braddock) was able to say a few words. It is no idle courtesy to say that we wish she had been able to speak much longer. However, I have promised the Minister that I would leave him ample time in which to reply to what has been said.
One thing struck me while my hon. Friend was speaking which reflects the character of this debate. In every speech from this side of the Committee there has been an assumption that there is a grave human problem about which we should be doing more than we are doing. I do not think it is unfair to say that, with the exception of one and possibly two speeches, there has been an assumption in every speech by hon. Members opposite, not that there was a human problem to deal with, but that there was something the matter with 1129 rent arrangements or some other detailed point of that kind. The two sides of the Committee have been preoccupied with two totally different things.
This has been the pattern of the debate, and it was set by the Joint Parliamentary Secretary. In his opening words he referred to people who were "mighty in their fallacies" and in his closing words he said that it was "all nonsense on stilts". I have seldom if ever heard a speech which more lived up to its opening phrase and its peroration. Throughout he demonstrated what seemed to me, if not nonsense, a good deal of self-delusion. His brief was delivered very competently and with great charm. I am not attacking the hon. Gentleman in that sense. It was a complacent brief. It affected to be scornful of the proposals put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) in what, I should have thought, everybody, whether agreeing with it or not, would regard as a thoughtful, well-informed and impressive speech. Every proposal made by my hon. Friend was scornfully tossed aside. When the Parliamentary Secretary sat down, I had the feeling that he would have been a perfect subject for a Bateman cartoon which might have been headed "The man who did not know there was a housing problem", because his speech seemed to be so out of keeping with the situation.
I say this to the Minister, and it applies to what I have heard in previous housing debates. It is useless arguing about producing a large number of statistics, even if they are right, of houses built in a given period of years if in giving those statistics one ignores the kind of house that is built, the price for which it is built, those who are therefore able to live in the houses, the areas in which they are built, whether they add to the existing stock of the total number of houses at the same rate as the increasing need and the increasing number of separate households which are required in our growing population. If one ignores all those things, it does not matter whether one proves that 3 million or 30 million houses have been built or whether the number is more than any other party has built. The point is that if it does not match the need in the right places it is failure.
1130 One of the things that the Parliamentary Secretary kept saying to my hon. Friend was, "We have done X. You cannot call that failure." Is that up to what is required? If it is not, it is by definition failure. It fails to match the problem. It is largely this that leads Ministers and others on the benches opposite to seem so complacent about a problem which to us appears so urgent.
Several times the Parliamentary Secretary, when telling us that over the country the situation was not all that bad, dropped in a reference to London or Birmingham and then said that these places had a special problem and could be left on one side. It is no use proving that everything is all right on the moors of Derbyshire if the houses are not where people have to live; they have to live where the work is. It is no good saying that that is a special problem and then proceeding to ignore it as though it did not matter. The point is that that is the problem. There is a nation-wide problem about housing, but the terrible problem is where most of the nation unfortunately live. That is the problem that we ought to be discussing.
The Parliamentary Secretary attempted to deal with the level of rents, mortgage rates, their level and their influence on the Whole problem. I will endeavour to pick up these things as I go through What I want to say. I begin by asking the Minister whether he really considers it necessary at this stage for us to prove the problem. My hon. Friend asked him at the beginning of the debate to say whether he was satisfied with the rate of communal, municipal building of houses to let.
I ask the Minister in the same sense whether he needs the problem to be proved. Does not he know, do not we all know, can any of us visit our constituencies without knowing, that there is not only the sort of problem that my hon. Friend the Member for the Exchange Division of Liverpool has just described in Liverpool, but a growing problem? It is growing because young people are growing up, because people get married earlier. It is no use telling the young people not to marry until they have saved enough money. I have told both my daughters that, and so far they appear to be taking this good advice. There are, however, many people to 1131 whom that will not be an effective contribution to solve their housing problem.
The problem is growing in the towns and in the country districts. I represent a vast area in the middle of England. It has two great rural districts and two urban districts. We are not building one house for general need—that is to say, because people want a house and, for one reason or another, their needs cannot be satisfied by what is being built to sell. I will explain why that is so. If we are not building anything except for miners who are being moved out from Scotland, or for a few old people, or for a few other special cases, clearly the problem is getting worse, and I would have thought that the Minister would not wish us to emphasise this.
It is possible to get evidence in statistical form if it is wanted. We made inquiries in many towns—Bolton, Bradford, Hull, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Rochdale, Salford, Sheffield, and so on. The story is the same in them all. For a long time all, or nearly all, the houses being built to let have been built for slum clearance only, with the exception of a few special cases. This cannot meet the general problem. If we concentrate on building for slum clearance, in one sense we must make the position worse because of what is called the decanting problem. We are dealing with the most overcrowded areas of our cities, areas in which there are few or no open spaces, and as provision is made for more amenities more space is used to provide them, and thus there is space for fewer buildings than were on the site before. Therefore, in a sense we are not only making no contribution to the general problem, but making it worse.
Nothing has been done in many of these areas for a number of years to try to deal with the general problem. This is apparent from studying the periods that people have to wait on the housing lists for a house to rent. These figures are a little out of date, but I am sure that they have not improved. I am told that in London there are more than 53,000 families on the waiting list, many of whom have been on it for twelve years. In Birmingham there are 1132 50,000 on the waiting list and the average waiting time is eight years.
