HC Deb 18 November 1963 vol 684 cc629-763

3.30 p.m.

Mr. Speaker

Before I call the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart), I wish to say a word about order in this debate.

The House will be aware that the rule against anticipation, which forbids discussion of matters in a Motion or Amendment in anticipation of debate on the same matter in a Bill, is one of the most valuable of our rules of practice; its sole purpose is to inhibit repetitious debate.

The first Amendment in the name of the Leader of the Opposition concerns the subject of housing. Though the scope of the Amendment is wider than that of the Housing Bill, and though, therefore, the two forms of proceeding are not identical in their content, a strict application of the rule against anticipation would compel the Chair to intervene as soon as any of the topics falling within the scope of the Housing Bill were touched on. This would inhibit speeches in favour of the Amendment and frustrate those in reply to it.

Therefore, if both sides of the House agree, the Chair will be liberal in its interpretation of the rule, provided always that that liberality is not abused by direct discussion of the Housing Bill. That Measure would not at this stage be the business before the House and debate on it would directly infringe the rule.

3.32 p.m.

Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham)

I beg to move, at the end of the Question, to add: but humbly regret that the Gracious Speech contains no proposals to deal adequately with problems of overcrowding, homelessness and slums; or to deal with profiteering in land prices, interest rates for housing purposes, or leasehold reform. The overcrowding, homelessness and slums to which reference is made at the beginning of the Amendment are all poison fruits which grow from the same root of an overall shortage of houses. We are not building enough to meet our present needs or to meet the needs on the horizon. That shortage is aggravated by the operation of the Rent Act.

We must, therefore, first ask ourselves what rate of building this country should try to achieve. What can be regarded as anything approaching adequate? When I spoke in a similar debate twelve months ago I suggested the figure of 350,000 for England and Wales, which implies a figure of very nearly 400,000 for Great Britain. I mention this for the benefit of the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page), who was good enough to inform the House in a speech just before the Summer Recess that I had made no such estimate. T could not reply to him at the time because he fired under the white flag, making his speech in a Ten Minutes Rule Bill debate.

The Government are now speaking in terms of 350,000 houses soon for Great Britain, and I was glad to notice that the Prime Minister spoke of getting up to 400,000 in time. What we should notice, however, is that 400,000 houses a year for Great Britain is a figure which the country should not only try to reach as soon as possible, but which it must maintain for a very long period if we are to deal both with the needs to provide households with homes and to get rid of the slums, and even that figure can be regarded as adequate only if all the calculations which one must make in an estimate of this kind turn out for the most fortunate. It may well be that a higher figure would, in time, become unquestionably necessary.

I do not believe that the country would regard as very profitable an upward bidding between both sides of the House on what we say the target should be. I think that we all know that the figure which I have mentioned is the least at which the country should aim. What we are concerned with, and what the country will be concerned with, is whether the policies proposed are likely to get us near to that figure. The dispute is not about the need, but about the adequacies of the policy which will fulfil that need. None the less, I think that we should glance for a moment at what is being done at present so that we can see how far short the present policies fall of meeting the need.

First, may I give certain figures concerning the number of houses completed. In 1962, 305,000 dwellings of all kinds—houses and flats—were completed in Great Britain. Therefore, we have a good way to go before we reach even the 350,000, let alone the 400,000 figure. However, the Prime Minister, speaking on the first day of this Session, consoled hon. Members by telling us about the number of houses that were being built. He said: …there are now at this moment more houses being built than at any time …since the war."—[Official Report, 12th November, 1963; Vol. 684, c. 40.] It is interesting to inquire into why that is so, for it will not have escaped the Prime Minister's attention, nor that of the Minister of Housing and Local Government, that if we have a disappointing rate of completion of houses which have been started the number being built at any given moment will increase. That, in fact, is what has happened.

One of the reasons—I do not say that it is the only one, but it is a substantial reason—why the Prime Minister was able to say that more houses are being built now than at any given moment is this. Comparing the number actually completed in the first three-quarters of 1962 with the first three-quarters of 1963, which is the latest estimate we have, we find that in the first three-quarters of 1962 221,000 dwellings were completed in Great Britain and 206,000 in the first three-quarters of this year, 15,000 houses down and 15,000 houses to add, in this somewhat left-handed manner, to the total number of houses which can be described as still being built. It would be interesting to know whether the Prime Minister was aware of this interesting fact when he made the claim—

Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)

The hon. Member will recollect that there was very bad weather at the beginning of 1963.

Mr. Stewart

I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman. He made exactly the same interjection in the spring of this year. The bad weather was partly responsible for the lower number of completions and, therefore, for the very thing which the Prime Minister was trying to take credit for. I am not so unjust as to blame the Government for the weather, but I do object to the Prime Minister taking credit for it.

I hope that we shall get an answer to that Question at some stage.

The Prime Minister, I know, cannot be everywhere. All I want to know is: did he know that the figure of completions for the first three-quarters of this year was 15,000 down on last year? His remarks on slums were even more interesting. On the same day the Prime Minister said: …if I may take the rate of clearance of slums, the rate there has been doubled…"—[Official Report, 12th November, 1963;Vol. 684, c. 40.] Hon. Members will notice that that statement was in the perfect tense, not "will be doubled", not "is being doubled", but "has been doubled." This has mystified everyone who has studied the problem. We have figures for the first half of 1963, which we can compare with the first half of 1962. In the first half of 1962 there were 38,000—in round figures—slums cleared. In the first half of 1963 the figure was 36,000—to be exact 1,952 down. That really is not doubling the rate. If, by the end of this year, it is hoped to double the rate for 1962 there will have to be cleared in the last half of this year three times as many slums as there were in the first half. Does the Minister tell us that that will be achieved by December this year?

May I also ask the Minister: doubled since when? If the Prime Minister is going back to the first six months after the war I suppose that he could justify his statement in that way. But the rate of slum clearance is only 15 per cent, higher now than it was five years ago. Perhaps we shall be told that it will be doubled.

So far there has been nothing in the housing summary about the numbers of houses submitted for clearance orders to make it clear that the rate will be doubled till a good deal of time has gone by. Nothing can justify the statement that it has been doubled. I suppose the defence will be, "It is going to be doubled when we have made the preparations." The Prime Minister seems to work on the principle of the character in Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Mikado," who said: When Your Majesty says, ' Let a thing be done', it's as good as done—practically it is done …why not say so? While we are on the topic of slums we should notice what has been happening there. It was in1955 that what was claimed to be the slum clearance drive was started, and the target for the first five years was to clear 378,000 slums. In fact, in those five years 255,000 were cleared—about two-thirds of what was proposed. Not long after that, the Government began to realise that if one wants to clear slums one must increase the number of council dwellings built, because a great many of those now living in the slums cannot at present afford accommodation of other kinds. The policy which has been pursued from 1953 till a very short time ago of steadily cutting down council building was not compatible with an increased rate of slum clearance.

So we have had in the last year or two some stepping up in the amount of council building, though, there again, we notice that in the first three-quarters of 1962 86,500 council dwellings were completed and in the first three-quarters of 1963 79,500 council dwellings were completed—about 7,000 down on the corresponding period of last year. It is not surprising, therefore, that at our present rate of slum clearance—I am not talking of when the Prime Minister has doubled it but of what we are doing at the moment, did last year and are likely to do this year—we are not keeping pace with the rate at which new slums are being created by the passage of time.

The other set of figures to which I refer are figures relating to homelessness. It is well known that London is the most spectacular theatre in which homelessness is displayed, though not the only one. What has happened there? In 1957, before the Rent Act came into operation, there were 1,000 homeless persons; that is to say, a roof over their heads had to be provided for them by the London County Council as welfare authority. By 1960, there were 2,000. As the Prime Minister would say, the rate had been doubled. In 1961, there were 3,000, and in the summer of this year 4,000. At this stage in November, 1963, there are 4,725. All those people are cared for in the end by the local authority. That is the size of the burden that the deficiencies of housing policy have put on the L.C.C. as welfare authority.

I may tell the Minister of Housing and Local Government that a number of London boroughs are now looking with great dismay at the prospect that they, without the county's resources, will be responsible for finding accommodation for these homeless people. It is surely inescapable from the evidence of those figures, from the rapid leap after the Rent Act was passed, and from the study made by Mr.John Greave and others, how much the Rent Act has contributed to this. Its effect has been broadly to make things somewhat easier for those whose housing situation was already fairly good and to make it worse and harsher for those who were already in difficulties.

Let us notice the circumstances and beliefs in which the Rent Act was passed. I see that the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) is here. He was once Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. On 21st November, 1956, speaking on the Second Reading of the Rent Bill, he said: …we are now within sight of, and should in 12 months' time or so be level with, an equation of the overall supply of demand for homes."—[Official Report, 21st November, 1956; Vol. 560, c. 1760.]

Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton, South-West)

As the hon. Gentleman has looked up the passage, he will also recollect that this was a deduction from the Labour Party's own figures to which I was drawing attention.

Mr. Stewart

As the right hon. Gentleman says, I have looked up the report of the debate and it does not quite bear out the information that he has just given to the House. It is true that he had to buttress himself by references to things that the late Aneurin Bevan had said several years before. But some of us are capable of learning by experience. What we would like to know is: does he still believe this? Does he think that within 12 months from November, 1956, there was an overall equation? It was in that belief that the Rent Act was passed. What we want to know is: now that the falsity of that belief is now so demonstrated, are the Government determined to keep that Act, with its present harshness, on the Statute Book?

Of course, the right hon. Gentleman is not now in the Government, to the mystification of many of us, if I may say so. We have gathered from the Press that he does not belong to the Government because it is not sufficiently progressive for him. In view of some of his own statements on housing, that seems a very startling condemnation of the present Government.

I have had brought to my notice recently a case of somebody who pays £3 15s. a week in Stepney for the privilege of living in two rooms with a shared lavatory. It goes without saying that there is no hot water and no bath in the premises. I have selected that case casually as one of many examples of the kind of thing that the Rent Act permits and encourages. I feel that it is right when we are debating housing policy for me to raise again a question that I have already put four times to the Government Front Bench. In the event of the Conservative Government surviving the next General Election, is it their intention to use the power under the Rent Act to decontrol further houses? It is time that we had an answer to that question.

When I put it to the last Prime Minister, asked him, in the event of a Conservative victory, would they do this, he said that he could not answer a question which was so hypothetical. I am quite prepared to agree that the supposition is a hypothetical one, but since the present Prime Minister has told us that the Government now are to run the whole of their processes with an eye to the election we are entitled—and it is a very serious matter for a great many people—to know what the Government's intentions are, and I hope that before this debate is over we shall have an answer.

It seems to me that the conclusion to which we are driven from surveying the figures of present completions, of slum clearance, of homelessness, is not only that we do need a greater total of building, but that a higher proportion of that has got to be the provision of council dwellings to meet the needs of the least fortunate, and to make possible a greater rate of clearance of slums. My own feeling is that the rate of council house building must move up towards and probably beyond 200,000 a year. We must reverse, in fact, the policies of the last eight years.

We were grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for the Ruling you gave about anything which might be connected with the Bill which is to come before the House, and I hope that if I now say a couple of sentences I shall not be presuming on your liberality; but I think I am entitled to say what I have now in mind, because the Government may plead that the Gracious Speech does contain adequate measures to deal with the matters referred to in the Amendment. I trust that it will not be suggested that the forthcoming Bill, whatever its other merits of demerits, is in any way adequate to the problem the size of which I am describing.

Any provision, as was outlined in the White Paper, to help housing associations to meet the needs of those people who can afford a bit more than most council house rents, but cannot afford very high rents, is desirable and to be welcomed, but it does only affect quite a narrow sector of the whole front; and any provision to prevent the grosser abuses of private landlordism is to be welcomed, but nothing which leaves the situation whereby any new tenancy is an uncontrolled tenancy and thereby leaves the whole motive of Rach-manism for bullying a controlled tenant out, no Measure which leaves that situation untouched, can be regarded as adequate to deal with the problem of homelessness.

But while I stress the importance of more council building, we must recognise that it is not only those for whom that is an answer with whom we are concerned. Very rightly, in all our debates we pay attention to the problems of the owner-occupier and, perhaps still more, of the would-be owner-occupier. What comfort have the facts and policies for him? We have recently had the building societies'bulletin. It tells us that since January, 1959, the price of new houses has gone up by one-third. A new house which would have cost £3000 in 1959 will cost £4,000 today.

I have had an example shown to me recently from Leicestershire, from a man there who says he is fortunate in that in 1960 he bought his house for £2,750. At the moment a house almost exactly the same differing only in that it is six inches longer but stands in less ground, is selling for £4,075 as against—£2,750 only three years ago. This is not a situation which has very much comfort in it for the young married couple. That is the size of the problem.

What are the remedies and policies which are required? It seems to me we have got to attack this on two fronts, what I may call the physical and the financial fronts. If we are to build anything like the number of houses which the figures and facts require we have to see that it is physically possible to do so. That is the first part of the matter, and that is, of course, predominantly a question for the building industry and for its relations with the local authorities, the private customers, and the Government, and that, I imagine, lies particularly in the province of the Minister of Public Building and Works. It seems to me that in that field we have, first, to try to get the orders for a number of local housing authorities brought together over a region, and pooled, and, as far as necessary, standardised, so that we can give to the building industry a large and long-continuing kind of order which makes it worth the industry's while to gear itself to the increasing employment of new and speedier methods of production.

I ventured, as I think the Minister of Housing and Local Government will remember, to say this in a speech I made to the national conference of the Town and Country Planning Association last year. I was happy, therefore, to see some of the ideas, and, I think, perhaps one or two bits of the wording, reappearing in the Minister's regional paper for the North-East, and that we are to have some moves on this line, but why is it, if the Government realise the importance of giving large and long-continuing orders to the building industry, that they take one of the local authorities which has been in the best position of all for giving such orders, the London County Council, and propose to tear its housing department to pieces?

Another thing we shall need if the building industry is to rise to the occasion is the provision of that national building code for which provision was made in the Housing Act, 1961, and for which we are still waiting. Perhaps one or other of the Ministers will be able to tell us when it will arrive. I think that perhaps it is fair to say that it may arrive before polling day.

Above all, if the industry is to do the job required of it, it must have confidence that there is not only a large programme, but that it will be a steady programme which will not be chopped down every time the Government run into some kind of financial difficulty. Time and again we have been told from the Government Front Bench, "You must not shelter it from the risks of the economy" but I believe that if we really want to deal with housing we have got to give it a certain measure of protection and to see it has a first claim on the nation's resources, otherwise we cannot give the building industry that degree of certainty which is necessary if it is to make the very considerable changes in technique which are required of it. That is why what I call the physical side of the problem is linked with the financial side.

The Minister has told us, when we have debated with him lower interest rates for housing purposes, that if we did so it would not, he said, build another house, because, he said, all the building operatives are at present fully employed, but does not the Minister see that it is perfectly true that if we want to build more houses we have both to get more operatives in the industry and to get the industry using increasingly improved methods of production, and that if we do that, and do not do any- thing about the financial side of the matter, we shall meet for the time only the demands of those who can afford present house prices?

After a time the expansion in the industry will be called to halt by the fact that the people for whom the houses are intended will not be able to afford to live in them. If financial measures only were taken and no physical measures, I agree that it would be a case of too much money chasing too few houses. However, if an attempt is made to expand the capacity of the industry, but, at the same time, no measures are taken to bring the houses within the needs of the slum dwellers and the many others who will need them, the programme will frustrate itself.

That is why we must turn to the second prong of the attack, from the physical side to the financial side. I make no apology for saying to the Minister again what I have said to him so often, that if it is desired to get this matter right some action must be taken about the interest rates which local authorities have to pay on the money they borrow for the building of houses.

The Minister will have noticed how bitterly present interest rates were attacked at the annual conference of the Royal Institute of British Architects. Mr. Womersley, the City Architect at Sheffield, gave us a table which shows that 17 per cent.—one-sixth—of the cost to a local authority of keeping a house going represents the actual cost of building the house. Twelve per cent.—one-eighth—represents the cost of maintaining it. Fifteen per cent, represents the rates on it, 3 per cent, the cost of the land, and 53 per cent.—more than half—represents the interest payments.

On that, Mr. Womersley commented as follows: The poor little house itself is answerable for only 17 per cent, of the rent. Interest payments amount to over three times the building cost. This shows that the onus for reducing house costs and rents lies very largely outside this"— that is, the architect's— profession. The case for lower, long-term interest rates, whether through general monetary policy or special arrangements, stands out a mile. I believe that to be perfectly true. We have never had any satisfactory answer from the Minister as to why he cannot do what some other countries are doing and what the figures and the evidence so diligently demand.

The other financial problem one will have to deal with is that of the price of land. Each time we raise this matter further evidence has come in to support our claim that the housing problem cannot be solved unless something is done to ensure that the increased value of land shall, at any rate in part, come into the community's purse and not go exclusively to private owners of land. The London County Council finds that the cost of a site for building a given number of houses has doubled since 1958.

We are told that the remedy for this is to make more land available. Recently it was reported, I think in the Financial Times, that at Bishop's Stortford the local authority made 170 acres of land now farmland available for building. The result has been to multiply the price of that land by a multiplier of forty. Somebody will pay that in the end, either the local authority or private persons, buying or paying rent for the houses that will ultimately be built there.

