§ 3.56 p.m.
§ The Minister of Public Building and Works (Mr. Geoffrey Rippon)
This debate takes place today in the context of the vast construction programme upon which the nation and the Government have embarked. I do not think that anyone will dispute the size of the problem that we have set out to solve. For both social and economic reasons we have to meet an enormous and, indeed, almost unlimited requirement to build new houses, new schools, new hospitals—even new prisons—offices, factories and other modern buildings.
During the current year public investment in new construction of every kind will be about £1,200 million. This is an increase of over 10 per cent. on last year and this figure will rise still further in the years immediately ahead in the light of the programme which we have already announced and to which we are committed. In March, my right hon. Friend 1325 the Minister of Education announced the progress made in his five-year £300 million school building programme which was first announced in 1958 and which is now one quarter completed. Under this programme it is also expected that about 400 new schools will be completed in this year, quite apart from about £200 million worth of improvement to existing schools which is now in the pipeline.
My right hon. Friend the Minister of Health is going ahead with a 10-year hospital plan that will cost about £800 million. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport is making demands on the construction industry with his ambitious road programme. We aim to go ahead in these and other spheres and, at the same time, to carry forward with particular vigour the immense housing and slum clearance policies which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government is developing.
§ Mr. Rippon
They are the figures for the total public investment programme for the United Kingdom.
The number of new dwellings completed in Great Britain in 1962 was over 305,000, the highest number since 1955. Over 130,000 houses were completed by local authorities compared with 118,000 the year before. The increase in 1962 paved the way for a further advance. At the beginning of this year it was estimated that tender approvals for local authorities and new towns in England and Wales would show an increase of 6 per cent. over last year, while private enterprise housing was expected to rise by about 10 per cent. I think that it is fair to say that the severe weather from which we suffered at the beginning of the year might mean that we get set back in completions during this calendar year, but the trend is rising and it is clear and it is definite.
At the same time, the rate of slum clearance has risen steadily since 1955 and is still rising. As hon. Members know, many of the worst slums are concentrated in the older industrial areas, particularly in the Midlands and the North. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government has 1326 scheduled 38 local authorities as candidates for special help in stepping up slum clearance programmes. I am sure that the House will welcome the information that these 38 expect an increase of more than 100 per cent. over their average output for the past three years, thus reaching an average of 34,000 houses a year. Many of the authorities in the North will more than double, and in some cases treble, their 1960–62 average rate of building.
§ Dame Irene Ward (Tynemouth)
My right hon. Friend has twice referred to the North. Is he to publish the names of the local authorities, which would be very helpful in enabling us to judge how the matter is being handled?
§ Mr. Rippon
Yes, it will be published as soon as the plans are completed.
As all this gathers momentum, the demands made upon every section of the construction industries, which already account for about half the country's investment, will rise steadily. The actual rate of progress will be limited solely by our ability to pay for it and by the physical availability of resources, including land and labour, and our capacity to make the best use of them. Clearly, the availability of land is an essential precondition of any building programme. As the House will know, my right hon. Friend already has the matter under close examination in the areas of greatest need. Regional surveys are being undertaken by the Government which will go fully into this problem. As a result of these surveys, as is well known, new towns have already been proposed for Birmingham and Liverpool and another, for Manchester, is under consideration.
As for money, the growth of the programme speaks for itself. We are making great efforts to ensure that the finance is available. I know that the general level of interest rates must always be a matter of some concern, but the rising level of building by public authorities demonstrates that this is not really holding up essential housing work. If the subsidies are properly applied over the whole range and sensible rent policies are pursued, there is no fundamental reason why for housing authorities generally finance should form an insuperable obstacle. My right hon. Friend has made it per- 1327 fectly clear that subsidies can, and indeed will, be reviewed as the situation demands, which is what we have already done from time to time.
Sometimes it is argued that there should be some special low rate of interest for housing. I suppose that a similar case could be made for schools, hospitals and many other forms of public and indeed private building. What we would have to face is that there would be a differential interest rate applied over about three-quarters of the field, and I do not believe that the Opposition would press that seriously.
There is very little prospect that the construction industries will be able to call upon substantially greater manpower. The manpower problem is both quantitative and qualitative. We have to assess the skills needed and then recruit and train for them. The White Paper on Industrial Training, published by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour, points the way here and so do the block release courses for apprentices which have been sponsored by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education.
But, fundamentally, further increases in output, which is what we are all trying to seek, will have to be achieved by still greater productivity and by new methods. I know that the construction industries and all associated with them will respond enthusiastically. There are a great many exciting developments now taking place, and I hope to tell the House something about them this afternoon.
Modern industry demands a continuous response to advances in science and technology and constant improvements in the techniques of production and management. I am bound to say that the construction industries are not as advanced as many others. I do not wish to imply that they have a bad record. On the contrary, between 1954 and 1962 their total output rose by nearly 30 per cent. During the same period, total output on new work rose by nearly 45 per cent. The fact is that most of this increase was due to increased productivity and represents a considerable achievement.
The point I want to emphasise this afternoon is that the progress in increasing output which has been made so far has been achieved without any major change in the characteristic methods of 1328 work of the construction industries. If those methods of work could be transformed, we might get increases of output which at this moment would appear to be almost miraculous. What is needed is something of the nature of an industrial revolution in building, with all that that implies in the scale of production, mechanisation and techniques of management.
One of the chief ways in which traditional building can be improved is by the introduction of better management methods in handling the whole building process. This was a subject to which Sir Harold Emmerson, in his report on the construction industries last year, paid a great deal of attention. He noted how efficiency in building depended upon the quality of the relationships between the client, his professional advisers and the builder. He rightly laid great stress on the need to improve communication between them. The value of the best techniques which we are now developing can easily be lost if all the processes associated with them are slow and cumbersome. We need these better procedures to enable each partner in the building process to play his full part and to play it at the right time.
This is increasingly recognised by the industry itself and I am glad to say that the National Joint Consultative Committee of architects, surveyors and builders has decided to commission an important study of communications in the building industry. My own Directorate-General of Research and Development will be associated with this work and with other work designed to improve management; for instance, by extending the use of cost limits and of cost planning and by improving contract procedures. There is great scope here for increasing productivity by modernising the way in which the building process is carried out, from the statement of the client's requirement right up to the completion of the contract.
What has come to be called industrialised building—and there has been a lot of talk about it recently—does not just mean what is called system-building or prefabrication, and it certainly does not foreshadow the end of ail traditional building. The truth is that one cannot draw a sharp distinction between 1329 industrialised building and what has been described as the rationalisation of traditional building. The two blur into each other. Industrialised building has been well defined as simply the application of power and machinery and mass production to as many building processes as can sensibly be changed in this direction.
The industrial revolution in the construction industries must be carried through primarily by these industries themselves, by the employers and the operatives who man them, and not least by the various associated professions. The Government cannot foist progress on a great industry, but they can create conditions in which that progress can be stimulated, and that is one of the principal functions of the Ministry of Public Building and Works as now constituted. What is new, therefore, is not the industrialisation of building, but the speed with which it can now go forward in response to the demands which have to be met.
If we are to keep up the pace as we want to, we must succeed in meeting two prerequisites of modern industrial methods. First, we must reduce the present unnecessary, and I think quite meaningless, variety in the dimensions of building components and introduce intelligent standardisation. Secondly, we must secure the co-ordination of demand so as to provide a large and continuous stream of orders and make possible large-scale production and long runs in the assembly process.
I believe that we are beginning to make significant progress in both these directions. To promote greater standardisation, I published last February a first statement on dimensional co-ordination. This will be followed by others. I am sure that dimensional co-ordination is the essential first step towards standardisation of components and the reduction of cutting and fitting work on the site. Although the work now proceeding is mainly related in the first instance to industrialised methods of building, it should also lead later to reduction in the variety of components for traditional building.
In this work my new Director-General of Research and Development has a leading part to play. His organisation has a general responsibility, first, for co-ordinating and extending the activities 1330 of the building research and development groups throughout the Government services, secondly, for encouraging and developing generally the use of new and rapid methods of construction, and, thirdly, for standardising the use and production of building components to the greatest possible extent. In all this we act in close association with the Ministry of Housing and Local Government's development group hi promoting these new developments. During the summer we shall be issuing a bulletin on preferred dimensions for housing.
If I may refer to the continuity of orders, I think that it will be known that my right hon. Friend has told the local authorities concerned in the North that they can build as many houses as they can manage, in order to speed up slum clearance. He has accordingly approved programmes for four to six years ahead. This must help enormously in planning programmes of construction. He has also set up a northern office of his Ministry in Manchester, whose objective is to do everything possible to help to secure the increased production of houses and especially the replacement of slums.
This office was set up at the end of last year. It comprises administrative and professional staff and they are helping local authorities with advice on the spot. They are also encouraging these very important local authorities to group together to co-ordinate their programmes. It will also be of interest to the House to know that my right hon. Friend is planning to set up a similar office in Newcastle.
§ Mr. Charles Mapp (Oldham, East)
Will the right hon. Gentleman be more forthcoming about the administrative staff in Manchester? Will he tell us the numbers of the staff in relation to the great housing problems in the North?
§ Mr. Rippon
I shall get the details later and my right hon. Friend will give the figures. I do not know the precise numbers, but there are a great many people helping in this work. My regional office in Manchester is also co-operating with my right hon. Friend's office.
Co-ordination of demand must take place not only in relation to traditional building, but, perhaps even more important, in relation to industrialised building. If building teams are disbanded it is very 1331 difficult to get them together again. This was admirably brought out by my hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior) in the speech that he was able to make in the very short debate that we had last Friday on the construction industry. He particularly, and rightly, emphasised the need for co-ordination and continuity in the house building programmes of smaller as well as larger authorities. We must have this continuity of orders before builders and manufacturers of components can invest with confidence in factories, plant and equipment.
There is no doubt today that a large part of the demand we make upon the construction industries IS entirely uncoordinated. I am sure that my right hon. Friend's action in promoting consortia of the larger housing authorities will reduce the extent of this problem. My right hon. Friend has already held a series of meetings with local authority and private architects and with a number of the larger contractors mainly in the context of the drive on slums which he is carrying out, and on the conditions which are needed for the successful introduction of industrialised systems for both houses and flats.
I think that we have received from these discussions valuable information about requirements, capacity and availability. The local authorities are now doing a great deal to help this by creating large and stable programmes. I hope that they will do even more. I hope particularly that they will consider taking advantage of the possibilities there are for using spare capacity in shipyards. The inquiry centres which I have just set up will help in every way they can to bring together the shipyards, the building firms and prospective clients and to give technical advice. As I told the House on Tuesday, the skill is there in the shipyards, but the success of anything which can be achieved will depend on whether we can solve the problem of design, price and marketing. For that it is necessary to have collaboration and to keep all the parties together.
There will still remain a large pool of demand for building which could with advantage be co-ordinated. I am now embarking on a series of exploratory talks, not only with the building industry and associated professions, but also with local authority associations and 1332 groups of local authorities responsible for introducing industrialised building systems, to find how we can further co-ordinate the demand.
What is needed is a method of bringging together the building requirements of a large number of public agencies and even private building owners so that they may be collated into programmes for industrialised building extending to one, two or even three years ahead.
§ Mr. Paul Williams (Sunderland, South)
My right hon. Friend has spoken about industrialised building in shipyards. Surely the key factor, in shipyards or elsewhere, is the cost, whether it industrialised building or building by ordinary processes. It will be of little benefit to the nation if there is an increased cost of 10 per cent., 12 per cent., or 15 per cent. Is there any indication of the cost of industrialised building compared with other methods?
§ Mr. Rippon
As I have said, we shall have to see whether there is capacity which can be used for building to any extent, but the point is that industrialised systems might be made fully competitive if there are large and continuing orders.
I shall try to give some examples of systems which have been developed and which are showing that they can be competitive. The talks I have been having are wholly exploratory. I have already asked my National Consultative Council for the construction industries to let me have their suggestions, and I shall welcome suggestions from other quarters. One possibility would be the establishment of clearing houses of some sort for building orders which would also give advice to prospective clients about the potentialities of industrialised building and the design factors involved. Other possibilities may well emerge in the course of the talks.
One feature is already encouraging. That is the growing use in the building industry of mechanisation, dry construction and factory methods of component manufacture, which is now being widely accepted as essential far the greater productivity which we seek. I can tell my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South that there are a number of promising projects which have been developed. The first, and perhaps best known, is the C.L.A.S.P. 1333 system, designed particularly for school buildings, It has shown how good design can be combined with these new methods.
It is a system of construction using a light steel frame and a wide variety of other factory-made components. C.L.A.S.P. schools are being built in about half the time needed for traditional construction. The standard of finish and the teaching area per place provided in C.L.A.S.P. schools is appreciably above the national average. This is a field in which we can fairly claim that we are leading the world.
My Ministry is now developing the Nenk method of building, which applies the principles worked out in C.L.A.S.P. to a much wider range of building types. This work, which was begun in the War Office, is an important advance in flexibility of design and incorporates a number of new structural features.
§ Mr. John M. Temple (City of Chester)
My right hon. Friend has brought in a new jargon, the Nenk system. Will he explain exactly what it means?
§ Mr. Rippon
It is named in honour of the gentleman who was concerned with its progress. The construction of these Nenk buildings has now begun and I look forward to the steady development of this system. I hope very much that it will prove of value in the construction of houses in due course.
My right hon. Friend and I are receiving a flood of inquiries about industrialised building, not only from local authorities but from building firms, building component manufacturers and many other industries which would like to diversify. We hope shortly to make some arrangements for the provision of an advisory service for industry generally. This will be a joint arrangement between our two Departments, and each will make its own contribution from its official expertise. In this way, I think that we shall be able to accelerate some of the new processes and use manufacturing capacity and skills of different kinds.
Meanwhile, on the initiative of my right hon. Friend, the Yorkshire development group of three large housing authorities, Sheffield, Hull and Leeds, are co-operating in the development of another system for industralised house 1334 building known—to add to the jargon—as the 5M system. I have had great difficulty, also, in translating that. The title derives from the dimensions which are employed. Basically, this system has been derived from the C.L.A.S.P. system and adapted to suit the needs of two and three-storey houses. It is of light steel and timber frame construction with plenty of other factory-made components which are assembled on the site. My hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South will be pleased to know that, so far, developments of this 5M system show that it will be competitive in cost with the traditional methods of housing.
I have announced that I intended to use the Government's power as client to encourage the introduction of new methods wherever possible. As this is developing so well, we intend to build a number of Service houses by this system. So far, it has been arranged for 370 married quarters for soldiers at Catterick to be built by this system in 1963–64, and I am considering whether we can provide additional houses of this type in the programme elsewhere.
I have spoken of the need for an industrial revolution in building. I do not think that this can be achieved without a much more intensive research and development programme. I estimate the annual expenditure in the building industry as a whole on research and development at £3 million. Of this sum, Government expenditure on research alone amounts to £1.2 million. I think that that figure leads not only me, but everyone else, to two conclusions. The first is that the level of research is far too low. It represents only about one-thirteenth of the national average for industry on a net output basis.
§ Mr. Philip N. Hocking (Coventry, South)
Would my right hon. Friend say how that figure is derived, and where the information is obtained from?
§ Mr. Rippon
This is a summary of the figures that I have been able to get. I shall send my hon. Friend the detailed breakdown and analysis of the statistical basis of that figure. I think that it shows that there must be a great increase, however we build up the statistics, in the industry's share of the research effort and that the industries concerned fully appreciate it. I am having the whole field 1335 of building research reviewed, and I am concerned to see that we do very much more to disseminate technical information. Quite apart from the total we spend on research, there is clear evidence that it takes far too long to seep down and be absorbed into practice.
I have said that it is the business of the Government to try to create the conditions in which the building industry could modernise and increase its output still further. There are, I think, two other ways, in addition to those that I have already dealt with, in which the Government can help and will help. First, the Government can provide the right kind of statutory regulations for building practice, and, secondly, they can help maintain the necessary economic conditions.
As regards the statutory conditions, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government and I are working together on the preparation of central building regulations in place of the present locally-made byelaws. We want to create regulations which are simple to understand and to administer, and which do not inhibit the best modern practice. Above all, as I am sure everyone will agree, the Government have a vital part to play in maintaining confidence in a steady and expanding programme which will give continuity of employment and justify the capital expenditure which is needed for modernisation.
We are determined, so far as lies in our power, that the load of work placed upon the construction industries will stretch them to the utmost, but will not overload them. I do not think that anyone now doubs that all the evidence has shown that if we overload the construction industries, we reduce rather than increase productivity.
§ Mr. Dan Jones (Burnley)
Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House whether he has a definite time in view when the hundreds and thousands of people in this country will have bathrooms and, indeed, other ordinary facilities? Never mind so much about research; will the right hon. Gentleman come down to earth on that point and tell us when he intends to bring that desirable state about?
§ Mr. Rippon
About 400 houses a week are being provided with baths and my right hon. Friend intends to double that number.
Taking the genuine progress that we are making, the limit on that progress is imposed ultimately by the efficiency of the construction industries and our ability to introduce these modern methods. To achieve this continuity of work, my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary and I have set up machinery to keep the prospective load of the construction industries under constant review. I have also set up an Economic Intelligence Unit to keep immediately abreast of trends in the construction industries, not only nationally but regionally, in association with the National Consultative Council for the construction industries and my regional advisory committees.
These are representative of both sides of the industry and of the associated professions. They know the size of the problem and they are working towards solving it. We do not solve it simply by saying what we are doing already or by pointing out the size of the problem which still needs to be carried out. We can solve it only by adopting these new methods.
Perhaps I might sum up in these words: I think that the Government's record on housing, schools, roads and other building is good. The construction industries' record in increasing output and productivity is also good. But I would not wish in any way to suggest that we do not need to do very much more to enable and to ensure that the construction industries modernise their character, their outlook and their methods in quite a radical and, indeed, a revolutionary fashion.
In this, as I have tried to explain, I believe that the Government are helping and will continue to help. We will match in every way the willingness of the industry to experiment with new techniques and with the use of new materials and new management practice. It is only in this way, I believe, that we can achieve between us the substantial and continuing increase in productivity which alone will enable us to speed up our efforts to meet the needs of the nation in housing and other matters.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham)
It is always a pleasure to see and hear the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Public Building and Works, even when the Votes which are put down for the Committee's consideration are not the Votes of his Ministry.
The right hon. Gentleman has given us a remarkable lecture on the possibilities of industrialised building. I will not dispute the importance of that subject, but I think that he seriously underrated the significance of the interjection of my hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. D. Jones), because it is no good pretending to people that for a very considerable time to come industrialised building will be a solution of the major part of the housing and building problem.
It is beginning to make changes in techniques, and, of course, this is a vitally important task in the sense that the Government must not fail in their duty to see that this change in technique is properly developed and encouraged. But we know very well that, even on the most optimistic assumptions, this will not revolutionise the output of the construction industries in a very short time, and in the meantime there remain acute problems of school shortage, of housing shortage, and of ill-repaired dwellings which are the concern of the Ministers whose Votes we have put down for discussion today.
I wish to draw the Committee's attention to the fact that we put those Votes down because we feel that the Government's policy in these matters has failed properly to take into account the impact which the local government services have on the social life and the quality of our civilisation. We also believe that it fails to take into account the changes which are occurring and the further changes which are needed in the economy at present, and that it fails to take into account the great anxiety felt by ratepayers about the whole problem of local government finance.
It seems to me a curious handling by the Government of a debate, which, to judge by the Votes put down, would clearly range over all these matters, for them not to give us some idea of the Government's views at an early stage in the debate.
1338 I want, first, to take that local authority service which bulks largest in people's minds—housing. The right hon. Gentleman talked about the increase in the public provision of houses. He was arguing that they could not be subjected to any serious financial or other shackles otherwise they would have not made the advances which they have made. Let us look at what has been happening. During the past year—and we speak of England and Wales throughout the debate—they completed about 110,000 dwellings. That is only a little over half the number they were completing nine years ago.
During most of those nine years there has not been an increase in the public provision of housing; there has been a decrease. It is only in the last few years that the trend has been in the other direction, and so far it has travelled only a very short distance in that direction. The Minister cannot defend his proposition that public housing has not been held back. There is not a satisfactory rate of increase in this field. It is disquieting to find from the document which has been made available to us most recently that completions in the first quarter of this year are nearly 20,000 fewer than in the first quarter of last year.
§ Mr. Stewart
Unlike hon. Members opposite in 1947, I do not hold the Government responsible for the weather, but I draw attention to the fact that it will mean a determined effort to pick up in the remaining nine months of the year if we are not to have a worse figure at the end of the year. It is quite right to draw attention to that, in view of the rather placid assumption of the Minister of Public Building and Works which gave us the impression that there has been a steady increase in the provision of public housing.
It becomes more serious when we set the figure of 110,000 against what is undoubtedly needed. I do not believe that it can be disputed that we ought to get the rate of council housing up to 200,000 a year as rapidly as we can, and that if we do not, then we cannot hope at any measurable date in the future to get rid of the slums or to see that every family has a decent home. If we do not get up to something like that rate, we shall go on as we are now, not demolishing 1339 the slums as fast as the mere passage of time is creating new slums.
That is the situation in pure quantity in the public building of houses. What are the effects of this inadequacy? They can be seen in the numbers and experience of the homeless, in the housing lists of the local authorities, in the problem of rents, in the unsatisfactory progress of the slum clearance campaign and in the question of houses in disrepair and houses not up to date. It is a long list of formidable deficiencies in the present housing policy. It is difficult to reconcile those deficiencies with the placid approach to the subject of the Minister today.
Let me illustrate those five effects of the inadequacy of the provision of public housing. First, there are 5,000 homeless persons in London alone and a similar figure, proportionate to the population, to be found, I am informed, in Birmingham. The position is similar in many other big cities. From the joint pressure of housing shortage and the Rent Act, or from accident or misfortune, people are left without a home and have to shift after a short time from one lodging to another until they end in some local authority hostel. I wonder whether this is what the Prime Minister had in mind when he used the phrase that Britain was on the move.
§ The Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs (Sir Keith Joseph)
I am glad to say that that figure is on the move in the right direction. The hon. Member is several months out of date. The figure has been substantially reduced.
§ Mr. Stewart
Is it 4,000? I am relieved to hear of the reduction, but the Minister will appreciate that it is extremely cold comfort and that it does not indicate any real change in the underlying nature of the problem.
Secondly, the problem is illustrated by the state of the housing lists. In the City of Leeds there are 18,000 people on the housing list and the average time they have been waiting on it is eight years. In Birmingham, the list has on it 45,000 people and the average time they have been waiting on it is ten years. These are only two examples of many which one could quote.
1340 It is no good at all trying to put the blame for this at the door of the local authorities, because it is only quite recently that, even in the North, the local authorities have been allowed to build as much as some of them wish to build. Further, they have been held back all the time by the difficulties of land, of labour shortage and of interest rates. Over a great part of the country they are still held back by simply being told by the Minister what is the maximum number they may build.
That gives us the kind of result which was illustrated in the Adjournment debate last night, in which the Parliamentary Secretary defended a planning decision taken by the Minister against his inspector's recommendation, against the judgment of Kent County Council and against the judgment of Dartford Rural Council—a decision which would increase the pressure on commuter traffic and endanger the amenities of some of the most beautiful villages to be found at that distance from London.
All this was to be done on the ground that private enterprise could go ahead and build in this spot now but the local authority could not. The basic fact underneath that was that that local authority had always built up to the maximum the Minister had allowed it and, if it had been allowed to do more, it would have done it in the past and would probably have already tackled this piece of land. That illustrates the limitations under which the local authorities work.
The third effect of inadequacy is shown in the level of rents. The Minister will be familiar with the research conducted by the Family Services Unit recently. The unit made inquiries in all parts of Greater London. It came back with two examples only of accommodation available at a rent or not more than four guineas a week. There are an enormous number of people in need of housing. To them, accommodation at four guineas a week is a complete irrelevance, yet only two examples were found by the Family Services Unit investigators where the rents were as low as that.
The Government must realise that all their prophesies about how the Rent Act would work out have been falsified. The present Home Secretary expressed the view that uncontrolled rents would rise 1341 to about two-and-a-half times the gross value. That has proved laughably inadequate. The present Minister of Housing and Local Government in a previous incarnation expressed the view that it would bring about the solution of the housing shortage in London in a measurable time. That was an almost equally fantastic prophecy. We were told time and time again that it would bring more rented accommodation on to the market. The Minister himself does not even defend it now. His last version of this story was that at least it prevents rented accommodation going off the market as fast as it used to. That is a far cry from the claims that were made for the Rent Act.