§ Mr. Brown
I am obliged to my hon. Friend. I am told that in Leeds there are 21,000 families on the waiting list, some of whom have been on it since 1943 when it was opened. In Liverpool there are 46,000 families on the waiting list, some of whom have been on it since the end of the war. Most families there have to wait ten years for the offer of accommodation, and a similar position exists in Sheffield.
Either way the problem exists, and let us remember what the problem is. It is not a statistical one. It is not a marginal one. It is the greatest human problem that exists. Those who have had personal experience of it know that there is nothing more undignified and nothing more humiliating than being without a decent home. These 50,000 people who have been on the waiting list for ten years have been without the fundamental human requirement to enable them to lead decent civilised lives. Without overdoing it, for heaven's sake let us approach the problem in that sense, and not merely as something marginal that we can afford to leave for a minute or two.
There are other aspects of the problem. Not much has been said about homeless families. If somebody put it to me in this way I would be shocked. Last year, in London and Birmingham alone, the number of families made homeless as a result of the Rent Act equalled the population of Belper. Just imagine a whole town being made homeless in one year. These were not the shiftless ones about which we have heard so much. These were not the idle ones. These were not those who would not take a pot of paint and do some work. These were not the ne'er do wells. These were ordinary decent people who were overtaken by problems that they could not solve, problems which arose largely as a result of deliberate Government policy.
It is no use saying that this is a special problem. It is a problem that we must deal with—and we are not dealing with it. It is no use sending silly letters like the letter sent by the Minister to a constituent in the borough where I live, 1133 advising him to put his name down on the books of four or five estate agents, and to read the advertisements in the Evening Standard, when, no doubt, some day he would find what he wanted. This is a tremendous problem, and we say that the Government are not doing anything about it.
The Parliamentary Secretary's oblique reference to it was to say, "There is no reason why people should not be willing to pay the economic price of a better home." He went on rather charmingly to indicate that he thought that some people were spending too much on smoking and drinking, and that if they switched some part of their pattern of spending to satisfying their housing requirements they would be able to buy their houses. He will be in trouble the moment the Chancellor reads what he has said. That is no answer. He merited the rebuke he received from his hon. Friend the Member for Solihull (Sir M. Lindsay).
There are many reasons why buying a house is not the answer for lots of people—and quite properly not the answer. We must be a little careful about this passion for buying and spending more on houses. I am fortunate enough to be an owner-occupier, with the aid of a building society. Provided that it does not keep on putting my mortgage back, as it has done because of Government policy ever since I took it, some day I shall own the house. I am in favour of the principle of property owning, but some people show too great a passion for it. The Minister made a lot of Mr. Seldon's article in the Statist. I noticed that in his article he says that it would not be at all a bad thing if the percentage of income spent on housing were to rise not from the 20 per cent. to 25 per cent. that we have been talking about but to 30 or even 33 per cent. of a man's income. If we start encouraging people to spend that percentage of their income on rents they will be in arrears with their rents and mortgages very soon. A person has to be ignorant of the economics of working-class life to talk in those terms. Let us go easy with it.
There are many reasons why it is impossible for some people to own their homes. It is not only the question of 1134 costs, or the level of their incomes. The degree of security in certain jobs has to be considered. It has a bearing on the ability to buy a house on a twenty or twenty-five year basis. Hon. Members have often referred to the need for labour to be mobile. In other debates we are lectured about the need for labour not tying itself down. That argument does not go very well with the idea that everybody should become an owner-occupier.
Many other factors must be taken into account. As the hon. Member for Solihull pointed out, there is no sign of houses to let at rents that people can pay coming forward as a result of private investment on anything like the required scale. They are hardly coming forward at all. So whatever we say about the merits of owner-occupation and however much we encourage people to go in for it—and I am all for encouraging those who want to do so—in the end it all comes back to the need for more municipal or housing association building if we are to have a sufficient number of houses to let in the places which need them and for the people who need them.
The Government are not encouraging would-be owner-occupiers. The other day I read a report that the leader of the Conservative Party has had a market research job done in a certain unmentionable division—since neither he nor I have any great reason to mention it. At any rate we shared our wounds that night. There is one thing that he does not need a market research team to tell him. If Ministers in a debate like this do not seem to know what the problem is, or where the shoe is pinching, the public will conclude that they are so far out of touch that they are not worth bothering about.
There was an assumption that the present owner-occupiers—not those people that we wish to encourage to become owner-occupiers and to come off the housing waiting lists but even the present owner-occupiers—were having life nice and easy and that for them everything was honey. There was no recognition of what rising mortgage rates mean to them, or what it means when one is being pushed back and back instead of being able to repay the mortgage.
1135 I asked the Library staff to prepare some figures for me. I take responsibility for these figures; they are not the responsibility of the Library staff, but I have every reason to believe that they are accurate. A mortgagee of£2,000 repayable over twenty years—not an unusual form of borrowing—would make monthly repayments which have risen since 1951 from£12 to£15. It is all very well to talk about the way in which personal incomes have risen—this is an average figure. The people who live in houses on the outskirts of our cities are not usually those who have enjoyed large increases in their wages. They are not usually piece-workers and they do not have other opportunities to earn. Usually, their families are too young to be earning to augment the family income.