The more diligent the Government are in trying to solve some part of their problems the more difficulties of this kind they create for themselves by the absence of a policy about the price of land. The Observer, the Sunday before last, had an interesting little paragraph as follows: One of the first results of Lord Hailsham's new deal for the North-East will be vastly to increase the wealth of Lord Lambton. It will put a million or two on to the value of the family estate. This kind of thing will go on all the time. What are the Government's regional policies except a series of decisions that building will occur here and there, and wherever they make such a decision they put a bag of gold unearned into somebody's hands?

There was some argument earlier in this debate on the Gracious Speech as to what the nation could or could not afford in the way of a programme. The Prime Minister was most agile in asking such questions as, "What would you cut out?". If I had my way, this is one of the things I would cut out of the cost of building. Hon. Members opposite are very fond of talking of subsidies going to people who do not need them, but do they not see that unless something is done about land prices the cost of any adequate housing programme is intolerably inflated by a totally unnecessary and unjust subsidy to landowners?

How can this be reconciled with anything in the nature of an incomes policy? We fully accept that, if the whole economy is to give us more production, there must be an incomes policy if inflation is to be avoided. However, an incomes policy must be an incomes policy, not a policy merely for restricting these incomes which are actually earned, while leaving untouched those incomes which are not earned.

Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)

And untaxed.

Mr. Stewart

Yes. The Minister—indeed the whole House—knows the proposals which we have made to deal with this situation.

The Tories will object to them, as indeed they have already. We arc entitled to ask them, therefore, whether they intend to leave this abuse to go totally unchecked, a gross and vicious example vitiating the whole effect of any preachings about restraint on wages and salaries, tying round their neck when they try to solve the housing problem an enormous and unnecessary financial burden.

If hon. Members opposite really believe that there are defects in the proposal which we have more than once put before the House, that when land becomes available to develop it should pass into public ownership, if they really believe some of the objections they have made to that proposition, they should provide a workable alternative. People who have thought about this problem do not all agree with us. Others have suggested other ways of doing it. The Government are unique in believing that there is no need to bother to do anything at all about it.

While I am on this aspect I will refer to one misrepresentation of which the Minister himself has been guilty. It concerns the position of people who live in houses on land that comes into the ownership of the Land Commission. He tried to suggest that they would in some way be in the same category as people with ordinary leasehold houses. That is not so. This should be made quite clear. After our policy is in operation, any house which stands on land owned by the Land Commission will remain the property of the present owner or of his heirs as long as there is a house there.

The thing leased is the land only. We insist on that, because we have not seen any other way in which the community can be saved from the intolerable burden of paying ransom to landowners. At no time, under our proposals, will there be the situation that somebody's house passes into the ownership of a ground landlord. It is that which is the outstanding feature of leasehold as it is normally known. A house which a man owns, a house which he may have built himself or had built to his order, can at the appropriate time pass into the ownership of the ground landlord, and he can do nothing about it. He may be saddled with all kinds of oppressive clauses in his lease putting him to very heavy expense.

That is why we mention, towards the end of our Amendment, the importance of a housing policy containing a measure that will enable the leaseholder to acquire on fair terms the freehold, wherever he wishes to do so.

Mr. Graham Page

The hon. Member seems to be leaving the question of land prices. A moment ago he quoted an architect as saying that the cost of the land represented 3 per cent, of the overall cost to the local authority. That figure does not seem to support the rest of his argument, which is that the price of land is hampering development.

Mr. Stewart

I accept that that appears to be so in that example, which is a provincial example. The price of the land was not as oppressive as elsewhere, but, as I pointed out, a great deal of this abuse has sprung up in the last few years. It is only since 1958 that the cost of a site to the L.C.C. has doubled. No one can dispute the extent to which the cost of land is becoming an alarming problem in the context of the price of the whole house, and that it has been steadily increasing.

Mr. Graham Page

In the South-East.

Mr. Norman Cole (Bedfordshire, South)

If the hon, Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) is quoting a provin- cial case, than presumably it is one that occurred before 1958. Why, therefore, is he giving an example of modern interest rates with a pre-1958 provincial example?

Mr. Stewart

I am merely giving an example. Interest rates have been at a high level for some years. Hon. Members can check this, but I am taking the figures that were given in a table by the City Architect of Sheffield, in which he set out the details of a house as built then. Interest rates, if I remember rightly, were about the same in 1958 as they are now. During the interval there has occurred the added burden of rapidly rising land prices.

Mr. Philip N. Hocking (Coventry, South)

Was the hon. Member referring to 3 per cent, of the rent of the property and not 3 per cent, of the cost of it?

Mr. Stewart

The architect expressed the cost of providing for a house and for keeping it in existence in terms of the annual payment the local authority would have to make, both to keep the house in existence and to pay the interest on the money borrowed to build it. The example showed how the money was divided. That should be clear to hon. Members. It is the kind of calculation common to people who study these problems.

Our view is not only—as the figures of buildings, slum clearance, homeless-ness, and so on, show—that the problem is not being dealt with adequately now, but that the policies which would enable us to deal with it adequately include much greater encouragement to municipal building, help on the question of interest rates, a cessation of this intolerable profiteering in land and a measure of leasehold reform. It is because the Government are not prepared to take any logical measures of this kind that we do not find their policies commendable.

On this side of the House we chose this subject for an Amendment to the Gracious Speech knowing that, of all the sections of home policy, this is the one which causes the widest suffering and the greatest concern. It is natural that that should be so because so many people are hit—old, young, middle-aged, the single, the young married couple and the large family. There are also many people who stand on the sheltered side of that great barrier which separates those who are able to solve their own housing problems and those who are not.

If, until the last few years, the Government have escaped the full censure of public opinion, it is because many of those who were suffering—not, unnaturally, in relief, possibly after many years of waiting—did not fully realise how deeply distress bit into the lives of those who are still suffering. As a celebrated American poet of the last generation put it: Always, always to the well-lighted windows of the world, The dark outside is nothing… We are now finding that that hardhearted attitude need not always remain. We are now finding—and I judge this to be one of the important conclusions to be drawn from the by-election at Luton—that it is not only the grievances of the distressed but the conscience of the fortunate which condemns the Government.

4.15 p.m.

The Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs (Sir Keith Joseph)

As usual, the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) made a thoroughly competent survey of those parts of the subject which he wanted to cover. I agree entirely with the sentiments of his peroration, in which he spoke about the deep distress in which the remaining lack of housing forces some of our fellow citizens to live. Why the public has become so much more conscious of this in the last few years is something to which the hon. Gentleman did not refer.

During the last four or five years the cumulative effect of population growth and rising prosperity, manifesting themselves in objectively observable facts—such as the earlier age of marriage and the longer life of those who retire—is increasing steadily the demand for housing on top of the increase which is due to the rise in population.

It is because of this that any Government are bound to run increasingly fast to keep pace, so as to overtake the burden which we have inherited as well as the burden which is growing each day. We should not forget, when surveying this subject, that there have been built in this country since the war A\million new dwellings and that over a quarter of the population now lives in a house that is less than twenty years old. It still remains true—and I do not wish to hide this in any way—that no less than 45 per cent, of the Great Britain stock of houses is old in the sense of being probably, or possibly, obsolescent.

I intend to speak about as many of the questions raised by the hon. Member for Fulham as I can, but I shall particularly comment on some of the points which, in my view, he did not emphasise sufficiently. His speech, as my hon. Friends will no doubt have noticed, did not follow the normal pattern of the speeches he has made in the last three or four debates that we have had on housing and I shall point out the implications of the change of his emphasis.

In view of the rising population and demands the Government's housing policy is threefold. It is, first, to build more houses because of the shortage and growth; secondly, to build more houses so as to replace the slums, and, when they are down, the twilight houses; and, thirdly—parallel with these two programmes of building additional houses—to modernise the solid potentially decent houses that can be improved.

If I refer first to the last point it is only because of the Housing Bill and my wish to dispose of this subject as the hon. Member for Fulham did, rapidly. There have been about 3½million houses in Great Britain which are potentially decent, solid houses with a life of at least fifteen years, though lacking modern amenities. Already, nearly 1 million of these have been improved, mostly with the aid of grants. and have had hot water, lavatories, baths, basins, sinks and ventilated larders installed in them.

Improving the remaining 2½million is the main purpose of Parts II and III of the Housing Bill, which we shall be discussing soon. I hope that the House will, therefore, feel that, with what has been dons voluntarily and with what will be done voluntarily, and with an element of compulsion introduced, we shall succeed, within 10 years or just over, in modernising the whole of that 3½ million of our housing stock.

I come to the question of more houses, which is at the heart of the matter. More houses are the answer to all the evils which the hon. Member for Fulham deployed before us. As he also rightly said, there is a reference in the Gracious Speech to the rise in the house building programme—the programme which the Government have increased already to 350,000, and now propose to increase to 400,000—

Mr. Frank Allaun (Salford, East):rose

Sir K. Joseph

Certainly—but I shall take longer if I give way.

Mr. Allaun

I want to ask the Minister why the target is so low [Hon. Members: "Oh."] Since he has admitted the crying need for more houses, why is our target so much lower than West Germany's, where they are turning out 550,000 houses every year with a smaller population than ours?

Sir K. Joseph

It would need a lot of analysis to compare our performance with Germany's, but, of course, our target is fixed below what, in a perfect world, anybody in this House would like, because we have, at the same time, to cope with rising programmes in schools, colleges, universities, hospitals, power stations, factories and the rest. [Hon. Members: "Office building."] The sufficient answer is that, for the moment, both sides seem to agree a move to 400,000 is the next step to take.

The hon. Member for Fulham criticised my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister for saying that there are more houses now under construction than at any time since the war without explaining that part is due to the deferred completions due to a severe winter. We all realise that part of the increase in the number of houses under construction is due to that deferment but, if one takes off the houses still under construction that would otherwise have been completed, the number left is still far in excess of the number that have ever been under construction in this country since the war.

The local authorities, with serious shortages and slums, are being urged by the Government to increase their pro- grammes. The object is to clear the vast bulk of the known slums, to keep pace with growth, to overtake all the shortages and to make a good start in replacing the twilight houses—all within the next ten years. That is the Government's programme. Already, half the known slums are down. The remaining half of the slum houses—just over half a million of them—are mostly concentrated in 38 towns and cities. It was in connection with those 38 towns and cities that the Government's pledge to double and treble the rate of sum clearance was addressed.

As the hon. Gentleman has realised, there are really three indices by which one can judge the rate of slum clearance. There is the pace of declaring compulsory purchase orders or clearance orders, there is the pace of building replacement houses, and there is the pace, once the replacement houses have been built and reoccupied, of actually demolishing the slums. The pace in each town varies, but I have a list of some of those 38 towns and cities showing that the pace of each stage—the declaration, the building or the demolition—has doubled, in many cases has trebled and, in some cases, has gone up more than three times comparing last year with the past.

It is, therefore, in a way, a shorthand, a summary, for my right hon. Friend or I to say that the process of slum clearance for these 38 towns, where the vast majority of the remaining slums is concentrated, is being doubled and, in many cases, trebled.

But let me face the real difficulty—

Mr. John Hynd (Sheffield, Attercliffe) rose

Sir K. Joseph

It means that I shall take a very long time, but I will give way.

Mr. Hynd

The Minister says that the rate has been doubled, but nobody has told us in comparison with what period it has doubled. What is the comparable period?

Sir K. Joseph

I have said that the average pace of the last three years is the standard pace.

But I must tell the House that in some towns—and I am thinking particularly of Liverpool and Birmingham—even the accelerated pace which the towns and we ourselves have, for the moment, accepted will not be enough to clear the vast bulk of the remaining slums in the next ten years.

The Government therefore anticipate, and the local authorities realise it, that once the the accelerated pace is established there will need to be further acceleration. Our objective, however, is plainly to clear the vast bulk of the remaining slums in the next ten years.

In some towns, particularly in London, the important problem is no longer slums but shortage. To clear the slums, to overtake the shortage despite population and demand growth within ten years, demands above all, six things: land, labour, money and, with money, confidence and credit and, with all those five, drive. The most intractable of all is land.

We shall get for housing purposes all the land that can decently be obtained for housing within the great cities, but this is very nearly exhausted. We shall also have to depend on a great deal of decentralising of homes and work from the cities where there is little fresh land. We shall also rely, of course, on higher densities.

The Government, it is known, are preparing studies of the land needs of the regions where land pressures are at their highest. These studies will cover a period of the next twenty years. They are in preparation for the South-East, the Northwest, and the West Midlands. The result of each of them will be to provide for a second generation of further new towns and expanded towns, and will lead to the release of much more building land. The South-East study will be the first of this batch to be ready.

These studies need discussion with the local authorities, and the land consequences of them, in the form of further new towns and expanded towns, will not really be effective on the ground for five or six years. But, as a result of these studies, I shall expect planning authorities to release much more land for building development far sooner than that. We cannot wait five or six years for the further new towns and further expanded towns to come into operation.

Interim steps are needed if more cities are to be able to reach, and maintain, the very much faster rate of house building towards which thy are now working. So, to bridge over the time until the studies yield their full effects, certain steps are to be taken where the available land is nearest to exhaustion, and I think that the House will be interested in these steps, some of which are familiar and some new.

In Liverpool, the new town of Skelmersdale will start its house building next year. A further new town, Runcorn, has been designated, and will be considered at public inquiry very shortly. Last week, I approved an application by Liverpool to use for housing nearly 400 acres at Lea Park. I have suggested to the Lancashire County Council that its green belt proposals should be modified by the removal of about 450 acres of land. In Manchester, negotiations for the site of a new town are well advanced, and proposals are before me now for major development at Westhoughton.

In the case of Birmingham, the new town at Dawley will be coming into use, not in one year but in a few years, and a further new town at Redditch is under designation. Birmingham has agreed with Daventry for expansion, it is discussing an expansion with Droitwich, and it is discussing other land with the surrounding counties.

For the most intractable case, that of London, a number of possibilities are much in mind. There is Croydon Airport. There is the whole question of surplus railway land. There is Woolwich Arsenal. There are the Erith Marshes, Kidbrooke, and, of course, the remaining spaces in the existing new and expanded towns. So that with land, both for the middle term, by way of regional studies and, in the interim by way of the steps I have just indicated, by land release, I am sure that it will not be for lack of land that either local authorities or private enterprise building will be held up.

The next essential for progress is labour. Here, as my right hon. Friend the Minister for Public Building and Works is winding up the debate tonight, I need only say that the Government are depending on the full output of the traditional industry plus as much further output as we can get from the industrialised part—

Mr. George Brown (Belper)

Is that all that the Minister has to say about land? Does he not intend to say anything at all about the price of land?

Sir K. Joseph

I have a very great deal to say about the price of land. I was dealing with the availability of land.

I was saying that we must use new labour-saving methods as well as traditional craft methods. We are hard at work with the local authorities providing for consortia and contract arrangements which facilitate large long-term orders. Far more progress has been made in establishing industrialised systems of multi-storey flats. The real nub of the problem now is whether industry can, encouraged by central and local government, establish competitive labour-saving systems for building houses which are flexible in assembly and competitive in appearance, quality and cost with the traditional house.

My right hon. Friend and I have reason to believe that a number of the more promising runners, which will be built to the tune of several thousand next year, will make a growing contribution over the years ahead. We are passing through the development stage in industrialised house building, as in industrialised flat building, as fast as prudent. On land and labour, therefore, the Government's policies are in the process of fulfilment.

I now turn to money. The local authorities look to the Government for the subsidy necessary to enable them to tackle the needs of their citizens. That is clear. There are going on at the moment, discussions with the local authorities so that the Government may assess what changes are necessary in the subsidy system, including the expensive sites subsidy, in order to enable local authorities to plan ahead with confidence. But the local authorities know that the Government are working on the assumption that the money provided by the Government will be channelled towards those who need help, and not towards those who do not.

I turn now from local authority building to private enterprise building. The heart of the matter here is a combination of confidence and credit. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has brought about a situation in which the confidence which lies behind the decision to buy a house is rising in this country. That is reflected in the rising number of houses owned by owner-occupiers. That is not done without a rising tide of credit. The figures of the money lent to building societies show how successful my right hon. Friend has been in his guidance of the economy.

The building societies are lending at record levels. Forty-two per cent, of the houses in this country are owned by owner-occupiers, and the figure is rising steadily. But there are, of course, those who do not want, or cannot quite manage, to buy a new house. That is why Part I of the Bill, to which the hon. Gentleman rightly referred, introduces the concept of the Housing Corporation, assisting with the building of large numbers of houses up and down the country.

While we are considering money, I should refer to the panacea of the Opposition—the specially low interest rate. The hon. Gentleman referred to the practice of some countries abroad of having a low interest rate for housing and other social purposes. But a number of the countries which have a specially low interest rate do not, as a matter of fact, have subsidies. Some countries have both a low interest rate and subsidies. In some countries the low interest rate is treated as an alterntive to a subsidy system. We have a subsidy system. We are negotiating what changes may be necessary in that system. We believe that a subsidy system can be far more helpful to those who need help, and far less indiscriminate, than a specially low interest rate, which would have all sorts of implications for the economy as a whole as well.

But the final element in achieving a successful housing programme is the drive that is put into it. Here, I should like to pay tribute to the drive and increasing momentum of the local authority programmes. Some people underestimate the huge administrative task involved in local authority offices in carrying out the inter-related tasks and phasing them correctly in slum clearance. It involves the simultaneous action and re-action of large bodies of professional, administrative and industrial people, and when it is doubled and trebled in pace, as it is in process of being, it reflects the greatest credit on the local authorities concerned.