The plain fact is that allowing a supposed free market in rents has created an enormous amount of hardship and has practically no bearing on the problem of providing accommodation at rents that most people can afford. The Minister may be interested to know that the Borough Council of Chelsea, whose politics I am sure he will regard as impeccable, after discussing this matter earnestly, decided that it would approach the Minister with a request that he should introduce legislation to provide that any tenant who had been in occupation of the premises for three years or more should have a right to the continuation of his tenancy at a reasonable rent, unless the landlord could prove certain special, listed circumstances to the satisfaction of the county court. Things have gone far if the Council of the Metropolitan Borough of Chelsea has become doubtful of the wisdom of Government policy.
Then there is the effect of our inadequate building programme on slum clearance. There are still officially about ¾ million slums. The weakness of the official figures is that it was never compiled with relation to any one uniform definition of what a slum was. In the estimates of some people, not malicious critics of the Government, but people interested in the building industry, we ought to put the figure of dwellings which should be so classed at nearer 3 million than ¾ million. Whatever figure one takes, what is actually happening? The Minister gave the impression that the slum clearance programme was sweeping on. Actually, 500 more slums were cleared in 1962 than in 1961. Even if that rate of increase is maintained for 1342 a great many years, we shall not reach a rate at which we can hope to demolish slums faster than time is creating them.
Then there is the effect of the inadequacy of the national policies on the condition of old houses. We should know a little more about this if the office that is concerned with the census were a little better equipped. I understand that this office, whose job it is to tell the nation all the political, social and economic implications of the census, will be able to install its first electronic computer next month. This is a small example of the way in which under this Government public work always seems to lag behind in necessary equipment in comparison with similar work in the private sector of industry. Consequently, it will be 1965 and not 1964, as was hoped, before we get the full report of the last census.
From what they have already been able to tell us about London, we can see the position there with regard to houses not up to date or in adequate repair. Two-fifths of London's dwellings have no separate hot water supply of their own. There are comparable figures all round the country in the great cities of the number of houses without proper hot water supply, without baths, without proper or modern forms of sanitation.
Here again, the Minister gave the impression that all was going well in this field. Surely he knows, even though it is not his Ministry, that the number of improvements and conversions done in 1962 was 18,000 down on what was done in 1961. We are not moving in the right direction here. We are moving in the wrong direction.
The last effect I want to mention of the inadequacy of our building of houses is its effect on industrial mobility. It is this which I had in mind when I said at the beginning that the Government's policies failed to take into account the changes which are occurring and which are needed in our economy. We have the benefit nowadays of the N.E.D.C., which has recently produced its second Report. The Council pinpoints labour mobility as one of the chief requirements for a faster rate of economic growth and a more efficient economy. Indeed, I only wonder why one needs all the ponderousness of the N.E.D.C. 1343 to arrive at that fairly obvious conclusion.
The N.E.D.C. goes on to tell us that it would be much easier for people to move if there were not such a shortage of houses. There also the N.E.D.C. will carry with it most people who study the problem for five minutes. The N.E.D.C. goes on to say:Workers are usually unwilling to move to other areas if this means losing priority on housing lists or giving up a council house or rent controlled accommodation"—the effects of the Rent Act again.Local authorities also find it difficult to provide housing accommodation for incoming workers when they have waiting lists of their own residents for houses.This means that housing must be looked at as something more than a social service. It is a contributor to the productive power of the economy as well. I think that one must link that with the main theme of the Minister's speech—industrialised building. I link it this way. I do not think that there is any sense in politicians trying to give the House feeble technological lectures about how to build a house by new methods, unless the politician in question happens to be a builder, in which case he may have something useful to say. The job of the politician is to find out what changes in law and administration are required so that the new techniques which have been discovered can be set free and produce their results. That is the political job.
It stands out, I think, that, in particular, the thing the politician has to do is to get greater standardisation of building orders so that the building industry can be given large orders and so that a steady, and if possible, an expanding, demand on the building industry can be maintained. The building industry is, therefore, capable of being a cause of economic growth by helping greater mobility. For that reason, it ought to be looked at with special favour by the Government. Further, if it is not looked on with special favour, if we do not say to the building industry, "Government policy will be such as to give you at least a steady, and possibly an expanding, flow of demand", the most economic methods of building cannot be introduced. I am glad to carry the Minister with me thus far, but what follows from that? It is 1344 that the building industry must not be made subject to every fluctuation in the Bank Rate.
We have been arguing about interest rates for a long time and have been pointing out that one of the reasons for the fall in the demand of local authorities for building has been the strain of higher interest rates. As a result of our arguing we have been told by the Government that it would be wrong to shelter the building industry from the general fortunes of the economy.
Does not the Minister of Public Building and Works see that it follows from everything he was saying earlier that to shelter it from the vagaries of the economy, at least to some extent, is just what he must do if he wants new methods of building? The Government must be prepared to say to the building industry, "We are determined that there shall be continuity and when the economy is hit from some unexpected source you will not be expected to take your chance along with everything else and you will be given a special, protected position." That is the inevitable logic of the matter.
The Government must be prepared to do that, both to enable the building industry to use new methods to the full and because if building is kept up the Government will promote that mobility of labour which is a source of economic growth in the future.
§ Mr. Hocking
Does the hon. Member realise that fluctuations in interest rates do not have quite the same effect on the building industry as on most others simply because the average building contract is based over a fairly long period, the average contractor keeps his work in progress up to a fair length, and that unless the interest rates change or fluctuate very quickly the effect of them on the amount of work in progress is not nearly as great as he would have the Committee believe?
§ Mr. Stewart
I suggest that the hon. Member thinks more of the position of the local authorities, for it is with them and with their building difficulties that we are chiefly concerned. They find that a house which they could build and pay for ten years ago—costing £4,000—now costs £9,000; and seven-eighths of that increase is due to higher interest rates. Put that against the fact that their orders 1345 have been shrinking over most of the last eight years and there can be no doubt as to the conclusion one must reach.
However, it is not only a question of interest rates, for this also concerns the general stop-go policy of the Government.
§ Mr. Rippon
I am interested in the hon. Member's argument about interest rates. I touched on this subject. If there is to be a special, protected position for the construction industries, which account for half of the investment programme, over what parts of the public sector would he suggest we have special rates of interest; and could that not also be applied to the private sector?
§ Mr. Stewart
The Government must obviously begin with those which have a claim both on the grounds that have been mentioned—those concerned with the building industry—and those of great social importance as well.
§ Mr. Stewart
Those particularly concerned with housing and education. One can do this either as a pure financial operation, differentiating the rates of interest, or by varying one's subsidy policy to the local authorities so that the burden of any changes that may be necessary in the rate of interest does not fall on them. But, one way or another, the Government must do it, and that, repeatedly, is what they have refused to do. As I was saying, it is not only a question of interest rates.
§ Sir K. Joseph
Have rents nothing to do with this; and the resources which local authorities draw from rents?
§ Mr. Stewart
But for the wages people earn there is no connection with the rents they can pay. Part of the subsidy policy problem is that it does not discriminate between one local authority and another according to the wealth and rent-paying capacity of its citizens. That is why the Government's housing problem lags in some cities.
Nevertheless, I said that it was not only a question of interest rates but also the general stop-go policy of the Government. I am glad to see the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education 1346 in his place. He has recently told the local authorities that they can start school building programmes to the extent to about one-third of what they asked for. It is no good his saying, "They know that they always ask for more than they finally get" because a great many of them this year were at great pains to try to see that their demands were severely realistic so that, in a way, there is more disquiet at the fact that they are not being given all they asked for.
Up to a point, the Government can defend that position. But the local authorities are being allowed to start £10 million worth less in the coming year than they started in the previous year. The Government cannot reconcile that kind of policy with a desire to keep a steady flow of orders in the building industry. That is why my hon. Friends and I say that the Government's whole approach to this problem has failed. When the Government fail on major things they always produce a bright new device in one of the minor yet hopeful sections of the problem. The proposal for the production of building components for shipbuilding yards is obviously not going to be the solution to half of our housing problem; it is, nonetheless, a useful, if limited, contribution.
To what does the Report draw attention? Attention is drawn to the fact that the section of housing endeavour which could get some advantage from their proposals is that of the development of new towns; unfortunately, exactly the field in which the Government have been the slowest to act. We know perfectly well what is the Government's record of creating and establishing new towns. They have been pathetically slow compared with what was done in those years of great difficulty after the Second World War.
There is a table at the end of the Ministry's Report describing the amount of land that has been acquired for various new towns. The amount acquired for which this Government have been responsible is at the moment two acres—one acre and a cow short of what would be required to establish a worthy peasant. I know that this is the prelude to what one hopes will be a good deal more, but it illustrates that the Government are, once again, failing to observe the importance of one section of the housing endeavour. 1347 As the report on shipbuilding shows, this is a part of the housing endeavour in which the Government could most easily have encouraged new methods of building.
That brings me to the subject of planning generally, since new towns remind us of the wider considerations. I wish to refer—and in doing so I do not want to appear a bully—to the Minister of Transport. In an earlier housing debate I spoke of the new town of Dawley. The pleasure of my hon. Friends who represent constituencies in Birmingham when they heard that the new town there had been designated rather tempered their alarm when they were told that there were no train services in the neighbourhood. Having raised the point, I was delighted to hear from the Minister of Transport that, although there were no trains at present, he had given orders that the railway tracks were not to be pulled up.
This goes to illustrate how the Government have not grasped the realities of planning and the need to co-ordinate the activities of the different Government Departments. What interested me most was the statement of the Minister of Transport in which he said, in effect, "I decided that the tracks were not to be pulled up. I gave the instruction." Did the Minister of Housing have a word in the matter? I thought that might be so and that, perhaps, when the Minister of Transport said "I" it was a kind of ego et rex meus idiom such as that used by Cardinal Wolsey, and that he meant himself and the Cabinet.
The vital point here is that decisions of that kind are part of the great fabric of policy, and it is quite absurd to think of their being decided by the Minister of Transport in isolation. That is what has been so lacking in this Government until, if I may say so, the present Minister arrived on the job, but he comes so late and with such a legacy of neglect behind him.
In this year's Annual Report of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government there is no reference at all to the need to form some idea of what ought to be, broadly speaking, the distribution of industry and population over this country as a whole. Unless as the Government have some such picture in their mind, I do not believe that we shall ever get transport right, or housing right, 1348 or unemployment right. One of our reasons for putting down these Votes today is that we feel that the Government have not grasped that matter at all, and one reason for that is that if one really tries to grasp it one has to study the land problem.
The Parliamentary Secretary said today at Question Time that as far as he understood our party's policy—and I accept the qualifying phrase, and it is important—it was an attempt to impose a form of taxation that had never worked in the past. Perhaps I may advise him to read a very interesting article that appeared recently in the Estates Gazette. It said that only the most foolish person would argue that our party's policy for land would not work. What frightened the Estates Gazette was that it would work, and, as it said, argument in future would be directed not to saying that it would not work but that it was morally wrong. People had to put forward boldly the moral case of being able to draw into one's pocket the increasing value of land due to the community's needs. Unfortunately, the article stopped short of telling us what the moral case was—I can only hope that that will appear in a subsequent instalment. Therefore, do not let the Parliamentary Secretary think that our policy will not work.
It is no good the Government continuing to pretend that the land problem does not exist. The only reference to it in the Ministry's Report is a statement about shortage of land as a difficulty in slum clearance. It is not only the shortage of land, but the appalling price that local authorities have to pay for the land. I am indebted to my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Dr. King) for yet another example from his county, where the authority tried to buy a piece of land in 1958 for £3,000. The owner, knowing that the Government were to pass the 1959 Act, hung on until 1960, and then sold the piece of land for £17,500.
The Minister of Public Building and Works said, "We will go ahead with house building as much as the money will allow", but if we allow the money to drain away like that it will not allow us to go nearly as far as we need to go. The Government must screw up their courage. They seem to have a passion for trying to get a reputation for stern 1349 and courageous decisions. The trouble is that the decisions are always taken at the periphery of problems and not at the centre. The Minister of Transport will face with unparalleled heroism the prospect of a large number of railway-men being put out of work, but he will not face the necessity of a complete reconstruction of our transport system— —
§ The Chairman
I do not like to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but he will be aware that the Ministry of Transport Vote is not now under discussion.
§ Mr. Stewart
I quoted it merely by way of example.
Similarly, the Minister's concern with housing will show another example of this vicarious heroism, in advocating policies that will put up the rents of poor people. They say that they face this with unflinching courage—but they will not have the courage to tackle the land problem, which would get them into difficulties with their own supporters.
Since I have been referring to the Ministry's Annual Report, perhaps I may be allowed to say what a depressingly inadequate document it is. Of course, one passes over as a mere routine error the fact that although the Report was presented to the House in April. 1963, we are told three times—on the cover, in the title page, and in the introductory letter—that it was presented in April, 1962; twelve months earlier than was the case. One does not pay too much attention to that, but the Government will never reach the 'seventies if they start counting the years backwards.
More serious is the Report's complete failure to mention the gravity of the land price question, and the very sketchy information about improvement grants. We cannot take out from this document—or, as far as I know, from any Governmental source—what proportion of improvement grant is paid to owners of private rented property as distinct from owner-occupied property. Private houses are put separately, but I do not think that they are distinguished from 1350 owner-occupied houses. At least that information should be in the Report, because it is part of the evidence on which we have to judge whether the Government's full reliance on private enterprise, which is their chief instrument of housing, is justified or not.
Information about the work of local authorities in granting mortgages appears periodically in the Ministry's quarterly or monthly reports, but we should have some sort of summary of that information in this annual document. There is no mention at all of the financial anxieties of local authorities and ratepayers except, for them, the cheerful information that the Government are to introduce legislation to cut down the rate deficiency grant. This is a totally inadequate document to report the work of a great Ministry and, if he is in a position to do so, I hope that the Minister will deal with that aspect in twelve months' time.
I mentioned rates and the financial anxieties of local authorities, and it is on that point that I want to conclude. The worrying thing is that not only are we having educational building cut and an inadequate building programme—the number of conversions going down, the slum clearance rate only microscopically up, and all the other things about which I have spoken, and which I know my hon. Friends will want to reinforce—but we are not even getting what there is cheaply from the ratepayers' point of view. I believe that is because the arrangements for paying for public services as between central and local government are inadequate to the demands we are now trying to make on them—partly because the Government are stuck on the idea of block, rather than personal grants.
The present Home Secretary said a year or so ago that in still defending the principle of percentage grants I was one of a dwindling minority. I find in The Times last week a letter from Sir George Schuster—a very distinguished former Member of this House and a distinguished figure in local government—saying that the value of the Minister of Health's proposed programme in the services for which he is responsible would be greatly increased if only local authorities had a proportionate instead of a fixed grant with which to carry it out.
I find an article in the Municipal Journal, again suggesting that block grants 1351 are not the answer they were supposed to be. I find the House late last night giving a Second Reading to the Local Employment Bill providing, in this case, grants to private industry based exactly on the percentage principle, which is peculiarly suitable to the development of any service one wants specially to expand. The Government must get away from their doctrinaire approach to this matter and ask themselves whether the block grant decision they took in 1958 was right. Beyond that lie larger questions of local government finance.
I wish that the Government had agreed to do what we asked them to do in 1960, and they had set up a real inquiry to look into different ways of raising local government finance. Not having done that, they ought to be prepared to come to the immediate aid of the ratepayer by deciding to increase the amount of grant given from the central Government even if for the moment it is still to be on the block grant principle and not the percentage principle. I know perfectly well that that means that we pay as taxpayers instead of as ratepayers, but the point is that if one wants to it is much easier to make taxation fair than it is to make ratepaying fair. This is why the Government should pay attention to this matter.
It seems to me that all-round therefore we have good reason for being dissatisfied with the Government's work in this Ministry and in the Ministry of Education. We are constantly told of new inquiries which the Government are setting on foot, new torches which they are holding up for the future, new technical discoveries which a Ministry has just heard of from someone really expert in the matter and then relates in rather less convincing form to the House of Commons. But we are still up against the fact that if we are to make use of all the technical possibilities of the time we must make great administrative and political changes. We have to alter the form of local government finance. We have to get groups of local authorities to act together on a greater range of matters and more continuously and regularly than they do at present. And there is nothing that the Government are doing about local government reorganisation particularly to tackle that. 1352 We must also tackle the question of land and the question of interest rates.
I make no apology for repeating these points, which are so often made from this side of the House, because every new fact, every new revelation of the technical possibilities that lie ahead of mankind underline the case for political and administrative changes of the kind which my hon. Friends and I have so often advocated.
§ 5.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Johnson Smith (Holborn and St. Pancras, South)
It is always a pleasure for anyone on this side of the Committee to follow in debate the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart). He speaks with a wide range of experience, but I hope that he will forgive me if I do not follow him into the labyrinths of his argument. I do not question that, on the more complicated matters of interest rates, there are differences between the hon. Member and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government, who, I am utterly convinced, will deal with the hon. Member's argument in the most effective manner when he winds up the debate.
I do not know whether I misunderstood the hon. Member when he said that the Government were not paying any attention to the difference between one local authority and another when it came to subsidies, or to differences in the wage capacities of people who live in different local authority areas. I think that the Housing Act, 1961, differentiated very strongly between them. If the hon. Member is advocating that the Government should pay more attention to the ability of people to pay a fair rent for local authority houses, he is saying that there should be a differential rent scheme. I am sure that my constituents in St. Pancras, where there is a council which has spent the best part of last year or so in trying to wriggle out of a rent rebate scheme, will be interested in the hon. Member's argument. It cuts across the line taken by that Socialist council. The Government have been quite right in trying to see that local authorities pay more attention to the wage-paying ability of their tenants.
As for the Government's performance in giving assistance to local authorities 1353 for any of the services which we are now discussing, I suppose that the hon. Member is advocating that the local authorities would benefit if we returned to the old percentage grant system. I wonder whether that would follow. I have before me figures which show that in 1958–59, under the old percentage grant system, local authorities received £409 million. In 1963–64, under general grant, it is estimated that they will receive no less than £628 million, and general grants cover about 56 per cent. of current expenditure on the services concerned. I believe that that is a proportion as high as ever before. Therefore, I do not think that the hon. Member's case has been fully made out.
I should like to congratulate my right hon. Friend the Minister of Public Building and Works on his excellent statement earlier today. I wish that the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. D. Jones) were in his place, but I do not think that it would be unfair to make a passing comment in his absence on his interjection when my right hon. Friend was speaking. What we heard from my right hon. Friend was something which I think will enable us to step up the rate of house building, and it is of great importance that we should hear about these facts if we are to keep up the pace needed.
I also appreciate that baths are important. I would refer the hon. Member for Burnley and his hon. Friends to an article in The Times of 5th January which referred to some United Nations statistics based on national surveys made at different times since the war. These statistics showed the proportion of houses with fixed baths. It will be found that we are not at the bottom of this European league. Sixty-two per cent, of houses in this country have fixed baths, as against 10 per cent. in France, 7 per cent. in Belgium, 16 per cent. in Luxembourg, 30 per cent. in the Netherlands, 42 per cent. in Western Germany, and 10 per cent. in Italy.
The article in The Times goes on to point out that:… if up-to-date comparative figures were available for the number of dwellings with fixed baths, the British lead would probably be striking.I ask the hon. Member for Burnley to be reassured not only by what my right hon. Friend said but by my repeating 1354 those figures. We on this side are just as concerned with the long-term situation as with the short-term.
It is not often that in the short time that have been a Member of Parliament one has felt able to speak without criticism on the vexatious problem of housing, and we all appreciate that it will be years vet before we get sight of a reasonable situation. It is true that prices are rising all the time, that the population is increasing, and the number of householders is increasing. It is difficult to keep pace with all this, let alone get ahead, but on this occasion I can feel in a friendly frame of mind because I think that my right hon. Friend said so much of good sense and that his colleague, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government, has also been laying stress on just the right things. Their attitude to housing and town planning undoubtedly is remarkably sound. Together they are a couple of dynamic Ministerial twins. They work in harness and do a cracking good job together. They are concerned rightly in having more houses built and more built in the right places.
If we are to solve the London housing problem, a great many houses will have to be built outside London. The hon. Member for Fulham knows this only too well. It is not the rate of interest that has trimmed down the house building programme in London, it is the shortage of land and sites. This, when we get down to it, is the real stumbling block.
§ Mr. Neil McBride (Swansea)
The hon. Gentleman says that London's housing has not been trimmed by the high rate of interest. Will not he agree that in other parts of the country the rate of interest, at times reaching 7 per cent., on public borrowing by local authorities has been a major deterrent in the building of houses to let by local authorities? Has not the Government's policy in this respect been retrograde?
§ Mr. Johnson Smith
I should have thought that the consolidated loan fund on which local authorities could draw would cut that rate of interest considerably. I cannot speak of what happens in other parts of the country because I do not know them as intimately as I know London, but, from what I know of those places where there are pressing 1355 housing problems, it has not been interest rates which have cut back the housing programme but, as in London, the shortage of sites.
§ Mr. Johnson Smith
We know from the White Paper published by the Minister of Housing and Local Government earlier this year that in Greater London—I imagine that the lessons apply to other areas as well—we need 500,000 new houses during the next twenty years, and of those 50 per cent. will have to be built outside. I am concerned with the other 50 per cent., the 250,000, which must be built in London. Is my right hon. Friend emphasising the right line of policy here? In all fairness to him, I think that he is. He is right, of course, to attach importance to improvement grants, and he has been right, also, during the short time he has been at the Ministry, to publicise and give further encouragement and assistance to the housing association movement.
I am glad that be has taken action about population densities. In my view, the densities have been lamentably low in London and a most conservative approach has been adopted by some people on the London County Council. I am glad that my right hon. Friend has jacked them up, because I think that it is high time they were jacked up. I like my right hon. Friend's approach to the problem of the shortage of land. I am glad to see that a part of the Lea Valley, that rather decrepit bit of land where the horticultural industry has not been as prosperous as it might have been, is to be used for housing. There are other areas, too, which my right hon. Friend thinks might be brought into use for housing.
I am particularly pleased with my right hon. Friend's tremendous encouragement to local authorities to group together in consortia and use—the Minister of Public Building and Works told us about this earlier today—an extended C.L.A.S.P. system in the development of building techniques.
All these things should be said because one hears too often the other side of the picture. My right hon. Friend is giving the right sort of emphasis.
§ Mr. G. W. Reynolds (Islington, North)
I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for 1356 going through a list of things which the Minister has done. Can he tell me exactly how many extra flats or houses those efforts have produced in the boroughs of St. Pancras and St. Marylebone?
§ Mr. Johnson Smith
What I do say is that, unless we have a Minister who is interested in pioneering new techniques, we shall have far fewer than we need. Already, some industrialised building techniques are being used by the St. Pancras Borough Council. I am as interested as the Minister is in publicising this method of building so that we may have the progress we want.
We must appreciate also—I give grudging praise here—what is being done in regard to offices under the Town and Country Planning Bill now going through Parliament and by the setting up the Location of Offices Bureau.
I come now to three aspects of policy on which I have questions to put because I consider that the House deserves more information than is contained in the Ministry's Report for 1962. The first subject I take is office accommodation and office building.
As I understand it—my right hon. Friend will correct me if I am wrong—there is already 18 million sq. ft. of office space being built or for which planning permission has already been given in London. This could add a further 180,000 people to London's working population, on the assumption that each office worker has 100 sq. ft. allocated to him or to her. I believe that the standard laid down by the Offices, Shops and Railway Premises Bill is 40 sq. ft. per worker, so I am taking a very conservative estimate when I say that this additional office space will add only 180,000 workers.
I understand that our town and country planning legislation permits the addition of 10 per cent. to the floor space of an office building built before 1948. If office owners or developers take advantage of this, as, I believe, many will, it could add another 7 million sq. ft. of office space in London. All in all, if people were to take advantage of all present or pending legislation regarding office accommodation, it would be possible to have a further 480,000 people added to the working office population of London. 1357 This is a staggering, inconceivable addition which really could not be tolerated.
In this connection, it is interesting to note the attitude taken by a Department with which my right hon. Friend has been working in close and rewarding conjunction, as circulars issued during the past year have shown. British Railways recently put forward a monstrous office development scheme at Euston which would have added thousands of square feet to the total of office space in an area with a considerable housing shortage. It was, very rightly, rejected by the St. Pancras Borough Council and by the London County Council. However, if there are to be more offices in London, people will not object quite so much to such a scheme over the railway at Euston, Victoria, or any of the main line termini if other areas in London are released from the burden of office building so that there is not finally an addition to the total. Things are bad enough as they are without the railways going in for massive office building schemes.