The total repayment for the loan in such a case will have risen from a sum of£2,960, which was the figure when the loan was made, to£3,640. So that people are not encouraged to follow the example of such a borrower by having conditions made easier for them. Conditions have been made more difficult. One does not need to quote statistics to prove this. It can be seen. I have quoted this argument in this Chamber before, but it will repay quoting again because, apparently, the Parliamentary Secretary does not appreciate the point. It is no use saying in respect of an area like Camberwell, where I live, that it does not matter that we are not building for general need through the council because this is an area where there is a lot of owner-occupier development going on. That is true. But almost all of that development is in Dulwich and nearly all the houses are in the£5,000 to£15,000 range. No matter, therefore, how many such houses are put up, it makes no contribution to the problem in Camberwell.
In my constituency, in the Belper rural district, at Duffield and Allestree, and at Mickleover which is adjoining, a tremendous number of houses have been built for owner occupation. But that does not help to solve the problem facing the people in Belper, ten miles away, who want accommodation to rent, or who might even buy a cheap house. That sort of accommodation is not being provided. I am not saying that the 1136 people who get the houses are not worthy people; they are. I am not complaining that they get these houses. We want to see everyone occupying the housing accommodation of his choice. But I wish to make the point that this is no answer to the problems confronting other people who are in trouble, and that is where the Parliamentary Secretary became mixed up.
Rising interest rates and rising land prices make the situation worse. It is interesting to contemplate the total price of a house. I think the Parliamentary Secretary said that interest rates did not produce bricks. No they do not, but they can stop one turning bricks into houses, or cripple one in attempting to build them.
I hope we have got this over because, until we do so, I do not see the Minister tackling the job. Either the Government have to get the price of money down and face all the economic and industrial consequences of that—which I understand—or to be revolutionary and face the prospect of a two-tier credit system whereby we choose the socially desirable things and make credit arrangements for them just because we do choose them and not allow to be provided the same privileges and the same ease of raising money, the same low rates of interest, for the things we decide are not so socially desirable.
There are problems and difficulties about that, but unless we do one of those things we shall be faced with an insuperable problem of house building too dear for people to pay an economic rent which is crippling many other ratepayers, many of whom may not be so well off because of the need to provide an almighty subsidy. This has to be faced and I ask the Minister tonight to do rather better than the Parliamentary Secretary did in facing it.
All the Parliamentary Secretary could do was to ask my hon. Friend if he would give him£1,000 at low interest rates. That was no answer to the problem. I have from the treasurer of a London borough a whole series of actual payments, for example, for conversions. This borough is doing a lot of converting of houses into flats. At the rate of interest prevailing in 1951 there is an annual deficit of about£60 per unit for conversion. On a big block 1137 of flats one would break even, but on the present interest rates one would have an annual deficiency per unit per dwelling, per flat, per house, of£132,£242,£110, and£142 against what in the other case would have ranged from nothing to a maximum of£80.
When trying to meet this problem one either gives up housing people or breaks the backs of the people who have to pay. It is no use acting as if this is another "little local problem". It is fundamental. This has to be faced and the Government ought to be brought to face it. There are other things the Government should do. Unlike my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham, who was kind to the Minister and said that we understand he cannot do these things because of the nature of the Government, I say that the first thing he must do is to tackle the land problem, the misuse of land and the way in which socially desirable things when publicly done are being soaked because of competition by speculators who have more money to throw about in that way.
This is terribly important. We should make more favourable grants, especially for conversion. I am told that there are silly comparisons between what one can do under Section 11 of the Requisitioned Houses and Housing (Amendment) Act and under other housing Acts. This makes a tremendous difference to the economics of the whole thing. The Minister could, and I think should, bring back a subsidy for housing for general need. He could do something about productivity in the industry. The Parliamentary Secretary tossed off a reference to the Emmerson Committee's Report. I do not know whether it has yet been published, but I shall have pleasure in reading it because I spent a happy twelve months working with Sir Harold Emmerson. I hold the view, as an old trade union organiser who knew the industry on that side and who for a short time was at the Ministry of Works, that there is hardly an industry which has more scope for improvement and rationalisation than this one.
When I was there there was a whole series of information about the way in which we were trying to do it. There were building advisory committees, standards of all kinds, joint apprenticeships, priorities and training schemes, by which 1138 we were trying to break down some of the old routines. I am told that most of these have been dismantled and that most of the committees that we had have disappeared. I should like to know if that is true. It is not much use talking about productivity improvements and making reports unless something is actually going on in the industry. I remember that we examined every action of the electrical contracting industry, as well as the physical laying of bricks and so on, and I think that today we have to do a lot more about that than we are doing.
Finally, we have to choose the priorities. Of course, we cannot do everything. We talk about the overstrain on the industry, but why solve that overstrain by allowing it to fall on housing for the people whose need is greatest? That is allowing the problem to sort itself out. The business of modern governments is not to do that. It is to choose their priorities, choose the ones which they want to go for, and face the consequences, which means economising on other things. It is no use saying that if they stop other things that does not amount to much. It would be better for them to fold up than that there should be shortage of housing.
