HC Deb 07 May 1963 vol 677 cc213-5
16 and 17. Mr. Frank Allaun (Salford, East)

asked the Minister of Public Building and Works (1) what percentage of the gross national product in Great Britain is devoted to council housing; and what was the proportion ten years ago;

(2) what percentage of the gross national product in Great Britain is directed to housing; what was the pro- portion ten years ago; and what information he has from the Organisation for European Co-operation and Development as to the approximate proportion in other West European countries.

Mr. Sharples

The percentage of the gross national product in the United Kingdom devotes to housing was 3.5 in both 1952 and 1962. The percentage devoted to council housing was 2.5 in 1952 and 1.2 in 1962. With permission I will circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT figures for the precentages of gross national product devoted in 1960 to housing in seventeen Western European countries, taken from a United Nations publication.

Mr. Allaun

As more than 18 million people in Britain receive less than £15 10s. a week, and therefore cannot afford to buy their own houses, how does the Parliamentary Secretary advise them to find homes if council housing is cut in this way? Regarding the percentage, is not it true that we are bottom of the "league" of the ten countries listed in the O.E.C.D, Report for November, 1962, and that some countries spend twice as much as we do in this proportion? Surely the Minister must have some regard for the massive human suffering caused to millions of families which cannot find homes of their own?

Mr. Sharples

I understand that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government will be making a statement shortly. He has already announced that local authorities with urgent housing needs will be allowed to build as many houses this year as they can. I do not think that the figures entirely bear out what the hon. Gentleman says. They are not strictly comparable. For example, the international definition of expenditure devoted to construction lays down that expenditure on conversions should be included, but in the United Kingdom this has not been done. Regarding the final point put by the hon. Gentleman, 66,000 more houses were completed in. 1962 than in 1952 and I think that what matters is the total number of houses completed.

Lord Balniel

Are not we impressively high in the Teague of home ownership?

Sir G. Nabarro

We are top of the league.

Mr. C. Pannell

Whether we are top of the league in home ownership is entirely another matter. There is the difficulty about whether this Ministry—[HON. MEMBERS: "Ask a Question."]—I am coming to the question—should answer this Question. Does not the Minister appreciate, from the point of view of public policy, that local authorities allocate houses on the usual priorities, whereas whether a person owns a home depends at present on the length of his purse? Is not there a question of public policy in this and is not the Ministry thoroughly ashamed?

Mr. Sharples

I think that we are straying into the territory of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government.

Following are the figures:

Gross Fixed Capital Formation in Housing as Percentage of Gross National Product: 1960
(Extracted from the Annual Bulletin of Housing and Building Statistics for Europe published by the Office of the United Nations in Geneva.)
per cent.
Austria 4.5
Belgium 5.0
Denmark 3.0
Finland 5.7
France 5.2
Greece 5.3
Ireland 1.9
Italy 5.5
Netherlands 4.3
Norway 3.9
Portugal 3.1
Sweden 5.1
Switzerland 7.0
Turkey n.a.(4.2–1959)
United Kingdom 3.0
Yugoslavia n.a.(4.7–1959)
Western Germany 5.4