I hope, therefore, that my right hon. Friend will give us an assurance that he will confer further with his right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport and keep in closer touch so that guidance can be given to British Railways not to submit such schemes, which are bound to be rejected, unless, as I suggest, we can be assured that would-be office developers elsewhere could be compensated for refusal of permission by being allowed to use space over the main line termini in London.
Now, improvement grants. Circular 42/62 asked local authorities to take the initiative in securing the improvement of whole streets or areas and expressed the belief that only by such a systematic approach by local authorities could a real impact be made on the task of improvement. This was an excellent circular containing the sort of guidance which is very badly needed. I want my right hon. Friend to tell us what progress has been made as a result of it.
My third question, allied to improvement grants, relates to policy for residential renewal. We all agree that there are very many twilight areas in London, these vast waste lands—one has only to travel by train to see them—where con- 1358 ditions are at present obsolescent and there is wasteful use of land but where, with modern planning and all the techniques we have heard about being properly employed, we could help to build a far brighter and better housed Britain. Since land is so short, I am not sure that this is not really the kernel of the problem in London and, I imagine, in large measure in the other big conurbations also.
It is easy to think in terms of taking agricultural land for building purposes. On both sides, we recognise that there must be new towns and extended towns. But with the large and growing population which we have, we must make better use of the twilight, obsolescent areas in our big conurbations. This is the most difficult problem of all.
On page 27 of the Report we read thatThe Minister has said that renewal will be the massive task of the late sixties and the seventies, and that preparatory work must begin now to improve knowledge of the problem and to develop methods of tackling it. The Joint Urban Planning Group is devoting increasing attention to this.This Joint Urban Planning Group liaises very closely with the Ministry of Transport. This is another reason why one does not feel unfavourably disposed towards my right lion. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government because he takes this sort of thing very seriously. If he accepts, as I am sure he does, that the question of residential renewal goes to the core of the housing problem, it will be interesting to hear from him when he winds up what progress has been made in this connection.
Reference has been made to the desirability of private enterprise cooperation in residential renewal. The Minister, outside this House as well as in it, has referred to the desirability of private enterprise co-operation in residential renewal, but so far I have not heard many practical examples of it except that which goes on in prestige areas, such as in Knightsbridge, where the L.C.C. and private enterprise between them have developed a very imaginative scheme. But, as we all recognise, this is prestige stuff, with hotels, luxury flats and a great big piazza—a show place of London and, no doubt, of Europe. But it is of no concern to the people of St. Pancras.
1359 I put these questions to my right hon. Friend not in a critical spirit but in a friendly spirit of inquiry. I am convinced that my right hon. Friend has his priorities right in the policies to which I have drawn attention. His policies are not restrictive. They are expansive and, I think, dynamic. I wish him well in his term of office. I feel confident that he and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Public Building and Works between them will be able to build at a greater rate the homes which we all know our citizens desire.
§ 5.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Brian O'Malley (Rotherham)
I understand that it is the tradition of the House of Commons to exercise a degree of friendly consideration towards Members making their first contribution to a debate in the Chamber. I ask the Committee for their indulgence since I cannot bring to bear on the subject that we are discussing either the depth of knowledge or the accumulated experience of my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart).
One is often told—and I believe it to be true—of the importance of asking oneself questions, particularly the right questions, about any problems or studies which one is carrying on, and I think it appropriate at this stage of my period as a Member of Parliament to ask what I consider to be the right questions, to avoid preconceived ideas and to avoid being dogmatic. I therefore intend to ask questions and to make tentative suggestions rather than to come out with dogmatic assertions.
I should like to pay tribute to my predecessor, the late Mr. Jack Jones, who, I understand, was held in high regard in this Chamber. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] He was much liked and respected by the steelworkers of Rotherham, which I have the honour to represent. I hope that I shall be able to further the interests of the steel industry, which is so vital to the prosperity of my constituency, and of all my constituents in the Borough of Rotherham.
I have chosen today as the time to make my maiden speech because the subjects of housing, local government and rates affect daily the lives of all my constituents. The desperate shortage of housing at prices which people can 1360 afford to pay is one of the most urgent and pressing problems of the mid-twentieth century. Hon. Members on both sides will agree—and moving round their constituencies they cannot do other than agree—that the very large number of people living in houses designated as slums, and the much larger number of people living in houses which should be designated as slums, constitute a blot on the record of a wealthy nation at this stage of the twentieth century.
We are aware of the heart-breaking position of many young couples and old people who wait for and want a house and who, when they are able to buy a house privately, find themselves in considerable difficulty because of the high interest rates which have prevailed during the last few years. We are also aware of the long waiting lists in practically all the local authorities in this country.
I make no comment this afternoon on the Government's record in dealing with this problem. I note that 278,000 houses were built in 1962 and that 169,000 people were cleared under slum clearance in that year. I welcome these things, but we must recognise that they do very little more than scratch at the problem. Members on both sides, inside and outside this Chamber, have stated on a number of occasions that if we are to cope with the vast problem of housing we need to build at least 400,000 houses a year.
I turn to what can be done in the immediate future to deal with this tremendous problem which confronts the nation. I suggest, first, that we could do a great deal more to improve existing houses, particularly the older houses in the northern industrial towns. One of the greatest problems confronting the corporation in the constituency which I represent has been the reluctance, for many reasons, of private landlords to repair or improve property.
I am cognisant of the circulars of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government last year saying that the Ministry would consider allowing the compulsory purchase of property which landlords refuse to repair or to sell, but I wish that the compulsory purchase procedure could be speeded up. I also wish that the local authorities were in a better financial position to do much more in this respect.
1361 My hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. D. Jones) brought up the question of baths in houses. During the recent by-election at Rotherham I was approached by many people who raised the same problem with me. They were living in old property which they were renting from private landlords and, not unnaturally, they wanted a bath put into their house. The private landlords, for a variety of reasons, were often unwilling to do this. I appeal to the Minister to raise the minimum standards of houses SO that landlords are compelled to provide what should be in every house in the country.
I listened with interest to the hon Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mr. G. Johnson Smith), who said that we were nearly at the top of the league in this respect. He pointed out that 62 per cent. of our houses had baths and that our record was better than that of many continental countries. This is to be expected when we consider the public health movement which took place in this country during the nineteenth century. It does not help to go to one's constituents, when they ask for a bath to be put in their house, and tell them 62 per cent. of the people have baths and that they are, therefore, a lot better off than people in other countries. They are not, of course, convinced by this argument.
The Minister of Public Building and Works said that 400 baths a week were being put into houses. This is interesting. Nevertheless, I ask that the minimum standards of housing be raised so that landlords are compelled to put in what should be an amenity in every house.
I turn next to the problem of new houses. How can we increase the number of houses built in the near future, as well as in the more distant future? First, it is a question of getting our priorities right. In a speech at Folkestone in March, 1962, the then Financial Secretary to the Treasury said that the country could not afford to build 400,000 houses a year because that would place too heavy a burden upon our national resources. He also said that in 1961, 37 per cent. of total building was taken up in the construction of houses and dwellings and that this figure was as high as we could safely go.
1362 In similar vein, in answering a Question on 7th March, the Minister implied that he did not think that the housing situation could, or should, be helped by siphoning off labour from commercial transactions. I disagree with those conclusions. We must consider not only the human aspect, but also the point which was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham when he referred to what were almost truisms in the N.E.D.C. Report in speaking of the importance of the mobility of labour.
During the short time that I have been a Member of the House, I have heard on a surprisingly large number of occasions statements that we must make this country and British industry efficient and that there must be great changes and alterations in the make-up of industry. If there is one thing that will hold up the reorganisation of industry, it is the difficulties of social mobility.
I should like to quote an example from my constituency. I understand that some little time ago, as a result of the reorganisation and modernisation at a large steelworks, a number of men were to be declared redundant. They have, in fact, been declared redundant and more will be declared redundant in the near future. Some were offered employment in the steel industry at Scunthorpe, 35 miles away. Quite a large number of them would have been willing to go to Scunthorpe—indeed, having looked at the place, they would have liked to go—but only 28 workers were able to do so because there was no provision there for housing. I use this merely as an example to support the statement made by my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham. Therefore, in considering how we can increase the number of houses which we build, we must first consider whether our priorities are right.
Secondly, I refer to the difficult question of the capacity of the building industry. I welcome the references to the possibilities of using shipyards for industrial building. I am well aware of the difficulties of the building industry with a limited skilled labour force. I do not wish now to go into the technical details of how the building industry can increase its productivity in future years. I merely make the comment that the N.E.D.C. Report, and, 1363 similarly, the report commissioned by the Builder, which appeared in November last year, stressed the importance, as did the Minister of Public Building and Works, of the need for confidence in the industry and of the confidence that would come from forward planning and a steadily expanding economy.
I welcome the remarks of the Minister of Public Building and Works about this matter this afternoon. All I hope is that in the future we have a steadily expanding economy so that the building industry will have the confidence which is necessary to go forward to meet the housing problem.
My third point is the question of the financial resources of local authorities. I have made some suggestions and the Minister of Public Building and Works has made statements about increased efficiency and new methods in the building industry. The usefulness of these improvements depends ultimately upon the financial ability of local authorities to build houses and the financial ability of private householders to buy them.
I cannot agree with the statement of the Minister that high interest rates make little or no difference to a local authority's housing programme. In the Rotherham rate estimates for 1963–64, 2s. 8d. out of a 10s. 2d. rate will go on loan charges. When one looks at the statements in the Press in any locality and considers the efforts of local authorities to expand their services, to build houses, one always sees the downward pressure on the rates. If, therefore, there is the pressure of loan charges upon rates, one must obviously argue that it will affect, as it has done, the building programme of local authorities.
I would, however, be the first to say that cheap money offers only a partial answer to the problem. The whole financial system of the local authorities, both the local method of raising taxation—the rating system—and the financial relations between the centre and the localities, might well be brought into question.
We have a system of raising taxation locally which was inherited from the beginning of the seventeenth century, and it imposes on the financial system of local authorities a burden—and it is one which will increase year by year—which it was never designed to bear. During the short time that I have been a Member, I have 1364 noticed that Questions have been asked from both sides suggesting, for example, that relief might be given to older people living on fixed incomes to whom rates are a heavy burden. I suggest that this is only skirmishing with the problem. It merely touches the fringe of it and does not get to its core.
I noticed with great regret that in the 1957 White Paper the Government declared their unwillingness, or stated that at that time they were not prepared, to have an inquiry into the rating system or the possibility of other systems of local taxation and I have regretted similar statements which have appeared ever since that time.
I should like to refer briefly to the general grant. When considering any system of grants between the central and the local authorities, we have to ask ourselves what kind of grant system will give incentive to local authorities to carry out improvements and raise the standards of their services and encourage them to carry out programmes of capital development. If the system of grants does not do that, and is not seen clearly to do so, then the whole system, I feel, is perhaps called into question.
I would like to make a passing reference to the limited section of the system covering grants between the central Government and the local authorities—that concerned with rate deficiency grants. I understand that, as a result of the revaluation which took place, the local authorities in receipt of rate deficiency grants have found that their rateable values have not risen in the same proportion as those of local authorities who are not getting these grants have risen. The Government declared their intention of limiting the Exchequer's contributions towards these grants. I think that the sum involved was £25 million. It appears, from Vote 7, that for this year at any rate the Government have decided not to go forward with that proposal, and I hope that they do not do so.
In concluding my remarks on the financial structure of the local government system, I would say that there is a great deal of dissatisfaction throughout the country, in all constituencies, and I believe, in many local authorities, on the whole vexed question of financial 1365 arrangements. Therefore, I would like to see a comprehensive inquiry into the financial structure of local authorities and their financial relationship with the central Government.
While these relationships are being considered, there is also another extremely important aspect which must be considered at the same time and, indeed, it is one that should be kept under constant review by the Government. This is the balance of power between the central Government and the local authorities. Since the nineteenth century, when the term "local government" first began to appear in the Press, central control and supervision—a very necessary control and supervision—has developed, Apparently it has developed hand in hand with the amount of financial contribution made by the central Government.
I believe that there comes a point in the scale of balance when the degree of power at the centre begins to affect adversely the initiative of local authorities. I believe that we have perhaps reached that point and therefore, in asking for an inquiry into the financial arrangements, one must also ask that the central—local government relationship be also considered.
If we can develop in the long-term an adequate financial system for the local authorities within their own localities, and of grants from the central Government, and if we can maintain local initiative, which is so important, then we can go forward into the remainder of the twentieth century to deal adequately not only with housing but with all the other problems of local government in a way which will make our towns and cities and counties much happier places to live in than they are in 1963.
§ 5.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Philip N. Hocking (Coventry, North)
It is an honour and a privilege to follow the maiden speech of the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. O'Malley) and it gives me very great pleasure to follow the custom of the House in congratulating him. But it is not merely because one has to follow the custom that I offer my congratulations. I know, from my own experience of a debate on the same subject in 1960, the feeling of a new Member when he comes to make his maiden speech.
1366 I was particularly pleased when the hon. Gentleman referred to his predecessor. Jack Jones was, as he said, well known and well loved. Indeed, I can assure the hon. Gentleman that not only was he well known and well loved, but that he is still missed by a great many hon. Members because he was a man whom one could go to, if one were interested in gardening, and get a great deal of advice.
§ Mr. Hocking
Fishing is outside my activities.
I enjoyed the style of the speech of the hon. Member for Rotherham and the clear way in which he advanced his arguments. He will realise that on this occasion most of my hon. Friend's would not agree with all that he had to say, but we nevertheless look forward to hearing him again on some other occasion when perhaps, unrestrained, we may take him up on some points.
This debate on housing and local government is a most important one in the Parliamentary calendar. It is, perhaps, not surprising that it comes up at about the same time every year, just before the local government elections. Points are made from each side which, perhaps, have some bearing on those elections.
But I feel that the Opposition have been particularly niggling with my right hon. Friends in the way they have viewed the work of the Ministry of Public Building and Works and of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, in view of all that has been going on. I believe that my right hon. Friends are worthy of congratulation because the facts of the number of houses built during the last ten or eleven years are well known. Indeed, they are so well known that practically every schoolboy and schoolgirl can quote them. The houses can be seen throughout the country.
I remember that when I was studying at the School of Architecture the principal used to say that the vast majority of people go about with their eyes shut and do not know what they see. I begin to think that some members of the Opposition go about with their eyes shut and do not see what is there. Houses have been built in vast numbers.
1367 Within the last few days, I have been reading some pamphlets which have been published by the Opposition. Perhaps they are the prelude to a campaign. I was reminded, in doing so, of the old song, "Two different worlds", because I am convinced that the information that is being put over by hon. Members opposite about housing problems is totally different from the facts and figures in the official statistics.
The figure given this afternoon by my right hon. Friend was 135,000 houses built last year by the local authority. But in an Opposition pamphlet the figure is put at 104,000. That is one example. During the last ten years a tremendous number of houses have been built—about 3,400,000, divided approximately between local authorities and private enterprise, with a slight emphasis on local authority housing.
It is often said by hon. Gentlemen opposite that my right hon. Friend has cut housing subsidies, but the fact is that housing subsidies are running at three times what they were in 1951 and 1952. How can it be said that housing subsidies have been cut when the total bill has increased threefold?
§ Mrs. Slater
Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that the cost of building houses has risen, and that if one looks at the subsidies in relation to that fact one finds that there has been no real increase in their value?
§ Mr. Hocking
I shall come on to discuss the price of houses.
Another matter which is not generally given the approval that it deserves is the Government's slum clearance programme. I am sure that many hon. Gentlemen opposite travel the country in the fulfilment of their political engagements. If they were to look around the various cities as they went through them they would notice the number of slums that are being torn down and the number of flats and houses springing up in their place. It may be that, again, hon. Gentlemen opposite do not see what is there to be seen as they travel. I hope that the slum clearance programme will be further accelerated in the months ahead. This is one of the most important points of the Government's policy, and 1368 I hope that greater impetus will be given to it, especially with regard to the factory-built housing units to which my right hon. Friend referred.
When my right hon. Friend was speaking I was a little doubtful about what exactly was meant by his reference to these industrialised methods in the shipyards. Are we to see houses and flats built in the shipyards and transferred to housing sites? If so, is it not a fact that these heavy units will be used only in small localised areas near the shipyards? I ask this because the problems of transporting these units will be immense; and even if this problem is overcome the cost of transport will add considerably to the cost of the dwelling.
I noticed with interest that my right hon. Friend mentioned various well-known methods that are being used for building houses. He also referred to a number of new methods of industrialised building that were coming forward. I hope that my right hon. Friends will not fall into a trap. Shortly after the war a number of methods were brought in for industrialised building. One seldom opened a technical journal without coming across a new system. I hope that we have not gone full circle, and that week after week we are to hear about new methods, none of which comes to fruition.
The C.L.A.S.P. system is an extremely good one. It is well known and well tried, but a large proportion of the labour used in this system of construction is building labour. There is a tremendous shortage of good workers at the moment, and unless the system can be sufficiently modified to allow other people to be employed it will not be possible to use it to any great extent.
I was interested to hear of the new system referred to as Nenk. Nevertheless, I could detect little difference between this system and the system of trussed steel houses which have been built for some time, and I give a word of warning to my right hon. Friends. Do not pursue too many of these schemes at once. Instead, find one or two goods ones and bring them into use as quickly as possible.
As a practical house builder, I am concerned about some of the advice that is given to the Government by hon. Gentlemen opposite from time to time. I have listened to many housing debates in this 1369 House. The same sort of arguments are always advanced by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, and I believe that if the policies they advocate were followed they would have disastrous effects on the country. Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite always adopt the same attitude with regard to housing. They look at the problem from a narrow point of view. Most of the arguments advanced today have been concerned with the local authority tenant. Far too little attention is paid by hon. Gentlemen opposite to the vast majority of people who have no wish to become local authority tenants. They much prefer to be tenants of a private landlord.
§ Mr. Edwin Wainwright (Dearne Valley)
Does not the hon. Gentleman realise that on several occasions my hon. Friends have asked the Government to reduce interest rates to help owner-occupiers, and that it is the Government who are making it difficult for people to purchase houses?
§ Mr. Hocking
I shall have something to say about the suggestions made by hon. Gentlemen opposite about house purchase.
Hon. Gentlemen opposite have referred to the question of rent control and no doubt in their deliberations at the seaside in the autumn they will again advance arguments for the municipalising of privately-owned rented property. Do they really consider that this is the right way to persuade people to invest money in housing for the general good? I submit that it is not. One thing which cramps the views of hon. Gentlemen opposite in this matter is that they believe that every landlord is a bad landlord. Little do they realise that there are many institutions, such as pension funds, which would be only too pleased to put their money into housing merely to get a fair return on their money, I therefore hope that those who speak after me, instead of decrying private investment in housing, will encourage it.
A point which has been made again today concerns the high cost of land. I have looked carefully at the suggestions which hon. Gentlemen opposite have urged on my right hon. Friend. It has been suggested that a land commission should be set up. The Liberal Party made a similar suggestion, and I am 1370 surprised that no Liberal Members are here to put forward their party's point of view. Perhaps I might give the Committee the facts behind the high cost of land. If we are all agreed upon a planning policy—and I do not think that anyone today is against it—and we decide that a restricted amount of land should be used for housing purposes, and a restricted amount of land is, in fact, used for such purposes, it follows that the cost of the remaining land will rise.
I am not altogether satisfied that sufficient land has been allocated for the provision of houses. I have argued this privately with various of my hon. Friends from time to time. I have no doubt that over the next few years more land will have to be provided for housing. I cannot sec that the setting up of a land commission either by my right hon. Friends or by right hon. Members opposite will provide one square yard more of building land.
It is suggested that all land should be bought in by the commission, and that by setting it up costs will be reduced. In fact, judging by all the detail that has been proposed by hon. Members opposite, the only ultimate effect that this will have will be to put up the cost of housing to the individual householder. The cost will not rise immediately; the process will be spread over a number of years. There will be a small premium payment for the right to build a house on certain land, followed by a lease, and presumably by the leaseholder paying rent.
§ Mr. James MacColl (Widnes)
The hon. Member is correct in saying that it is part of planning that one tends to restrict the use of land, and that that causes the price of land to rise. That is why the 1947 Act contained financial provisions to met those difficulties and to provide financial control. The present Government did not like those provisions. That is the point that I am arguing. Our complaint is that they abolished controls on the price of land. It is clear that if one is planning one must control finance as well. That is what the Uthwatt Report says. Our complaint is that, having abolished financial controls, the Government preserved planning controls.
I do not propose to follow the hon. Member into the whys and the wherefores of the 1947 Act. It is sufficient for me to tell him that that 1371 Act was one of the things that confirmed me in my belief in the Conservative Party. I say no more than that the provisions made at that time did little to help those who wanted to purchase houses. I well remember some of the charges that were then tacked on.
I return to my previous point. The proposals which are being urged on my right hon. Friend by hon. Members opposite to set up a land commission to take into public ownership all land available for housing development, and presumably other development, will not help the individual purchaser.
§ Mr. MacColl
The hon. Member has got on to this rather entertaining sideline, and I would like to follow him in it. If he takes the trouble to read our proposals he will discover that we do not propose to take over land for house building for owner-occupation. I do not want to encourage him to join the Labour Party, but if that is his objection I suggest that he had better come over here.
§ Mr. Hocking
The policies of hon. Members opposite are very strange, and difficult to understand. I doubt whether some hon. Members opposite understand them themselves. In the documents that I have read it states quite clearly that the proposal is to take over land when a planning application is made. Nothing is said in the words that follow to indicate that this will be done only in respect of public housing, and that private housing is not to be included.
§ Mr. Hocking
That is an even more peculiar scheme. I do not believe that it will contribute in the slightest way towards helping those who wish to purchase houses for themselves. It will push up prices. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Denis Howell), who introduced a Leasehold Bill earlier this year, would not have been so keen on extending the whole business of leasehold reform in this respect.
What we should do is to assess what land will be needed for housing, taking into account that which can be built upon in some of the twilight and slum areas. We should assess the requirements for the 1372 next twenty years and allocate that land, here and now. If that were done I am certain that the price of building land would quickly fall. It is obvious that some of the properties would have to be built on virgin land.
I now turn to the question of building society interest rates and interest rates in general. I have always been mystified by the fact that hon. Members opposite have never been able to understand the relationship between one interest rate and another. It is generally recognised that the interest rates charged by building societies are fixed largely in accordance with the interest paid on National Savings Certificates. It is a surprising fact that those who purchase such certificates receive 3 per cent. or so, tax-free, while those who invest in building societies receive the same amount.
Building societies have to obtain their money from somewhere. They persuade people to invest in them. By the time these societies have paid their taxation the interest rate can easily be built up to the level which has prevailed in recent months. I hope that as a result of the action taken by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor, building society interest rates will fall in the coming months. I hope that, as the interest on Savings Certificates is reduced, so will building societies reduce their rates. That is a much better way of dealing with the matter than by adopting the policies that have again been advocated this afternoon, of having separate interests and providing money at cheap rates for certain things.
I am interested to know where this money is coming from. It is suggested that local authorities should be given cheap money in order to build their houses. I have noticed that in some of the documents published by the Opposition money is also to be provided for owner-occupiers. Where is it to come from? If it is to be gathered in by way of taxation it follows that taxation will have to be increased. We are never told exactly where the money is to come from. I would prefer to see my right hon. Friend adopt a policy of reducing the general rate of competition for building society money and, at the, same time, reducing taxation on building societies. I welcome all that has been done to date in connection with Schedule A.
1373 Some of the recent speeches made by hon. Members opposite have suggested that larger mortgages should be made available to people who want to buy property. I would have thought that 90 per cent., or 95 per cent., which is the general range offered by building societies, was about as high as it was possible to go. I suggest that if we provide that 100 per cent. should be the general figure, we shall in the end lead the country into a great deal of trouble.
I want to put some points to my right hon. Friend. His Report is an excellent one. I notice that on page 11, under the section which deals with housing, there appears a short paragraph on the cost of building local authority houses. The Report says that the cost of a three-bedroom house rose, on average, by 10 per cent. in 1962, as compared with 1961, and that it was 10 per cent. higher in 1961 than in 1960. I believe that the time has come when an inquiry should be set up into housing costs. I am not convinced that all which could be done has been done to reduce the cost of housing.