I will sit down and keep my bargain. I say, in conclusion, that this debate is really not about just these details, but about the fundamental difference in philosophy which has come out all through it. Do we regard the provision of housing as a social obligation, as a social service, which we have an obligation as a society to see is provided, or do we regard it as something charitable, which we will provide if we really have to because there is some really horrible tragedy otherwise; in other words, do the minimum? The party opposite regard it as the latter. It does not regard it as a service and as something good in itself.
In my view, and in the view of those of us on this side of the Committee, we have a totally fundamentally different approach. This is one of the social services that we are charged with the duty to provide. This should be the prime charge on our production and on our wealth. It does not mean that we have to provide the lot in one fell swoop, and it does not mean that it has all to be 1139 centrally or municipally owned. There are a variety of ways in which it can be provided but provided it has to be. Provided it would be were we on the benches opposite. The reason is that financial policy would be changed, the land problem would be tackled, and we would choose our social priorities and tell people frankly why there were some things that we had to hold back while others went ahead. If we give people that kind of philosophy, they will stand up to it. People have to be convinced that it is inhuman and unsocial to have people living in the conditions in which millions of our citizens are living today.
§ 9.29 p.m.
§ The Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs (Dr. Charles Hill)
I think that it will be agreed by all hon. Members who have been here that this has been a frank and valuable debate, and nothing that I say in winding it up will minimise the formidable and massive character of the housing problem which confronts this country. To use the words of the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown), a grave human problem is involved, and I agree with him that there is no necessity for more statistics to prove the situation.
It is true, as was said by my hon. Friend, that this country's achievements since the war have been very considerable. I will not recite the figures which hon. Members have heard very often, perhaps too often, of the number of post-war houses—4 million; but that represents more than 10 million people who have been rehoused. There is no need to repeat the figures given by my hon. Friend. The fact is that if we take into account the number of slums remaining—even though the estimates of local authorities may have been inaccurate one way or another in 1955—which must be about half a million; if we recall the number of houses which are eighty years old and more—4 million at least of such houses; if we take into account the new post-war factor of the annual increase of 100,000 families, apart from the rising population—an increase which derives from the lower age of marriage and the increased average size of families; and if we take into account the existing backlog of shortage 1140 of accommodation—if we take into account all these things, it is probably true that over the next twenty years we need, to give the two extremes, between 4 million and 8 million houses—probably about 6 million houses in the next twenty years.
This is a formidable problem, and the Committee is fully entitled to submit the Government's actions and ideas to the closest scrutiny. Before dealing with the main issues, I will say a word or two about some of the more detailed points which have been raised in the debate. In his thoughtful opening speech the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) laid stress on the need for greater productivity, a theme to which I shall later return. There is one general observation which I should like to make on what he and other hon. Members said. It is no use pretending that only council houses are a contribution to the general housing of all classes. Every new house built and occupied meets a housing need. Many of these houses release houses for others to move into.
My hon. Friend the Member for Solihull (Sir M. Lindsay) raised the question of greater density. Density is rising steeply. We are pressing this more and more on planning authorities, and we hope in a few months' time in the form of a bulletin to bring further advice to local authorities on that subject.
My hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) and the hon. Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Mapp) raised the question of a development corporation being brought in, modelled on new town experience. I am not convinced that such a rival body would do better than the major local authorities or consortia of smaller authorities. What we need, I suggest, is not a rival organisation competing for staff but greater productivity and more efficient methods of getting more houses for the same labour. It is modern techniques, I suggest, not new administrative machinery, Which is the prime requirement.
Some hon. Members pointed out that slum clearance is not an addition, and the right hon. Member for Belper said that it presented additional problems. But if it is not a mathematical addition, that is no reason for not giving slum 1141 clearance a very real priority. It may not be an addition to the statistics, but the House will agree that it is an addition to human happiness even though the stock of houses remains the same.
The hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) said that we should give top priority to a definitive survey of the housing needs of the nation. He went on to suggest that the Registrar-General should tell us the needs of twenty years ahead. I say nothing about the capacity of the Registrar-General to determine what is going to happen to the marriage age or to the average size of a family. Although we need more information, it is not my idea of a top priority that it should be given to statistics and definitive surveys. Rather should the top priority be the immediate problem of housing.
The hon. Member also referred to the restriction, as he called it, on council house building last year. He seems not to have heard what my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary said in relation to the over-load on the building industry and the delays in completion which were resulting last year. The hon. Member will recall that my hon. Friend pointed out that, whereas in 1959 for every 100 houses already started 97 houses were completed, in 1960 the figure was 84 and in 1961 it was down to 72.
§ Mr. Lubbock
I did indeed realise this, but I pointed out that the overload caused by the needs of private building was very much more extensive than that caused by local authority building.
§ Dr. Hill
If the hon. Member will be a little more patient, I am going to add a sentence about that. The hon. Member having criticised us for having, as it were, steadied new starts in the council field to get a bigger number of completed houses, went on to chastise us for not having at the same time imposed building controls on private buildings. That was the essence of what he said—a strange Liberal doctrine.
The hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun) and other hon. Members raised the question of subsidy. I will refer in particular to the hon. Member's reference to the position in Manchester, with the£8 subsidy on the basis of the present arrangement. I am glad to say that Manchester is going—it has 1142 just so decided—to raise its slum clearance target to 4,000 over the next two years—or to reach a target of 4,000 in the next two years—from a figure of little over 1,000. That will carry Manchester from the£8 subsidy to the£24 subsidy.
It is important for it to be understood that where an£8 authority is confronted by a massive slum clearance problem, the fact of tackling the problem will almost certainly take the authority from the one category to the other, and so lead it to the position of the£24 subsidy—and indeed a possible increase to£40.
The hon. Member for Birmingham, Aston (Mr. J. Silverman) raised the general question of subsidy in a thoughtful speech on a very important topic. Bearing in mind the supplementary subsidies for authorities whose difficulties are really great and whose resources are inadequate, I think that the arrangements are about right for the present, but they are not immovable. They are not unchangeable. Conditions may well change in general costs and in the scale of slum clearance. There may be a change in the variation between local needs and efforts. If necessary, the subsidy arrangements must also change. As the hon. Member suggested, we must move with the times, and if necessary on this matter of subsidy we shall move further still.
I will not go into the question raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) about the level of compensation for the redevelopment of central areas, except to say that I will consider what he said. I agree, as I am sure the whole Committee does, with what he said about the location of houses for older people.
As to the future, I made plain my view—and there is no complacency in my approach to this housing problem—that despite what has been done in the last ten years there are, as every hon. Member knows, hundreds of thousands of people who are abominably housed. This is a social disease which we have to cure, and which we intend to cure. [HON. MEMBERS: "When."] Perhaps hon. Members will allow me to develop my speech. The hon. Member for Oldham, East raised the question 1143 similarly, but I want to make it perfectly clear that the Government intend to see that every family has its home, and a decent home. [HON. MEMBERS: "When?"] That is the pledge.
How can we speed up the process? How can we build faster? The Committee would not want to achieve results by reducing the school programme, the hospital programme or the roads programme, or by introducing—this applies to this side of the Committee, at least—a licensing system to hold back shop and factory building. That would be economic madness.
We have to look first and foremost to better productivity in the building industry. That means—and I invite hon. Members to read the Emmerson Report, published about ten days ago—a number of things: better co-ordination between the different elements in the industry; fuller technical research; more effective dissemination of information; and more standardisation of components and fittings; as well as improved methods of training and a review of apprenticeships.
These matters are being urgently pursued, and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Works will have something to say to the House about them. [HON. MEMBERS: "When?"] I do suggest, having sat throughout the day without the assistance of some hon. Members, that I might be allowed to reply to the debate.
Several of the larger local authorities are working on these lines, but it is essential for improved productivity that local authorities with the worst housing problems should be allowed to plan their housing programmes for several years ahead. That I intend to arrange. In my view, the most urgent task, for all that has been said about general need—and I would remind the right hon. Member for Belper that the subsidy for general need has already been restored—is the clearance of the slums. I propose, as the Committee knows, to concentrate, first of all, on the older towns of the Midlands and the North, where three-quarters of the remaining slums are to be found; 190,000 of them, as has been said, in Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool.
For a start, we have to ascertain the particular difficulties of a particular area, 1144 whether of land, overspill, resources, staff, or the like. That, we are in the process of doing now. Before Easter, as the first step, I approached about forty local authorites with some of the worst slums for a statement of their immediate difficulties. Officials of my Ministry will go to the towns with the most intractable problems to study their difficulties and to help them to find solutions, and the authorites will be encouraged to make long-term programmes three, four and five years ahead. Where appropriate, they will be urged to join together with other local authorities in organising forward programmes and trying out new methods of construction.
No limit will be placed by me on their slum clearance programmes; the only limit will be what is physically practicable. That may mean holding back other authorities whose housing needs are less acute or where the private builders are more active, but that is what priority means. What I am determined on, and I pledge the Government to it, is a consistent slum clearance drive, never relaxing until these shameful conditions are a thing of the past. All the time, as has been pointed out, more houses are slipping into obsolescence—into potential slums.
The hon. Member for Salford, East has put down many Questions on this subject, and I repeat what I said to him yesterday; that I am not satified with the use that is being made of grants for improvement and conversion. True that I gave him the figures and that the numbers are up, but there is need for, and I agree with him, many, many more. The number of dwellings capable of improvement—and there must be this improvement—is very large. I know that some hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Salford, East, have suggested compulsion, but that is more difficult than it sounds. It entails a house-to-house survey by the local authority, it affects tenants as well as landlords, and there is the question of some of them not wishing to give up their room, and so on. [Interruption.] And some landlords are not interested.
I believe, as I hinted yesterday, that more good can be done in the next phase if authorities could select particular areas of their towns to demonstrate to landlords and tenants alike 1145 what can be done, picking out streets where improvement or conversion is worth tackling and approaching landlords and tenants to enlist their interest. If they can get improvement agreed for most of the houses they can exercise their powers of acquisition for any unimproved islands of property where the landlords cannot—or will not—join in.