I come now to what is perhaps the most difficult of all the subjects in our debate today; that is the pressure on London and the homelessness that results. I could say that the figure has fallen very slightly from the peak. It has, but that is small comfort. It is not as high as it has been over the last couple of months, but it still is in the very high brackets. It is about 970 families, about 4,700 persons. I am certainly not trying to minimise it.

In the middle term, though not in the short term, the plans published by my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for Industry and Trade and the President of the Board of Trade and the Secretary of State for Scotland for the North East and Scotland are relevant here. If we can make those areas more attractive we shall reduce the pressure on London.

I am in constant touch with the London County Council and am very much aware of the strenuous efforts being made to grapple with the problem. My Department will continue to give the London County Council all the help it can. An Exchequer grant has been made available for temporary mobile dwellings. My Department is also helping the council in the scheme for moving old people from council houses to places on the South-East Coast, thus releasing badly needed family accommodation in their old homes.

The long-term remedy is more land for housing for Londoners, and the regional study for the South-East will be the next major step forward in this direction.

I turn to the Amendment—

Mr. B. T. Parkin (Paddington, North)

Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the subject of London, will he say something about the problem of evictions?

Sir K. Joseph

No, Sir; I was not going to. It is not in the Amendment as such. But I am, of course, open to any approach from the hon. Gentleman on this subject.

Mr. G. Brown

Is the right hon. Gentleman going to say nothing about homelessness?

Sir K. Joseph

Yes, but I do not want to pursue it by question and answer now.

Mr. Parkin

Since the subject is not in the proposed Bill, I should have thought that security of tenure would have been a subject which the right hon. Gentleman would have discussed today.

Sir K. Joseph

No, Sir. I would suggest that what is in the Bill is better discussed when we come to deal with the new Bill.

I agree with the hon. Member for Fulham that the real answer to all these problems, of which homelessness is a symptom, is more houses, and it is in order to obtain more houses that we are doing what we propose.

Mr. Douglas Jay (Battersea, North)

Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the subject of London, is he prepared to say that he intends to ensure that the railway sites to be released will be used for housing, and particularly for council housing in London?

Sir K. Joseph

No one knows better than I do the importance of getting every square inch that I can for housing, particularly in London. Of that I can assure the House.

I was turning to the Amendment. Perhaps I may now turn from London to Wales. I now propose to talk about something which is of particular importance in Wales as well as elsewhere. The hon. Gentleman referred to leasehold. The Government's position is plain. It is that no clear need has been demonstrated for compulsory enfranchisement, and certainly not at below market value. There is no immediate large number of leases falling in. The new Welsh housing drive, which will put up the number of houses completed in Wales in two years by 20 per cent, and maintain it there for at least five years, will have much increased the stock and choice of housing and thus much reduced the scarcity values before leases in any quantity fall in. Most tenants can buy their reversion or extend their leases now, and for those who cannot, whose leases which fall in, there is the protection cf the Landlord and Tenant Act, 1954.

As to the Socialist policy, to which the hon. Member did not refer in any detail, I hope that it will be made plain at what price Socialist policy would have compulsory enfranchisement set. Near market value? That would be a disappointment to many people wooed by Socialist propagandists. Far below market value? That would be a taste of Socialist confiscation. We still await the details.

Now I come to the problem of land prices. [An Hon. Member: "About time."] I have given more time to these things than the hon. Member for Fulham did. The first thing to get clear about land prices is what is really troubling us about them. [An Hon. Member: "They are too high."] If an hon. Member opposite wants to intervene, I hope that he will have the courtesy to get up instead of sitting muttering.

Mr. G. Brown rose

Sir K. Joseph

I was not referring to the right hon. Gentleman. I was referring to one of his hon. Friends.

Mr. Brown

The right hon. Gentleman is doing one of my hon. Friends an injustice. It was I who was muttering. What I was saying was that the only people whom the Minister is "kidding" is himself and his hon. Friends. Nobody outside will be taken in by what he is doing.

Sir K. Joseph

That was worth a mutter. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will cease to "kid" people in Wales and Birmingham and say at what price compulsory enfranchisement will take place.

The worry about land prices cannot be that they are inhibiting development. They are symptoms of boom. Land prices are not high in the areas where development is badly needed. They are high where prosperity is high. Nor do land prices even inhibit housebuilding. The figures of house building are running at record post-war levels. What troubles people most is the profit that individuals are making—in some cases big money—out of land transactions. This is because land, which is so necessary, is scarce and because it is made scarcer by planning control.

Of course, all this adds up to a fair point. The question of collecting for the community the increases in land values created, in part at least, by the community has troubled people for at least fifty years. Many efforts have been made to collect betterment. All have failed so far. Perhaps we should try again. I would not rule that out.

But we shall not reduce the price of land to the developer merely by collecting the betterment or profit or any part of it. Do not let us make any mistake about that. Nor shall we increase supply, which is the real problem. What troubles me about high land prices is that they indicate a shortage and add to the cost of development, especially of housing. This shortage the Government are tackling first and foremost.

If we can cure that we shall have done what matters. The prices of land in booming towns will always be relatively high, especially in the centre. But provided people do not have to live and work in the centres, unless they want to, and can get houses at reasonable prices elsewhere, I shall not be greatly worried about that.

For all the great cities, plans are in hand to overcome land shortages both in the short and the middle-term. This is the only effective way to cure the malady of which high prices are the symptom. It is merely stupid, and worse, to go for the symptoms without tackling the cause.

The Government cannot just leave the profit question at that. It is in relation to the bringing of new land into development that the question of betterment becomes really important, for it will entail public expenditure on services and roads to bring it into development, and this expenditure will create an immediate increase in value. It does seem right that that increase should be collected by the public. We do it in the new towns, where the land is bought in advance and, when it is developed, or is ripe for development, is leased or sold at current market value, so that the new town corporation recoups itself for earlier expenditure.

Local authorities expanding a town will do the same, although they will sometimes hesitate to incur cost by buying land comprehensively well in advance. We shall, however, increasingly do this. It is a corollary of regional development that land planned for major development should be bought well in advance by a public authority— [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I have written this passage out because it is important and I should like to get it right.

It is a corollary of regional planning and development that land planned for major development should be bought well in advance by a public authority for disposal to private enterprise or to public enterprise as required, both to control and phase the development and to help in meeting the cost of bringing it into development.

We may well have to devise new machinery for the purpose. But this in itself will not cheapen the price. Only a sufficiency of land will do that. But it does collect the betterment for the public in the only really effective way. The Opposition do not seem to be particularly concerned, however, with the great question of bringing enough land forward, nor even with the real betterment problem. They are concerned only to prevent private profits in land transactions, which is a singularly sterile and unconstructive aim.

I was interested to notice that today, unlike past occasions, the hon. Member for Fulham did not deploy in full the arguments for the notorious Land Commission. Enough has already been said both in this House and outside about that scheme.

Mr. M. Stewart

What is the difference?

Sir K. Joseph

The hon. Gentleman may not recognise the difference, so I will explain.

We are proposing, whether through new towns, expanded towns or Government initiative, that a great deal of extra land that has not been proposed for use by its owners in aggregate is brought forward for development. This is a case for extending from the new and expanding towns the policy of public acquisition of land.

But the Opposition's proposal is something very different. They are suggesting that where, on the initiative of private individuals up and down the country, proposals are made to develop or redevelop any plots of land, public money should be involved in buying this land piecemeal at below market value. The result would be a vast bureaucracy involved in buying over 100,000 sites per annum following compulsory purchase orders and then haggling over disposal together with controls needed to stop the first user cashing in on the market value.

This is the very epitome of lack of planning. It would be such a waste of public money and effort. The most obvious comment, with which I think the House will agree, on this scheme for a Land Commission is that as a method of slowing up all development it could hardly be bettered. But I suspect that the hon. Gentleman is slightly out of love with his precious Land Commission. He was much less enthusiastic in presenting it today, acknowledging criticisms which outside people have suggested, saying that they must think of a better scheme.

Our scheme is practical. It will help to put public money where betterment can best be reaped, where development is needed.

Whatever we do, land will be more expensive in some places than in others—in some places very expensive. Concentrated demand increases the price, and unless the State takes all land over and parcels it out in an arbitrary system, land which most people want will command a higher price than land which fewer people want.

This is an elementary fact which people fail to recognise only because they do not want to recognise it. So however successful we are in bringing more land into development, the cost of housing will still be high—uncomfortably so in some places. Where land continues to be expensive, there must be help by subsidy. As I have said, the whole structure is being reviewed, including the expensive sites subsidy. We are re-examining the problems of the inner areas of towns where renewal is needed over a wide front. We shall have to envisage public acquisition of comprehensive areas where necessary to make available for the kind of development, both public and private, that we want to see. Public acquisition for this purpose makes sense, but acquisition, merely to prevent someone making a profit, seems, at best, a remarkable diversion of effort from the thing that really matters—getting the redevelopment we want where we want it.

To sum up, what is our plan for tackling high land prices? It is, first and foremost, to tackle the cause—the shortage—and then to be prepared to undertake large-scale acquisition by the public in order to get the building we need, as and where we need it, and to gather the value so created in helping to meet the cost; to be willing too, to provide what subsidy is necessary so that people can have houses where they need them at rents which they can afford.

The hon. Member for Fulham has attacked us a great deal about the past because he does not want me to attack him about the future. At the heart of housing policy at the moment must be the annual programme. Of course, the Opposition want more houses, of course they want to end the shortage and replace bad houses. That is not in doubt for them or, as the hon. Gentleman said, for us. The point is: could they, or would they, do it as quick or quicker than we? They imply that they would.

At long last, the Socialists have said that our programme of 400,000 houses has their general approval. They have said it here and now for the first time. What a coincidence. What about all their sanctimonious criticisms and the impression they give in the country, with so much humbug and cant, that if they were in power they could do better? And at the end of the story, it is our programme they accept. What about the high hopes that they have created?

In fact, the message of the hon. Gentleman this afternoon is that a vote for the Socialists will not increase the housing programme. No one who remembers last time would ever have thought that it would.

So their target, virtually ignored until we had announced what in practice could be achieved, turns up at 400,000—the same as ours. The Socialists hope to reap the crops that we are sowing. Let us go with Labour in housing—at the pace set by the Tories! They criticise our programme, but they do not tell us clearly what they would do. They have ideas, questionable ideas, about land acquisition, rent control and interest rates, but these are not the heart of the matter. They are just attempts to deal with the symptoms and not with the problem itself.

The problem, because of rising population and rising demand and rising standards, is shortage. One cannot conjure or control away a shortage. The only way to deal with this is a risinghouse-building programme. On this the central issue, Socialist policy has been non-committal, or silent, while seeking to imply that they would dc better than we shall. They did not give an official figure at Scarborough, neither the hon. Lady the Member for Leeds South-east (Miss Bacon) or the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) They spent a whole day castigating us and no policy and no figure was announced at all. They did not give an official figure at Scarborough because they did not dare, and because it would have made such nonsense of the criticisms that they had been making.

Our programme is based on the output that we expect from the building industry and makes full allowance for all the other rising building programmes—hospitals, schools, universities, power stations, factories and all the rest. We expect to pass 350,000 new houses, barring severe interruptions, in 1965, and during the succeeding five years we shall reach 400,000 houses a year and sustain it.

It is one thing for the hon. Member for Fulham to say that our programme is about right. It is one thing for him to come here and give us smooth words by saying that the next step should be about 400,000, but he and his colleagues will still give the impression outside this House that they would do better.

I think that we want more than just this vague assurance that they think that 400,000 houses is about right. We want to know what a Socialist programme would be. It is no good evading the issue and saying that they would have built 50,000 more houses a year over the last two or three years. They would not have. Even if they had, it would not have made good the years and years after 1951, when they would have gone on building 200,000 houses when we built 300,000 houses a year.

Nor can they escape the issue by saying that they would alter the balance of our programme, increasing the local authority share. The question for them to answer in that case would be how much do they propose to cut building by private enterprise for owner- occupation. They profess to be sympathetic to owner-occupation. They put seductive phrases in their advertisements. By being so coy about their programme they suggest that they would, in fact go for a housing target no larger, if as large, as ours, and that, within it, so much a larger share would go to local authorities, that, far from helping owner-occupiers they would in fact have to restrict private enterprise building for sale. Let the Socialists declare their policy positively.

Mr. M. Stewart

Last year we completed 305,000 houses, approximately 175,000 private and 130,000 public. If, as we all trust, the total figures goes up either to 350,000 or to 400,000 both the private and the public building ought to increase. Nothing that I have said would be in conflict with that. I say that out of the total figure a bigger proportion must be public building. Does the Minister disagree with that or does he agree with me?

Sir K. Joseph

Our policy is to increase both public and private enterprise building. [Interruption.] If hon. Members opposite adopt our target as theirs—400,000—and insist on having, as the hon. Gentleman has said in this House, 200,000 public enterprise houses, and if by then private enterprise house building is over the 200,000 mark, the logic is that they would have to restrict private building.

Let the Socialists declare their policy positively here and in the country and not evade the issue by suggesting outside that they will do better than we shall. They know that we are driving forward across the whole field of housing with mounting momentum. They know that in setting a programme of 400,000 we are presuming the full success of all our policies—consortia, industrialisation, subsidies, land, decentralisation. If they think they can do better, let them say so, and let them say whether and to what extent they would cut other programmes for schools, colleges, hospitals and power stations. They would need to explain by what magic they could do better. Would it be the Land Commission? Everyone knows that if that bureaucratic abortion were ever set in motion it would reduce the pace of house-building, not increase it. Would it be a house-building corporation?—No. That was to be remitted to the National Executive for further study, and quite right too.

It is not enough for the hon. Member for Fulham to dispose of the Socialist ideas on the number of houses, by tacitly agreeing with us after all the criticism that they have lavished on our programme outside this House. I challenge the right hon. Member for Belper, who I believe is winding up tonight, to tell us quite unambiguously what the Socialist programme for average house completion each year would be for the vital four or five years from 1%5 onwards. Let us know what their positive policy is.

Mrs, Harriet Slater (Stoke-on-Trent, North)

If it is the logic of the right hon. Gentleman's argument that to increase the number of houses must mean a decrease in school building, and so on. does that mean that the promises, which the Minister of Education has been making, to increase school building do not stand?

Sir K, Joseph

I said that if hon. Members, opposite promised to do better than us, they would have to explain—

Mrs, Slater


Sir K. Joseph

The hon. Lady ought to listen.

The Socialists are putting down a smoke screen on housing to divert attention from the facts. We have built more houses than they thought could be built, or should be built, and we are raising our programme through350,000 to 400,000 a year. We have cleared half the known slums and we are doubling and trebling the rate of clearing the rest. Local authority and owner-occupation programmes are rising fast. Nearly half the people own their own houses. We have just introduced a major Bill to help those who cannot quite afford to buy new houses and to modernise much faster the improvable houses. Our programme will, within the next ten years, make virtually the whole of a much larger population decently housed.

But the smoke screen is also designed to hide the total lack of a Socialist alternative. There is no official Socialist target. They have no ten-year programme. They do not even say how many they would build if they were the Government. Their Land Commission is an unworkable shadow of the nationalisation for which they hanker. They will desert it as they deserted development charges and municipalisation. Our record in housing is good and our programmes are bold and clear. The Socialist policies, or so-called policies, on housing are either ambiguous and evasive, or unworkable, or wrong. I hope that the House will reject the Amendment.

5.1 p.m.

Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham, North)

We have just listened to the Minister of Housing reading his speech and conveniently forgetting that the Tory Party has been in power continuously for twelve years during which time right hon. Gentlemen opposite could easily have carried out all the promises and pledges made during this Queen's Speech, especially those promises which the right hon. Gentleman has just made. For 50 of the last 63 years, the Tory Party has been either in complete control of our national affairs, or has dominated the Government. Who is responsible for the slums, the filth and the hovels in my constituency and in others? Who is responsible for the fact that in the twentieth century millions of people live in homes without a bath, a toilet, or even an outside closet?

To listen to the Minister one would think that he had just taken power, but the Government have been in office for twelve years. He now tells us that he is to discuss housing subsidies with local authorities. Who was it who cut the housing subsidies? It was not my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart), nor any other member of this party. It was this Government, perhaps under a different Prime Minister.

Sir K. Joseph

Who cut the housing subsidies? A great deal more money is spent each year than in the year before. The housing subsidies have been increased for the authorities who need them.

Mr. Lewis

The Government have cut housing subsidies to local authorities. The Minister explained at length that there was a large number of completed houses and he mentioned the figure of 300,000, but he completely dodged the point that fewer local authority houses for those in most urgent need are now built than was the case in 1947 and 1948. I have taken the trouble to look up the figures for England and Wales. I am here concerned with local authority houses, because it is mainly those which are required. Plenty of houses are available for those who can pay £6,000, £7,000 or £8,000. One has only to pick up the Observer on any Sunday to see hundreds of houses for sale at prices ranging from £6,000 to £20,000. But the average worker on £14 or £15 a week cannot afford those. I am concerned not with the Government's promises but with what they have done.