I welcome the statement of my right hon. Friend this afternoon that inquiries are to be made about building management and into the liaison between the building owner and the constructor. I think that there is great scope for investigation into the possibility of reducing housing costs. I know that I may be charged by hon. Members opposite with wanting to create lower standards in housing, but that is not the point of my argument. I believe that in many of the schemes of local authorities and, indeed, of private house builders, far too little attention is paid to reducing costs or attempting deliberately to build something at a lower price range.
§ Mr. Hocking
The hon. Member asks how. I have never understood why the building industry, above all, should be the one industry where the person responsible for building is not consulted by the designer. I am sure that a tremendous fund of advice could be provided by the contractor to the person designing for a local authority. Hon. Members opposite will be conversant with the method prevailing at present among local authorities. A design is prepared, bills of quantities prepared, and eight or nine contractors 1374 are invited, or apply, to tender. There is no consultation between the designer and the constructor.
§ Mr. Julius Silverman (Birmingham, Aston)
The hon. Gentleman will know that two-thirds of the price of a house is represented by the building materials and only about one-third is the cost of on site. Did his investigation include an inquiry into the cost of building materials?
§ Mr. Hocking
The hon. Member is a little astray with his figures. The actual cost—it is a yardstick on which I work—of labour and materials is approximately equal in a house building programme. Those are the first two figures at which I look in my company's balance sheet year by year. If they are about equal I know that we are working in an efficient and profitable way. Immediately one figure gets out of balance with the other I know that something will begin to go wrong. From my own experience I am satisfied that building materials are obtainable in this country on a reasonably competitive basis—for some of them a very competitive basis.
To return to the argument which I was advancing, I believe that there should be more consultation between designer and constructor than there has been in the past. When one buys a motor car one goes to a company which completes the design and the construction. But it has not been considered worth while to do that in this country in respect of building. The two things are divorced. If there could be more consultation between the designer and the constructor, I believe that attention would be paid to the sort of equipment available and that new techniques could be developed.
There are a few other specific items which I should like to mention in connection with the lowering of housing costs. Recently, I inspected a number of housing schemes in and around the Midlands. I went into local authority houses to see what was going on. To my amazement I discovered that the window surrounds inside some flats were made of formica, pressed on a wooden base—the most expensive way of getting over that detail.
In another scheme I noticed that mahogany screens had been made to go 1375 round the dustbins. I agree that dustbins should be obscured. But I fail to see why it is necessary to build elaborate mahogany screens in order to conceal them. In a third scheme I noticed that expensive facing bricks were being used in the construction of garages. Those three details—they may be small—add to the expense of construction and, in the end, if it means an addition of only £20 or £30 to the construction cost, the tenant will have to pay more in rent, or a would-be owner has to pay more in mortgage repayments.
I think that the time has come when we should consider some of the schemes regarding building management and cooperation between constructor and building owner. We ought to pay more attention to ways of building houses more economically so that people may more easily afford to buy them.
The last point I wish to refer to was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mr. G. Johnson Smith). It is the question of co-operation between local authorities and private developers in the reconstruction of slum clearance and "twilight" areas in our large cities. I am not sure that the average young couple wishes to acquire a library of local authority rent books, fully paid up. I believe that they are far more interested in acquiring a property in which they can live.
There are these vast areas of redevelopment within our cities and towns and I think that there must be some farm of co-operation possible between local authorities and private developers. It must be possible to make some provision to enable young people to acquire property in such areas. A number of schemes have been put forward and a number of schemes are in operation in various parts of the country.
§ Mr. Denis Howell (Birmingham, Small Heath)
I am trying to draw together the threads of the hon. Gentleman's argument, which seems to be rather contradictory. He wants young people to own houses, which is an admirable thing. But a few moments ago he was saying that mortgages ought not to be granted for more than 90 per cent.— —
§ Mr. Denis Howell
Well, 95 per cent. It is well known that few, if any, building societies will advance mortgages to people earning less than £15 a week, and there are many young couples who are in that position. How, therefore, does the hon. Gentleman tie all this together? In his admirable desire to get people to own houses apparently he does not include most of the worthwhile young couples in our society.
§ Mr. Hocking
I am surprised at that interjection from an hon. Member representing a Birmingham constituency.
§ Mr. Hocking
The level of wages and salaries among young people in Birmingham is probably much the highest in the country. Today, a tremendous number of people could qualify for a mortgage, if a property could be purchased for about £2,000, or £2,500. I think that the arguments I have advanced for an inquiry into how property could be built for that sort of figure are sound.
I mentioned the fact that building societies are prepared to make advances of up to 95 per cent. I think that that is plenty and that 5 per cent. is a reasonable deposit. I do not think it worth while to encourage people in the belief that they ought to get mortgages of 100 per cent. and do nothing themselves. I am satisfied that there are people who are in a position to apply for such a mortgage and that they ought to be given the provision.
What concerns me is that hon. Members opposite seem to regard these areas in the centres of cities as areas which for all time should be kept as separate places where only council houses can be built. I am not persuaded, and I do not think that I ever shall be, that it is a good thing that all these areas should become vast council house estates. That is not a good thing from a social point of view. There ought to be mixed communities. As I said earlier, I do not think that young people are at all keen today merely on acquiring a library of fully paid-up local authority rent-books.
I therefore urge my right hon. Friend to give some consideration to what can be done in the coming months and years to encourage private enterprise, private 1377 contractors, private developers—call then what we will—to co-operate with local authorities in the provision of houses and fiats in these slum clearance areas. This is one of the most important points which should be taken up. It is a most important policy which could be pursued, because young people are not keen to become council tenants. It is not right that we should condemn them to that rôle.
§ 6.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Skeffington (Hayes and Harlington)
I believe the hon. Member for Coventry, South (Mr. Hocking) has been termed the odd Member for Coventry. This is in not in respect of any of his characteristics, but by reason of the fact that he shares the representation of that city with two of my colleagues on this side of the Committee. However, after his speech I think the word "odd" will have another connotation.
It was extraordinary that a representative of the great city of Coventry, which by comprehensive ownership by the local authority of most of the land in the city centre has enabled it to rebuild in such a manner as compares with any city in the world, should criticise the proposals which we have for a land commission which would enable just this to be done in other cities.
What has been done in Coventry is in striking contract to what has happened in many other cities where the local authority has not had the same opportunity for civic development. Even in London, although some better attempt is being made now than was made after the Great Fire, it is still a constant disappointment to many of us that rebuilding all round the great St. Paul's was allowed to come so close to it despite all that was said by architects over 400 years about mistakes made in the reign of Charles II.
I know that other hon. Members wish to speak and I do not want to take up too much time in criticism of the hon. Member's speech, but I shall have something to say about some points he made. Nevertheless that comment, coming from Coventry, was extraordinary. I do not know what his electors and the city council will think about his speech.
We are fortunate in having an opportunity to discuss some of the many activities of the Minister of Housing and 1378 Local Government. I hope that the Committee is grateful to the Opposition for putting down these Votes for discussion. I am disappointed, however, that just as the activities of the Minister and the Ministry are ever increasing and become more and more significant in the lives of our citizens, the annual Report of the Department seems to become more and more meagre. It is an insubstantial document for a great Department such as this. It does less than justice to the Department's work and does not consider the convenience and interests of hon. Members and the public generally.
The important matter of green belts is dismissed in five lines. Under the "Landlord and Tenant" section of the Report a large part is devoted to three compulsory purchase orders and the first paragraph discusses the 1962 Landlord and Tenant Act. That was a further attempt to make landlords provide a rent book, which has always been the law, but apparently only in recent times has been enforceable. It is a sad and unfortunate matter that this Report should be compressed and condensed in such an unsatisfactory way. I hope the Committee will have better treatment in future years.
Before coming to the two main points I want to make—about housing in London, in which I want to take up some points made by the last hon. Member to speak in the debate, and planning in general—I want to draw attention to page 49 of the Report and to the very small number of tree preservation orders which have been confirmed. Last year there were only 431. Since the whole operation of this Section 6 of the 1947 Act, only 3,800 orders have been for England and Wales. This is astonishingly few. This may seem a small matter, but trees are disappearing—not only from towns hut from the country on quite an alarming stale. We are losing one of our great glories.
A great deal of this destruction is wanton: some of it is mere thoughtlessness. I had correspondence with the previous Parliamentary Secretary on the question of alerting more local authorities to their responsibilities and powers under this Section. At the time he did not seem to think there was much need to do so, but I am certain that many local 1379 authorities do not realise what their powers are and perhaps have not thought about them sufficiently.
In the area in which I live Strood Rural District Council has had delegated powers to make orders for twelve years, but ten years passed by before it made a single order. Now two orders have been made. That is a beginning, but this is a rapidly developing area where many more orders should have been made, not only to maintain amenity but to provide wind breaks, to prevent erosion and to damp down noise and dust in streets. Because of amenity and other aspects, I hope that the Minister will consider some action whereby more local authorities might be encouraged to make more orders in appropriate cases.
Near to my home there is a row of new shops which must take the prize for being some of the ugliest creations erected anywhere by anyone. I suggested to the council that they might be screened by having a few trees and shrubs before them, but I was told that the council has no plan for planting any trees anywhere and in this case the highway authority will not allow them to be planted where there is paving. That must be nonsense, because the only way to plant trees in streets is where there is paving. We remember the former Member for Bermondsey, Dr. Arthur Salter, and how he transformed Bermondsey by having trees planted there on the pavement. They are still a very great pleasure to the inhabitants of the borough and to those who pass through it. This is the place where trees could make a vast difference to amenity.
I want to refer to some problems in relation to housing in the London area in which is situated my own constituency of Hayes and Harlington. Far from taking a narrow view as the hon. Member for Coventry, South suggested, we on this side of the Committee put the point of view of all those who seek and desire a decent home. Perhaps we do not overstress the landlord's case, but there have never been wanting plenty of hon. Members opposite to repair any deficiency in that regard. In the investigations I recently made about housing conditions in the built-up areas of London and Middlesex I found that for anyone desiring a decent home and 1380 accommodation in the area prospects are worse and far more costly than they were ten years ago. This is one commentary on the success of Conservative housing doctrine over the last ten years.
I propose to give a few examples of what this means in practice. There are now, and were not ten years ago, 4,000 people in the county of London without any home at all. We all know that there are material difficulties in relation not only to those seeking a home on a council estate but also those who are trying to secure a home by any means they can. Reference has already been made to the figures over the last ten years in relation to the increase in interest rates and how this was instituted to slow down council building. I looked again at this question. A Parliamentary Answer was given by the Minister on 21st December, 1962, in relation to the cost of building council houses. At an interest rate of 3¾ per cent. in 1951 when Labour was in power, repayment on a three-bedroomed council house over sixty years was just over £4,000.
In 1961, the year to which the Question related and for which the figures are available, over 60 years the total cost of the same type of house was £9,000. The cost of building a house has gone up by about £300 because of increases in wages and costs which have gone up quite considerably, but I think that is the sort of burden that can be borne. The increase is due also to higher prices for services and which must be met, and for land, which has gone up for each house by no less than £600. The main increase, of course, is the difference of the high level of interest rates, 6¾ per cent. prevailing at the time and 3¾ in 1951. That has added a tremendously increased burden on the local authority, the ratepayers, and the council tenant.
§ Mr. Skeffington
Yes, more than £5,000 of that sum is due to the increase in interest rates alone. It is the craziest way of financing homes. On top of the high interest rates, we have the operation of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1959. There is always objection when Labour Members refer to this Act, but its effect on social development, civic development of all kinds, has been disastrous. It has inflated the price of land 1381 for every useful purpose. Its most distorting and twisted effect is where we have the use of land required for housing purposes.
In my constituency, which is 14 or 15 miles from the West End—the area of the greatest value for land—a site of a little more than 2 acres came on the market a little while ago. The local authority, to buy the land, would have to pay not the market value—we really muddle the question when we think that the local authority buys at the market value—but the highest speculative value for the land, which is a considerable difference. For just over 2 acres of land the price eventually reached was £78,000, more than £32,000 an acre. The district valuer's price was £20,000 an acre. That I regard as bad enough, because this land a very few years ago would have been worth £500 or £600 an acre. This means that all the 2,000 families on the Hayes waiting list will wait longer because this land could not be bought for council building. The amount of development that will take place there will provide homes for many fewer people than would otherwise have been the case. This high price of land makes it all the more difficult for those depending on the local authority, because a large number of people who cannot buy homes in the London area are being driven by the Minister's policy further afield, adding chaos on the roads and railways, subjecting the Minister to the sort of pressure that no doubt he was under when he gave the deplorable decision in the case of the Swanley development, which was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Mr. Sydney Irving) last night. We have private speculative builders being allowed to develop in the Darenth Valley, an area of great beauty, which is being spoilt because of pressure on land, and the local authority which has been prevented from extending its housing programme by Government prohibition.
We want more building land for local councils and others in towns, but instead of doing anything to provide more land at a reasonable price for housing, the Minister is constantly under pressure to allow sporadic development over the green belt for the private builder—this is really what it amounts 1382 to—in parts of the country which are beautiful and well favoured.
On top of all that, the inhabitants in the London area have to face the consequences of the Rent Act. When I read in the Minister's Report the section headed "Landlord and Tenant Matters", I thought we should perhaps find something about the creeping decontrol of the Rent Act. But not at all. In the metropolitan area of London, the creeping decontrol of the Rent Act has now reached an astonishing proportion. I am grateful for an answer to me from the Minister just before Christmas, when he said that within the metropolitan area of London no fewer than 570,000 properties had been freed from any form of rent control under the Act.
The result of that policy is that thousands of ordinary people, and, indeed, a considerable number of professional people, are being driven out of the old residential West London boroughs because they cannot get accommodation at reasonable rents. When one considers the operation of the Rent Act, it is fascinating to recall the pronouncement made in the House on 21st November, 1956, by the present Minister of Health, because I think no pronouncement has been more wrong than the one he gave. On 21st November, 1956, talking about the free market under the Rent Act, the present Minister of Health said that it would:halt the drain upon the rented accommodation, it will release additional accommodation which is under-used or wasted, it will arrest the deterioration of millions of houses for lack of maintenance, and it will give to persons who are moving or setting up home the opportunity to find accommodation in the market."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st November, 1956; Vol. 560, c. 1775.]I would think that every time the hon. Gentleman is reminded of those words if he is capable of blushing he will do so deeply. Every one of his prophecies has proved to be wrong, as victims of the Rent Act know. I defy challenge of that statement.
So we find in the metropolitan area over 570,000 dwellings free from rent control as a result of that Act. It may be said that in London that does not matter, that a great many people can buy houses and, therefore, the object of the Rent Act in a round-about way will be achieved. We now know from the 1961 Census 1383 figures that in the County of London alone more than 80 per cent, of all the householders still rent their premises and, indeed, must rent their premises because they have no opportunity in this congested area of buying houses.
Because of all the work by the L.C.C. and the boroughs we have not many houses in this area which are statutorily definable as slums. Nevertheless, the condition of a large number of houses is extremely poor because they were built so long ago. We now know from the 1961 Census that 30 per cent. of all households in the County of London—338,000 households—are still without a fixed bath in their premises, and that even in that county there are still 7,000 houses which have not the use of a separate W.C.
One of the few passages in this meagre soupcon of a Report which I find revealing and useful is the reference to the inspector's report in respect of Bethnal Green compulsory purchase order. On page 16, he says:In this instance, the Inspector has drawn attention to the poor condition of the property, to serious defects in maintenance and management, and to the absence of any serious attempt to improve the property notwithstanding progressive rent increases in recent years.It is true that that is only one particular case in Bethnal Green, but it represents much of the story of private landlordism in relation to rented houses in London. Despite rent increases, the houses are not repaired. It was true when the Royal Commission looked at the problem in 1834, it was true when the Marley Committee investigated it before the war and it is true today. Far from dealing with the condition of many of these properties, which was the promise as a result of the Rent Act, the Government have watched the situation grow worse. The L.C.C. calculate that 2,000 additional properties every year fall into the slum category. Until we have an entirely different approach similar to that sketched out in our plan for old houses, we shall make no inroads into the deterioration of old properties, some of which were built a hundred years ago nor be able to give those who live in them a decent home.
Some hon. Members opposite may say that in a congested area like London people can move out and buy houses. This will no doubt be the Minister's ex- 1384 cuse, and the question will arise of his making more land available for building over the green belt. But a large number of people cannot afford to buy. Hon. Members will have read the article in the Observer by Mr. Needleman a few months ago in which he showed in relation to private enterprise houses that the most conservative price at which a two-bed-roomed house of 730 sq. ft. could be built by ordinary private builders was £2,250. He showed that if a man were successful in getting a 90 per cent. mortgage his annual repayments would be £256. Even if hon. Members assume, which I do not, that it is right for a man to pay up to a quarter of his income in rent, according to the figures issued by the Inland Revenue only three out of eight wage earners in the country would have such an income and so could afford to buy. Fewer than that, in fact, would get a mortgage, and even if they got a mortgage and were prepared to spend up to that proportion of their income, only three out of eight could buy a house.
That is why I wish that hon. Members opposite would firmly understand that we are not being dogmatic in saying that the overwhelming number of people must look to the local authority for housing. They have no alternative. Even after ten years of Conservative rule and all the advantages which we were supposed to get from the Rent Act, that is the position. I hope that it is not long before we have an opportunity to solve the housing problem from quite a different point of view, using principles which are much more practical, apart from the fact that they are much more just: by empowering local councils to build: as well as by better mortgage conditions.
§ Mr. Hocking rose— —
§ Mr. Skeffington
Unless it is a vital point I would prefer to continue my speech.
The other great charge which we level against the Government—and this is known by expert opinion outside the House and by an increasing amount of opinion in the country—is the totally negative character of a great deal of their policy on the planning of land use. This is largely because of the 1954 and 1959 doctrinaire planning legislation. The last time I spoke I gave some examples from the areas in which I live of the way in 1385 which development is being allowed because it is in the town map, irrespective of whether the social services are available. I have not completed my investigations there, but I can confirm that what I said then seems correct. Despite the fact that there are inadequate hospital services, inadequate rail services and inadequate educational services, development is going on with all the problems of congestion and muddle and expense to the whole community which must follow. The right hon. Gentleman for the sake of his reputation ought to look at how planning is working in the South-East, because a legacy of misery and muddle is being created by his failure to take much more positive action.
I want in particular to refer to the Minister's decision to allow residential development at Trosley in Kent. I referred to this on 26th February, when I raised the matter in some detail, which I shall not do today. The Minister was unable to reply because there was little time, but I wrote to him and said I hoped for a reply. On 8th April his Parliamentary Secretary sent me a full reply on all the other points which I had raised, but not about Trosley. I believe that Trosley is one of the greatest planning blunders made since the end of the war and the Minister does not want to answer the case against him. May I recapitulate briefly for those who do not know the story? The site at Trosley is the last remaining unspoiled and unbuilt escarpment on the North Downs. It is not merely a pretty rural area. It is already designated as of outstanding landscape beauty and it is about to be designated by the National Parks Commission, which has a statutory duty, as an area of outstanding natural beauty. For five or six years it has been in the proposed extension of the Metropolitan Green Belt.
There have been two inquiries into development schemes by inspectors of the Ministry, and in both cases they have turned down the schemes. The first inspector was Mr. Buchanan, a well-known name, who is the gentleman undertaking the traffic survey—a very distinguished officer. He agreed with those who said that there was no social need for any kind of development in this place. The second inspector found as a fact that the development was to be of a residential type for commuters or 1386 retired people in the middle or upper income groups. Thus there is no social need for building at Trosley which would deal with the overcrowding in the towns and in the villages of Kent. Development will entirely be for commuters who will come into the area.
There are no existing social services. Schools will have to be built and roads will have to be made, hospitals still further crowded. The railways can take no more passengers and the roads will become even more congested. But, despite the overwhelming advice of all who have been consulted—the Council for the Preservation of Rural England and his own inspectors included—the Minister has allowed this development. This is a real tragedy. I hope that with a change of Government this decision will be reversed. It breaches every principle of good planning. I hope that the next Government will reverse this utterly deplorable decision when it comes into power and that this view will be sent out from the House tonight to those concerned.
I have another example of the Government's total lack of any positive principles in planning. Hon. Members are aware of the article which appeared on 14th April in the Sunday Times about "The Rape of the Coastline". This pointed out that in 110 miles between Portsmouth and Ramsgate there were only fifteen miles which are untouched by some kind of spasmodic development. It said:Except for parts of the Isle of Wight and Beachy Head, nearly all the coast from Whitstable to Swanage is built up; no longer a series of individual towns and villages but continuous surburban sprawl. Slum shacks nestle against £25,000 houses, strange stilt-borne settlements seeming more appropriate to a Java swamp overflow on to the beaches, bungalows edge daringly to the cliffs' edges, and caravans settle with the discipline and monotony of tombstones.This is what the Minister is allowing to happen to one of the most beautiful shores anywhere in the world. The article continues:Can the coastline be saved? We are already stuck with an inheritance that in patches is almost obscene. The coast is still used for tipping rubbish.For three years the Government have said that they would issue a circular or memorandum on coastal preservation. If they and we wait much longer there 1387 will be nothing left to preserve. I ask the Minister to do something about this. If he spent more energy preventing the spoliation of the English coastline and countryside and less on trying to break down much of English local government, he would perhaps leave something for posterity. Instead, the legacy of the coastline and decisions such as that at Trosley will haunt him to his dying day. I hope that he will still take some opportunity to remedy these evil decisions before it is too late.
§ 6.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Daniel Awdry (Chippenham)
I am sure that we all extend a cordial welcome to the representative of the Liberal opposition—the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock)—who has just arrived. I am sorry that he has missed half the debate, because it is an extremely important one, which deals with human problems.
§ Mr. Awdry
I do not see how we can discuss local government without discussing the whole question of rates. I hope that the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington) will forgive me if I do not follow him in his arguments. Instead, in five or six minutes, I want to say something about rates. I have spent a few years in local government as a borough councillor, and I have been concerned in a few local elections. I think that I can state with some certainty that more interest is likely to be shown in the elections next week than has been shown in local elections for quite a long time. There is no apathy amongst the electors at the moment. There is a certain amount of resentment and anger.
I believe that the anger should not be directed against the Government, although I suppose that the Government will probably get some of the blame. The anger is directed against the rating system. We all know that education accounts for about one-half of local authority expenditure. It is that service which is growing so fast. Over the last five years the expenditure has grown at 1388 the rate of about 8 per cent. per year. This year the figure may be as high as 10 per cent. At this rate, in 1970, we shall be spending as large a sum as £1,500 million on education, and possibly even more than that.
As the ratepayers are contributing one-half of this money, no wonder they are angry and resentful. I do not blame them. In my home town of Chippenham the local ratepayers' association, only a short time ago, found it difficult to arouse any interest and support. Following the recent revaluation, it has a great deal of support. In fact, it has recently held two meetings in the town hall, which was packed. Now, the association is fighting all the political parties in the local elections next week. I ask my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government not to ignore the very genuine indignation that the people now feel, and, I am sure, will continue to feel, until they are given a definite assurance that a full review of the rating system will be held.
Anyone who has made even the most superficial analysis of the rating system must agree that it is very rigid and inflexible. Hardship is now being caused—to people on fixed incomes and on pensions, and to people who have difficulty in balancing their household budgets. They have suddenly been faced with very large increases. In many cases to my knowledge this increase is as high as 65 per cent. or 70 per cent. on rates payable. In other cases the increase is even more.
§ Mr. Awdry
I said a 65 per cent increase on rates actually payable. To take a case in point, a rateable value of about £25 has become a rateable value of about £106. The poundage, which was 23s., has become 10s. The rates payable, which were formerly about £30, have become about £55. I find these increases unacceptable, because they cause very considerable anxiety, hardship and embarrassment.
§ Mr. Awdry
The hon. Member for Orpington has made an interjection from a sedentary position. Perhaps it would be more profitable for me to try to sug- 1389 gest some solutions to the problem than for me to take that point up.
I know that some people suggest that the whole of the cost of education should be financed by the Exchequer. I do not go along with that school of thought. Education is essentially a local problem. It is right and proper that it should be administered by those who understand the local conditions. Conditions vary very much from place to place. If all financial responsibility were taken away from the local authority, a blow would be struck at the very root of responsible local government. In any case, to transfer the full cost of education from the ratepayer to the taxpayer would throw a colossal burden on the Exchequer.
