HC Deb 15 May 1962 vol 659 cc1132-4
19. Mr. Prentice

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs why he reduced the housing programme for the county borough of East Ham for 1962 from the council's proposed figure of 456 dwellings to 300 dwellings.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Mr. Geoffrey Rippon)

The council's proposals are very much greater than their house-building rate over the past three years and it serves no useful purpose to approve programmes which are not likely to be taken up. The council has been told that the matter will be reviewed if later in the year it is in a position to put into contract more than the 300 houses aready authorised.

Mr. Prentice

Will the hon. Gentleman have another look at his figures? Does he realise that the rate of house completion in East Ham in the last four years has averaged nearly 400, and that for this year his Department has cut it to 300? Does he realise that this means a very serious delay in getting on with slum clearance and rehousing in a borough which has a serious housing problem? Will he look at the matter again?

Mr. Rippon

The council did not put in a programme last year, but it had a total of 958 dwellings approved for 1959–60. In fact, tenders for only 620 were let during the whole of the three years from 1959 to 1961. We should be glad to see the council get more of a move on. If it does, we shall review the programme.

Mr. A. Lewis

Is not the hon. Gentleman aware that there is a great need for house building in this part of London, not only to replace the slums but to replace the blitzed areas? One of the difficulties from which this council and all councils in this area are suffering is a lack of finance because of the high interest rates. This is holding up the building of houses. Will not the hon. Gentleman charge councils in this area a lower rate of interest or, better still, give them interest-free loans so that they can get on with the job of house building?

Mr. Rippon

We appreciate the importance of the housing problem in this part of London. That is why we should like to see the council do better. The point is that it is not building as many houses as have been approved.

Mr. M. Stewart

Bearing in mind that East Ham is one of the authorities which gets the higher rate of subsidy, is the hon. Gentleman sure that this discouragement to its housing programme is not part of the policy which we pointed out he was likely to follow of discouraging authorities which are supposed to get the higher rate of subsidy?

Mr. Rippon

We are not discouraging councils by cutting down their allocation of houses below a reasonable figure.

Mr. J. T. Price

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the real reason why councils, not only in East and West Ham but in many other parts of the country, are having their housing allocations cut is that far too great a proportion of capital resources and building labour is being occupied by luxury building of all kinds which suits the Government's policy better than building houses for the people who need them?

Mr. Rippon

We debated all this at great length a week or so ago. What the question suggests and what the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price) suggests is that housing allocations are being cut below the programme which authorities can carry out.

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