I do not altogether exclude the idea of compulsory improvement, but I am sure that for the time being the job can be more effectively done, if we can so succeed, by enlisting the co-operation of landlords and tenants. At all events, bearing in mind the number of houses that are of a considerable age, improvement and conversion must, in many towns, play a substantial part in the next few years.
Reference has been made to the shortage of houses to let. Of course that is true, and I do not for a moment deny it. It is true, too, that one cannot expect development in this field while there are threats of municipalisation and reimposition of rent control. Again, the houses now being built can all be sold. There are a quarter of a million more owner-occupiers a year. Yet something more is needed, and I doubt whether it is council accommodation which most of these people, or many of them, really want.
The right hon. Member for Belper referred to housing association schemes. The recent scheme, with the loan of£25 million for the building of houses and flats at economic rents, will, I believe, show the way. I hope that it will be demonstrated that there is a demand for rented property at economic rents, and I hope that housing associations—existing and new ones—will greatly increase and extend their activities in the provision of rented accommodation at economic rents. I believe that they can. particularly with the good-will of local authorities.
I believe, too, that there is room for a new wave of activity in a movement where so much good has been done in the past. It could lead to a new development in the field of ownership and management of houses—something which is much needed today. House management is a skilled job, needing a sense of responsibility, and both can be pro- 1146 vide by non-profit housing associations. Great effort is needed to launch them, but there are public-spirited people in every town, and if some of them would take on the job of launching housing associations the movement would spread fast.
For myself, I do not want local authorities to become the monopoly owners of rented property. I do not believe that the people looking for houses want that either. Indeed, in some towns the local authorities already own too high a proportion of the property. Some of them might do well to consider whether they could not create housing associations to manage some of the houses that they have built. Or, when they have a problem in getting houses improved, they might buy the houses and create associations to improve and manage them—co-operative associations in which tenants are represented and have a stake in the estate. We want every family to have its own house and, within the limits of its means, the freedom of choice, for freedom of choice is as important in housing as in anything.
We have to face the cost. For too long has the real cost of housing been obscured and distorted. We must put it on a par with food and clothes and the other necessities of life. It is essential to a healthy housing position that the family that can afford it should pay for the house of its choice, and today many are able to do so. Those who cannot must be helped. It is to that end that our subsidy arrangements must be directed, and this means a realistic rent system with a distribution of the rate of subsidy according to individual need for it, as has been suggested by my hon. Friends today.
If we can achieve all this and maintain it, we shall go a long way to solve our housing problem. We have a long way still to go, but we are going there.
After all, in the confrontation of this massive and long-term problem it is right that a party should be judged by the resolve that it has shown in office rather than by the resolutions which it has passed in opposition. I know that members of the party opposite rely on the fading of the public's recollection of their own record in office—and on their vocal capacity to shut down any references to it. But at least they were frank. They said that 1147 they could not manage more than 200,000 houses, and except in one year they did not. And that despite low interest rates, despite the fact that they built no hospitals, that they built schools at only half the present rate, and few roads, and that they clamped down the whole complex of controls on building, and made no effort to tackle the slums—indeed, there has been no slum clearance drive from them ever.
Then, just before the General Election they hatched out their policy, which has not been mentioned today, for the municipalisation of all rented property. They seem to have dropped that idea. They discovered it was a bad idea. But if they had won the last General Election that bad idea would have been fastened on the Statute Book. We have had a new one from them now, the land commission proposal. The first thing it would do would be to build a big administrative apparatus. Then no development of land unless the commission had first bought it and leased it to the developers. If the commission bought for less than market value, less land, not more, would be offered for development. If it bought at market price, what would be the use of the commission? Having bought it, if they sold it at the market price, land prices would remain unchanged, and if they sold it at less they would have the invidious task of choosing between one builder and another as to who should have it. The truth is that the land commission notion will go the way of the municipalisation of rented property.
But of course the party opposite, before they entered office, no doubt honestly had great hopes and ideas tobuild four or five million houses and knock down any amount of slums and rebuild our country in a very quick time.Another phrase was,We will get the houses as we got the guns, by planning and control.
The right hon. Member for Belper said:
Labour will organise a new approach to housing and organise the industry as a national service.
In 1950 they answered themselves. One hon. Member summed it up at the Margate conference as follows:
We cheer, we vote, but when we get outside we wonder exactly what progress we have made and how we are to face the people throughout the country who have claims for accommodation.
Since that date, 10 million people have had their claims satisfied.
Another hon. Member, in a moment of final revelation in 1950, said in his constituency:
The housing problem cannot be solved by any Government within the next twenty years. It is no good for Socialists to try and delude themselves otherwise. It just cannot be done.
§ The Opposition's purpose in selecting this subject for debate is obvious. They hope to obscure from the voters at the council elections their own abysmal failure when they were in office. So, massive though the remaining problem is, the Government's record of 3 million houses in ten years, moving 200,000 persons a year from slums, an annual increase in owner-occupiers of a quarter of a million, and their resolve to intensify slum clearance to a major exercise in slum clearance—these are of more significance than all the brotherly protestations of the right hon. Member for Belper.
§ Mr. M. Stewart
In view of the mountebank performance of the right hon. Gentleman, I beg to move, That Item Class VI, Vote I, Ministry of Housing and Local Government, be reduced by£5.