Then it is suggested that the cost of teachers' salaries should be transferred. I cannot see any logic in this solution, either. I do not think that the teachers would feel very happy about it at present. They are always very sensitive about too much control from Whitehall. There are some education services which have not a local flavour, but a national flavour—for example, teacher training colleges, colleges of advanced technology, and grants to universities. I should have thought that these could be transferred. If they were transferred to the central Government, it would very much alleviate the burden on the ratepayers to which I have referred.
I should have thought that a sensible solution would be to transfer a reasonable part of the cost to the Exchequer by lifting the size of the general grant. At present, the Government finance about 60 per cent. of the cost of education. If another 10 per cent. were transferred, it would be a considerable help. In addition, a more thorough study could be made of the whole question of equalisation grants, because it is clear that some authorities have suffered far more than others from the recent revaluation.
I realise that the country is arriving at a moment of truth. If it wants the finest education system in Europe, it must pay for it. Nevertheless—and I feel this strongly, because I am very interested in local government—I think that local government itself is suffering, and will continue to suffer, until a system is found for its finance which is seen to be fair by the people who are paying for it. Until that solution is found—it is a matter 1390 of great urgency—local government will lose the good will that it deserves. I hope that my right hon. Friend, when he winds up the debate, will give us some assurance that action is intended, otherwise the resentment which I referred to—anger, perhaps—at the beginning of my speech will be felt by us all.
§ 7.6 p.m.
§ Mrs. Barbara Castle (Blackburn)
I am glad that the hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Awdry) has referred to the absurdities and inequalities of the existing rating system. We are glad to welcome him as an ally in our demand in Labour Party policy for a root and branch reform of the rating system. I hope that the Minister has listened to what the hon. Member has said and will therefore prove to be more receptive to the policy which we on these benches have been advancing.
The hon. Member is quite right. The present system of raising money for all these local tasks is so patently unfair that it is leading to something like a revolutionary resistance among the people concerned. I want later in my speech to refer to another aspect of the absurdities of the rating system in connection with the housing problem. The Minister of Public Building and Works left out of his speech some of the most vital and urgent aspects of the housing problem as local authorities have to try to cope with it Everybody in this Committee will welcome any steps to improve the organisation of the building industry and develop new methods of production which will cut building costs, but that is a rather long-term development.
I wonder whether at the moment the Government appreciate the size of the problem with which local authorities, particularly those in the blight areas, now have to cope. In his opening speech the Minister agreed that there is a special problem in areas like the North-West. In recognition of this there is to be the work of the regional office in Manchester, which is so supposed to expedite and facilitate a great slum clearance drive in these areas. The Government cannot say that they have discharged their side of the task when they merely authorise local authorities in these areas to go ahead and clear the slums at a faster rate than they have been allowed to hitherto. The Government must face up to the financial cones- 1391 quences which confront the local authorities in these areas.
My local authority in Blackburn has, to its delight, just been allowed to increase its building programme from 200 to 500 houses a year as part of the North-Western slum clearance drive. The Labour council in Blackburn is leaping into action to take advantage of the opportunity which has become open to it, the restraints of Government policy having been removed.
I am sure that there are areas, not only in the North-West but in the Midlands and elsewhere, with an even more catastrophic problem than ours. But even in Blackburn—to take a typical county borough among the former depressed areas as a symbol of the size of the problem we face—out of the 39,000 houses in the town, 25,000 are sub-standard and are due for clearance in the near future—or as near in the future as we can make it. Even with that increase of from 200 to 500 houses a year it still means that it will be fifty years before we have got a Blackburn in which every family has a normal standard home.
What is clearly involved is the more or less rebuilding of the bulk of the town. This is part of the whole problem of making these north-western, one-time depression areas fit to live in and containing enough amenities to attract the industries which we are determined to attract. If one is eventually to rebuild 25,000 houses out of 39,000 it is totally wrong to consider doing that in a piecemeal way. It would be quite wrong to have a bit of slum clearance here followed by another, perhaps unconnected, bit of slum clearance there. It should all be linked with a redevelopment plan for the town as a whole; and this is what the Blackburn local authority wants to do. Indeed, it is already trying to launch an ambitious central rebuilding scheme as quickly as possible.
The sort of urban renewal that is needed in a town like Blackburn is extremely urgent and not only Blackburn, but Manchester, Birmingham and dozens of other places. Blackburn will need a complete structural renovation if the drift of population and industry from the North to the more attractive areas of the South is to be stopped. This means that if we are to have a central redevelop- 1392 ment scheme, coupled with the enormous task of clearing 25,000 sub-standard houses in my area, the local authority must have a vision of the new town that will emerge.
Such an authority must not only look far ahead—and thirty or forty years is not a long time in this context—it must not only have a vision of the new town but draw up plans a long time ahead. Naturally, those plans must be discussed in the town. There must be public and democratic discussions of the kind of town the citizens want to see and the sort of amenities they want injected into it. Thus, the need to plan ahead as far as possible is now an integral part of the new approach of the Minister of Housing and Local Government, for on page 12 of his Ministry's Report for 1962 the right hon. Gentleman calls on local authorities not only to co-ordinate their building programmes but to see that their… programmes must be planned far enough ahead for the builders to have the assurance of continuity of work.This means that as soon as one starts to talk about rebuilding and redeveloping on this scale one injects an element of uncertainty into the lives of thousands of citizens who do not know what will be the future life of their privately owned houses, businesses or shops.
We have found in Blackburn that because we have an authority which is trying to do a good job, to take a longterm view and to get its plans thought out coherently and far enough ahead, a great new fact of uncertainty has emerged. Has the Minister adequately faced up to this problem? What are the Government prepared to do to meet the consequences on the saleable value of houses, shops and businesses which are affected by this kind of long-term planning for redevelopment?
After all, if one is to redevelop properly and finish up at the end of the day with the kind of city of which one is proud, one needs to include in the clearance drive not only the slums, but some houses which still have a reasonably long life ahead of them; houses on which a lot of money has been spent and in which the owners take great pride. In many cases the owners have made the best of a bad job and have said, "This house will not be rebuilt for a long time so we will do what we can and decorate and improve it 1393 to the best of our ability." Suddenly, they find that, because no one can be quite sure what the remaining life of the house is going to be, when they need to move for domestic reasons they cannot sell their property.
Innumerable constituents have come to see me with urgent domestic problems arising out of this sort of difficulty. Even the announcement of interim plans for development creates a series of personal crises in the lives of Blackburn citizens. There is certainly no desire on the part of the Blackburn local authority to beggar innocent people in this way. Indeed, it wants to deal with them fairly and justly.
I understand that at present a local authority can, if it is faced with the claims or difficulties of individuals arising from its long-term redevelopment plans and discovers that hardship is being caused, help those individuals by buying their property out of revenue. Cases of very urgent hardship can be, and have been, dealt with in this way. However, once one moves into the more rapid tempo of development such as the Minister is urging—and the right hon. Gentleman is saying, in effect, "I want all the slums in the North-West cleared as soon as possible"—new problems arise, for bound to be included, as I have pointed out, are not only slum dwellings but houses with a reasonable life ahead of them.
All this raises the important problem of compensation for personal hardship on a scale which cannot be dealt with out of revenue. The Government must have a national plan for compensating individual owners of houses, shops and businesses who find themselves ruined by the threat that perhaps within five, ten or fifteen years their property will be due to come down. The saleable value of the property disappears, and someone has to do something about that. Life savings have gone into this property.
The hon. Member for Coventry, South (Mr. Hocking) talked about how much the Conservative Party believes in the people having the right to own the houses they live in, but the Government are not doing very much to help the individual owner-occupier who is immediately hit by the acceleration of development plans. They have given no lead at all in this matter to local authorities. I agree with the hon. Member that an owner-occupier with a still decent house in the middle 1394 of an area that has to be demolished for proper planning purposes will not have his need met if he is only offered the tenancy of a council house in exchange. He wants to know what is to happen to the balance of his mortgage. Moreover, he might prefer a house of his own. How, then, is that house to be acquired— —
§ Sir K. Joseph
The hon. Lady's remarks are widely read, and I should not like her speech, by an unintentional inaccuracy, to worry people unnecessarily. The acceleration of redevelopment does raise problems, but I do not think that the sort of instance she mentions is one of them. If one has a non-slum house which is bought out compulsorily, one receives the market value for it, and is, therefore, normally able to pay off any remaining mortgage. I do not deny that there are problems, but the one she mentions is not one of them.
§ Mrs. Castle
My purpose was to get some indication from the right hon. Gentleman of what the local authorities' powers are, and I am glad to hear him say what he has. I was not trying to provoke him, but trying to set people's minds at rest. My point is that, so far, a local authority has been able to cope with this problem out of revenue, but in Blackburn, for instance, development has accelerated so quickly that the cost can no lancer be met from revenue.
I have made such inquiries as I could through the Library of the House and from the Minister's Department to find out whether loan sanction will be given to local authorities for this purpose. Will the Minister announce tonight that he will give loan sanction to local authorities to enable them to compensate, at reasonable rates, the owners of houses that have to be acquired as part of these slum clearance and redevelopment schemes? I have also tried to find out whether the Minister has ever issued a circular on the subject. I do not think that he has. I would ask him to issue one, so that the policy is clear beyond doubt. I would be grateful if, later this evening, the right hon. Gentleman would be specific about this, because it is the assurance that we want. I believe that he has the legal power, but at present it is a political decision that I 1395 am asking him to take for the sake of my constituents.
One of the great advantages of the Labour Party's policy to set up a land commission to acquire land in these areas of redevelopment is that the commission would be able to look ahead where there is to be this change of user and development and, with far greater resources than a local authority can have, acquire these properties at reasonable rates—rates that would enable the dispossessed person to buy another house elsewhere, if he wanted to.
I am glad to have the right hon. Gentleman's assurance that a local authority may legally do this, but he must also make the finances available. Here, again, I ask him to face the consequences of the much greater scale on which he says he wants to operate. That will put a tremendous burden upon local authorities. In this connection, I refer the right hon. Gentleman to a document The Future Development of the North-West, drawn up by the Town and Country Planning Association and containing its proposals to the Minister.
One section of the document states:It is clear that some form of special planning grant will be needed for the renewal of obsolescent areas, and such assistance is especially necessary for the industrial towns of the North-West. Many of these towns also have a strong case for increased housing subsidies if they are to speed up their clearance and replacement programmes. We recognise that these are matters of broad national policy, but our analysis of the North-West's problems emphasises the urgency and importance of such action in this particular region.I ask the Minister not only to give us the all-clear to pay compensation, but to give us more money with which to pay it adequately, because in towns like Blackburn it is a gigantic problem.
I link all this with the reference made to the rating system. We are penalising towns like Blackburn, and the citizens of similar towns, on two counts. First, we are failing to give them national help for the renewal of their areas. Secondly, when an additional rate burden is created by these redevelopment plans it falls most heavily on those who have done most to keep their property fit to live in—those who have been the most socially minded.
It has been ironic and tragic for me to go round my constituency since the 1396 rating revaluation and discuss with individuals—humble little people in "two ups and two downs"—why their valuation has gone up. The first question one asks is, "Oh, but did you have a bathroom put in?" If they answer, "Yes," one's comment is, "Then, of course, your valuation has gone up." Those who have struggled to make a decent and reasonable modern home out of some of these obsolescent properties find themselves penalised for their pains by increased rateable value.
It is high time that this nonsense was stopped. It is high time that we stopped penalising those who try to do the most to make our towns fit to live in. We need a root-and-branch reorganisation of our rating system, so that we can put the burden fairly on the shoulders of those who can bear it best.
§ 7.20 p.m.
§ Mr. R. J. Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)
Of the few points that I want to draw to the attention of the Committee and of my right hon. Friend, the first has already received the very sympathetic consideration of my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary. I refer to improvement grants which, at present, cannot be given because of some technical reason governing the standard that a property must reach after the improvements have been made.
For instance, under the existing regulations, one can put into a house a hot-water system, a proper lavatory and a bath, but if, in the same room that has the bath, there is a sink, the improvement grant cannot be paid. In some cases, this is unnecessarily discouraging people from carrying out improvements which, in every sense except the strictly technical, would bring the property to a condition in which it would provide a reasonable standard of living for those concerned. It is a pity if this is prevented by the technical drafting of the regulations, but I understand that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary is already giving his attention to this matter.
A serious matter to which I should like to draw the attention of the Minister is the question of valuation for rates, including revaluation. It is certainly the case in parts of my constituency, and how general this is I do not know, that if there are two identical properties in 1397 identical settings, one of which happens to be owned by the council and the other by the occupier, it is the practice of the valuation authorities to place a higher rateable value on the one which is privately owned than on the one owned by the council, although both enjoy identical amenities and although, structurally and aesthetically, they are identical.
This causes a considerable feeling of injustice among many people who have put their savings into a privately-owned house and have saddled themselves with heavy mortgage payments only because they are unable to obtain a council house and then they are told that they must pay higher rates because an alleged stigma attaches to living in a council house. Whether there was such a stigma at one time I do not know, but I do not believe that any such stigma exists in 1963. There is properly a stigma attaching to living in a council house on a rent which is grossly subsidised by other people who are worse off than oneself if one has sufficient income to pay a fair rent, but I do not accept the proposition that there is, or there ought to be, any stigma attaching to living in a council house as such.
I would, therefore, plead strongly with my right hon. and hon. Friends to give instructions, possibly through, the Treasury, though I am not sure of the channels on this point, that properties which have the same facilities and which are otherwise similar should have the same value for rating purposes attached to them, whether they be in local authority ownership or in private ownership. If this were done it would remove the considerable sense of injustice and grievance which afflicts a large number of people.
There is another matter to which I should like to draw the attention of my right hon. Friend, and not for the first time, because he probably has it much in mind. This is the problem of what is known as a seaside holiday resort. The characteristics of a seaside holiday resort is not only that it is at the seaside and is a holiday resort, but also that a considerable number of elderly people live there. Many, if not most of them, live on fixed incomes, as I am sure my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch (Mr. Cordle) would 1398 wish to inform the Committee. They are above the supplementary pension level in total incomes and they do not come within the provisions of the Pensions (Increase) Act. Therefore, when they are met with a major increase in the actual money which they have to pay out in rates they are in difficulties. I hope that we shall not argue about the product of the rating valuation and the decrease in poundage.
When a man of 81, with a wife of 80, living in a small bungalow, is faced with an extra £20 a year out of a gross income of £340 a year, this is a hardship—it is not an inconvenience. This is by no means an unusual or even an unrepresentative case. The age of 81 may be unrepresentative, but that is certainly the only unrepresentative thing about it. In many of these resorts there is no alternative industry and, therefore, there has not been an off-loading of the greatly increased rate burden from the private householder to industry. There is also considerable resentment at the proposals of my right hon. Friend to alter the basis of the general grant and the deficiency grant paid to such areas, which I understand, will aggravate the situation rather than ameliorate it.
I urge my right hon. Friend to think again about this and then take really effective action on it. It cannot be said that the answer for these people is to move to a smaller house. Many of the properties which have received the highest escalation in rateable value are the smallest, the argument being that because the properties are smaller they are more convenient, and because they are more convenient they are more desirable and, therefore, should have a higher rateable value. As no alternative accommodation is available, it is no use saying to the people concerned that they should move to alternative accommodation which is less highly rated. It is not there to move into.
I am interested to note that after a short visit the sole representative of the Liberal Party who has been here this evening has now withdrawn, to leave the usual Liberal representation in the debate.
§ Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop
I am sorry, but it was a great improvement on the debate 1399 on rates last April, when there was not for a moment a single Liberal Member present. However, today we have had a good debate, notwithstanding the Liberal absence.
Lastly, I should like to draw attention, as a number of hon. Members have already done, to the problem of land shortage. I do not pretend to know the answer. If we have something like the 1947 legislation, with development charges, then the compulsory purchase procedure would have to be used, since nobody has any real incentive to part with land.
Having noticed, as I expect everybody else has, that despite an extremely hard-working Parliamentary Secretary at the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, who, to put it mildly, is fully loaded with decisions which he has to take on planning cases at the moment, I would point out that if, in addition, the Minister answerable to Parliament had to take decisions on four or five times as many cases, because of disputation of compulsory purchase orders, I do not know how the Parliamentary machine would cope with the situation. I do not believe that it coped with it very adequately in the past.
There is the further element that a system of land purchase being practised by compulsory order strained the integrity of local authorities more than a little, although this was so long ago now that many people have forgotten it. With these few observations, I shall now listen with interest to the observations of other hon. Members.
§ 7.39 p.m.
§ Mr. Julius Silverman (Birmingham, Aston)
I should like to follow the hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) in one or two points. The hon. Member mentioned the question of improvement grants and I think that we on this side of the Committee would agree that it is desirable to remove the anomalies in these grants. I believe that my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun) has mentioned this on many occasions in connection with the provision of baths.
However, the main problem with improvement grants is to get the landlord of the rented property to install the improvements. I would mention, to show how great that problem is, the figure 1400 quoted by the Minister of Public Building and Works today when he said that 200 baths had been installed per week.
§ Mr. Silverman
All right—four hundred a week. On the basis of 400 a week, it will take about 150 years to install baths in all the premises which require them.
§ Mr. James Allason (Hemel Hempstead)
Did the hon. Gentleman hear the Minister say that he would very shortly double that, which, at least, brings the period down to 75 years, which is an improvement, and no doubt we might do better than that?
§ Mr. Silverman
That is still a long time for these buildings to be left without a bath. It shows the complete failure of the improvement grant policy because so many landlords will not put the improvements in.
Very much more needs to be done, particularly in the twilight areas where the amenities should be improved, to give the local authorities power to deal with the situation, if necessary, by compulsory purchase where the amenities are not there or by some other method to ensure that they are installed and the landlord is compelled to do the work.
§ Mr. John Hollingworth (Birmingham, All Saints)
The hon. Gentleman refers particularly to the twilight areas. Do not the twilight areas already have the facilities to which he refers, and is not the real problem there over-population?
§ Mr. Silverman
The problem in the twilight areas is not only one of population. There are amenities there, but, frequently, they are not sufficient. If there are three or four families living in one house, one bath may not be enough and one toilet certainly is not enough. It is necessary, therefore, in the twilight areas, for the local authorities to be given greater powers, either of compulsion or of compulsory purchase. Although hon. Members opposite would not like that, something must be done. Progress is far too slow.
The general matter I wish to raise is the building of houses by local authorities. A local authority has three problems, the 1401 availability of land, the availability of labour—just now, this is not a great problem—and the availability of finance. The Minister suggested that finance was not a bottleneck today, but I think that it is becoming a serious bottleneck.
First, the availability of land. If I mention Birmingham as an example, it is not that I wish particularly to make a constituency point; it is a problem which we have in common with other large cities and conurbations. For the City of Birmingham, the Minister has proposed two new towns. I do not know when they will be completed. It seems likely that the first trickle will not come in for six or seven years and that it will probably be another ten years before any significant contribution is made to the housing of Birmingham's overspill. Moreover, all this depends, bearing in mind the record of this Government—if by any chance they happened to be returned to power—on the possibility of a financial crisis which gives them justification to cut back on local authority house building.
Birmingham's available building land in running out, The only large pocket of land is one large area at Castle Bromwich where, as the result of a fortunate accident, a vacant airfield has become available. Within the next four or five years, the resources of land for new building in Birmingham will run out.
Slum clearance, which Birmingham is pursuing at an accelerated rate, does not assist in this problem, but, on the contrary, makes it worse. When an area of slums is cleared, only a proportion of the people there, not much more than 50 per cent., can be rehoused on the same site.
I am not attracted by the proposition made by the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mr. G. Johnson Smith), who suggested that we should build at higher densities. I have recently seen examples of building at higher densities and I am appalled at the idea of re-creating the atmosphere of the tenement. Working-class people, like others, do not want to be pushed one on top of the other; they want a certain amount of space to live in. I should strongly resent and oppose any attempt to increase the densities to uncomfortable 1402 levels. Today, if one builds high, one must allow sufficient land around the buildings. One should not build high and, at the same time, put the blocks of fiats or other housing accommodation too close together. I hope that the Minister will do nothing which will result in the re-creation of the old sort of tenements to be found in London and Glasgow and simply re-create the slums which have been demolished. That is not the solution to the problem of land shortage.
Birmingham is energetically negotiating with other towns under the Town Development Act. This will all take a certain amount of time. Moreover, we want to be assured that the planning of industry will go together with the planning of new towns or the development of old towns. So far, we have not had this assurance. It is essential that the industrial development certificates should be given in the new areas in order to provide for new industries to go there, because, of course, if the industries do not come the people there are not prepared to take the population and the schemes will be still born; but, more than that, there must be positive planning and consultation between the Ministry of Housing and Local Government and the Board of Trade. Industry and housing must go hand in hand.
All these schemes are, to a large extent, schemes for the future. The Minister will have to consider again the provision of land on the periphery of Birmingham for building purposes. Wythall, after being accepted by the Minister, was turned down. Something will have to be done to deal with the immediate problem of rehousing and to cater for the people who have to work in Birmingham and who want somewhere to live. Redditch may, in due course, help to some extent, but even Redditch is somewhat too far away and much too remote in time to help in the immediate problem.
Now, finance. Until now, finance has not been a bottle-neck but, as I said, it is beginning to become so. To a greater and greater extent, local authorities are having to build high, and it costs a lot of money to build high. Even allowing for the special subsidies given for high flats, the burden upon the local authority is still very great. I inquired about some flats which are being built in 1403 Birmingham. The economic rent of those dwellings, taking into account the cost of building, the rate of interest, maintenance and all the rest, comes to about £340 a year. Although Birmingham is a prosperous city, very few families there can afford to pay a rent anything like that.
We should bear in mind that the applicants for these flats and the people who are being granted them are not young childless married couples, with both partners working and receiving good wages. For the most part, they are people who have been on the register for a long time and living in hardship, with the wife having to stay at home to look after the children. This idea of wealthy municipal tenants able to afford any rent does not begin to apply to them. The majority of them can afford to pay little more than they are paying at present. To deal with this problem by increasing their rents is quite impractible.
After the local authority has spent the subsidy that it receives from the Government, it still has to provide additionally more than £60 or £70 a year in respect of each flat which is built.
§ Mr. Hollingworth
I am interested in the figures which the hon. Gentleman has given for an economic rent of modern flats. I am able, through a housing association, and paying the full cost of land just outside the city, to build two-bedroom flats, with no profit and including management costs, to let at a rent of about £4 10s. a week.
§ Mr. Silverman
The hon. Gentleman must bear in mind that there are also rates.
The municipal tenant is interested in the total cost to him of his living accommodation. Probably management costs and obviously site costs are higher within the city. The question of the cost of land has been dealt with already. The hon. Gentleman can take it from me that every flat which is built imposes an additional sum of £60 or more a year on the local authority, after taking into account the subsidy. Obviously, if 2,000 flats are built every year, there will be an additional burden every year on the housing revenue fund. Who will pay that?
1404 The burden can be covered in one of two ways. We can ask either the general ratepayer or existing municipal tenants to bear it. It would be very difficult to put it on the rates. Therefore, the local authorities are asking municipal tenants to pay it, and municipal rents are steadily increasing. Obviously, there is a limit to the amount that municipal tenants can pay. This trend cannot go on.
The plain fact is that there will be a crisis in housing finance unless the Government carry out the review which has been promised. This applies, as has been said by the hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Awdry), to the whole sphere of local government finance. There will have to be a review of the system and, pending that, a very substantial increase in the Government's contribution to local government services, particularly housing. If something does not happen very soon, local authorities will be severely restricted. They are bound to say, "We cannot put up these houses because we cannot go on increasing the rents. On the other hand, we dare not put this increase on the rates." Clearly, there should be a much more substantial contribution from the Government.
I say this to those who talk about a realistic municipal rents policy. A large number of municipal tenants, certainly the pre-war tenants, are completely self-supporting. They are actually making a contribution to the housing revenue fund. The Government subsidy which is allocated to these houses is being used to finance other housing. It is not fair to go on increasing the rents of these people in order to deal with fresh housing developments, and the only way to deal with the matter is by the Government giving a much more substantial subsidy. I hope that in the review the Government will seriously consider the question of housing finance and housing subsidies because the present structure is clearly inadequate.
We hear a great deal about wealthy municipal tenants. There may be a few here or there, but, broadly speaking, people who are being allocated houses today have been waiting on the register for many years and have suffered discomfort. They could not afford to buy private houses. If they could, they would have done it years ago. They would not 1405 have suffered the discomfort which they have suffered for years. In a city like Birmingham, which has 45,000 people on its register, a person has to be in very great discomfort and to have lived in overcrowded conditions for many years before he can get an allocation from the register.