In 1948, under a Labour Government about 170,000 houses were completed by local authorities in England and Wales. In 1962, the figure was about 105,000, some 65,000 fewer, 18 years after the war and 15 years after the Labour Government of that time. It must be remembered that in 1948 money, materials and manpower were being used on war damage repairs to millions of houses. Every house in my constituency was bombed, blasted, or damaged in some way, some of them two or three times.

The Minister talked of what he would do in the next ten years, but in the last twelve years the Government have purposely and deliberately reduced the number of council houses completed from 170,000 to 105,000, and this year the figure will be even worse.

Mr. John Hall (Wycombe)

Does the hon. Member suggest, as he appears to suggest, that there is something wrong with more and more people having the opportunity to buy a house rather than live in a council house?

Mr. Lewis

I was trying to point out that a man earning between £10 and £14 a week is not able to save the money required to buy a house costing £6,000 or £7,000, or even £3,000 or £4,000, because his income does not enable him to meet the rising cost of living, for which the Government are responsible. He has no reserves. If he tries to borrow money from a building society, the building society says that unless he is getting £20 a week it will not grant him a mortgage. That is why men like that have to go to a local authority for a council house, and it is they who suffer from cuts in local authority housing.

Mr. John Hall

I appreciate the point, but has the hon. Member not seen the figures, published by the Co-operative Building Society, showing the number of people who are buying houses on a mortgage and whose wages are £15 a week or less, some with wages of only £12 a week? Does he not realise that under a Tory Government more and more people have been able to earn wages enabling them to have their own houses?

Mr. Lewis

I agree that over the years the Co-operative Permanent Building Society and others have been able to encourage people to buy their own houses. That was the case when interest rates were low, but since right hon. Gentlemen opposite have been in power building societies have had to increase their charges because of the increased Bank Rate, and fewer of those in the most urgent need have been able to get a building society mortgage. Thousands of cases in which building societies have had to refuse mortgages to those in the lower income groups could be quoted by hon. Members on both sides of the House.

When the Minister makes promises in the House we must not say that he is being dishonest. That would not be Parliamentary. I am not suggesting either that the individual members of the Government are dishonest, but I am saying that the Tory Party as a whole is completely dishonest. The Tories make promises and yet introduce legislation which is diametrically opposed to all the promises which they make. They were going to reduce the cost of living, but we now have the highest cost of living in the history of the country, in peace or war. They were not going to cut food subsidies. They have abolished that.

They were not going to introduce the Rent Act. I cannot believe that my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham, for whom I have the greatest respect, was so naive as to think either that the Minister would reply to his challenge about the Rent Act or that even if he did make a promise on that subject it would mean anything. Of course, the Government will now promise that they will not introduce any further decontrol. They will promise anything now because, as the Prime Minister has said, we are in election year.

It was the present Government who said they were not going to increase rents. My hon. Friend quoted the case of someone paying £3 a week for a two-roomed flat. I would point out to my hon. Friend that in my division he could find rents of £3, £4 or £5 being charged for one room, with all the tenants sharing the same toilet and bathroom. This state of affairs is due to the fact that the present Government have deliberately been looking after the big vested interests of the country. They have supported the landlords because the landlords have supported the Tory Party. That is why we find the problems with which we are confronted today in the working-class areas.

I know that had they wanted to the Government could have built 400,000 houses last year. They could have built them at any time during the last twelve years, but they have been more concerned with building the betting shops, the bingo halls, the garages and the big luxury office blocks. No attempt has been made to stop that type of building. If the Government can now tell us that they can guarantee 400,000 houses a year, why could they not have done so before? The same building trade workers are there, the same availability of materials is there and the same question of subsidies could have been looked at before now and the local authorities given the opportunity to increase their house-building programmes.

Time after time in the last 18 months or so hon. Members on this side of the House have asked the Minister why he has cut back on local authority houses and prevented local authorities from getting on with their housing schemes.

Mr. John Hall rose

Mr. Lewis

I wish that the hon. Gentleman would not keep rising from his seat. He can make his own speech later and I promise that I will listen to him.

What I am trying to emphasise is that this is the same Government that has been in power for the past twelve years. Even the new Prime Minister was a senior member of that Government, and for twelve years they could, had they wished, have increased the number of local authority houses. They have not done so. Indeed, they have purposely gone out of their way to reduce, and to reduce drastically, the number of houses for those in most urgent need and to increase the number of houses available to those who can afford to buy them. I suggest that this is not the way in which to deal with the housing problem.

The young and those setting up homes for the first time cannot afford to put down a deposit of £300 or £400 on a house. They cannot afford to pay mortgage repayments of £3, £4 or £5 a week. Therefore, the only solution for them is to go on the local authority housing list. In my constituency, which has the third best house-building programme in the country, there are people who have been on the housing list for fifteen years and who, despite our wonderful housing programme, are unable to get a house. Constituents come to me—and I know that this is the experience of hon. Members on both sides of the House—and ask, "What can you do to get us a house?"

I hope that the Minister will be able to give us some crumb of comfort by telling us that local authority housing is going to be stepped up and that something is going to be done to assist those people who are in urgent need of a local authority house. It is no good the Minister saying that he is going to build 400,000 houses a year if, at the same time, he is going to reduce the number of houses allocated to local authorities. That is the position at the moment, and that is the thing for which I condemn the Government.

5.16 p.m.

Sir Herbert Butcher (Holland with Boston)

The hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. A. Lewis) began his speech, which, of course, had no connection with the General Election which might take place in the near future, by rebuking this and other Conservative Governments and blaming them for all the ills of the last fifty years and by suggesting that for a large proportion of that time the Conservatives have been responsible for all the misfortunes suffered by people in regard to housing. The hon. Gentleman would have been more accurate if he had pointed out that for the last fifty years the Rent Acts had been with us and had at least attributed some of the difficulties to that fact.

Before I proceed I should, perhaps, declare my interest as a director of a building society and also as a director of a company engaged in building operations. I do not think that the hon. Member for West Ham, North has adopted the right approach to this question. I believe that the housing problem is a much more serious one than he has suggested. The fact is that we ire now in a different climate with regard to housing than ever before. What is the cause of this? Large numbers of young people are marrying earlier than ever before and thus the demand for houses has increased. Large numbers of people now prefer when they are old or widowed and alone to remain in their own separate homes rather than to double up with their children, which was more the accepted practice in the past. For my part I welcome that, but the fact remains that it places an increasing strain on the housing accommodation available.

There is no doubt also that the improvement in the living conditions, in which we all rejoice, has been reflected in a substantial desire for improved housing conditions, and that is one of the things which is making the demand for housing much greater at the present time. Finally, we must accept that the pressure is concentrated to a very large extent in certain large urban areas. It is because of these increasing demands on the existing stock of houses that I welcome the statements made and the actions taken by the present Government in the past to increase and renew the stock of houses by the refurbishing and the improving of older houses which has been done and is being done by the owner occupier, by the local councils and also by the landlords and by the encouragement given to or the goading of the local authorities.

I thought that the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) was not entirely happy when he tried to make fun of the figure of completions which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister had used earlier. There is no doubt that for the first three months of this year we had the worst weather for building that has ever been known. Not only did it slow up completions; it made it impossible to enter on to sites. If it had been possible to go on to the sites not only would there have been more completions; there would also have been more commencements.

The hon. Member went on to give us a harrowing set of figures—and they are harrowing—concerning the number of homeless persons. He said that in the Metropolitan area it had increased from 1,000 in 1957 to over 4,000 at present, and he attached a large measure of responsibility for that to the Government's action in repealing the Rent Act. [Hon. Members: "Hear, hear."] Hon. Members opposite say "Hear, hear", but they have not taken the trouble to analyse the problem very carefully. The fact is that the retention of the Rent Act would in no way have placed accommodation at the disposal of those who needed it. All that it was doing was to preserve for the fortunate occupier his right to continue in his premises at a statutory rental, irrespective of whether he was using the premises to the full by offering accommodation to other people or was grossly under-using property which did not belong to him and which it was not possible to recover from him so that it could be better used.

Mr. David Weitzman (Stoke Newington and Hackney, North)

Does not the hon. Member appreciate that decontrol meant increasing by many thousands the number of homeless?

Sir H. Butcher

That is exactly what I do not appreciate.

Mr. A. Lewis

Ask the L.C.C.

Sir H. Butcher

It is suggested that it has increased the number of homeless by many thousands, but that refers only to the increase in the number of homeless in London during a period of six years, during which time London and the South-East have been a magnet attracting large numbers of people from other parts of the country, and also such a substantial number of overseas immigrants that certain measures had to be taken to control the flow.

Mr. Richard Marsh (Greenwich)rose

Sir H. Butcher

I am sorry, but I cannot give way. We would all have more time to make our own speeches if we gave way on fewer occasions.

One of the great evils of the Rent Act was that it did not ensure the full use of controlled property. Although the advantages which flow from the repeal of the Rent Act can be overemphasised, to pretend that it has had much effect upon the difficulties and hardships with which our people are now faced is grossly to mislead.

The hon. Member for Fulham said that there were two methods of approaching this serious problem of housing. He said it ought to be dealt with both on the physical and the financial level. He went on to deal with the question of the physical approach to the problem, commenting on the need for larger orders, the accumulation of programming, and so on—all of which items appear in the policy of my right hon. Friend. It would have been a little gracious of the hon. Member if he had recognised that fact in passing. He equally failed to recognise that our building industry does not consist of a few large firms. There are many medium-sized firms and small firms. The products of certain firms may run into thousands of houses a year, but those firms which can build only between 200 and 300 a year must be aided and supported.

The hon. Member for West Ham, North did not realise that we cannot give our people sufficient housing and bring in the right kind of Bill to mobilise our resources to deal with the housing shortage if we attempt to operate by way of large local government contracts. We shall be utterly at sea if we do not recognise that many builders can only put up a certain number of houses, either for the individual owner-occupier working under the instruction of an architect, or, alternatively, acquiring land and building houses on it. We must therefore make sure that the full resources of the building industry are mobilised.

So far I have little with which to grumble at about the speech of the hon. Member for Fulham, but he went on to say that there must also be a financial approach—that we must reduce the price of land and also keep down the rate of interest. He gave some attractive figures, which I was quite unable to follow, which had been referred to at a conference of architects. I am not certain what is the policy of the Socialist Party on housing. It seems to be one of widespread and indiscriminate subsidy.

The policy of subsidy is carried out in three ways—first, by requiring the owner of a rent-controlled property to subsidise his tenant; secondly, by requiring ratepayers to subsidise occupiers of council houses and, thirdly, by requiring taxpayers to subsidise all houses which are to be built, under any circumstances.

We must agree that it is necessary to subsidise in one way or another those who have the lowest wages and the largest families. But those subsidies must be directed to the people and to the families occupying the houses, rather than to the properties themselves. The hon. Member for West Ham, North said that it is extremely difficult for the ordinary working man to buy a house through the medium of a building society. He was immediately refuted by my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall), who gave some facts and figures concerning the Co-operative Building Society. Those who are responsible for lending building societies' money cannot help but notice, as they look through the applications for advances, how many now come from ordinary working men and women—machine minders, bus drivers, police constables and chefs. Those are the occupations of the people who are now appearing in the lists of every building society.

The great trouble which faces us is the awful problem of the price of land. In this connection, I return to what I said earlier; the pressure is in a limited number of places. In my capacity as a director of a building society, I saw some houses being built in Lancashire, of which the value of the land content was under £200 per house. At a result, those houses could be made available, freehold, for less than £2,000. To erect the same houses in London would cost almost double, not because the building workers are paid so much more and not because the builders take so much larger profit, but because there is a scarcity of land. I do not know how that problem is to be overcome.

There may be ways of siphoning that money away from the hands of the person who owns the land into the public purse. If so, well and good, but that does not reduce the price of the houses, nor do I believe that in terms of national planning it is desirable to subsidise and to make land artificially cheap in the great centres. We must accept, whether or not we like it, that London and the south of England are already too big. The area is big, expensive and uncomfortable.

The right and proper way to bring help and new life to the areas of the North is not to spend money on trying to make things more agreeable and cheaper for those who live in London, but rather to utilise the national resources to make sure—as has been brought forward in the proposals of my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, etc.—that they are available in areas where people are living—the North-East, Scotland, and the North-West and in some of the smaller rural areas. We must ensure that our resources are placed at the disposal of the inhabitants in those areas rather than adopt an artificial basis to make London comfortable for us all by subsidising the people living there.

The housing problem is difficult and ought not to be the subject of party controversy, although I am sure that it will be. But if that happens, I am satisfied that with their past record and their plans for the future the Government hold all the trumps.

5.30 p.m.

Mr. Arthur Skeffington (Hayes and Harlington)

I am glad to find that there are one or two passages in the speech of the hon. Member for Holland with Boston (Sir H. Butcher) with which I can agree, or, at any rate, with which I do not disagree so much as with other passages. I am delighted that we are to have some investigation into the position of housing and land and all the subjects which are related to it in this general inquest on the affairs of the nation. As I said elsewhere recently, I still believe that housing is the dominant social issue in the home politics of the country, and it is right that we should examine it as well as we can—thinking not only, I hope, of the tactics of the next election, but trying to consider the needs of the people whom we represent—and to assess what has been achieved. We should consider where measures have fallen short and where others have been based, as I think that they have been in certain respects, on quite false premises. We should consider what positive conclusions can be drawn for the future.

I believe that the Government stand condemned, first, on the ground that they have never succeeded in presenting to the nation—or believing in it themselves—any kind of social policy regarding housing. They have been prepared to leave the matter largely to existing institutions, and to the "market forces," in which they believe. I suppose that is not unnatural for Conservatives. To them, the market forces, the profit motive, is the right motive when deciding on the building of houses or anything else. If one takes that standpoint, one is, in my opinion, immediately in a difficulty. You must try to justify this attitude to your supporters and at the same time obviously it limits, and makes one reluctant to introduce, Government interference from the point of view of planning the industry, and still more any form or any kind of economic control or financial subsidy.

The philosophic nature of their background makes it even more difficult for Conservatives when dealing with land. They believe in market forces and in the landowner being entitled to get the market price for his land, which today, of course, means the highest speculative price attaching to land in a particular area. It is therefore extremely difficult or impossible for this Government to tackle at the points where pressure is greatest all the social distress created by lack of housing and prohibitive land prices. If we examine the steps taken by the Government over the years, we see the difficulties into which they have been forced by their own basic philosophy.

I believe that the difficulties of young people and others who wish to get accommodation are greater today than they were ten years ago. I do not make that statement idly, and I should like to give some figures in support of my proposition. I do not want to go too far back in history on this occasion but I should like to start with the passage of the Rent Act and the false premise on which I believe that it was based, as was referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart). I wish to quote to the House part of an article by Professor Donnison, who last year conducted a fairly large-scale investigation into private households with a grant from the Joseph Rowntree Memorial Trust. I mention that to indicate that the facts have not been thought up in Transport House but result from a detailed individual investigation. Professor Donnison starts his article in this way: Six years ago many people hoped that a relaxation of rent restrictions, coupled with generous improvement grants, would rejuvenate the market for private rented housing and enable landlords to provide good housing for tenants who could neither get a council house nor buy a home of their own. But outside central London private rented housing has continued to dwindle; landlords have been reluctant to improve their property and have preferred to take their profits (or minimise their losses) by selling to owner-occupiers. Meanwhile, in central London, where rents have risen much more sharply, the improvement of their property has only been brought about at a cost of major changes in the kinds of tenants it houses. In other words, nearly all that we were told in the speeches of the former Minister of Health and other Conservative Ministers about what were to be the results from the operation of the Rent Act have not materialised. I think that to some extent the hon. Member for Holland with Boston would agree with this view.

Professor Donnison also found in his investigation—which was much wider and more detailed than is generally the case—that of the 14 million households in Britain, 33 per cent, wanted to move. Of that 33 per cent., two-thirds wanted to rent rather than to buy. But it is the fact that the Government's housing policy in relation to the renting of houses has been an almost total failure. It has resulted in the cutting down of the total number of rented houses built by the local authorities, as we all know, and the contribution of rented houses by private developers has been almost derisory. I exclude luxury accommodation which has only a marginal significance in the matters about which I am now talking. We know, from a survey made by the Central Office of Information, that there are 1,750,000 fewer houses to rent. That, I think, is some evidence in support of the view that I expressed earlier, that today many people find getting a roof more difficult—particularly young people—than was the case ten years ago.

We have to remember that the Government policy of high interest rates to local authorities and other difficulties, some of which I will enumerate later, have affected the supply of housing for people who are not particularly well-off. I suppose that it is one of the reasons for the obvious fall in the number of council properties which have been built. Over the sixty years' loan period until the time when the Labour Government left office it was possible to build a three-bedroomed council house for about £3,000. Today that figure would be over £7,000 as a result of the high interest rates. In other words, total cost has more than doubled. Of that £7,000, more than half goes in interest alone. Apart from the fact that we are placing a heavy burden on ratepayers for the next sixty years, in other areas many local authorities are giving up the effort of trying to build houses. There are 450 local authorities which are not now building houses, but who were doing so a few years ago. There is still a desperate need. That is one of the reasons, apart from the withdrawal or alteration of subsidies a few years ago, why local authorities provided only 124,000 houses last year as against 192,000 in 1948 under a Labour Government.

That was only three years after the war. Conservative Ministers always seem to want to go back to the years immediately after the war to find an alibi. The reason why the Labour Government were able to get 192,000 houses built then for those in dire need was that they had a social policy, which the Conservative Government have not got. This is one of the facts which is becoming more obvious to the people.