§ Question put:—
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 192, Noes 268.1151
|Division No. 172.]||AYES||[9.57 p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Blyton, William||Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)|
|Ainsley, William||Boardman, H.||Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)|
|Albu, Austen||Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Callagnan, James|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W. (Leics. S. W.)||Castle, Mrs. Barbara|
|Awbery, Stan||Bowles, Frank||Chapman, Donald|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Boyden, James||Cliffe, Michael|
|Baird, John||Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Corbet, Mrs. Freda|
|Bence, Cyrll||Brockway, A. Fenner||Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)|
|Bennett, J. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Crosland, Anthony|
|Benson, Sir George||Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Darling, George|
|Blackburn, F.||Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Kelley, Richard||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Deer, George||Kenyon, Clifford||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Delargy, Hugh||Lawson, George||Robertson, Sir D. (C'thn's & S'th'ld)|
|Dempsey, James||Ledger, Ron||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Diamond, John||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Rogers, G. H. R. (Kensington, N.)|
|Dodds, Norman||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Ross, William|
|Donnelly, Desmond||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Royle, Charles (Salford, West)|
|Driberg, Tom||Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. C.||Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)||Short, Edward|
|Edwarde, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Lipton, Marcus||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Lubbock, Eric||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Edwards, Walter (Stepney)||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Evans, Albert||MacDermot, Niall||Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)|
|Fernyhough, E.||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)|
|Fitch, Alan||Mackie, John (Enfield, East)||Small, William|
|Foot, Dingle (Ipswich)||McLeavy, Frank||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Snow, Julian|
|Forman, J. C.||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Manuel, Archie||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Galtskell, Rt. Hon. Hugh||Mapp, Charles||Spriggs, Leslle|
|Ginsburg, David||Marsh, Richard||Steele, Thomas|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Mason, Roy||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Gourlay, Harry||Mayhew, Christopher||Stones, William|
|Greenwood, Anthony||Mellish, R. J.||Strachey, Rt. Hon. John|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Mendelson, J. J.||Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Millan, Bruce||Swain, Thomas|
|Griffiths, W. (Exchange)||Milne, Edward||Swingler, Stephen|
|Grimond, Rt. Hon. J.||Mitchison, G. R.||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Gunter, Ray||Monslow, Walter||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)||Moody, A. S.||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Moyle, Arthur||Thompson, Dr. Alan (Dunfermline)|
|Hamilton, William (West Fife)||Mulley, Frederick||Thomson, G. M. (Dundee, E.)|
|Harper, Joseph||Oliver, G. H.||Thornton, Ernest|
|Hayman, F. H.||Oram, A. E.||Thorpe, Jeremy|
|Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur (Rwly Regis)||Oswald, Thomas||Tomney, Frank|
|Herbison, Miss Margaret||Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)||Wade, Donald|
|Hill, J. (Midlothian)||Pargiter, G. A.||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Holman, Percy||Parkin, B. T.||Warbey, William|
|Holt, Arthur||Paton, John||Weitzman, David|
|Houghton, Douglas||Pavltt, Laurence||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Hoy, James H.||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Peart, Frederick||Willey, Frederick|
|Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Pentland, Norman||Williams, D. J. (Neath)|
|Hunter, A. E.||Plummer, Sir Leslie||Williams, LI. (Abertillery)|
|Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Popplewell, Ernest||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Prentice, R. E.||Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Janner, Sir Barnett||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas||Probert, Arthur||Winterbottom, R. E.|
|Jeger, George||Proctor, W. T.||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)||Pursey, Cmdr. Harry||Woof, Robert|
|Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Randall, Harry||Yates, Victor (Ladywood)|
|Jones, Rt. Hn. A. Creech (Wakefield)||Rankin, John|
|Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Redhead, E. C.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Reid, William||Mr. Charles A. Howell and|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Bryan, Paul||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. Sir Oliver|
|Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.)||Buck, Antony||Crowder, F. P.|
|Allason, James||Bullard, Denys||Cunningham, Knox|
|Arbuthnot, John||Bullus, Wing Commander Eric||Curran, Charles|
|Ashton, Sir Hubert||Burden, F. A.||Currie, G. B. H.|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Butcher, Sir Herbert||Dance, James|
|Barber, Anthony||Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A. (Saffron Walden)||d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry|
|Barlow, Sir John||Campbell, Sir David (Belfast, S.)||Deedes, W. F.|
|Barter, John||Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)||de Ferranti, Basil|
|Batsford, Brian||Carr, Compton (Barons Court)||Digby, Simon Wingfield|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley (Southgate)||Cary, Sir Robert||Doughty, Charles|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Channon, H. P. G.||Drayson, G. B.|
|Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)||Chataway, Christopher||du Cann, Edward|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos & Fhm)||Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)||Duncan, Sir James|
|Bevins, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Cleaver, Leonard||Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir David|
|Bidgood, John C.||Collard, Richard||Elliot, Capter Walter (Carshalton)|