I ask for two things: first, a review of the Government's land policy. We want a national land policy for housing. Secondly, I ask for a complete review, not only of local government finance in general, but of housing finance in particular.
§ 7.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Dudley Smith (Brentford and Chiswick)
The hon. Member for Birmingham, Aston (Mr. J. Silverman) made a most interesting speech. I hope that he will acquit me of discourtesy if I do not follow his general remarks, because I wish to return to the very vexed subject of rating reform. We have heard a good deal about housing and I, like so many other lion. Members on both sides today, subscribe to the view that it is vitally important in this day and age. But the whole question of rates is also vitally important and I think that we should now consider very seriously some aspects of the rating problem particularly since we have not had the opportunity to discuss the matter in a general debate for a long time.
I emphasise at the outset that my remarks are meant to be constructive, and that I do not intend any personal criticism whatever of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government, for whom I have the highest regard. I consider, with respect, that he is doing his job at the Ministry with tremendous energy and imagination. But this is a general problem which is not confined to one Government Department. The problem remains with us and will continue to do so, although we have passed the immediate crescendo of a few weeks ago when revaluation came into force.
I took up the campaign for rating reform which my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich (Mr. Ridsdale) instituted last year and we got under way again at the turn of the year. I found that it was well supported in the House and I was gratified by that, but I was amazed at the tremendous support which it received outside from members of the 1406 public—members of my own party, of the opposition party and people with no party at all. The letters poured in. I personally had over 500. Some of my hon. Friends supporting me in this campaign also had hundreds of letters.
Most interesting evidence, not only of difficulty, but of real hardship, was revealed by these letters. Some of it is very valuable. If it could be distilled and submitted to any inquiry which takes place, it would be extremely valuable in coming to conclusions. As a result of my experience in that campaign, I feel more than ever before that there should be a complete revision of the rating system as we know it. The whole concept of rating must eventually be changed.
There is no easy panacea for this. I was interested to hear the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) say that the Labour Party had advocated this for a number of years. I can only say that it has done it sotto voce, because until quite recently we have not heard a great deal from the party opposite about rating reform.
§ Mr. MacColl
If it was done sotto voce, the hon. Member could not have heard what the Division was about in 1960 when he voted against our Motion to have an inquiry.
§ Mr. Smith
I accept that I voted against that Motion. Even so, I do not think that the Labour Party has campaigned the country, calling for rating reform. Both sides have, perhaps, been lax in stressing the need for general rating changes.
Generally, however, this is not a political matter. One can make and score effective party points, but, overall, the problem is with us, irrespective of whatever Government is in power now or in the future. Next week, we will be having the local government elections. A large number of candidates, of all political persuasions, will go forward, as I and, I suspect, other hon. Members did when entering local government, full of hope and charity and with a zest to reform the spending activities or the local council.
Those candidates, when they are elected, will find themselves hamstrung right, left and centre and will have little opportunity of achieving reforms. How- 1407 ever good or circumspect they are, they still will not be able to keep down expenditure because of so many nationally-negotiated, reasonable awards for pay increases, and mounting expenditure on one side and the other. Many of these people will be extremely disillusioned after holding office in local government for probably only a few months, let alone years.
The Government were right to go ahead with revaluation. It was necessary. It is right that industry should be brought into line. Even though I am glad that revaluation has worked out reasonably well, however, and that the increases in poundage may not have been as sensational as some people anticipated, we are still faced, at the end of it, with the question whether the system is right.
After all that we have seen and read over the last few months, I consider that the rating system is definitely out of date. It worked well in days gone by, but it has become old-fashioned and clumsy, purely because of the massive expansion of services over the whole of the local government front and of the social services. This expansion incurs a tremendous growth in general expenditure. Expansion is good, and we all welcome it, but due regard must be paid the whole time as to how it is to be financed. This, surely, is one of the cardinal principles behind local government legislation.
I should like the whole system to be revised after a high-level, impartial and expert inquiry, possibly of the calibre even of a Royal Commission, appointed to examine the views of all the experts, to take as much evidence as possible and to try to ascertain the various aspects which can be presented, not purely from political sources, but from many unbiased ones, too. I welcome the appointment of the committee of inquiry which my right hon. Friend the Minister announced a few weeks ago, but I regard it as too limited in scope and consider that it should go much further. I am still hopeful that in due course my right hon. Friend will have an extended inquiry with wider terms of reference.
I should like to have three main themes running through any high-level inquiry into what can be done concerning the rating system. First, we should ascertain whether the existing distribution of the 1408 rate burden is fair and, if it is not, how it could be spread more equitably throughout the community. Secondly, we should ascertain whether education, which forms the major part of all local authority expenditure, should be transferred wholly to the national Exchequer, or whether major elements of it may be further subsidised on a national basis. Thirdly, I should like the inquiry to examine thoroughly whether alternative or additional sources of local revenue are available and, if so, how they would stand up if they were used generally within the local government system.
Redistribution of the rate burden, which is, perhaps, paramount among those three suggestions, has been referred to obliquely by some of my hon. Friends and by hon. Members opposite. There is a good case for some form of redistribution of the burden. Today, the size of a person's house is not necessarily an indication of his wealth. We all know that, with the housing shortage as it is, it is not always easy for somebody to move into smaller accommodation or other accommodation within a certain area.
No account is taken of the services used by an individual ratepayer. He need not go for a walk in the local park, he need never borrow a library book and he may never have a swim in the local baths. He might be childless, yet he pays exactly the same whack of rates as the person living just down the road with a large family and enjoying all these services.
§ Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop
Nevertheless, he would be fortunate indeed in some towns if he was not fined for car parking.
§ Mr. Smith
That is a fair point. Even so, this is a particularly unfair aspect of the rating system. It is particularly hard upon elderly couples.
My hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) has referred to people living at seaside resorts and how difficult it is for them when they find a £20 or £30 rate increase during the year. This is something which many of us, if in good employment, could accommodate. We may moan about it, but we can absorb it within our personal finances. But to an elderly retired couple who have not budgeted for massive rate increases an extra £20 or £30 a year sometimes makes the difference between living 1409 respectably or in poverty. Their expenditure on rates is one of the highest items in their personal budgets and is constantly growing.
I say this in the context that rates are bound to go on increasing as the years go by. On the other hand, many householders get off extremely lightly and probably enjoy to the full all the services which are provided by local government. Certainly, they get off lightly in comparison with struggling householders. Many of these people are young and high-wage carriers. Sometimes, they are sons and daughters who contribute to the comparatively large joint income of their family and only one small element from the household goes out in rates. This, surely, is unfair in comparison with families who do not have a large joint income.
There is also the question of lodgers and council house tenants, who, in some cases, are quite heavily subsidised. I know that a rate element is taken into account when a lodger pays his rent to his landlady or landlord; and council tenants also pay an element of rates in their rent. Nevertheless, their overall contribution must be particularly small when compared with the contribution that so many small householders make under the existing system.
§ Mrs. Slater
Is the hon. Member suggesting a local Income Tax policy or a means test upon every man's income according to what services he uses?
§ Mr. Smith
The hon. Lady is anticipating me; I was coming to that. I say frankly to her that I have no magic panacea for this problem. It is not my duty to try to give the exact answer. That is why I want a full inquiry.
I am, however, prepared to take up the hon. Lady's challenge. I certainly do not want a means test against these people. There should be an examination of ways of making a fairer distribution of the burden so that more people in the community can pay towards the cost of rates. It is, surely, only equitable and right that everybody who enjoys local services should pay something. It is entirely fair that a person living in a big house should pay more than a person living in a small one, but there are some who escape from paying hardly anything, and this is a bad thing. There 1410 is a great deal of genuine resentment at the present time at these inequalities. This resentment is growing and will continue to grow.
§ Mr. John McKay (Wallsend)
Is it not a fact that on the present basis of rating, millions of people with insufficient incomes are expected to pay heavy rates but do not have to pay Income Tax because their means are so low? Is it not a fact that, despite low incomes, they must pay the same amount of rates as people with three of four times their income?
§ Mr. Smith
That is a very valid point. It really goes to the heart of the question whether or not account should be taken of ability to pay rates.
There is a case for transferring some services to the national Exchequer, or for their being further covered by various grants from the centre, like the personal health services, police, ancillary services and even the administration of justice. All of these being financed from the centre could relieve the rate burden. But the biggest relief could come in education, which now takes about two-thirds of all expenditure by local authorities in many areas. This is entirely disproportionate with the amount spent on other services.
In due course we must face the fact that other services will suffer if this disproportion increase's. This must be borne in mind more and more by the Government. We know that expenditure on education will go on increasing. Only this week, the Minister of Education announced that the figures today have reached massive proportions. We are spending about £1,000 million a year on education, and this will increase in the next few years. We are constantly coping with increased salaries for teachers. Whether the increases are disputed or not, the teachers are getting them. A proportion of this has to be borne by the local authorities.
One argument adduced against education being transferred centrally to the centre is that this would take away local control and that there might not be any effective check on Whitehall excesses which might arise. Another argument is that so much money would be saved locally that many local authorities would feel that they had greater scope for 1411 spending sprees in other directions. I believe that that argument over-dramatises this aspect. I do not believe that it would happen.
I speak as one who is a member of a county education committee. Even though we prize the idea of local control, we are very circumscribed already in many respects and we are told where we can spend and how we can spend. Although there are certain improvements we can achieve, generally speaking we would save a great deal by the transfer of finance to the centre. I believe that we could still retain local control because we could set up organisations like the regional hospital boards.
§ Mr. Denis Howell
This is a fascinating discourse, but the argument against that proposal is contained in the democracy of local government. Unfortunately, what we have in the National Health Service now are self-perpetuating autocracies appointed by the Minister from professional people with no lay members. That would be the great danger if the education service followed that pattern.
§ Mr. Smith
I am obliged to the hon. Member, but I will not be drawn into debate on the efficiency of regional hospital boards. I was drawing a parallel, suggesting that we might have some form of education administration like that. I am certainly fully in favour of local representation and it must be properly elected. But even if the finance came from the Exchequer, I think that local control could be achieved.
If we cannot transfer the whole of education to the centre—and it would be wrong, probably, to do it at one fell swoop—I would hope that we could take individual elements into central financing. Certainly, the teachers' salaries element should be taken from local authority costing.
In the inquiry I have suggested, I should like other sources of local revenue to be taken into consideration. For instance, the idea of a local income tax, which the hon. Lady the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Mrs. Slater) has mentioned, should be examined. The question of a State lottery could also be considered. We should not bold up our 1412 hands in horror at the idea. We see betting shops all over the place and they seem to be fully accepted by the public. A State lottery might help a great deal to increase revenue for these services.
Despite this, there must be full and adequate consideration of the various other schemes which could be canalised for the revenue, either for the replacement of elements of the present rates or as valuable sources of additional revenue. I think of such things as entertainment taxes, local service taxes and motor vehicle taxes. All of these are worthy of consideration, although, of course, they might all be "shot down" on close examination.
We have had previous rating inquiries, but there has not been the fullest consideration on all these points. I think that eventually we must take account of the ability to pay rates. This tremendous problem will grow, and with the new and imaginative hospital plan this will add considerably to local authority financial burdens.
There is no easy, blanket solution. Action will, have to be taken in a comprehensive way. It will have to be done very carefully and I am sure that my right hon. Friend is right in not being rushed into precipitate action. This is an important aspect of the development of Britain in the 'seventies; a subject which has caught the attention of the Government in an imaginative way. In the 1970s we shall have to have a fairer form of local taxation, a system viable, realistic and in keeping with a modern approach—an approach which I see in so many other directions from my right hon. Friends who direct the Government so realistically.
§ Mr. Robert Cooke (Bristol, West)
What would my hon. Friend do if more money were found for these services by the central Government? What would he do about the powers of local authorities?
§ Mr. Smith
I thought that I had dealt with that point. I am a great supporter of local authority powers, but I believe that by moving the financing of education some of those powers would inevitably, be removed to the centre as well. I do not think that this would be crippling, however. There would soon be a working arrangement with effective local govern- 1413 ment control—far more effective, I am sure, than some people imagine.
§ 8.19 p.m.
§ Mr. Frank Allaun (Salford, East)
I ask the hon. Member for Brentford and Chiswick (Mr. D. Smith) to forgive me if I do not deal with the matters he raised. I want briefly to make three points to show that the Government's policy, far from easing the tragic housing situation, is making it worse.
First, I should like the Committee to consider the strange and disturbing happenings in the Lea Valley in North London. I quote a typical case, that of Mr. Ernest Pallett, a small farmer who owns nine acres in this area. This land was valued at about £500 an acre, a total of £4,500, until the announcement by the Minister of Housing and Local Government a couple of months ago that there was to be some encroachment into the green belt, and that houses might be built in the Lea Valley.
Overnight—and I mean literally overnight—his holding of £4,500 became worth £80,000. I assure the Committee that this is not guesswork, because within ten days Mr. Pallett received eight offers, each of more than £72,000. He is holding out because the experts advise him that the price may rise still further. These offers have been made by land speculators who in turn will sell the land for building purposes. With this fantastic rise in the price of the land what will it cost to rent one of the houses built there?
I understand that in the Lea Valley there is one man who is lucky enough to own 90 acres. Overnight his property became worth £720,000.
§ Mr. Allaun
I do not want to mention his name, but I assure the Committee that I have no personal interest in the case, though I wish I had. Without lifting a finger, the value of his property has soared to £720,000.
I am also informed that certain gentlemen were sniffing around the Lea Valley inquiring about the land in the area before the right hon. Gentleman made his announcement. I wonder whether there was a leak.
The main point that I wish to put before the Committee is not on this question of the encroachment on the green 1414 belt. The point at which I am driving is that it is because the Government have removed controls from building speculators that this kind of thing is possible. This is a perfect illustration of the land racket which is spreading throughout the country. When, in 1959, the Government removed the last of the controls on land prices, the price of land soared to such an extent that in Birmingham today it averages £500 per flat or house. This figure has to be paid before a single brick is laid. The London County Council recently built 43 flats at Roehampton. Again, before a single brick was laid the cost per dwelling was £1,500, which means roughly 30s. a week in rent for the land alone.
I am a Labour man, not a yes-man. I do not agree with everything the Labour Party does, but this kind of nonsense will be stopped by the pledge given by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Party in his recent speech at Cardiff that land will be taken under public ownership if it is to be used for building purposes. This will mean that if the value of the land rises through no effort on the part of the owner, but through the efforts of the community, through the growth of population, and through the building of new industries in the area, the increase in value will be given to the community which created it. Owner-occupiers will be protected. I maintain that public ownership is the only real way to deal with the scandals that are taking place at the moment.
Next, I ask the Committee to consider the Rent Act. It may be said that this is "old hat" and that nothing more can be said about this five-year old Act. On the contrary, I maintain that the full impact of this Act is only now beginning to be felt, and perhaps I might quote two examples to show what is happening in the back streets of our great towns and cities.
A friend of mine, who is a gardener, works for the parks department of one London council. His wage, including overtime, is 10 guineas a week. After stoppages he takes home under £10 a week. He has a wife and young baby, and because of the latter his wife is unable to go out to work. His rent for one bedroom, one living room, and a scullery is £4 10s. a week. That leaves less than £5 10s. a week for food, coal, lighting, 1415 and clothing for this family of three. I asked him how he existed, and he replied, "My wife is a good manager". She needs to be if she has to manage on £5 10s. a week. This is an example of what the Rent Act is doing to ordinary, decent, people.
The second example comes from my constituency, though doubtless similar cases abound in other great cities. A block of 30 houses has been bought by a textile merchant. They are typical two-up and two-down houses, which we know so well; the "Coronation Street" type of house, with no bath, no hot water system, and no inside toilet. Before the introduction of the Rent Act in 1957, the rent of these houses was 9s. 11d. a week, so hon. Members will have some idea of the type of house about which I am talking. The Act permitted these rents to be raised to 14s. 11d. a week. The real evil of the Act, however, lies in the fact that when a change of tenancy occurs, because of death or for some other reason, the landlord is free to do what he likes, and how!
The position now is that an old-age pensioner living in one of these houses is paying £3 a week. A young married couple, both aged 19, pay £3 10s. a week and have to do their own repairs. Another couple moved in last July at a rent of £2 10s. a week. They asked for repairs to be carried out, but met with no success. Instead, the landlord raised the rent to £3 a week so they left. The house has been re-let at £3 11s. a week, and I am told that the owner is now asking for £5 a week for identical houses. I would not be surprised if he were to get this figure because of the great hunger for houses.
With 320,000 houses a year becoming affected by "creeping decontrol", it means—and I do not think that this has been realised—that for the first time since 1915 the British people are to be completely deprived of any protection in their homes. Many people are unaware of the way in which the first rent restrictions were introduced into this country. It happened in 1915, when the landlords were raising rents throughout the country, even for the wives of soldiers who were fighting on the Western Front. Great pressure was brought to bear on the Government, to introduce rent controls, 1416 without response. Eventually, the engineers of Clydeside decided that if these restrictions were not introduced by the Government, Clydeside would stop work. Mr. Lloyd George, who was then Minister of Munitions, caught the midnight train to Glasgow, met the shop stewards in the morning and promised them that legislation would be introduced. He kept his promise. I only wish that the present Government would introduce similar protection by rescinding their Rent Act. One of the men who was most active in that campaign usually sits in the place that I am now occupying—my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Provan (Mr. W. Reid).
I believe that the Rent Act is the "Landlord's Charter". It is turning even the slums into highly profitable investments. It is an astonishing thing that London property companies are now invading the provinces and buying up whole blocks of slum houses. Some are not content to wait for the tenants to die or to move; they are threatening them, and, in the case of those who do not know their rights, are bluffing them to get out.
§ Mrs. Slater
It ought to be pointed out that if those same tenants apply to have their rent reduced the landlord has power to turn them out.
§ Mr. Allaun
Yes. Once a house is decontrolled the tenants are completely at the landlord's mercy.
I know that there are honourable exceptions, but my experience of most landlords is shocking. Recently I sent the Minister of Housing details of some of these cases. One concerns an old-age pensioner who had been living in his house since 1913 and paying his rent regularly. He was sent an eviction notice by registered post. When I raised the matter with the property company concerned it promptly said that it had "made a mistake", and withdrew the notice. But there is another case which I have yet to report to the Minister, and which also concerns an old man—he is 75 years of age—who had been quite illegally threatened with eviction. When I took this case up I found that the landlord was a Belgian investment company, with an address in Antwerp, which I am prepared to supply to the Committee if necessary.
1417 It does not matter to me whether a property company is British or Belgian, or comes from Borneo; a bad landlord is a had landlord. The point is that if Continental property and investment companies are buying up housing property in the back streets of Lancashire towns there must be something extraordinarily lucrative about the business.
§ Mr. Allaun
I fear that this Government will never do anything to hit the landlords' rents or the financiers' profits, because it is not in their interest to do so. In the House of Commons, 58 Members are directors, ex-directors, or managers of property firms. There has been an increase of 14 in the last eighteen months. Fifty-four of those 58 Members are Conservatives. As for banking and finance houses, which are doing nicely out of the high interest rates on housing, 62 Members of the House of Commons are directors, ex-directors, or managers, and of those 58 are Conservatives—although I do not see many of them sitting here at the moment. These figures come from the latest edition of "The Business Interests of Members of Parliament" by Andrew Roth.
Some people say that the Rent Act has failed. They are mistaken. The Rent Act has succeeded—in transferring about £187 million a year from the pockets of the tenants to the pockets of the landlords. We need only to look at the prices of shares of property companies to see that. On 24th January the Chief Secretary to the Treasury told me that the total incomes from rents rose from £763 million in 1956 to no less than £1,176 million in 1961. He said that caution ought to be used in dealing with these figures because they included other items. Fair enough. If we examine the Blue Book, "The National Income and Expenditure" for 1962, there is a breakdown of these figures. It shows that income from rent in the personal sector—consisting mainly of rents from privately-owned dwellings—rose from £374 million in 1957 to £506 million in 1961. Income from rent going to companies rose from £100 million to £155 million. Those figures added together reveal that in four years there was an increase of £187 million in income of that character.
What do the Ministers say when we raise the question of the Rent Act? They 1418 say—we frequently hear it in this Chamber—"if there were no Rent Act, there would be no houses to let at all. Landlords would put up the houses for sale." That is balderdash. What is the use of having houses to rent if the rent is so extortionate that working people cannot afford to pay it? I maintain that the Rent Act encourages owners to sell the houses, as they can get doubled, trebled or quadrupled prices because the rents are now doubled, trebled or quadrupled.
I was delighted to hear the Leader of the Opposition announce recently that the next Labour Government will stop any further decontrol of houses on a change of tenancy, restore security to those tenants who /lave become decontrolled and set up rent tribunals to deal with rents. I hope that these tribunals will make sweeping reductions. The Rent Act is anything but old stuff. It will be a vital issue at the municipal elections next week and, I believe, at the General Election. My bet for the date for the General Election is June, 1964.
§ Mr. Allaun
Lastly, let us have a look at the terrible effect of interest rates. The 3 per cent. increase, virtually doubling the interest rate, means that on a £1,800 house the repayment cost has risen, roughly, by £5,000, or 32s. 6d. a week on the rent. It annoys me to hear people talking about the cost of building labour or even of building materials, which is a flea-bite compared with the £5,000 increase in interest charges on a single council house.
This weekend I spoke to a member of the housing committee of the Manchester City Council. She told me that the charge for new three-bedroomed council flats in Manchester is £2 7s. a week. Based on twice the gross annual value. But because of interest charges, and after the Government subsidy has been paid, there is a loss of 30s. a week on each new council flat. The only way in which the council can recoup this money is by spreading the increase over all their council flats. This means that tenants who may have been living in and paying rent on an old council house for 40 years are having an increase in their rent and this is leading to a great deal 1419 of disquiet and anger. In many cases throughout the country the anger is mistakenly directed against a Labour-controlled council which has to impose rent increases, rather than against the guilty men in Westminster who are using the council as scapegoats for their policy.
The chairman of another north-west housing authority told me that, after allowing for Government subsidy, there is a deficit on a new council house in his town of £60 a year for sixty years—that is the repayment period—in other words, a deficit on each house of £3,600. This forces councils to raise the rents and, maybe, to raise the rates as well.
§ Mr. Allaun
It is approximately £2 7s. a week, but, if they were to charge the full economic rent, it would bring it to £3 17s. a week. How does one expect working people to pay rents of £3 17s. a week when, for engineering labourers in my part of the country, the basic rate is under £10 a week and many workers are unable to increase it working overtime? It is hypocrisy for the Government to urge local authorities to expand their building programmes when the Government raise interest rates to such an extent that councils are forced to cut their programmes. We all know that the number of council houses now built is half what it was in 1954.
Referring to improvement grants, on page 15 of the Report the Minister states that the Parliamentary Secretary opened in Sheffield last November an exhibition of demonstration houses in which baths, hot water and inside lavatories had been installed. That was very commendable. It is then reported that within three weeks 22,000 people visited the demonstration houses and another 6,000 visited the exhibition. That proves the point we have been making for a long time, that there is widespread longing for these improvements to be introduced. Following that exhibition, how many landlords responded and introduced baths to the houses they own? I wager that the number was under 100 because that has 1420 been the experience in other parts of the country. Where landlords will not play, the only solution is for local authorities to take over the houses and do the jobs themselves.
I conclude by recommending the Minister to study the proposal by the Labour Party for compulsory purchase orders not on an individual scale. We all know that C.P.O.s are cumbersome weapons and that individually they are very time-wasting instruments. It is proposed by the Labour Party that when landlords do not comply, by asking for and applying the grant and introducing baths, there should be a single compulsory purchase order for the whole improvement area. The job would be very much expedited in that way.
§ 8.43 p.m.
§ Mr. James Allason (Hemel Hempstead)
The hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Allaun), at the beginning of his speech, raised a very serious problem. He gave the example of the Lea Valley, but it is a problem which arises all over the country and must give every thoughtful man considerable worry. It is the problem of the difference between the value of building land and the value of agricultural land.
This is a desperately difficult problem. The hon. Member's party tried to solve it by the 1947 Act, which was found to be quite hopeless and would not work. That finally disappeared by the efforts of my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary after the death of Mr. Pilgrim, which brought home to people how regrettable it is suddenly to serve compulsory purchase notices on individuals and not to give a fair price for what they believe to be theirs. Although it has resulted in this great difficulty of substantial increases in the price, I am certain that it is right to give fair compensation.