My hon. Friend the Member for Fulham gave the example of Sheffield and the effect of interest rates there. The split-up of the actual cash figures is very interesting. The three-bedroomed house referred to cost £2,500, and the economic rent was £214 a year. Of that, £36 was the cost each year for building the house and £113 was the cost each year of the interest. It is time the nation decided to have a better method of financing housing. It is no use for the Minister to try to pretend that we can do nothing about rates of interest. We could provide certain essential and useful objectives at lower rates of interest. We ought to do it, and the next Government will do it. That undoubtedly would influence the building of houses for rent, which two-thirds of households desiring to move want. That is the type of tenure they want. Most of us knew that, but we are glad to have Professor Donnison's figures showing that it is the case.

What has been the contribution of private enterprise to rented accommodation, apart from that of a luxury type? Figures are extremely difficult to get, but the Guardian, twelve months ago, published a survey for 1961, the only year for which it could find figures. It showed that the entire contribution of private developers in building rented property in England and Wales was only 2,000 houses. This derisory number springs from the fact that the Government have no social policy. By planning permission and persuasion we could easily provide that a proportion of the new accommodation built must be rented accommodation, but that of course would be alien to the economic forces of existing institutions and the belief in the sanctity of the profit motive.

Mr. Cole rose

Mr. Skeffington

I have a rather long speech to make and I do not want it to be too long, but it will be if I am interrupted.

Very often the suggestion is made that if rented accommodation is less then it does not matter as more people would be able to buy houses. I thought the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall) was off-beat in this connection. Mr. Graham Don—not a Socialist propagandist, so far as I know—a lecturer of the London School of Hygiene, said last September that 80 per cent, of the houses now being built are beyond the means of 90 per cent, of the people. That is a very good and convenient phrase which we can examine and see it it is true.

Take the case of an old house which one might buy for about £3,000. If one were successful in getting a mortgage of 80 per cent., one would still have to put down about £500. That would rule out a large number of people who are getting less than £20 a week. Such people come and tell me of their experience. I know that it is true that they cannot find enough money to put down for such a house. Even if they could, in a purchase over 25 years they would have to prove to most building societies that they are in receipt of £20 a week. That is £4 higher than the average industrial earnings in England and Wales.

I give these few figures so that it will be seen that what Mr. Don said was probably right, that 80 per cent, of the houses are too dear for 90 per cent, of the people. That does not mean that we do not want those houses, but the fact is that buying a house is not a solution for a large number of people.

The Minister of Public Building and Works (Mr. Geoffrey Rippon)

I was not clear about the qualifications of the gentleman mentioned for expressing these views, other than that he was a professor of hygiene. My hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall) drew attention to the figures for mortgages actually given by the Co-operative Permanent Building Society.

Mr. Skeffington

I am not quarrelling with that about past mortgages. I am saying that this statement is a convenient way of expressingwhat I believe to be the case and that it seems to be borne out by the figures in relation to industrial earnings and the general income figure which most building societies require from those trying to obtain a new mortgage. Not long ago the chairman of the Co-operative Permanent Building Society said that, certainly in the Home Counties, a person would need to be earning more than £1,000 a year in order to get a mortgage at all. It is a fact that for most people this is not the solution. Even when it is, they are paying in mortgage repayments almost twice what they would be paying ten years ago.

I have the figures of average prices and mortgage repayments for second-hand houses in 1951 and 1963. I shall not bore the House by reading them all, but I see that in the London and south east area the average monthly repayment was £10 3s. in 1951 and today it is £22 19s. In the Midland area it was £9 4s. and today it is £15 6s. The payment is nearly double in every region in the country. Those who are* fortunate enough to be able to keep up the payments have not much for which they can thank the Conservative Party, for interest payments make their monthly repayments about double.

There is thus the decline in the amount of rented accommodation, construction of council houses reduced, private developers making hardly any contribution at all, and the operation of the Rent Act freeing about 2 million rented houses from control. More than 500,000 have been decontrolled in London. All this means that the average person seeking a house today has greater difficulty than he had when the Labour Government left office. This has been made much worse by the total failure of the Government to adopt any rational policy towards land and land prices. This has two effects. It adds an inflationary cost to every new type of construction, whether it is in housing, schools, factories, hospitals or anything else, and, through the alteration about compensation in planning law by the 1953 and 1959 Acts, comprehensive development of cities has been made far more difficult.

To take an example about the effectiveness of the 1953 Act, before that year if a local authority felt it necessary because of changed circumstances-concerned with the building of a new road or a new or declining industry—to revoke an outline planning permission, the ratepayers were responsible only for the abortive cost to which the developer was put. That was fair, and I make no complaint, but since 1953 the result has been different. Although it may be the duty of the local authority to revoke the outline planning permission, the ratepayers now become responsible for the whole capital cost of the enterprise. This is a fantastic gift to the developers and a quite unnecessary burden is put upon the ratepayers. The scheme might never have materialised.

The other effect is that planning permissions are allowed because local authorities dare not face the financial consequences of doing what they ought to do on good planning grounds in the interest of their districts. The 1959 Act put the price of publicly acquired land up to the market value. I will show what the high speculative value of land has cost this country; in much social development it has cost an enormous amount not only in cash but in bad types of development which will deface the land for many years to come. One of the sorrowful things is to see much of the construction which is going up because good development has been frustrated by high land prices. There is the famous case of a small plot wanted in Middlesex, needed for a clinic. Before 1959 it would have cost £700. The owner, no doubt well advised, kept the negotiations going until the 1959 Act, and the price at which the land was then bought was £30,000. It was the same piece of land, and the passage of the Act had made that much difference.

Even the London County Council, which is not bereft of financial advice and resources, could not tackle the Piccadilly development as it would have wished because it could not afford the £50 million which was required for the 13 acres of that site.

One finds these difficulties all over the country. I am sorry that the Minister is not here, because he has been consistently dodging the issue of the planning permission which he gave for luxury development on one of the few remaining open parts of the North Downs at Trottiscliffe in Kent, an area of exceptional landscape value, which was about to be designated as of extreme national beauty and was already designated as a proposed extension of the Metropolitan Green Belt. Despite the fact that two inspectors, after inquiries, saw no social purpose in this development, and one found as a fact that it was to be a luxury type development for middle and upper class commuters entering the area by rail on a service which can carry no more people, he gave planning permission. One of the reasons which he gave was that he was afraid of the vast compensation which would fall upon local authorities if the planning permission, accidentally given many years ago, were not upheld today. This is the sort of thing which is despoiling our country and using scarce building resources for the wrong type of development. In the meantime there are many old houses in such towns as Chatham, Gravesend and Dartford which ought to be pulled down to enable new accommodation to be built.

We cannot get good comprehensive development, as the Civic Trust said, unless in many town centres there is a common ownership of the land. It is very often impossible to get comprehensive development by piecemeal building. This is one of the many difficulties which confront us in all our cities. There are about 400 development schemes now. mainly restricted to shopping and commercial properties, and leaving out all the more difficult and more expensive social development which ought to be achieved at the same time. One of the great advantages of Coventry was that it could do its development not only for shops and in the market place but for other types of building because Coventry owned so much of the land. One of the consequences, apart from a beautiful city, is that Coventry is today receiving a very useful contribution from its own development towards the reduction of the rates.

We on this side of the House believe that we ought to provide comprehensive development at prices which will not cripple the authority and that the way to do this is for the authority to purchase the land at the point of development at existing use value—which is quite high enough. We are not making a great gift to the public even if we pay out existing use value plus normal compensation plus even an element for a speedy sale. I should be interested to hear any hon. Member opposite say how he can justify inflated market prices, of the type which I have quoted, being paid to individuals who have made no contribution at all towards the land. It is utterly immoral that they should get these high prices.

The hon. Member for Harwich (Mr. Ridsdale) said that if we merely tax them we do not make the land cheaper. That is why we believe in the proposition of a Crown Land Commission which would buy the land at existing use value. Until we get that, or something like it, as some members of the Civic Trust have said—and that is not a Labour Party organisation—we shall not get good comprehensive development. Indeed, we shall not have good development until there is a measure of public ownership of land. I hope that it is not long, both in relation to a social policy for housing and in relation to a moral and sane policy for land, before a Labour Government will be able to put an end to the present intolerable state of affairs.

5.56 p.m.

Mr. Philip N. Hocking (Coventry, South)

The Amendment to the Address is similar to many Motions which we have debated from time to time, and the speeches of hon. Members opposite seem to be much the same as those which they have made on previous occasions. Much has been said about the days when the Labour Government left office—halcyon days according to hon. Members opposite. What a wonderful period it was! Having listened to all these remarks from hon. Members opposite, I wonder why they were voted out of office. From the housing point of view, I can tell them, because I have been involved in housebuilding and the housing industry for practically the whole of my life.

The hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington) said that it was remarkable that three years after the war the Labour Government were building 192,000 council houses a year. Let us face the fact that precious little else was being built in the country. There was a certain amount of war damage repair going on, but I challenge hon. Members to produce reliable figures to show the proportion of the industry engaged on repairs then and the proportion of the building industry engaged on repairs today. I think they will find that at present about 30 per cent, of the industry is engaged on repairs, and they will find that at that time about the same proportion was engaged on repairs. I remind them, too, that even to carry out repairs over £25 in value it was necessary to obtain a building licence. All this work was very rigidly controlled by hon. Members opposite. They stuck so rigidly to the four-in-one proportion—four local authority houses to every one for private ownership—that they were rightly voted out of office.

Having listened to the speeches of the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart), the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. A. Lewis) and the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington, I am sure that they would again return to the same sort of basis. They say in all their speeches that they want to see more houses built to let by local authorities. They ought to say whether they are prepared to limit building in the private sphere.

Mr. Marsh rose

Mr. Hocking

I prefer to make my own speech. It has been said several times that if we all make our own speeches we shall get on much better.

On the last occasion on which I spoke in a housing debate, the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington followed me in the debate and described me as the odd Member for Coventry. I shall go on being the odd Member for Coventry—

Mr. Marsh

Only until next year.

Mr. Hocking

We will wait and see. I may be odd in that I am the only Coventry Member on this side of the House, but at least I know my facts about housing and building. We have heard statements from hon. Members opposite today which I do not think they can substantiate in the slightest. It has been suggested that the only people who can buy a house are those in the upper income bracket.

Mr. Marsh


Mr. Hocking

It has been said time and time again this afternoon that the only people who can afford to buy a house are those earning over £20 a week. I merely quote two or three facts from the Occasional Bulletin issued by the Cooperative Permanent Building Society which was distributed to many hon. Members last week.

The Bulletin says that: Nearly two-thirds of the houses bought cost under £3,000; and one-fifth cost under £2,000. Almost two-thirds of house purchasers are under 35 when they purchase a house—the ages of over one-fifth are between 21 and 25 years. The Bulletin adds—[Interruption.] It seems to me that hon. Members opposite do not want to know the true facts about house purchase. I intend to let them have the facts.

The Bulletin says that: House purchase is spread over the whole range of occupational groups. Over half those embarking on house purchase have an income of under £20 per week and more than one-quarter earn under £16 a week (i.e., less than the average weekly earnings of adult males in industry). These are interesting facts which have not been borne out in the speeches from hon. Members opposite today. This document adds that: Nearly half the purchasers are able to buy houses with deposits of less than £400. This is not a very substantial sum these days. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]

Mr. A. Lewis

Tell the railway worker.

Mr. Hocking

I could go into my constituency and—

Mr. Lewis rose

Mr. Hocking

I will not give way. The hon. Member has made his speech. Let me continue with mine.

In the industrial Midlands—and there are many hon. Members from the Midlands sitting opposite—the cry is not about how much a week people earn but how much a year. It seems to me that hon. Members opposite ought to understand more fully the true facts of the housing situation. I am not quoting from the reports of sociologists. I am merely quoting from my own experience in building and selling houses and from the experience of the Co-operative Permanent Building Society. This is the fair and reasonable experience of people who are engaged in building, buying and selling houses.

In May of this year my right hon. Friends published the White Paper "Housing", Cmnd. 2050. I was struck at the time of its publication with the penultimate section headed "The Cost of Housing" where, in paragraph 77, it was said that the Government felt that housing subsidies should go to those who were in real need. This I heartily endorse, but it is a matter of some regret to me that in the Gracious Speech there is no reference to any proposed legislation which would bring this policy into effect. It seems to me wrong that there should be an indiscriminate giving of housing subsidies regardless of whether those who are living in the house are in real need.

In a number of housing debates a large number of hon. Members have made remarks against private landlords. They make a tremendous noise about the evils of private landlordism. When they make these statements they are speaking of a very small minority of private landlords but, nevertheless, they never make that point clear.

It is the fashion these days among hon. Members to hold meetings at which their constituents can state their case. A fortnight ago I was conducting one of these sessions in my constituency. A semi-blind lady came in. I do not know how old she was. I assume that she was in her early sixties. She was blind in one eye and almost blind in the other. I asked her to sit down and tell me her troubles. She started to talk about the Rachmanism of Coventry Corporation. I thought that a bit steep, even though the political sympathies there are not with me. She said that she received a pension of £3 7s. 6d. a week and her rent had recently been increased by 50 per cent. She had been enjoying a net rent of £1 a week and this had now been put up to £1 9s. 8d. On top of that she had to pay the rates.

A short while afterwards another elderly lady came to see me with her daughter. It was obvious that she was seriously ill. I found that she was suffering from tuberculosis. She was living in one of the slum districts of my constituency which is scheduled to be demolished shortly. She lived in a condemned slum property and was waiting to be told to get out. There were no services there, no water, electricity or gas. She had to cook on an ordinary fire and had to use candles for lighting. She asked if I could help her. She had been told by the local authority that she could not be rehoused because her husband, who had died four years earlier, had owed the authority £36 from a previous tenancy and until she paid that sum she could not have a local authority house although her house was to be pulled down. She could not enjoy the benefits which my right hon. Friend passes on to her through a local authority.

Mr. Denis Howell

What did the hon. Member do about it?

Mr. Hocking

I wrote to the local authority and I have not yet had a reply. It is so often the case made out in the House against private landlords that they are evil in all circumstances and are never to be trusted, yet on the other hand we have a local authority—and there are many other such local authorities—practising rent schemes which do not bear looking into. These local authorities refuse to consider the social aspects of the problem which hon. Members so frequently put forward in debate.

I should like to see some proper rent schemes brought into effect. If housing subsidies are to be provided by the Government they should go to those people who really need them. Even supposing that the lady who is living in a slum property, of whom I spoke, was lucky enough to have a council house she would have to pay a net economic rent of about £2 5s. a week for it. If she cannot afford it she has no chance of having her rent reduced. She was told by the local authority to go to the National Assistance Board.

Mr. Denis Howell

By the hon. Member's Government.

Mr. Hocking

I find this practice extremely distasteful, coming from those who say that the pensions policy is wrong and that pensions are too small when at the same time housing subsidies are being provided but are not being given to the people who really need them. These practices ought to be looked into and should be stopped. I hope, therefore, that during the next few months my right hon. Friend will give some consideration to compelling local authorities to institute proper rent rebate schemes which would allow those who are living on small incomes to enjoy the full benefits of the subsidies which are provided. It is no use hon. Members saying that the Government have cut subsidies. The subsidies have been increased, but today they are not going to the people who really deserve them. We ought to see that they do go to the people who need them.

Much has been said about land and land prices. The same old arguments have been trotted out over and over again. One must accept the fact that the high price of building land today is largely the result of town and country planning. Before the war, we did not have any of the planning restrictions which operate now, and, if one restricts the amount of land which can be used for housing, it is logical that, if there is a large demand, the price will go up. I am seriously concerned that there is not sufficient land available at present for the house building industry. It may well be that many local authorities have sufficient land for their purposes, but there are many places in which the private house building sector—the sector which pushed the 191,000 of hon. Members opposite up to the 305,000 or more which my right hon. Friend's Government have managed to achieve—is without land, and more land should be made available to it.

I think that this land can be made available in three ways. The redevelopment areas must be looked at again, and sections should be allocated not only for local authority development but for private development as well. There are good social reasons why we should have mixed development in the redevelopment areas. In my view, not enough is being done by local authorities to encourage private enterprise to go into the redevelopment areas. Only the local authorities have the powers to acquire these districts en bloc; they should buy them in, prepare plans, and extend the hand of co-operation to the private building industry.

The second place in which the land could be made available is in the new towns and the extended towns. I was pleased to hear the Minister say today that land can be made available to private agencies for building in these places and the profit kept for the public purse. In how many cases has it happened? Where has private enterprise been allowed to acquire some of this land and build the houses which are so desperately needed. I want to see it happen to an even greater extent than in the past. So often, the new towns and extended towns become vast local authority housing estates, rather soulless and lacking in attraction.

Third, there are large sections of land in a number of our towns and cities which are at present misused. They are not being used for any specific purposes; they may be designated for something or other to come in many years, but it is doubtful whether these schemes will ever come to fruition. I should like the local authorities to use the power which they already have to go into the question of the use of land which is available and, if it is not being used properly, to acquire it, bringing it into use for their own purposes if they have not sufficient land for housing schemes or making it available for private housing schemes. I have in mind in this connection the vast areas of allotments which are not being used in and around our cities. There is a huge piece of land almost in the middle of Coventry which has not been properly cultivated for many years. Such land could be acquired and brought into use for housing purposes.