|Biffen, John||Cooke, Robert||Elliott, R. W. (Nwcastle-on-Tyne, N.)|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Cooper, A. E.||Emery, Peter|
|Bishop, F. P.||Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn|
|Bossom, Clive||Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Errington, Sir Erlc|
|Bourne-Arton, A.||Cordle, John||Farey-Jones, F. W.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J.||Corfield, F. V.||Fisher, Nigel|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Costain, A. P.||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles|
|Braine, Bernard||Coulson, Michael||Foster, John|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt. -Col. Sir Walter||Courtney, Cdr. Anthony||Fraser, Hn. Hug (Stafford & Stone)|
|Brown, Alan (Tottenham)||Craddock, Sir Beresford||Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)|
|Browne, Percy (Torrington)||Critchley, Julian||Gammans, Lady|
|Gibson-Watt, David||Lindsay, Sir Martin||Roberta, Sir Peter (Heeley)|
|Gilmour, Sir John||Litchfield, Capt. John||Robinson, Rt. Hn. Sir R. (B'pool, S.)|
|Glover, Sir Douglas||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)||Robson Brown, Sir William|
|Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham)||Longden, Gilbert||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)|
|Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.)||Loveys, Walter H.||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Goodhew, Victor||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn||Russell, Ronald|
|Gough, Frederick||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||St. Clair, M.|
|Grant, Rt. Hon. William||McAdden, Stephen||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Grant-Ferris, Wg. Cdr. R.||MacArthur, Ian||Sharples, Richard|
|Green, Alan||McLaren, Martin||Shaw, M.|
|Gresham Cooke, R.||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy (Bute & N. Ayrs.)||Shepherd, William|
|Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||McLean, Neil (Inverness)||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Macleod, Rt. Hn. lain (Enfield, W.)||Smithers, Peter|
|Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)||McMaster, Stanley R.||Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood)|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)||Spearman, Sir Alexander|
|Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Speir, Rupert|
|Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Maddan, Martin||Stanley, Hon. Richard|
|Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Hastings, Stephen||Markham, Major Sir Frank||Stodart, J. A.|
|Hay, John||Marlowe, Anthony||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm|
|Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Marples, Rt. Hon. Ernest||Storey, Sir Samuel|
|Hendry, Forbes||Marshall, Douglas||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Hicks Beach, Maj. W.||Marten, Nell||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Hlley, Joseph||Matthews, Gordon (Meriden)||Tapsell, Peter|
|Hill, Dr. Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)||Maxwell-Hyalop, R. J.||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe)||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Taylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.)|
|HIM, J. E. B. (S, Norfolk)||Mills, Stratton||Taylor, Frank (M'ch'st'r, Moss Side)|
|Hirst, Geoffrey||Miscampbell, Norman||Taylor, W. J. (Bradford, N.)|
|Hobson, Sir John||Montgomery, Fergus||Teeling, Sir William|
|Hocking, Philip N.||More, Jasper (Ludlow)||Temple, John M.|
|Holland, Philip||Nabarro, Gerald||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Hollingworth, John||Neave, Airey||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Hope, Rt. Hon. Lord John||Nicholson, Sir Godfrey||Thompson, Richard (Croydon, S.)|
|Hopkins, Alan||Noble, Michael||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. Peter|
|Hornby, R. P.||Nugent, Rt. Hon. Sir Richard||Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin|
|Homsby-Smlth, Rt. Hon. Dame P.||Oakshott, Sir Hendrie||Touche, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon|
|Howard, Hon. G. R. (St. Ives)||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Turner, Colin|
|Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral John||Osborn, John (Hallam)||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Hughes-Young, Michael||Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Hulbert, Sir Norman||Page, Graham (Crosby)||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Hurd, Sir Anthony||Page, John (Harrow, West)|
|Hutchison, Michael Clark||Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Iremonger, T. L.||Partridge, E.||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)||Vosper, Rt. Hon. Dennis|
|James, David||Peel, John||Wakefield, Sir Wavell|
|Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Peyton, John||Walder, David|
|Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth||Walker, Peter|
|Johnson Smith, Geoffrey||Pike, Miss Mervyn||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir Derek|
|Jones, Rt. Hn. Aubrey (Hall Green)||Pilkington, Sir Richard||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Joseph, Sir Keith||Pitt, Miss Edith||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Kerans, Cdr. J. S.||Pott, Percivall||Whitelaw, William|
|Kerby, Capt, Henry||Price, David (Eastleigh)||Williams, Dudley (Exeter)|
|Kerr, Sir Hamilton||Prior, J. M. L.||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Kimball, Marcus||Profumo, Rt. Hon. John||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Kirk, Peter||Proudfoot, Wilfred||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Kitson, Timothy||Pym, Francis||Wise, A. R.|
|Lagden, Godfrey||Ramsden, James||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Rawlinson, Peter||Woodhouse, C. M.|
|Langford-Holt, Sir John||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Leather, E. H. C.||Rees, Hugh||Worsley, Marcus|
|Leburn, Gilmour||Renton, David|
|Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Ridley, Hon. Nicholas||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Lewie, Kenneth (Rutland)||Ridsdale, Julian||Mr. Chichester-Clark and|
|Lilley, F. J. P.||Rippon, Geoffrey||Mr. Finlay.|
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ Mr. John H. Temple (City of Chester) rose—1152
§ It being after Ten o'clock, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to report Progress and ask leave to sit again.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again Tomorrow.