I see that the Labour Party has now given up the idea of trying to tax the increment and has gone over to full-scale nationalisation of all land to which planning permission is granted. I am not clear how this will make it any more useful to the person who is to acquire the land and dwell on it afterwards. Is the Labour Party to charge the full price of the land, that is, the true price? The hon. Gentleman gave an example in Birmingham and said that it cost £500 1421 a house. But this is sheer economics. It is not that anybody is profiteering. It is the fact that land in the middle of Birmingham is very valuable.
What are hon. Members opposite going to do about it? Will they sell the land, perhaps I should say rent the land, at any rate dispose of the land, at a cheaper rate than the true value? If they do that they can, of course, be selective and some happy people would get something for less than it is worth. Alternatively, are they going to charge the full value, in which case it will not be of any assistance to those people whom they are appearing to help in fighting the high cost of land? I do not think that the Labour Party's proposal is the right one. I agree that it is a very serious problem and an affront to this country that by the mere fact of being granted planning permission there is suddenly an enormous increase in someone's personal income.
The hon. Member for Salford, East was not entirely fair when he gave statistics of the increased rents that were paid between 1956 and 1961. He was highly selective. He took the year before the Rent Act came into force and five years later. If he had taken 1939, he might have remembered that there was virtually no increase in rents between 1939 and 1956. Taking those years, and remembering that in general things cost about three times as much as they did before the war, the figures are not so startling. They would be rather startling the other way. If on the rents which were paid in 1939 there is a rise of only up to 50 per cent. in 1961, that is not something which can be shown to be a horrible scandal. Surely the Rent Act should have come in many years ago. It would not then have created hardship by the Government having to wait, putting it off so long after the war and then doing what it was suddenly necessary to do.
The hon. Member discussed improvement grants. We have to put this in perspective. I am, naturally, in favour of improvement grants and the maximum use being made of them. At the same time, it is ridiculous to say that every house should here and now have the improvement grant system applied to it, because we well know that unless there is fifteen years' valuable life in the house, the improvement grant cannot be applied.
1422 We are rebuilding houses, many are being pulled down and many new houses are being built. The baths population in the country is therefore rising considerably. It is not a question of there being a shortage of 4 million baths which will continue for seventy-five years, as the hon. Member for Aston (Mr. J. Silverman) suggested. This problem is solving itself, although I agree that the use of improvement grants is a good way of tackling it.
But not everybody wants his house improved. I can quote cases in which tenants have refused an improvement because it meant a loss of accommodation. If a bath is put into the house it may well mean that another room is lost. Moreover, the tenant does not want to pay the increased rent which follows from the improvement grant.
My hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) mentioned that under present regulations the bath must be in a separate room. It might be helpful if the bathroom could be combined with another room, for example, the kitchen. There are baths designed for this purpose. It then might be easier to get people to accept the installation of baths. I hope that my right hon. Friend will say something about that tonight. He knows that it is some time since I wrote to him on the subject being that this should be done.
Next, I want to discuss rating. I do not agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Brentford and Chiswick (Mr. D. Smith), who suggested that if only we had an inquiry into rating wonderful new means of local government finance would be found. We have heard these suggestions before. This is a vast subject, and local government finance involves colossal sums. Running lotteries and getting fees for motor vehicle licences will not solve the problem, for those sums are quite small.
There are two ways of tackling the matter. Either we can have an entirely fresh form of local taxation, such as a local Income Tax, or we can transfer substantial parts of the expenditure to the Government. There was a suggestion in the Daily Telegraph that it would be simple to have a local Income Tax. The local authority would decide how much rate it wanted to collect and would notify the Inland Revenue, who would 1423 work out how much would have to be collected from the local inhabitants and would add an additional Income Tax assessment. The Income Tax authorities would be the rate collectors. But I have calculated that the average increase in Income Tax would be 3s. 6d. in the £. For some authorities it would be very much higher and for some it would be lower. People have been thinking in terms of 2d. and 3d. on the rate of Income Tax, but the figure required would be much higher.
Of the taxation in this country, about 50 per cent. is raised in direct taxation and 50 per cent. in indirect taxation, rates being one part of indirect taxation. An objection made to rates is often that some people can afford to pay but that the rates also fall on others who can afford to pay no Income Tax at all. But these people are already paying 50 per cent. of the taxation of the country by other means of indirect taxation. If we suddenly shift an enormous element of taxation away from indirect taxation and on to direct taxation, all we shall do is to put up the rates of taxation to such a height that they would be punitive and there would be a disincentive to go out and earn money. An increase in the present standard rate of Income Tax by up to 3s. 6d. in the £ would not continue to bring in continuing returns. Inevitably, there would be diminishing returns.
Because of their short memories, people have the problem of rating a little out of proportion. In 1955, rates were 26s. in the £. Since then they have in general increased by only 5 per cent. In 1956, there was revaluation. Rates came down by one-third. Thereafter, they continued to rise. This is a highly unsatisfactory way of dealing with rates. It gives rise to much trouble. There was a means of changing the rate burden in 1956. It was taken by the Government, for very good reasons. The effect was a terrific reduction in rates. Nobody thanks the Government for a reduction in rates. The reduction is merely accepted. Then there was an increase in rates. When there is an increase in rates, there is fury.
The present position is a slight increase over the 1955 position. We cannot go on having continual increases in rates on this scale, which is 6 per cent. or 7 per cent. per year. We have expanding ser- 1424 vices. We need these services to expand, but we cannot ask the people to pay an increase in rates of 6 per cent. or 7 per cent. year after year, with no further hope of reduction. All derating has now been abolished. There is no hope of finding other rating revenue now from industry. Everyone is fully rated. Therefore, from now on the only possibility is a steady increase of 6 per cent. or 7 per cent. a year, as against an increase in personal incomes of 3 per cent. to 3½ per cent. per year. This is intolerable.
I do not want to see a bulk transfer of some services as has been suggested. If that happens, we shall go back to the 1956 procedure. There will be a colossal reduction in rating, but it will start to creep up again and everybody will still be disgruntled with rating. My solution is to deal with the problem through the block grant. This merely keeps in tune with the increase in expenditure. I want to see it do more. I accept that, if personal incomes rise by 3 per cent. to 3½ per cent., rates can perhaps rise by 3 per cent. a year. Anything over that must be carried by the Government. This is a fair way of dealing with the problem. It leaves local authorities responsible far their own expenditure. It will take us many years before the central Government carries 75 per cent., 80 per cent. or 85 per cent. of the burden and local authorities are no longer fully responsible. This is a way of dealing with it.
The present system is not satisfactory for those on small fixed incomes. My hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton may be interested to know that such people do not live merely at the seaside. They are scattered all over the country. This is a very serious problem for them. They have no means of increasing their income. They are now on the same income as they were before the war, perhaps, and do not get the old-age pension. For these people the situation is desperately serious. It is very difficult to define them. In general, they must be the older people. I suggest that they should be let off paying for education.
When the 1956 Local Government Act was going through the House the Government took the view that it was not necessary to make any allowance under the general grant for increasing populations. They took that view on the basis that there was no proof that the 1425 expanding populations carried higher rates. We have now had experience of this. For example, in Hertfordshire our rates have risen 8 per cent. above the average for the rest of the country, solely because of the expanding population. Far this reason we want to see the formula for the general grant changed to take account of expanding populations as well as increased rates from the whole of the country, for which, I am sure, a firm policy is necessary.
§ 9.6 p.m.
§ Mr. James MacColl (Widnes)
Today's debate has been extremely interesting throughout. Of particular interest to me was the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Mr. O'Malley) who kept us all attentive as he gave a thorough survey of the problems of local government. What I particularly liked about his speech was the knowledge he displayed of his constituency, a knowledge which many of us envy.
It is an admirable thing in a debate on local government that such a knowledge should be displayed. A local government debate should provide an opportunity for hon. Members to bring their special local problems into the common discussion and, out of that, we may formulate policy. I hope very much that the hon. Member for Rotherham will wish to continue to join the select band of local government fans who never tire of talking about rate deficiency grants, the general grant formula, and so on.
It was nice to see the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Public Building and Works back again in fields into which he used to stray. However, I thought that it was an astonishingly bad piece of stage management. It is extraordinarily difficult to understand the Government's sense of timing which led them to decide to put that right hon. Gentleman on to the esoteric subject of industrialised building. This is especially so after one has heard the speeches that have been made by hon. Members on both sides, for the whole atmosphere has been one of concern, worry, anxiety and frustration. Since the Government should have anticipated that that would be the kind of atmosphere demonstrated in the debate, it is difficult to understand 1426 why the Minister of Public Building and Works should have taken that line.
It meant, of course, that we did not have the Minister of Housing and Local Government telling us what was in his mind in moving his own Estimates, a rather odd thing. It would not be quite fair to say that it was Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark but in view of the presence of the Mnister of Public Building and Works one might say that it was a case of the grave digger hogging the whole of the first act, so that we did not hear Hamlet's soliloquy:The time is out of joint; O cursed spite, That ever I was born to set it right!The right hon. Gentleman, rather cheerfully and jovially, appeared to be encouraged by what was happening in almost every direction and I thought that this was not the moment to introduce that sort of note.
After all, whatever one may say about the causes, the facts stare one in the face. We have just had the new housing returns showing that new completions are down by nearly half in the last quarter. It may be considered that the bad weather had a lot to do with this, but that is not a time to be complacent about it. Completions, improvements, standards and everything else seem to be going down. The school building programme is being drastically cut. Despite this, the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman were interesting and it would be a pity to dismiss industrialised building offhand. It is a very important matter.
It is most desirable to look at its administrative implications in terms of getting large orders for big areas of housing, and the like, but it would be a mistake to start thinking of housing entirely in terms of great sweeps of buildings. There is a great deal of most important painstaking infilling to be done in built-up areas. But I welcome what he told us and I would say to the right hon. Gentleman, again following Hamlet:Well said, old Mole! canst work i' the earth so fast?The hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mr. G. Johnson Smith) quoted the section of the Report on improvement grants, and asked what was happening to them. The answer is very simple—they are all down. He asked what had been the effect of the circular issued in August urging greater action in 1427 this connection. The answer is that local authority grant went up in the last quarter, but baths and showers, food stores, hot water supplies—all went down.
The only one that went up was water closets. I envisage the conference at Chequers last weekend, with the Government gazing in blank alarm at the collapse of their whole policy. The Common Market has collapsed, Beeching is up the spout, spies galore all over the country, teachers in revolt, the Guards in mutiny—and then, in the middle of it all, the right hon. Gentleman says, "You needn't worry, Prime Minister—water closets are buoyant". I give him full credit. [Laughter.] There is nothing to laugh at about water closets—they are a very important aspect of housing—but what I complain of is the Government's attitude in this debate of completely ignoring the depth of feeling there is throughout the country and in this House over what is happening in local government, and what is being done about these problems.
A number of hon. Members have mentioned rates. We have not yet had anything at all from the Government on that subject. I noticed on the Order Paper this afternoon a Question asking whether the names of the members of the new committee of inquiry into rates were available. It was one of the subtle Questions that do not get answered orally, and with which the right hon. Gentleman and his Department are so good at dealing. Can we be told who is to be on that committee, or when it will report? Will the committee's report affect the current financial year, or will the results of its inquiries be of importance only in the next financial year?
The keynote on rates throughout has been delay and dither. We have had debate after debate on the subject. We were asking for art inquiry in 1959. We had a debate in 1960 which has already been referred to, in which the hon. Member for Brentford and Chiswick (Mr. D. Smith), who is now such a courageous crusader in this sphere, was notable for voting against having an inquiry. There was an occasion on a Friday last year when it was the Minister of Public Building and Works who was the villain of the piece. He was put up to refuse an 1428 inquiry, when Conservative back-benchers begged for one.
Then we had a document that purported to show the effect of the new valuations and, in many respects, the impact was underestimated. A comparison of Cmnd. Papers 1663 and 1982 shows that in many respects they are very different, the one being published before revaluation, and the other afterwards. By this failure to tackle these problems we have got ourselves into an appalling mess which everybody seems to realise except the Government. There is hardly a voice to be heard in or outside the House of Commons which does not express realisation of the seriousness of the present problem.
The right hon. Gentleman must work out some kind of quick answer to this problem. In the long run there is considerable thinking to be done about the source of local government revenue. We have discussed local Income Tax today and other forms of raising income or by transferring services and so on, but these things are bound to take time. Nobody really knows what is the incidence of rates. People talk a great deal about rates not being paid by the unmarried lodger, that they are a burden on the landlord or the tenant, or whoever it may be, that people with large families live in highly-rated houses, because they need several rooms, and so on. All these problems require a careful and scientifically conducted survey. The incidence of local taxation should not be all that difficult to work out.
This should be the basis of any serious thought on the problem, and this is why it is quite impossible for the Opposition to think out right schemes without the facts and the basis on which to work. My experience in London is that fiats seem to be one of the biggest causes of concern, and that council flats in the expensive central areas of big towns are having the most alarming increases of rates. Here is a particular problem which needs to be examined carefully by the Government.
What the Government have to look at is not simply, as the Home Secretary used to tell us, only at values and not at increases in expenditure, because what matters to the ratepayer is the total amount he has to pay. He has his income distributed in a certain way and he has 1429 not much left over. He is accustomed to pay so much Income Tax, so much repayment of mortgage, and so much in rates. What matters to him is the occasion when he is suddenly faced with a large increase in that amount.
I noticed a survey in the Financial Times the other day of three central London boroughs, Westminster, Marylebone and Paddington, which indicated that the averages of increases were about 50 per cent., or a little more for residential ratepayers. If the average had gone up by something like half, then to balance out the average many must have gone up by a great deal more. This is a problem which the Government should look at.
I do not know whether it is the answer, but one thing which is worth looking at is the possibility of easing the shock and the burden a little by having a transitional period. When the grant system is changed there is a transitional period before local authorities have to adjust their accounting to the new situation. It might well be the answer that people who pay more than 50 per cent. more should be reduced to a half or less for the first year, and that over the quinquennium there should be a slow transitional adjustment so that at the end of the period they would be paying the full amount.
This would give people time to plan and prepare and to consider the whole impact of the problem. This would mean that the rest of the rate burden would have to be distributed over the other ratepayers, or that the Government might make a grant of a certain amount to a local authority. The Government might say to the local authority, "If you are prepared to have a transitional scheme of this sort, we are prepared to meet it with a contribution towards the cost to the rate fund." Whatever be the answer, urgent action is required and it is no use our waiting until we have solved the final problems.
As this is a Supply debate, it is perhaps an appropriate time to say something about the administrative problem and the need for the Ministry and the Government to be quick to encourage local authority action and initiative. I had a case in Widnes quite recently. I do not give it as an example because it happens to come from Widnes, or because it is a big one, because it is not. But it is a very good illustration of the 1430 annoyance and frustration which conies to local authorities.
In December, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced his scheme for dealing with unemployment. Among other things, there was to be provision whereby local authorities in certain areas, including the North, would be allowed to begin small capital works up to £15,000 provided that they were started by the end of the last financial year and were finished by the end of the summer. In other words, these schemes were meant to be quick and comparatively small schemes but designed to deal with some aspect of the urgent problem of unemployment.
The Widnes Borough Council picked up a scheme which it wanted to undertake, namely, the building of a new mortuary. It would cost just under £10,000. It was not something which required permission. There was no grant involved except perhaps a very small amount on the rate deficiency grant. The plans were prepared by the borough architect, who is an experienced professional man with a good deal of experience of different types of building, and they were sent to the Ministry for loan sanction.
One would have thought that, if even there was a case where the Ministry might say, "All right; go ahead quickly", it was this. But what happened? Back came a letter from someone who made several comments. One was that, if the door were put round the other way, there would not be such a good view into the mortuary. Another was that, if the height of the windows were raised, and the upper part thrust over, people would not be able to look in to see the fun at the post-mortem. The third comment was that, if the number of visitors was likely to be small, one lavatory for both male and female visitors would be acceptable, but, if there were likely to be many visitors, consideration should be given to providing lavatories for both male and female.
This was a plan prepared by a qualified professional architect who spends his life designing and building things.
§ Mr. MacColl
A skilled professional man knows his limitations and knows 1431 where to go for advice, and this is precisely what had been done in this case.
In fact, if one turned the door round one could not then get the bier, on which the corpse would be, into the mortuary. Secondly, the Home Office pathologist who had been consulted said that he must have as much light as possible for modern post-mortem techniques, so there was professional advice on that. Thirdly, the medical officer of health, who is the authority on public health matters, had estimated the likely number of visitors and advised that one lavatory would be enough.
I am not arguing about a small or trivial matter. The point is that all the people concerned, who have their other jobs to do, stopped their other jobs—this was a letter from the Ministry, which had to be taken seriously—and they got in a huddlle together to think out the answer which had to be sent back in order to obtain loan sanction. When one remembers what was said by the Working Party on Local Government Manpower in 1950 and 1951, one wonders how far we really have come in recognising that local authorities are adult organisations, that they have their highly qualified professional staff and that—this was one of the things said by the Working Party—one should not try to do the job oneself but should leave it to the professional man on the spot to make a decision.
I mention that not to grind a constituency axe, but simply to make the point that, if we are to get a drive on in municipal building and municipal capital investment, we must have more confidence in local councils.
§ Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop
May I refer to a recent case in which everything was left to the local authority? The cost of the new Devon County Council building went up from approximately £600,000 to £1.6 million between the estimate coming out and the end of the building.
§ Mr. MacColl
I recommend the hon. Gentleman to advise his constituents to vote Labour at the next Devon County Council elections.
There is a need for a great deal more co-ordination between different departments. I still hear complaints about the sterilising of sites. One of the effects of the cuts in education programmes is likely 1432 to be that, in carrying out new housing development, no one will know whether a school will be built at the right time. All the efforts to get local authorities to look at these problems as one and to phase the development are wrecked because a particular school is knocked out of the programme. Meanwhile, the site is sterilised because no other building can be done on it.
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will tell us something about what is going on concerning overspill and when building is likely to start on the latest new town. No one seems to know whether building the Runcorn new town will commence in the next two or three years, or whether it will be five or six years before building starts.
I came across an interesting example of the implications of overspill the other day. Some of the nicest constituents of my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Exchange (Mrs. Braddock) have come to live in Halewood. They are in a very awkward financial situation because they are old people who have been moved out of the City of Liverpool into the country. In some cases their rent is slightly lower and in some cases probably a little higher. They have lost their privilege tickets on the city transport. All their friends, relations and interests are at the other end of the city and they now have to pay the full fare. This is a sudden increase in their outgoings.
It may be said that this concerns the Ministry of Transport and has nothing to do with the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. But it does concern the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, because that is the kind of human problem which hits people involved in these big housing moves. It is the need to co-ordinate and to get people to look at all these human problems as one which is vitally important. It is not the city corporation but the Ministry of Transport which is at fault, because it will not change the regulations applying to these privilege tickets.
Finally, I turn to the question of land prices. What my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun) said about the Lea Valley scheme is a typical example of the fact that the inevitable toll of all these things, whether they concern the development of highways, such as we heard about at Question Time today with regard to Slough, or 1433 anything else, is increased land costs. The Government have done, and are doing, absolutely nothing about this.
This is not the place to defend the Labour Party programme on the matter or the time to defend the Labour Party's views. What I ask the Government is: what is their alternative? It is no answer to wreck the existing arrangements, to put no others in their place and to say that nothing else will do. That is complete defeatism by the Government in facing what everybody outside knows are the real problems. That is the indictment that one has to make of the Minister.
There are thousands of worried people who are trying to run their local councils, grappling with these difficult problems without any encouragement or help on the important questions. Some of them are Conservatives, who are worried because they are going to lose their seats. Some of them are Socialists. They have the problem of trying to develop the social services, but are faced with high interest rates, high land prices and the difficulty of getting quick decisions from the central Government on matters like loan sanctions, all these varying things combining together to create the feeling of frustration which is rotting local government.
I do not know what bright ideas we will have from the Minister when he winds up the debate. All I can say is that it is a little offensive that we should solemnly have this debate, based on a Government statement, introducing Ministry of Housing and Local Government Estimates, which consisted of a genial discourse upon certain esoteric methods of building construction and with very little and remote relationship to the problems of local government as they are felt in the country.
§ 9.27 p.m.
§ The Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs (Sir Keith Joseph)
I join the hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) in congratulating the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. O'Malley) on an excellent maiden speech. He showed a remarkable amount of self-confidence for a beginner, and we look forward to him speaking much more, particularly on these subjects, as his experience develops. The hon. Member said that he would only pose questions. He posed them remark- 1434 ably effectively and he so far forgot himself occasionally as to give a few answers. I was particularly glad to note his fervour on the subject of baths for all, with which I thoroughly agree.
We have listened to an amiable speech by the hon. Member for Widnes, but on one occasion he touched me on the raw. The hon. Member's mortuary story was very galling. I am sure that there are at least two sides to it, as there generally are when one goes deep into one of these allegations.
The background to today's debate needs a moment of explanation. By common agreement, the country has had, under both parties, large investment programmes since the war and yet, as we look around, we can all agree that there remains a great deal to be done. What has happened to all this investment? Why have we not made better headway against the commonly agreed needs of modernising the country? It is, of course, the fault of the character who looms behind all our speeches but has not appeared much in today's debate, namely, the healthy phenomenon of a rapidly rising population.
It is this which causes us, like Alice, to have to run fast to overtake the need, let alone to eliminate it. There is also the fact, studiously ignored by hon. Members opposite, that with the rising population has, mercifully for most of the population, gone a rapid and sustained rise in real incomes, also.
The hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) and the hon. Member for Widnes teased my right hon. Friends and me for choosing to open the debate through my right hon. Friend the Minister of Public Building and Works. Hon. Members opposite must, however, recognise that one of the main common factors to all the Votes which are under discussion is the performance, effectiveness and productivity of our construction industries.
If they teased him because what he was talking about lay largely in the hands of the construction industry, they misunderstood what he was saying, which was what the hon. Member for Fulham rightly said was his responsibility, namely, the changes that the Government seek to bring about so that the construction industry may expand to its true potential. That is what my right hon. 1435 Friend's speech was about, and it was an excellent opening to the debate.
I shall try to deal with most—I regret that I shall not be able to cover all—of the things mentioned by hon. Members. I shall do so under the headings of housing, planning and rating before turning to the more general themes which have emerged. Firstly, I deal with the housing aspect.
The hon. Member for Fulham trotted, as he always does, alertly through the housing field, pointing out what needs to be done. We share with him the recognition that the time is ripe for further developments, but, to continue the series of quotations from Hamlet. I would prefer… meet it is, I set it down …In other words, there is a White Paper pending. The Committee will not expect from me tonight the revelation of the further developments we intend.
My hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mr. G. Johnson Smith) in what I am told was an excellent speech, spoke of a particular enthusiasm of mine—twilight area renewal. As the Committee knows, that is a vast job which is waiting until each town and city makes good its remaining shortages and eliminates its slums; for it will have to be tackled on a really large scale. Meanwhile, as I have said before, this very complex problem needs to be studied, and I am glad to say that the first of the pilot studies I have undertaken to inaugurate was given some publicity last week and it happens, by pure coincidence, to be in the constituency of the hon. Member for Fulham.
I must confess that though I agree with much of the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, South (Mr. Hocking), I thought that he was a little sanguine in saying that private enterprise can help with slum clearance. But where it can help, and I am sure he is absolutely right here, is in just those twilight area redevelopments which will be such a massive task.
I thought that he gave a very sensible warning in saying that we should not have too many industrial systems but should try to choose early which are going to be successful so (that we can get all the benefits of cheaper unit costs 1436 which come from quantity. If there is general stress on the need for enlightened producers and contractors, there is just as much stress on having enlightened clients as well.
I was absent at the time, but I have been informed of their speeches, and I do agree with the spirit of what was said by the hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun) and by my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) about getting on with improvement grants, but again I must ask the Committee to await the White Paper.
The hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) was on to a good point in saying that if we were to accelerate redevelopment there would be all sorts of consequential problems such as those resulting from the alteration of expectations of property owners. The problem is so complicated and so many aspects are involved that I cannot answer her now, but I will write at length to her and discuss any publicity she may like to have for the letter.
The hon. Member for Fulham and the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington) rightly drew attention to the thoroughly unpleasant and disagreeable findings of that admirable body Family Service Units. It is true—and no Government spokesman seeks to deny it—that finding rented accommodation to let in London is a desperately serious problem, but we on this side firmly and sincerely believe that rent control would make this problem worse and not better. In the recent White Paper on London the Government have undertaken to set up—and this will happen very soon—a Committee to study the condition of housing in London, both public and private, to see whether anything more needs to be done to protect those who can least look after themselves.