Now, a few words about the price of land. A great deal of nonsense is talked on this subject by ill-informed people. Land will command a price in relation to whatever it can be used for or whatever it can be converted into; and it should not be forgotten that the conversion is not just a matter of obtaining a planning certificate from the local authority. Often, considerable physical work is necessary, and a great deal of time, thought and study is put into the matter.

Pre-war planning legislation ensured that building land was relatively cheap. It was easy in pre-1939 days to obtain building land in almost any part of the country for much less than £300 an acre. It was far too cheap. Today, of course, prices of £5,000 an acre are quoted for building land. I wonder how many hon. Members realise that, at £5,000 an acre, building land is cheaper than carpet bought at 25s. a square yard. [Hon. Members: "Come off it."] There are 4,840 square yards in an acre. I leave hon. Members opposite to work it out. Is it reasonable to expect a person to pay less for the site upon which his house is built than he actually pays for the floor covering on his kitchen floor? We must put all these things into some sort of relativity. [Hon. Members: "Hear, hear."] Hon. Members opposite are not facing the facts. If they really believe that people ought to acquire the sites of their houses for less than the cost of their kitchen carpet, there is something wrong with their thinking.

There is a ray of hope in all this. I have listened to the arguments advanced today by hon. Members opposite. Their proposals seem to me to be the same old medicine as before. There are to be more and more council houses. They want to take over land—they do not tell us how—in some unrealistic sort of way. They talk about leasehold reform while intending, at the same time, to set up the greatest leasehold system that the country has ever known. I cannot reconcile the arguments put forward by the Opposition with the views and enthusiasms of the people, for instance, their enthusiasm for the Robbins Report and their desire to have more and better education today. I cannot believe that these same people want from hon. Members opposite the rent book and a lease from a Crown Land Commission, a local authority or a Government Department.

These things are irreconcilable, and the only conclusion I can draw is that the country, in its affluence, wanting a better standard of life and better things out of life, will, when the time comes, reject hon. and right hon. Members opposite, as they rejected them in 1951, for their unrealism, and rely, as they are relying now, on my right hon. Friend.

6.18 p.m.

Mr. Charles Mapp (Oldham, East)

I shall not follow in detail the speech of the hon. Member for Coventry, South (Mr. Hocking) except to say that the evidence of the Co-operative Permanent Building Society which he adduced seems to me now, as it did when I read it, somewhat selective. I should like to know what relationship the figures which the hon. Gentleman quoted bear to the type of prospective purchasers and the part of the country in which the houses were bought. An earlier speech today shows quite clearly that, where densities are heavy in and about our towns and cities, the conditions governing mortgages, and so forth, are differently applied.

My hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart), in his very good speech, set out the challenge. I was more than disappointed with the Minister's speech. In some parts of it, I thought that he was endeavouring quite manifestly to meet the facts of the situ- ation. During the debate upstairs on the Housing Bill in 1960, the right hon. Gentleman was not the master of decisions. We then had another Housing Minister, the most backward we have ever had. I thought that the then Parliamentary Secretary, the present Minister, had more advanced thoughts on housing than the Minister of that time. However, I believe that in at least half of his speech the Minister lowered his standing in the House. It was straight-forward knock-about stuff and contributed nothing to this obviously outstanding problem of housing. To that extent, I was disappointed with the right hon. Gentleman. I know that over the next few months all of us, in greater or lesser degree, will be either overstating or understating the problem as it suits our point of view, but I hope that we shall not forget the essential facts.

I now turn to the basic problem. Since probably the end of the First World War, three overriding considerations have affected the housing situation. Almost everybody wants a house when he is young, but there are three conditions which half or four-fifths of our people are unable to satisfy if they want to buy one. There are no politics in these obvious facts. First, the person concerned must have more than average secure employment. Secondly, he must be earning more than average basic pay or wages. Thirdly, he must have capital savings, whether they be a nine months or twelve months proportion of his annual earnings. Those are the three relatively vital considerations which determine whether one can buy a house in this uncertain world. The tragedy since the war is that we have been considering purely or mainly those people who have been able to satisfy those three conditions.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington) accused the Government of having no social policy. It is cynical political complacency for anyone to argue that there is any real merit in an examination of the respective efforts of the Labour Party when it was in office in the war recovery era and those of the Conservative Party in the last era of growth. Any party would have had the same problems to deal with after the war. The difference between the two parties is that mine had a social purpose whereas over the last 10 or 12 years social purpose has been sadly missing.

Sir K. Joseph

Surely the hon. Member is obscuring the fact that his party said that not more than 200,000 houses could be built and that the Conservative Party proceeded to disprove it by building 300,000 houses a year and maintaining that figure for twelve years. There is a big difference.

Mr. Mapp

The Minister has lowered even further the general opinion which many of us have about his approach to housing. He has brought up precisely the point that I am trying to make. I am cynical about people who compare figures for the years 1948–1951 with figures 1956–1961 without taking into account the complete change in environment and the supply of materials. If the Government were able to build 300,000 houses in 1953, what have they been doing during the last ten years, because the housing position has been getting worse, not better?

I wish to deal with the problem of housing in the older areas which have faced housing problems in their most acute form. I am one of the two Members for Oldham and I have to face the fact that, according to the documents distributed in the House, we are one of the four or five most difficult areas in the country. This is a challenge which is being accepted by the local authority. The efforts of that local authority, until a couple of years ago at any rate, have been hampered generally and not least financially by the Government. There has been a lack of building resources and many political vicissitudes locally as well as nationally.

However, meantime, the local authority has faced up to the housing issue. I call upon this Government and the succeeding Government of my political outlook to face the consequences of the immense backlog of slum clearance in a town like Oldham. In about 1955, roughly 11,000 houses were alleged to be unfit in my area. So far we have cleared about 2,000 of them. The figure of unfit houses is nearer 20,000 and we have 10,000 old houses capable of modernisation. To that end the local authority is deploying all the means at its disposal. It has put in a new organi- sation and new people and has a new drive. However, it wants more technical help from the Minister, and so on.

It is no good Ministers coming to Oldham, as they have done, saying, "What are the physical problems? Go ahead; never mind about the finances". Could any prudent elected leader or elected officer of a local authority take that kind of advice without having second thoughts about it? Would he lead his town into more or less certain bankruptcy because a conversation which he has had with a Minister tends in that direction? Considering the finances of that local authority and the extent of the problem, the target of dealing with 1,000 unfit houses a year and modernising another 300 a year, of which a mere fraction is in respect of tenanted property, is totally insufficient. At this rate, it would take 25 years to deal with the problem.

I am trying to encourage the local authority to talk in terms of dealing with 1,500 unfit houses a year and modernising another 1,000 a year. If that were achieved—and one hopes it will be—there is still a 10, or 12, or 15-year problem in front of Oldham, and there are cities such as Manchester and Liverpool with problems as great as that.

I cannot ignore the question which is asked by many of my colleagues, namely, where is the money coming from? If one examines the finances of a town with a population of 115,000, with a rateable value of just over £3 million and a £12,000 penny rate, one finds that the existing capital debts are £8 million for housing and £3£ million for other services. If one takes a target of 1,000 houses a year and 300 modernisations, at the building cost applicable eight months ago, one finds that the capital forecast for a town like Oldham is in the neighbourhood of £28.5 million though I understand that the rate for building workers is going up by 4d. an hour. If we ask that this target be increased to 1,500 a year and 1,000 modernisations, we are asking Oldham to face a capital projection in ten years' time of about £39×9 million. That is in addition to £9 million for other services and in addition also to most of the existing capital debt.

Can this kind of figure be carried? I believe that is the kind of figure which is applicable to all the older areas which have more than their share of old property and a need for redevelopment. Can it be carried by a local authority that wants to have its fair share of the country's prosperity in the future? Those old towns have made their contribution in the past. One does not want to make too much of it, though one wants to know that it is recognised. I feel that their virility is such that urban renewal is a vital and well-founded necessity.

I can find nothing in the Queen's Speech about reassessing the financial provision for such towns, whether it be in the form of housing subsidy or cheaper money. I believe that there is a strong and powerful case for some additional finances for the sort of authorities to which I refer, though I am not prepared to lay down the law about the form in which that financial assistance should be provided. I should be prepared to be guided by the advice which is available to me in order that the financial inducements for which I am asking should go to the areas with which I am concerned.

I know that one should not discuss the Housing Bill, but, having read the White Paper, I was disappointed that the Minister did not come to the House with some better figures than were given to us in the Standing Committee.

Sir K. Joseph

The hon. Gentleman and I share the same passionate concern to increase the rate of clearance and improvement, but it was never intended or thought possible that subsidy negotiations could be finished in time to find any place in the Housing Bill. They are in midstream at the moment, with the local authorities.

Mr. Mapp

I am grateful for the Minister's intervention; but in May a White Paper was issued stating that these considerations would be under discussion in the autumn. Since May we find that £100 million Government credit, if required, can go into a form of housing development by co-operative arrangement.

Sir K. Joseph

A loan.

Mr. Mapp

This money is made available. Government credit may be used for the under-developed co-operative housing proposal to provide about 3,000 or 4,000 houses, I believe, but I am speaking from memory. Was not the Minister in a position to allocate some additional global sum in the form of subsidies? Do I take it that the Minister is still unconvinced of the situation, or is he waiting for more facts? The statement that we heard from the Minister this afternoon will not help us in those backlog towns. We shall not be helped until we get greater financial inducements and until such time as greater technical strength is available.

Then there arises the third point—the question of the availability of land. I was somewhat surprised this afternoon to find the Minister venturing into the new area of giving local authorities vaster powers to buy unlimited land, in order that subsequent development might take place and the local authorities might hive off the land to private enterprise. The right hon. Gentleman had not the opportunity that I and my hon. Friends had of seeing the expressions on the faces behind him when he made that announcement. This was an invasion, as I am sure his hon. Friends would feel, of the sacred argument that one must not interfere with the market.

Let me say this about the market. There can be no proper market in land. As I understand it—and I am open to correction—as long as land is the one and only commodity that is limited in quantity, there cannot be a free market. One can use land to better purpose but one cannot augment it. The logical conclusion, if land has that limitation, is that it is foolish of any of us to continue this argument about the market. Therefore, there is an overwhelming need for additional powers for modernisation.

Some months ago I came across a dozen well-constructed working-class houses in an Oldham street. I happened to stop my car there and was talking to some people, when a lady with a child in her arms came to me and said, "Mr. Mapp, what can you do about our water supply?"She was one of twelve tenants in a decent road of solidly-built houses, all capable of modernisation. She had a young child, and most of us know that plenty of water is required when there is a young child in the house. She said, "I have been unable to draw any water since a quarter-to-nine, and it is now a quarter-to-one."

When I explored the circumstances I found that those twelve houses have one pipe, and one only, from the corporation water supply in the street, and this sort of private pipe has to provide for the other eleven as well. So if seven or eight or nine higher up the road are drawing water the tenth or eleventh is wholly unlikely to be able to do so. I asked the public health inspector and the water authorities if they would be good enough to have a look at this.

I said, quite frankly, "Those twelve houses could be to me an investment. They are a solid lot of houses." I had reasons to think that one would be able to persuade those tenants to pay additional rent for additional services. However, I found that those twelve houses are in fact controlled by a responsible and decent estate agent and are held in trust arising out of a death, and there are four or five living members of the trust and there are three or four minors in the trust and they, of course, are not able to make decisions.

In the long run the local authority faces this problem, that if it asked for modernisation it could not get the landlords' representatives, each of the various trust people, to agree that it would be desirable, or to provide the money, or permit it to be provided. Here is a classical instance where, I think, additional powers are overwhelmingly necessary. My only regret is that I think the Minister's powers will not be enough.

Having said that, I go back to my original plea. With all the claims to priorities we have before us, are we in danger of taking the boys and girls of our Oldhams and Rotherhams and all the other big industrial towns and educating them as technologists, taking them to universities, developing them in the way in which, in the popular imagination, they ought to be, while leaving their fathers and mothers, their grandfathers and grandmothers, living in grimy, broken-down houses? I am very anxious that we should develop to the full the minds of our people in this country, but if there is to be any social priority about all this I say quite frankly that there is an equal priority, accepting the moral and social argument that as long as any or one of us is living in conditions such as I know of, and most of us here know of, in our larger towns, we must strain and stretch the powers and resources of Government to that kind of work, if they can be allocated rightly and properly to it.

I cannot but feel dissatisfied with the general tone of what has been happening these last four or five years. I cannot forget the contribution which a former Minister of Housing and Local Government, now the Home Secretary, made three or four years ago, a contribution which blighted the kind of work which was going on. Now comes a time of public accounting, and the sinner is brought to penitence. I trust it comes from the Minister himself.

6.43 p.m.

Mr. Godfrey Lagden (Hornchurch)

I feel that in this House this afternoon we have unfortunately once again allowed our debate on housing to become far too political. I notice that hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition Front Bench are astonished when I say "far too political" and that I should dare to say such a thing, but the point is that I think we do become far too political in these debates and do not give enough stress to what is the most important side of any housing debate, the human angle of the whole thing.

I am conscious that one or two of the observations I make this afternoon will perhaps be not entirely popular on my own side of the House, but, nevertheless, I am equally encouraged when I know that some of the things I shall say will not be liked on the other side of the House. Somebody on the other side is saying "Nobody likes you," but I could not care less provided I do the job that I was sent here to do.

It is an obvious fact that building land will have to be released if people who are at present so badly housed are to be given opportunity to buy a house or have a house let to them. It does not seem to me to be all that important who it is who lets the house. I feel that there is a place both for the council which lets houses and for the private individual who builds them to let.

I should like to suggest to the Minister for his consideration a use of the machinery of the planning authority when an applicaton is made to bund, it might be suggested to the applicant that he should be prepared to make a ratio of, say, one in four or one in five to let, if his application to build for sale is granted. He might be tested out as to whether or not he would be prepared to make such a ratio. I am not suggesting that this should be any hole and corner agreement. I feel there are many applications made where the person or company making the application would fall in with the wishes of the planning authority if they were put in that way.

Regarding the question of land release, in the area I represent we have very little land indeed suitable for building, but there are many pieces of land which come under the heading, in my opinion, of in-filling, of pieces of the green belt which fall into the category of being useful for building, but there seems to have grown up over the years with various planning authorities the suggestion that it is easier to say "No" to every application than to say "Yes." One can often hear it canvassed amongst officials of planning authorities, "If we say 'No' to start with the applicant has always the perfect right to go to appeal."

What they do not realise—or I hope they do not—is that all applicants are not wealthy people, and that to have to go to appeal costs a lot of money; but apart from the money side of it, it takes a long, long time. I am sure that the Minister knows this, and I am confident that he will do his best, but is it generally realised that, if a person does go to appeal against a refusal by a local authority of an application to build, it will be in any case twelve months or more before he gets a decision?

That is bad enough, but it means that if he is successful at the end of that period the physical building of the house has been delayed twelve months, and that people who could have enjoyed the housing have not been able to enjoy it for twelve months. To an official in a council office, or whatever it may be, that may not seem very important, but to a person who is waiting on the housing list, the person who is prepared to buy or to rent a house if it should be available, it is a very long period of continued misery. We all know from the people who come to us that sometimes, when we are able to say to them, "I am confident from the information I have received that you will be allocated a house within twelve months", there is certainly a look of relief, but with it goes a realisation of yet a further long period of having to live in their present bad conditions.

I want to destroy what I consider to be one rather foolish argument. It is only a good thing when one is able to build houses where people want to live. It is no argument at all to say to a person who has to live in Hornchurch or district, "There are very cheap houses for sale in Dorset". Quite frankly, if I am expected to tell people that, and get any praise at all for it, I shall not do so. Where men live and work is where men must be housed.

There is another point about this. I think it almost immoral to say to elderly people, "You have lived all your life in this district, but now you are retired, and your income is down, why not go to Cornwall?" They do not want to go to Cornwall. After all, where a man lives should to a certain extent be his own concern. People take their roots in a place, they have their children there, and their associations there, and it is utterly and entirely ridiculous to suggest to people of such an age, "You should pack up, go 100 miles away and start again."

I am confident that the Minister under-stands the human side of this problem, and that he will endeavour to do all he can. It can be done. During his term of office my right hon. Friend has shown that he may be—and I believe that he will be—a strong enough Minister to make planning officials, who have got thoroughly used to "running" those elected members of councils and county councils—and I am on a county council myself—concerned with planning, clearly understand that his policy is to produce houses for people to live in, and that the obstacles that officials may suggest to him exist are there only to be overcome.

6.53 p.m.

Mr. Denis Howell (Birmingham, Small Heath)

I am glad to follow the hon. Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Lagden). He has made a typically frank intervention, and I want to deal with some of the matters that he has mentioned. I do not agree with the hon. Member in entirely deploring the introduction of politics into the subject, although [very much agree that the object of a political dissertation on housing must, as an end product, have the relief of the suffering and misery of the people concerned. But the Minister himself has spent a large part of his time in discussing the political situation; indeed, in an intervention a few moments ago he took political credit for the fact that the Conservative Government built 300,000 houses a year. Since he intervened in that way, one has to point out that while we agree that the Tories did build that number of houses, it was done at the expense of other things.