In setting up this undoubted problem, hon. Gentlemen opposite have failed to mention the contribution that local authorities can make. There are in London over half a million local authority dwellings and these are ones to which the poorer people should first be able to have recourse. I agree that at the moment there is much to be done to make life more tolerable for the poorer people seeking homes in London.
1437 I turn now to the planning side, and I should like to deal with the general allegations made by the hon. Member for Fulham. He teased my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport and said that within the Government there was no close consultation on matters connected with planning. This is nonsense. There is the closest consultation between all Departments concerned on all planning matters. Each decision made may be subject to criticism, but the decisions are made as a result of the closest collaboration, and in the case of the proposed railway closures I shall be in the closest touch with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport under both my hats, that is the Welsh hat and the planning hat.
My hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South expressed strong views about Euston, and I shall note what he said. He also spoke about offices in London, and, though I am by no means complacent about this, I think that he underestimated the possible effect of the decentralisation of offices, and of the relief that may be achieved by the location of offices bureau.
I come next to the difficult subject of rating, and I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Chippenham (Mr. Awdry) and my hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Allason) on showing a mastery of this subject and an understanding of the many related implications which it is a pleasure to hear from behind one, because one can follow a policy only if the implications of changes are clearly understood. My hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton and my hon. Friend the Member for Brentford and Chiswick (Mr. D. Smith) spoke more briefly on this subject, and I shall take note of what they said.
It is bound to be difficult, and we have seen this in rents as well, when we emerge from a period when some factor, in this case rates, and in another case rents, has been frozen, and the pattern of rents or rates is disturbed, making, as the hon. Member for Blackburn said about another subject, expectations on which people have based their lives suddenly become false. This emergence from the frozen domestic rate period that lasted for about 24 years was bound to reveal sore spots. This is why the Government have undertaken to appoint a committee—and I 1438 should be able to make a further announcement about this before the end of the month—to study the impact of rates on individual households.
I would, however, remind the Committee that the taxpayer already bears 52 per cent. of the cost of local authority services. Industry and commerce are now fully rated and bear 24 per cent. of this cost, and that leaves householders to bear just under a quarter of the total cost.
§ Sir K. Joseph
I have made no pretence about this. The committee will not be able to report in time to make any difference to householders this year.
I was going to complete the analysis of the burden of cost by saying that by common agreement, in general, though there are differences about some of them, local authority services are expanding healthily, and the only criticism that we get in many fields is that they should be expanding even faster. These services, expanding, healthy, and needed, have to be paid for. In answer to my hon. Friends, it would be possible for the Chancellor to shift more of the cost from the ratepayer to the taxpayer. We do not have to assess exact categories. If the Chancellor wanted to transfer more of the cost he could do so, but I point out to the Committee that this would be a clumsy and indiscriminate way of helping those ratepayers who are hurt, since again, by common agreement, there are a large number, to my mind a great majority of the country, to whom rates are not a burden. The problem is that there is a burden—a severe burden but an unknown one, on what I believe is a relatively small proportion of the country. And it is exactly the effect on the sort of person that is suffering most by the impact of rates after revaluation that the committee is intended to assess.
In rates there is always the familiar story of the hon. Member for Fulham hankering after a specific grant. But the taxpayers' share has nothing to do with the question whether grants are paid in a specific or a general way. And the freedom of local authorities from Whitehall's petty control, and financial respon- 1439 sibility and discretion for local authorities are far more likely to be served better by the general grant than by specific grants.
I now turn to the main criticism emerging from the Opposition, and it is a quite legitimate one, namely, how much better the Socialists would perform with their techniques, were they in office. This comes down to two or three subjects. I shall deal with them seriously, as they were put forward.
First, there is the question of a special rate of interest for housing. They say that housing would be very much helped if rates of interest were 2 per cent. or 3 per cent., instead of the present market rate of just under 6 per cent. We all agree that those people who cannot afford their own houses must be helped by one means or the other. Our chosen instrument is the subsidy, which we are prepared to revise if necessary. The Opposition's chosen instrument is a special interest rate.
We believe that help in housing should be confined to those who need it. There is no magic in the idea of a special interest rate. It will not produce more houses. It is merely one way of giving financial help, and in our view a very poor one, because it is so wasteful and indiscriminate. It helps those who do not need help as much as those who do, and it hides the extent of the help given, therefore hiding the true cost of housing and distorting all the economic incentives. Somebody has to pay, whether help is given by subsidy or by an artificial interest rate, and if the money is found by taxation it should not be wasted by an indiscriminate use through a special interest rate, when it could be used for some other purpose.
Furthermore, if the Socialists introduced a special interest rate together with the genuine interest rate, they would rapidly find themselves forced to use physical controls, as they were during their last period of office. We cannot reduce the cost of housing by this dodge. That is why we stick by the subsidy and, in answer to the hon. Member for Birmingham, Aston (Mr. J. Silverman), to revise it when necessary.
At the moment, finance is not the limiting factor on housing. In many areas council rents are still very low, and local 1440 authorities can increase their resources by raising those rents. Many local authorities do not even have rent rebate schemes of any sort, but their rents are still well below twice the gross value.
The second allegation of the Opposition concerns the cost of land. This is a serious subject, and I shall treat it seriously. Land is expensive when it is scarce, and when demand is high. No juggling about will alter that basic economic fact. We offset the disadvantages of this by our subsidy arrangements, which are threefold. There is the ordinary housing subsidy, the additional housing subsidy for high buildings, where we have to use expensive land and a high rate of density, and a third rate to help local authorities to purchase expensive land.
The Opposition claim that they can cheapen land by the land commission method, but they can do this only by buying the land well below its market value if they are going significantly to cheapen the cost. Since vendors will not voluntarily sell land below the market value, this means that the Opposition's idea must involve compulsory purchase on a massive scale.
But that is not the end of it, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead so rightly said. The moment we produce a bargain by offering to sell or let land below its real price we are faced by the difficult and ticklish problem of deciding to whom to sell or let it. We therefore have to have an allocation scheme, which raises all sorts of difficulties. The lucky people who get the land below its proper price can make a killing by making profit on the discount they receive when buying the land. And there is a by-product. [Interruption.] Hon. Members opposite should face the implications of their programme. I have read their policy thoroughly.
§ Sir K. Joseph
I am describing, not the policy—indeed, dear me not—but the implication which emerges.
Another implication is that, were this policy adopted, there could be no further owner-occupation as we know it. Let me make it plain straight away that the Opposition do not intend to touch existing owner-occupiers. But they 1441 would not have any further owner-occupation in the sense that we know it. There would be no freedom to buy and sell houses and land. There would be no freedom to own a house and the land and, in due course, when one had paid off the cost, to pay no more rent. It would be leasehold only.
My hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, South was quite right when he remarked that the Socialists do not seem to care about owner-occupiers. The hon. Member for Fulham did not even mention them in his opening speech. Let me repeat that there will be no interference under this plan with existing owner-occupiers. I do not want to misrepresent it. But under this plan there will be only new owner-occupiers of houses who will not own the land, and therefore as the lease on the land conies to an end they will have to pay some sort of rent.
§ Mr. M. Stewart
It is explicit in the statement of the policy that we do not propose to apply this to a site on which an owner wishes to build a house for his own use. He is simply excluded.
§ Sir K. Joseph
I am sorry, but I have a different part of the text:The Land Commission could help by leasing plots of land to some owner-occupiers"—"leasing" plots of land, that is the key word—on specially favourable terms.And this from a party— —
§ Mr. Stewart
Will the right hon. Gentleman, instead of reading out a selected version, study the passage on page 20, which he has ignored because it does not meet his argument?
§ Sir K. Joseph
I am not seeking to misrepresent the hon. Gentleman. But the fact is clear. They will lease land. At a time when hon. Members opposite are clamouring about the injustice of leasehold in Wales, they propose to impose leasehold on people who want to own their own houses in England.
§ Mr. Stewart rose— —
§ Mr. Stewart
The Minister ought not to stick at that point. He is deliberately misrepresenting it, or else he has failed to read the policy. Hon 1442 Members who are interrupting me have not read the policy. On page 20 it states:We can ignore, too, small sites not offered for sale on which the owner simply wishes to build a house OT garage for his own use.They are excluded from the operation of the policy.
§ Sir K. Joseph
What about estates that are developed now? The bulk of owner-occupied houses are sold to people by the development of estates. Socialist proposals under this policy would involve massive compulsory purchase below market value and no further owner-occupation in the sense that we know it. So the great scheme for cheapening land prices turns out to be a choice between confiscation and a confidence trick.
All these complicated devices are not the product of evil men. The Opposition sincerely want more houses. But hon. Members opposite will not work with economic forces. We are told that the local authorities are held back because of interest rates and because of finance. Nonsense. These are not the obstacles. The obstacles are land, labour and, in some local authorities, lack of management drive. Land is to some extent my responsibility, and in the last 18 months the Government have announced five additional new towns for Merseyside and the Midlands and foreseen the second generation of new and expanding towns for Londoners.
Let us turn to the management drive of local authorities. Assuming the land, local authorities are raising their programmes where there is need for more housing, and with present levels of interest rates and subsidy, look at the splendid results to be produced by two admirable Socialist councils, Salford and Gateshead. Despite all the difficulties about which hon. Members opposite have accused us and these so-called obstacles, the Gateshead Council is going to put up its average housing programme from 220 over the last three years to 1,000 per annum over the next three years. I am paying tribute here. In the case of Salford, instead of 360 per annum in the last three years, it is proposed to rise to 1,500 per annum—and all credit to them.
Under a Tory Government, despite interest rates and all the other allegations, 1443 we have had a massive simultaneous rising programme in all fields of social investment, the highest record programme of investment this country has ever seen—in all fields simultaneously. "Ah", say the Socialists, "but we would do better." Why look into the crystal when you can read the book? I would not look back to 1950 just to point at the housing programme. One should not look at these things in isolation, but 1950 was five years after the war and it was the year in which the late Mr. Bevan said that the housing problem would be solved. We should note that at that time the Socialists had everything which they said was necessary—complete State domination, all the controls, interest rate at 2 per cent., a development charge and virtually no owner-occupier houses being built. In fact it was a Socialist paradise.
What did they build? Virtually not a road, yet we are spending £130 million this year on roads; certainly not a hospital, but we are spending £54 million on hospitals; certainly not a university, but we are spending £39 million on universities. The same story is told in every field. In education it is double what they were doing in real terms, in sewerage and water it is three times as much, and in electricity it is three times as much. It was not only that in 1950 they did not even quite manage to build 200,000 houses whereas this year we shall start at least 320,000, but what the Socialists proved conclusively was that their panaceas—with all the power in their hands and everything which now they clamour for—did not work.
What they did produce with their artificial interest rates and their forest of physical controls was devaluation and political disaster for themselves. How strange it is at this time of year to see the Socialists clothed in all sorts of strange costumes. The hon. Member for Fulham at Question Time this afternoon was smugly cheering on from the sidelines those who object to the courageous and necessary programme of local government reorganisation being undertaken by this Government. Indeed he does well to cheer because he well knows his own party would flinch from any necessary reorganisation which might be unpopular.
1444 At this time of year to find the Socialists and the Liberals posing as the rescuers of ratepayers seems almost like farce. Both the Socialists and the Liberals, so notably free with their promises about public money, have no right whatever to try to take credit for the vague promises they make when it comes to rates. We all have to recognise that higher rates are the logical outcome of the policy that we are following and that is pressed upon us daily from the other side of the House. More money is being spent on education, on health and housing. It does not lie in the mouths of hon. Members opposite, least of all at this time, to claim that under their policies there would not be at least equally high rates and tax burdens to be borne by the citizens.
They have not had a single useful idea about redistribution of this burden, but they delight in rejoicing when we courageously finish with the distortion; when we put an end to the distortion and bring back rating to a standard and rational basis in which householders, industry and commerce all have their share.
The difficulty with this sort of winding up speech is that one is so keen to show the Opposition the error of their ways that one might appear for a moment to an onlooker to be complacent about our own performance. In fact, of course, we recognise that there is a very great deal to be done in all these fields. For my own part, there is a great deal to be done on the housing front. We have never sought to disguise from the House or the country that because of rising population and rising standards, and despite the massive programme the Tories have carried out now for twelve years, there remains much to be done.
The further developments on the housing front we shall be announcing in a few weeks. We shall not hesitate to make the changes and further developments that are necessary. What I hope the House will recognise, after the careful scrutiny I have given to the two solutions proposed by the Opposition, that is, an artificial rate of interest and a land commission to so-called cheapen land prices this is, in fact, a massive operation of confiscation coupled with the extinction of owner-occupation in the future. What I hope the House will 1445 recognise are the following simple propositions: Socialist panaceas would not build a single extra house; Socialist panaceas would destroy the future of owner-occupation as we know it; Socialist panaceas add up to shifty, shifting and vote-catching double talk. In the light of today's debate, I think that the Socialists had better take their panaceas away, revise (them yet again
§ as they have so often in the past, and leave us to get on with the job.
§ Mr. M. Stewart
I beg to move, That Item Class VI, Vote 1 (Ministry of Housing and Local Government), be reduced by £5.
§ Question put:—
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 223, Noes 288.1449
|Division No. 107.]||AYES||[9.58 p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Hamilton, William (West Fife)||Morris, John|
|Albu, Austen||Hannan, William||Moyle, Arthur|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Harper, Joseph||Mulley, Frederick|
|Awbery, Stan (Bristol, Central)||Hart, Mrs. Judith||Neal, Harold|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Hayman, F. H.||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)|
|Balrd, John||Healey, Denis||Noel-Baker, Rt.Hn.Philip (Derby,S.)|
|Barnett, Guy||Henderson, Rt.Hn.Arthur (RwlyRegis)||Oliver, G. H.|
|Beaney, Alan||Herbison, Miss Margaret||O'Malley, B. K.|
|Bennett, J. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Hewitson, Capt. M.||Oram, A. E.|
|Blackburn, F.||Hilton, A, V.||Oswald, Thomas|
|Blyton, William||Holman, Percy||Padley, W. E.|
|Boardman, H.||Houghton, Douglas||Paget, R. T.|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Howell, Charles A. (Perry Barr)||Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)|
|Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W. (Leice.S.W.)||Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Pargiter, G. A.|
|Bowen, Rederic (Cardigan)||Hoy, James H.||Parker, John|
|Bowles, Frank||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Parkin, B. T.|
|Boyden, James||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Paton, John|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Pavitt, Laurence|
|Bradley, Tom||Hunter, A. E.||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Hynd, John (Attercliffe)||Peart, Frederick|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Pentland, Norman|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Popplewell, Ernest|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Janner, Sir Barnett||Prentice, R. E.|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Carmichael, Neil||Jeger, George||Probert, Arthur|
|Castle, Mrs. Barbara||Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)||Proctor, W. T.|
|Chapman, Donald||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, s.)||Pursey, Cmdr. Harry|
|Cliffe, Michael||Jones, Rt. Hn.A.Craoch (Wakefield)||Randall, Harry|
|Collick, Percy||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Rankin, John|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Jones, Elwyn (West Ham, S.)||Redhead, E. C.|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Reid, William|
|Crosland, Anthony||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Reynolds, G. W.|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Kelley, Richard||Rhodes, H.|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Kenyon, Clifford||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Dalyell, Tam||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Darling, George||King, Dr, Horace||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Lawson, George||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Ledger, Ron||Ross, William|
|Deer, George||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Delargy, Hugh||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Dempsey, James||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Diamond, John||Lipton, Marcus||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Dodds, Norman||Loughlin, Charles||Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)|
|Donnelly, Desmond||Lubbock, Eric||Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)|
|Driberg, Tom||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Small, William|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||McBride, N.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Edelman, Maurice||McCann, John||Snow, Julian|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||MacColl, James||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||MacDermot, Niall||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Edwards, Walter (Stepney)||Mclnnes, James||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Fernyhough, E.||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Steele, Thomas|
|Finch, Harold||Mackie, John (Enfield, East)||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Fitch, Alan||McLeavy, Frank||Stonehouse, John|
|Fletcher, Eric||MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles)||Stones, William|
|Foot, Dingle (Ipswich)||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Strachey, Rt. Hon. John|
|Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Vauxhall)|
|Forman, J. C.||Mallalieu, J.P.W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent,C.)|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Manuel, Archie||Swain, Thomas|
|Gaipern, Sir Myer||Mapp, Charles||Swingler, Stephen|
|George, Lady MeganLloyd (Crmrthn)||Marsh, Richard||Symonds, J. B.|
|Ginsburg, David||Mason, Roy||Taverne, D.|
|Gourlay, Harry||Mayhew, Christopher||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Greenwood, Anthony||Mellish, R. J.||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Mendelson, J. J.||Thomas, lorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Millan, Bruce||Thompson, Dr. Alan (Dunfermilne)|
|Griffiths, W. (Exchange)||Milne, Edward||Timmons, John|
|Grimond, Rt. Hon. J.||Mitchison, G. R.||Tomney, Frank|
|Gunter, Ray||Moody, A. S.||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Warbey, William||Willey, Fredreick||Woof, Robert|
|Watkins, Tudor||Williams, D, J. (Neath)||Yates, Victor (Ladywood)|
|Weitzman, David||Williams, LI. (Abertillery)||Zilliacus, K.|
|Wells, William (Walsall, N.)||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|White, Mrs. Eirene||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Whitlock, William||Willis, E. C. (Edinburgh, E.)||Mr. Short and|
|Wigg, George||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)||Mr. G. H. R. Rogers.|
|Wilkins, W. A.||Winterbottom, R. E.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Duncan, Sir James||Kirk, Peter|
|Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.)||Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Kitson, Timothy|
|Allason, James||Elliott,R.W. (Newc'tle-upon-Tyne,N.)||Lagden, Godfrey|
|Ashton, Sir Hubert||Emery, Peter||Lancaster, Col. C. G.|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||Langford-Holt, Sir John|
|Awdry, Daniel (Chippenham)||Farey-Jones, F. W.||Leather, Sir Edwin|
|Balniel, Lord||Farr, John||Leavey, J. A.|
|Barber, Anthony||Fell, Anthony||Leburn, Gilmour|
|Barlow, Sir John||Fisher, Nigel||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry|
|Batsford, Brian||Foster, John||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley (Southgate)||Fraser, Rt.Hn.Hugh (Stafford & Stone)||Lindsay, Sir Martin|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||Litchfield, Capt. John|
|Bell, Ronald||Freeth, Denzil||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)|
|Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)||Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.||Longden, Gilbert|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos & Fhm)||Gammans, Lady||Lovers, Walter H.|
|Berkeley, Humphry||Gardner, Edward||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn|
|Bevins, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Gibson-Watt, David||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh|
|Bidgood, John C.||Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, Central)||McAdden, Sir Stephen|
|Biffen, John||Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)||Mac Arthur, Ian|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham)||McLaren, Martin|
|Bingham, R. M.||Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.)||McLaughlin, Mrs. Patricia|
|Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Godber, J. B.||Maclean, SirFitzroy (Bute & N,Ayrs)|
|Bishop, F. P.||Goodhart, Philip||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.)|
|Slack, Sir Cyril||Goodhew, Victor||MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)|
|Bossom, Hon. Clive||Gough, Frederick||McMaster, Stanley R.|
|Bourne-Arton, A.||Gower, Raymond||Macmillan, Rt.Hn.Harold (Bromley)|
|Box, Donald||Grant-Ferris, R.||Macpherson, Rt.Hn.Niall (Dumfries)|
|Boyle, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward||Gresham Cooke, R.||Maddan, Martin|
|Brewis, John||Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||Maitland, Sir John|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter||Gurden, Harold||Marten, Neil|
|Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)||Mathew, Robert (Honiton)|
|Brooman-White, R.||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)||Matthews, Gordon (Meriden)|
|Brown, Alan (Tottenham)||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Maudling, Rt. Hon. Reginald|
|Bryan, Paul||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||Mawby, Ray|
|Buck, Antony||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Maxwell-Hyslop, B. J.|
|Bullard, Denys||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)||May don, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.|
|Bullus, Wing Commander Eric||Harvey, John (WaltHamstow, E.)||Mills, Stratton|
|Burden, F. A.||Harvie Anderson, Miss||Miscampbell, Norman|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Hay, John||More, Jasper (Ludlow)|
|Camphell, Rt.Hon.SirD. (Belfast,S.)||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Morgan William|
|Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)||Hendry, Forbes||Morrison John|
|Carr, Compton (Barons Court)||Hicks Beach, Maj. W.||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles|
|Carr, Robert (Mitcham)||Hiley, Joseph||Neave, Airey|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Hill, Dr. Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)||Oakshott, Sir Hendrie|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Hill, Mrs. Sveline (Wythenshawe)||Orr, Capt. L. P, S.|
|Chataway, Christopher||Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)||Orr-Ewing, C. Ian|
|Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)||Hirst, Geoffrey||Osborn, John (Hallam)|
|Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Hobson, Sir John||Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Hocking, Philip N.||Pace Graham (Crosby)|
|Cleaver, Leonard||Holland, Philip||Partridge, E.|
|Cole, Norman||Hollingworth, John||Pearson Frank (Glitheroe)|
|Cooke, Robert||Hope, Rt. Hon. Lord John||Peel, John|
|Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Hopkins, Alan||Percival, Ian|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Hornby, R. P.||Peyton, John|
|Cordle, John||Hornsby-Smith, Ht. Hon. Dame P.||Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth|
|Corfield, F, V.||Howard, John (Southampton, Test)||Pike, Miss Mervyn|
|Costain, A. P.||Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral John||Pilkington, Sir Richard|
|Coulson, Michael||Hughes-Young, Michael||Pitt, Dame Edith|
|Courtney, Cdr. Anthony||Hulbert, Sir Norman||Pott, Percivall|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Powell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch|
|Crawley, Aidan||Iremonger, T. L.||Price, David (Eastieigh)|
|Critchley, Julian||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Prior, J. M. L.|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. Sir Oliver||James, David||Proudfoot, Wilfred|
|Crowder, F. P.||Jennings, J. C.||Pym, Francis|
|Cunningham, Knox||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Quennell, Miss J. M.|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Ramsden, James|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Johnson Smith, Geoffrey||Rawlinson, Sir Peter|
|Dance, James||Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Jones, Rt. Hn. Aubrey (Halt Green)||Rees, Hugh|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||Joseph, Rt. Hon. Sir Keith||Renton, Rt. Hon. David|
|Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M.||Kerans, Cdr. J. S.||Ridley, Hon. Nicholas|
|Doughty, Charles||Kerr, Sir Hamilton||Rippon, Rt. Hon. Geoffrey|
|Drayson, G. B.||Kershaw, Anthony||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)|
|du Cann, Edward||Kimball, Marcus||Robinson, Rt. Hn. Sir R. (B'pool,S.)|
|Rodgers, John (Sevonoaks)||Summers, Sir Spencer||Wakefield, Sir Wavell|
|Roots, William||Talbot, John E.||Walder, David|
|Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard||Tapsell, Peter||Walker, Peter|
|Royle, Anthony (Richmond, Surrey)||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir Derek|
|Russell, Ronald||Taylor, Frank (M'ch'st'r, Moss Side)||Wall, Patrick|
|St. Clair, M.||Taylor, Sir William (Bradford, N.)||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Scott-Hopkins, James||Teeling, Sir William||Webster, David|
|Sharples, Richard||Temple, John M.||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Shaw, M.||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret||Whitelaw, William|
|Shepherd, William||Thomas, Sir Leslie (Canterbury)||Williams, Dudley (Exeter)|
|Skeet, T, H. H.||Thompson, Sir Kenneth (Walton)||Williams, Paul (Sutherland, S.)|
|Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)||Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Smithers, Peter||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. Peter||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Smyth, Rt. Hon. Brig, Sir John||Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)||Wise, A. R.|
|Soames, Rt. Hon. Christopher||Tilney, John (Wavertree)||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Spearman, Sir Alexander||Touche, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon||Wood house, C. M.|
|Stanley, Hon. Richard||Turner, Colin||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Stevens, Geoffrey||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.||Woollam, John|
|Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)||Tweedsrrtuir, Lady||Worsley, Marcus|
|Stodart, J. A.||van Straubenzee, W. R.||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Storey, Sir Samuel||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hon. Sir John||TELLERS FOR THE NOES|
|Studholme, Sir Henry||Vickers, Miss Joan||Mr. Chichester-Clark and|
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ Sir Stephen McAdden (Southend, East) rose— —
§ It being after Ten o'clock, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to report Progress and ask leave to sit again.1450
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again Tomorrow.