Like myself, the right hon. Gentleman was not a Member of this House at the time, but it is well known that the resolution passed at the Conservative Party conference to build 300,000 houses a year was moved by the hon. Member for, I think, Peterborough (Sir Harmar Nicholls) against the advice of the then Tory Party platform. It was welcomed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan), who spoke in that debate, and, I think, by Lord Woolton. The immediate effect was to create such an odium around the Minister of Education—Miss Florence Horsbrugh, as she then was—that she never recovered from that political situation and, in the end, had to resign office. We all know that we had the 300,000 houses at the expense of the education programme—and at the expense of the hospital programme, which never even got off the ground. I mention this in passing, because it is the situation that faces us.

I welcome that part of the Minister's speech that referred to productivity in the building industry—and at this stage I declare a little interest in that industry. The fact remains that whether the Labour Party or the Tory Party is in power after the next General Election, the whole future of the social policy of the country depends on the capacity of the building industry. If that is so, as I believe it to be, one cannot be very heartened by what one sees at the moment, and what the Government are doing about it.

The Government are committed to building new hospitals, new schools and new universities, new power stations, a tremendous new road programme, a housing programme such as we have never seen before, and the elimination of all the slums and the rehousing of that part of the population in ten years. That is what the Government say they will do, but we have to ask whether the building industry has anything like the capacity to produce these results. There is room for very grave concern about that.

In saying this, I do not wish to malign the building industry. In all fairness, one has to say that it has a fairly good record of increased productivity. In the four years from 1958 to 1962 there was an 18 per cent, increase in its productivity, and I suggest that, looking at the industrial history between those years, the building industry has done as well as almost any other. The trouble is that its concentration has been entirely in the wrong direction. The revealing fact to me today was that during the whole of the speech of the Minister, though he kept asking political and rhetorical questions of this side as to what our programme would be, and where we would save if we were to spend more on housing, he never once mentioned offices, shops or garages.

The figures show that between 1956 and 1960 there was an increase in the amount of new non-dwelling building work from £720 million to £930 million. Those years coincided with no hospitals being built, the road programme had not got under way, and we certainly had not anything like the educational programme to which the party opposite is now committed. We can, therefore, conclude that there was an increase of 25 per cent, in the amount of non-dwelling building work. There was a very small increase in industrial building work in the same period—from £245 million in 1956 to £294 million in 1960—but the figures clearly show an increase of almost 25 per cent, in the emphasis away from public work to shops and offices.

Anyone who is committed to the sort of social development that I spoke about earlier, to which all the Government's programme is tuned, must have some power and some means of establishing social priorities. The whole of the argu- ment between the Tory Party and the Labour Party at the moment is about establishing social priorities. We are entitled to ask the Government tonight, if they wish the nation to take their social programme seriously, to tell us what steps they will take to reduce the amount of work being done on shops and offices and such developments, which has got completely out of hand. The nation is entitled to know the answer to that question.

I want the Minister of Public Building and Works to tell us what steps he will take about the building industry itself. A very interesting survey was carried out by the Financial Times last week which gave us the figures for the set-up of the building industry. Out of 63,500 firms, 47,000 employ between one and 10 men, another 13,000 employ up to 50 men each and another 2,000 employ fewer than 100 men each. In fact, the number of building or construction firms which employ more than 250 men—the firms where one can expect to see the greater efficiency that the nation wants—is only 524 out of a total of 63,676. This is a chaotic state of affairs.

Whichever party happens to be in power, we shall never get the drive we need in building and civil engineering while we have the building industry made up in this fashion. I am the last man to say that we ought to have Government interference in the building industry, but it is clear that unless the Ministry takes the lead in trying to secure amalgamations, larger units and much greater efficiency, we shall never get the vast social programme, which apparently all of us in the House want, off the ground. This seems to me to be a very important fact.

The building industry has a bad record in one other respect, in its inability to attract and hold new labour. In 1959, 1,019,000 operatives were employed in the building industry. By 1961, with all the increase in building that has been going on, we had reached only 1,111,000. Incidentally, the numbers engaged on new housing between 1959 and April, 1961, had dropped from 134,000 to 123,000 operatives, which is another indication of the fact that the whole emphasis of the building industry had gone into the commercial sector of our economy, being concentrated on shops, offices, and so on. It is a very serious matter that the building industry is attracting only such a marginal increase in the total labour force year by year.

Mr. Rippon

On the contrary, it is a very good thing. The construction industries have such a good record at the moment because they are increasing their productivity without making any increased demands on labour.

Mr. Howell

I shall be coming to the subject of productivity in a moment, but I think it lamentable for a Minister to say that he thinks it is a good thing that the building industry cannot attract more people to its ranks at a time like this.

Mr. Rippon

I did not say that at all. I said that the total labour force is not rising. New recruits must, of course, come in to replace those who go out.

Mr. Howell

I must say that it sounded very much as though there was an aura of complacency about acceptance of the figures that I have been giving. What I am trying to say is that if we are to achieve this programme—at the moment I am not trying to be party political about it, because I am accepting that both sides of the House want to reach the target—we must get far more people into the building industry as well as increased productivity.

I turn now to the subject of the increase in productivity. The Minister talked a little about industrialised building. I think that we all want to welcome industrialised building—I am sure the Minister does—but it is no good talking in vague terms, as the Minister did, about consortia and that sort of thing. We all know that everything that has been done by the Ministry yet has not got industrial building off the ground. We must have a much greater programme of encouragement by the Government if we are to succeed. While many of the firms which are going in for industrialised building have impressive records in saving in cost and speed of erection, the total amount of increased accommodation which is becoming available to the nation as a result of industrialised building is infinitesimal. If we are to have a tremendous increase in industrial building, very large orders need to be placed by the Ministry. Whatever criticism may be made of the Labour Government just after the war, the one thing they did in respect of prefabricated buildings and the like was to say that, as a Government, they would place very large orders and themselves make the dwellings available throughout the country.

The signs are that many of the building firms that we want to go into industrialised building are not providing the capital that ought to be provided, not attracting the capital that ought to be attracted and not expanding their activities as they ought to do, because they are not certain about the future. It seems to me that what is necessary is that the Government should put all the ideas that come to them under the test of a rigid public scrutiny, and when they are happy about any system for a flat or a house construction, they must then say "We will guarantee your future in much the same way as we do for agriculture."

We certainly do it for the farmers. Perhaps I might say, in passing, to those hon. Gentlemen opposite who have spoken a great deal about subsidies that one would be rather more impressed if they had the same concern about subsidies for the farmers as they have about subsidies for municipal tenants.

We say to the farming community, "We will guarantee to take your production, and guarantee in the national interest to see that you do not lose." I think that that is right. I think that both political parties, as far as I can see, not being an agricultural expert, are agreed about that part of the Government's policy. Therefore, why cannot this be done in industrialised house production? It ought to be done. The thousands of small building concerns that we want to expand their activities will give us the greater production that we want only if the Ministry says to them, "We will guarantee your production if you will go in for industrialised building. We will guarantee to buy what you produce and make the houses available to the local authorities which need them."

But wherever we look we see that the whole emphasis is not only pushing the building programme into shops, offices and other commercial buildings, but is defeating public building enterprises in order to increase private building enterprises. The Opposition do not object to building for sale—we object to high prices and the exploitation of young married couples trying to buy houses—but the figures are very alarming. The value of work done on new houses started in the United Kingdom under the Government fell from £341 million in 1956—this is in respect of houses built for local authorities—to £254 million in 1960.

That figure tells its own story. At the same time, there was a corresponding increase in the private sector. The crux of the matter, as my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) eloquently said, is that, if we are to clear slums and do all the other things we wish to do, we must have a vast increase in house building by public authorities.

In addition to priorities, we are entitled to ask the Government about land policy. The Minister himself divided the question of the availability of land from the question of land values. If we are to have an enthusiastic new programme and to accept greater urgency, we are bound to ask what signs there are that the Ministry itself is showing urgency in making local authorities provide the land needed.

In my constituency there is a builder who own some land in Warwickshire. I have taken up his case with three Ministers of Housing and Local Government, including the right hon. Gentleman. In his remarks about the availability of land for Birmingham, the right hon. Gentleman passed lightly over the problem with words to the effect that Birmingham is having talks with a neighbouring local authority. I suppose that, strictly speaking, that is true, but it is not so much a dialogue but a monologue by Birmingham, because nothing worth while is being contributed by Warwickshire County Council, which is behaving in the most disgraceful manner.

Warwickshire County Council is not making any land available for the housing of the people of Birmingham. Three Ministers of Housing and Local Government have tried to move the council to do so, but without success. I do not want to make a party political point of this, because Staffordshire, which also has a Conservative majority, has done much better and is to be congratulated. Tory-run Worcestershire is also beginning to do better, particularly Droitwich and Bromsgrove, both of which are to provide land.

Mr. James Dance (Bromsgrove)

Hear, hear.

Mr. Howell

I am not sure that the houses to be built at Bromsgrove will not eventually help to remove the hon. Member for Bromsgrove (Mr. Dance) from his seat at the next election. If not, I hope that it will occur at the election after that.

Nevertheless, I want to pay tribute to him and to the hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mr. W. Yates)—who is not here and who does not often get praise in this House—for their realistic housing policy, pursued despite the knowledge that it is not particularly in their own interests as Members of this House. They have, however, pursued that policy knowing that it was in the national interest, and we in Birmingham appreciate their efforts.

But all this does not apply to Warwickshire. What does the builder in my constituency plan to do with his land in Warwickshire? He has said that if he can get permission to build he will build mostly for local authorities, although, naturally, he will retain the right to build some houses for private sale. This is a very serious matter. Argument has been going on for years, with three Ministers being brought in with no success at all.

I know that the argument put forward is that this is green belt land, and here I support what was said by the hon. Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Lagden). I believe that the great theme should be new towns. I am very much a "new towns man". But the argument about the green belt is becoming prostituted. I would support the retention at all costs of green belt land if the corollary were that the public had access to it. But the policy is to put an iron fence around large towns and create open spaces which suit people in county areas, but to which the public from large urban districts have no access. That is not a sensible green belt policy. I believe that the Minister should designate at least four new towns in the west Midlands instead of only two. If we combined that provision with a sensible policy for land it would be to the benefit of the whole nation.

Mr. Lagden

I would like to put on record that I did not suggest that the green belt should be seriously interfered with, but that in-filling should be allowed to take place. I am not of the opinion that the green belt should be eaten into in any very large manner.

Mr. Howell

I am delighted that the hon. Gentleman has put that on record, because that is my opinion as well.

I was saying that we all know areas of land which are to be built on at some time and that in the present serious state of housing we should have a much greater release of that sort of land to local authorities at a reasonable price—much greater release than at the moment.

I want to talk about Birmingham's problem, to illustrate the uselessness of most of the talk we have been hearing from the right hon. Gentleman unless we get greater productivity from the building industry and greater urgency in his Ministry. By 1971, if we use all the land at our disposal in Birmingham and all the overspill schemes we have planned up to the present are carried out—this in itself means doubling the rate of building from what it is now—we shall still have a deficiency of over 50,000 houses in Birmingham.

In that context, it is nonsense for the right hon. Gentleman to say that he will deal with slum property in ten years and that the problem will then be solved. I remember that on the eve of my election in 1961 the then Minister of Housing and Local Government, now the Home Secretary, came to my division and was taken on a grand tour of the slums. He said that they were the worst that he had ever seen. I agree. He said that something would be done. They are still there. People are still living in them. Yet the fact is that if Birmingham could demolish them tomorrow we could house on the same site roughly only half the number of families who occupy it now, even if we built upwards, as we are doing.

Mr. Julian Snow (Lichfield and Tamworth)

The problem of Birmingham's overspill affects my constituency very much. Will not my hon. Friend agree that the slow decanting of industry—I do not blame Birmingham or the overspill areas, but I do blame the Minister and the President of the Board of Trade—has had a bad effect on the building of housing in Birmingham overspill areas?

Mr. Howell

I am glad that my speech is enabling my hon. Friend to make a very important point. I agree that if we do not have overspill of people and industry taking place at the same time the whole idea will collapse.

As I was saying, in Birmingham by 1971 we shall have a deficiency of about 50,000 houses. This is allowing for the reconditioning of a tremendous number. All I have been saying about productivity must again be measured and tempered by the fact that the new housing Bill commits the industry to a wholesale increase in the amount of repair work. But if we increase the amount of repair work by the industry it must be at the expense of something else unless we get productivity moving ahead.

It is a formidable charge that the Government have not yet awakened to the facts of life in this respect. How are we to supply all these services—education, roads, housing and hospitals—unless we have much greater drive and better sense of priorities for the building industry? The Government show no evidence of greater drive.

This afternoon the right hon. Gentleman at great length twitted the Opposition about what terms they would lay down in respect of the leasehold system. I am delighted to see my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Newport (Sir F. Soskice) here because, when I was fortunate enough last year to draw first place in the ballot for Private Members' Bills, I introduced a Bill for leasehold enfranchisement and was delighted to have him advise me how it could be drafted to make legal sense of a very complicated question. My hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington) is also here. He has taken an interest in leasehold for many years and he, too, happily for me, was very willing to give advice as president of a society for leasehold reform, and as a lawyer.

The outcome of these three-sided discussions was that we produced a formula. Whatever the Minister says about the formula by which people should be entitled to buy their freeholds, it was an extremely generous one. It was designed to be very generous because I was introducing my Bill in a House of Commons of overwhelming Conservative character. The fact that it was generous, and that we were saying 25 years' ground rent at modern values—as generous, I would have thought, as anything that anyone could have put into a Private Member's Bill—did not stop the right hon. Gentleman leading the whole army of Tory Members, with one or two exceptions, into the Lobby against my Bill. Whatever the right hon. Gentleman said about leasehold today, his activities this year in frustrating my Bill must seem to be a lot of nonsense to most hon. Members. I am certain that it will seem so to most members of the public.

I have one further thing to say about leaseholds. I have said it in the House before and I hope that I shall be forgiven for a little repetition. I have received literally thousands of letters on this subject from people, some terrible cases concerning people in their late seventies, eighties and even nineties, who thought that they would be all right by taking a leasehold house and who then found themselves in the most appalling difficulties at a moment in life when they could not raise money to buy a new house and when no building society would look at them.

Most of those letters came from Tory areas. That fact alone, one would have thought, would have had some effect on the Government, because many of these people are their supporters. They are decent people who have tried to provide for themselves and who, because of the success of medical science, are living longer. They now find themselves in appalling difficulties. To refuse to allow people the right of leasehold enfranchisement in these terms seems to be very contemptible.

Sir K. Joseph

The hon. Gentleman is talking about thousands of letters of hardship. I remember that in the de- bate he quoted one case in particular. He was kind enough, at my request, to send me the details later. I hope that if he has letters about extreme hardship in his possession that are still relevant, he will let me have them. It is the first that I have heard of these letters.

Mr. Howell

I should have more encouragement to send him letters if I had received a reply to the one that I sent him.

Sir K. Joseph

That is most unfair. I intervened to some considerable extent on that case.

Mr. Howell

I am willing to say that the right hon. Gentleman wrote to me in answer, but when I say "reply" I mean an effective reply. In fact, whatever steps the right hon. Gentleman was able to take, the people concerned are still in the same difficulty as they were when I first wrote to him.

Are we to have an effective intervention by the Minister? It would be more encouraging to send him complaints if we were able to tell these people in terrible difficulties that something was being done about the complaints by the Government. I believe that the policy of the Government on leasehold will be one of the things which ordinary decent people in many parts of this country will hold against the Government at the next election.

Both sides of the House are very concerned about the building programme. We should take productivity in the building industry far more seriously than we have done today and spell out far more effectively how our resources of the building and civil engineering industry are to be used in the coming year. The Government have failed to tackle that thorny problem.

7.28 p.m.

Mr. James Dance (Bromsgrove)

I shall not follow in detail the remarks made by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Denis Howell), but from parts of my speech he will gather that we are not very far apart. I do not agree with some of the speeches that have been made by hon. Members opposite. I think that my right hon. Friend has done, is doing and will do in the future magnificent work in the build- ing of houses. He faces facts. That is why I was so pleased to see in the Gracious Speech reference to housing and the increased impetus to be given to it.

As my right hon. Friend and other hon. Members have said today, one of the main problems is that of land. It is perfectly true that for some years the Birmingham Corporation has been endeavouring to negotiate with Worcestershire, Warwickshire and surrounding counties to try to deal with their appalling housing problem. It is a problem—let us face it. I am afraid that those negotiations have not so far been very successful. In his great wisdom, my right hon. Friend some time earlier this year, brought out the idea of two new towns, one at Dawley and the other at Redditch. I hope that the House will forgive me if I refer to Redditch about which I know a certain amount of detail. I am certain that the points I shall try to raise will be applicable to all new towns. Presumably several more new towns are about to be created.

The first thing that I want to consider is the size of the new town. The suggestion put forward by my right hon. Friend was that Redditch should grow to a population of 70,000 and with a natural growth afterwards over a period of years reach 90,000. Many people in my constituency feel that this figure is too high. I personally do not agree with them, with one proviso. If I get this proviso I would be content with the figure of 70,000 and support the Minister on it. It is that the green belt to the north of Redditch—that is between Redditch and Birmingham—will not be interfered with. I believe that this is essential not only for Redditch itself but for Birmingham as well. We are fairly close to Birmingham and if there are any more incursions to the north, I think that it will completely destroy the whole idea of the new town of the future.

Incidentally on the question of land some councils had a bit of wisdom in the past and Redditch had already acquired quite a lot of land, so it will not pay fantastic prices because it had the foresight in the past to acquire this land.

I feel very strongly about incursions into the green belt and I should like an assurance—not tonight, because the debate is obviously too wide—that if the population of Redditch is increased to 70,000, plus its natural growth, the boundary between Birmingham and Worcestershire will be upheld. It is very important to know what the finalised green belt in that partof the world is to be. It is true that there is a lot of land which is more than suitable for infilling and which is now sterile. That is because local councils are terrified that if they give planning permission in respect of these infilling areas they will be accused of infringement. Wise infilling is essential and could produce many more homes, but few councils are prepared to give planning permission until they know what the finalised green belt will be, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will very soon be able to give us some idea.

I agree with my right hon. Friend that it would be very foolish not to designate enough land. I was delighted to see that the land in the village of Beoley, to the north of Redditch, is excluded from building, although I gather that land to the south is in the planning scheme. I should like to know more about it. I do not believe that it is planned to build on this land, certainly not to any great density, and I hope that it is to be kept as a beauty spot, as a breathing lung for Redditch itself.

Is the title "new town" correctly applied to the proposals for Redditch? Is it not to be an expanded town? We are not starting from scratch, but doubling the population. Other new towns have sulfered from taking a long time to settle down after having started from scratch. Here we have an expanded town being added to an existing town with existing traditions and clubs and organisations. We already have operatic and dramatic societies, football and cricket clubs, rotary and working men's clubs, voluntary organisations such as the W.V.S., and many similar organisations. Last, but certainly not least, we have churches of all denominations, the church goers themselves and all their organisations. Incoming people will come not to something sterile, but to a place already existing and with fine traditions.

When these proposals were made, I took the trouble to go round and talk to many constituents. On one Saturday morning I took a tape recorder and asked people in the street for their ideas about new towns. They may sound elementary, but they must be considered. First, with a new or expanded town, amenities must grow with it. One of them is a maternity home. Redditch has been asking for a maternity home for some time. When I first became a Member of Parliament, some years ago, I had an Adjournment debate on this subject. We have not been given one yet, but if the town is to grow to a population of 70,000, provision for a maternity home must be made. The Minister of Health has told me that he will look into the matter.

Another important factor is the provision of geriatric homes. I entirely agree with the Minister of Health that the use of new and modern hospitals is the right way to deal with cases which need immediate action, for they have all the modern equipment required. We, however, need homes for older people in their own community so that their children and grandchildren and other relations can visit them without having to travel too far.

We do not want a new population suddenly to arrive, bringing young children, if we do not have schools. This may seen to be elementary, but it is important to realise that the tendency is for young people to go to the new estates, and so we need junior schools in these areas. In existing towns, as well as in new towns, new housing estates need community centres for people to get together. It is entirely wrong to have a large housing estate with nowhere where people can hold their whist drives and so on. In the village of Alvechurch, near Redditch, there is a fine hall where local dramatics and so on are held. Such buildings are essential to the happiness and well being of local people. I hope that there will be a series of community centres in this expanded town so that people do not all have to go to the main centre for their entertainment and for their fellowship with each other.

Finally on this subject, I hope that the architect will be of first-class calibre. This project must not be carried out in a niggardly way. We want a man with great vision. In this part of Worcestershire there are beautiful contours and hills and rolling land which ought to be brought into the design of the new town so that it becomes a model town which people will come from all over the world to see. Let us advertise the beauty of Worcestershire.

Another essential point is that as far as possible the town must be self contained, with its own industry. We already have an industrial development site and new factories have been going up. I believe that many Birmingham industrialists in the smaller trades, jewellery and so on, who are now working in antiquated factories would be delighted to bring their work people to Redditch to nice new homes and to up-to-date factories. This is essential, because Redditch must not become a dormitory town for Birmingham. That would be bad for Birmingham and certainly bad for Redditch. We want a happy, united community of its own.

If the building of this expanded town is based on those ideas of my constituents, the newcomers will be absorbed into the older population. In new towns, starting from scratch, the tendency has been to have a new and rather young population. An expanded town can be more balanced with a population consisting of people of all ages, the young being able to visit parents and grandparents. It may sound trivial, but one of the great problems of new towns with young populations has been the difficulty of finding baby sitters. That is one problem which can be solved with a population of varying ages.

The creation of this expanded town, as I like to think of it, is a good idea. If my right hon. Friend gives me the assurances about the green belt for which I have asked, I will support to the hilt his figure of 70,000, and I will wish him and the new corporation well in their planning and building of the new, or expanded, town of Redditch.

7.40 p.m.

Mrs. Joyce Butler (Wood Green)

I agree with what the hon. Member for Bromsgrove (Mr. Dance) said in relation to new towns and their problems. I am very much concerned because this afternoon, when talking about his plans for the South-East and the London area, the Minister made no mention of any new towns for the Greater London area. He referred, in passing, to the expansion of existing new towns. I was deeply concerned about this, because I am sure that this ad hoc policy of merely adding to the target figures of existing new towns is a wrong one, and one which the Minister ought not to pursue.

Harlow and Stevenage, and the other new towns which take surplus population from the Greater London area, already have a sufficiently high target figure, and they have planned their communities to accord with that figure. If they are expanded by a further 20,000 or so the planning of those towns will be thrown completely out of balance. I therefore urge the Minister not to do what he apparently intends to do in this respect but to let us have his picture of what additional new towns he will provide. The reorganisation of London government will in no way diminish the need to provide further new towns for overspill population.

My first speech in this House was on the Address. That was eight years ago, and I talked about housing. This afternoon, one hon. Member opposite said that hon. Members on this side all say the same things in our speeches, every time we speak. That is a measure of the housing problem. Eight years ago the housing problem in my constituency was acute. Today, it is even more acute. In recent months I have been horrified at the large number of serious housing cases coming before both the local authorities which comprise my constituency.

A measure of the housing problem is to be found in the fact that there is—as I believe—no hon. Member who, in his or her constituency, has not at least one family which came on to the council housing waiting list at the end of the war, in 1945, and which has not been rehoused today. Many hon. Members have hundreds of such families. Since 1945 the children of these families have grown up, married and left home, and their parents, who came on to the housing waiting list in 1945, now know that they will never get council house accommodation. The two or three rooms in which they have struggled to bring up their families will remain their homes for the rest of their lives. While we talk families are growing up in grossly overcrowded and in sanitary conditions. We are not relieving their needs. I want to say a few words about the problem of the twilight areas, to which the Minister referred this afternoon. I was very disappointed that he had nothing more to say about the way in which he will help local authorities to cope with this problem. I noticed with interest that whereas, a few days ago, when talking to property developers, he laid some emphasis on co-operation between private developers and local authorities, this afternoon he glossed over the private developer part of that co-operation.

All over the country these twilight areas are waiting to be redeveloped. They have not been redeveloped, for two reasons. First, just at the time when many local authorities were moving in to do this job, as the building situation became easier, the special grant they had had for dealing with blighted areas was merged into the general grant. Secondly, private developers have not cleared these blighted areas because it would not pay them to do so.

If this problem is to be tackled, something will have to be done to overcome these two difficulties. I ask the Minister in his review of the subsidy position—and I hope that the Minister of Public Building and Works will pass this on—to make a subsidy available to local authorities for this special purpose. If private enterprise is to be brought in in co-operation many elements which will have to be introduced into redevelopment to make it commercially profitable may be very bad planning.

I emphasise this because in Wood Green we have undertaken the redevelopment of one such twilight area. We are clearing the old houses and putting up new houses and blocks of flats. We are adding open spaces, community premises, a youth centre and a playground with play room for the under-5s—all things which are not commercially profitable and which only a local authority can be expected to provide. So long as these twilight areas remain uncleared, families will continue living in insanitary and overcrowded conditions. In some cases those conditions will be even worse than slum conditions, because of many of the houses having small factories cheek by jowl with them. So long as these areas remain uncleared valuable building land in our cities will remain unused. In the Wood Green scheme we expect to have a surplus of about 300 houses when we have cleared the area. Those houses will go to people on the housing waiting list. It is nonsense to talk about a shortage of building land when land of this kind is available, untapped, in most of our towns.

I now want to refer to the land problem. I think that I was the first Member of this House to raise the question of the high price of land and its effect on building costs. I have done so on a number of occasions since. I do not now want to point out the highlights of the high cost of building, but I want to emphasise what the high cost of land means in the ordinary, run-of-the-mill building work of a local authority. In the Borough of Tottenham, which is part of my constituency, it is estimated that the cost of ordinary building land, when a fairly large site becomes available, works out at £30,000 an acre. In the adjoining Borough of Wood Green the cost is nearer £40,000 an acre. A recent site of just over an acre cost £40,000. Industrial land in Tottenham costs between £40,000 and £50,000 an acre.

The town clerk has estimated that this is about two-and-a-half times as high as it was only a few years ago. This compares with six acres of industrial land which Wood Green bought in 1953–54 to take the surplus non-conforming industry from the twilight area to which I have just referred.

The present cost of such land is ten times what Wood Green bought it for in 1953–54. Had Wood Green been faced with the present price of industrial land it would probably not have been able to buy it, and the whole scheme of redevelopment for that twilight area would have been abortive.

The central area of Wood Green has been planned for comprehensive redevelopment and there an old semidetached cottage was sold recently for more than £10,000. A site comprising 09 of an acre was sold for £40,000. Whatever is, or is not, done about these high land prices it seems to me only fair to the ratepayers, whose combined activities as a community have made these sites so valuable, that the enhanced value should be reflected in the rate income of their local authority. I believe that the public is concerned about this kind of land speculation and would welcome measures to enable local authorities to collect increased rate revenue in respect of these sites.

I was interested to hear what the Minister had to say about betterment provision. I shall study his statement in more detail in the Official Report. I shall watch with even greater interest to see what the right hon. Gentleman does about betterment provision and I shall be particularly interested to see whether he is still in office in a few months' time and able to carry out what he has promised.

During the short time in which I have been in this House there has been a succession of Ministers of Housing and Local Government who have made promises and pledges. Only one of them remained in office long enough to carry out the promises which he made and, unfortunately, that was the Minister who introduced the Rent Act. It would have been better had he been moved before he had time to bring that Measure into operation.

There is one point which the Minister may bear in mind regarding what he referred to as the designation by planning authorities of land in the South-East for building. I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman has considered a special designation of building land for local authority house building. I make that suggestion for two reasons. First, local authorities in the South-East are being priced out of the market for building land. I think there is a case for a proportion of that land being allocated to them.

Secondly, the people who occupy local authority built houses already live in the area and this militates against the difficulty which we experience in the South-East caused by so many people coming into the area from outside to live. I believe that this is a suggestion that the Minister might well consider with some care.

I wish to say a few words about the problem of homelessness and the evictions which occur in my constituency. The Minister has received figures from the Tottenham Borough Council show- ing that in 1958–59there were 39 homeless families which came to the council for assistance. In the next year the number was 64. In the following year it dropped to 37. But in 1961–62 the number was 62. In 1962–63 it was 76. In the six months of this year, between 1st April and 1st October, the number was 49—a considerable increase over earlier years. This seems to suggest that the bitter harvest of the Rent Act is only now coming to fruition.

The Minister has had the figures, but he does not know about the heartbreak which lies behind them. In a road in my constituency there is a house where the rent is nine guineas a week. Recently, the landlord visited the house, accompanied by seven friends, with the intention of turning out the tenant because there was a dispute about who was responsible for repairs. The landlord took the tenant's furniture into the front garden. The police and council officials were summoned by neighbours and the landlord was persuaded to go away. A week later he sent a letter to the tenant saying that he was coming personally to turn the tenant out, and that this time the police would not be able to help.

In my constituency there were two families each living in two rooms and paying £6 in rent. In one case this represented eighteen times and in the other fourteen and a half times the gross value of the property. Only a fortnight ago four families living in one road contacted me and I was informed that the rent collector had visited them on the Monday to collect the £2 a week which each family pays, and he had told them that when he came on the next Monday they would be expected to pay a rent of £6 a week. Those are the sort of cases which are represented by the figures for homelessness in my constituency.

These are families which are living on comparatively low wages. A wage of £10 a week is not uncommon and the majority earn between £12 and £13 a week. When they have to pay something like £5 or £6 in rent it is a considerable hardship. A family living in two rooms at the top of a house with four of their children—two more of their children could not live with them, because there was no room—begged the Tottenham Borough Council not to enforce the provisions of the 1961 Housing Act because they were terrified that if the council did this the landlord would evict them. These fears were not unjustified, because in Wood Green there have been a spate of cases where, as soon as the council tried to apply the provisions of the 1961 Act, tenants were served with notice to quit.

I do not wish to occupy too much time in the debate, because I know that other hon. Members wish to speak. But I ask the Minister for Public Building and Works, who is taking notes on the Government Front Bench, to pass to his right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government four suggestions which I wish to make. I know that it is no use to ask the Minister of Housing and Local Government to reintroduce control of tenancies. But I think that the right hon. Gentleman might seriously consider some minor action which would be a great help. He could extend the statutory period of notice to quit from one month to three months. A period of one month is a ridiculously short time for a couple, both of whom are working, to be able to find alternative accommodation, if they are lucky enough to find any at all. Three months would give them more opportunity.

I believe that it should be an offence for a landlord to take possession of a property, unless he has the consent of the tenant, without a court order. It is becoming increasingly common for unofficial bailiffs to be employed, or other methods to be used in order to get tenants out of properties without a court order. I do not think that any landlord should be able to obtain decontrol of a property on vacant possession unless the tenant has given up possession willingly. In my constituency there has been case after case where tenants have been bullied or tricked into ending their tenancies and, as a result, the landlord has been able to take possession of the property.

I believe that the courts should be empowered, in particular cases, to suspend an order for possession. Only a few weeks ago a landlord gave notice to quit to a lady, aged 70, who was nearly blind and who had lived in the property for twenty years. The local authority agreed to try to find her some other accommodation. But she died before this could be done. I believe that had there been some means for a court to extend her tenancy it might well have saved her from the worry which helped to cause the end of her life. I make these suggestions because I think that something must be done in the interval.

It is useless for the Minister to say that the answer is to build more houses, because in Tottenham and Wood Green there is nowhere that more houses could be built, except on sites which would be made available by slum clearance and redevelopment. This, of course, would not solve the problem of those families on the housing waiting list or families which have been evicted. He must do something to protect them in the meantime.

Tonight, hon. Members opposite have been talking about the ability of ordinary people to buy their own houses. One of the results of the Government that we have had for the past twelve years has been that it is no longer a matter of choice for hundreds of thousands of married women with families as to whether they should stay at home and look after their families or go to work. They have no choice; they have to go out to work to help their husbands to meet the extortionate rents which have to be paid, or the mortgage repayments on houses which they are compelled to buy because they can find no other accommodation.

One of the effects of the Government that we have had for the last twelve years has been this effect on family life which no one can fully measure. It is an indication of the inhumanities of the housing problem and the Government have so far failed to meet the problem in the way in which it must be met. I hope that the Minister, in his enthusiasm for his target and for his programme, will not forget that targets and programmes are not houses and that houses are what we want. So long as there is one family in overcrowded conditions, or which is rendered homeless, we have not got our priorities right and are not tackling this most important of all our domestic problems.

8.2 p.m.

Miss Joan Vickers (Plymouth, Devonport)

I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak in this debate after the hon. Lady the Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Butler), because we have both been in this House for the same time. I made my maiden speech on housing which is a subject in which she has taken an interest for a very long time. She has great knowledge of it because she was leader of her local authority. We appreciate what she has said.

It is difficult at this late hour to pick out points made by hon. Members, particularly those who are not in the Chamber at present. I thought that the hon. Lady's suggestion about an extra period of time for a statutory notice to quit was a good suggestion, provided we could make the conditions such that people would pay the rent. Three months would be a rather long time if they did not then pay the rent.

With reference to the point made by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Denis Howell) concerning the building labour force, I understand that some new techniques are to be employed. I hope that when my right hon. Friend the Minister of Public Building and Works replies to the debate he will say something about that. I understand that he and the Minister of Housing and Local Government are working on techniques designed to hurry up the building programme. There is a unit which comprises, kitchen and bathroom which can be combined and put into houses in future. I should like to know how this design is getting on and whether it will be available for new houses quite soon.

If we are to have more houses and flats we need modernisation in the building industry very quickly. I agree with the hon. Lady the Member for Wood Green that we shall not be happy until we see everyone provided with his or her own front door, but we cannot do that with the present rate of building. I should not like it to go out from this House that it is not possible for people on lower incomes to get mortgages. Local authorities, under the House Purchase and Housing Act, 1959, have given 21,000 mortgages at 100 per cent.—

Mr. Marsh

The authorities have given those mortgages on valuation, not on price, which is a rather different thing.

Miss Vickers

I am sorry. They have been given on valuation and at 100 per cent, for 4,000 mortgages on the same basis between January and November, 1960. In my constituency a great many people earn under £12 a week. I understand that the Alliance Company has given one-third of its mortgages to people earning under £12 a week. People on pensions or superannuation and others with low income groups find it fairly easy to get a mortgage for a house.

Mr. Albert Evans (Islington, South West)

This is rather important. The hon. Lady suggests that it is generally possible for people earning £12 a week to purchase their houses. She is very deeply interested in social matters. Does she consider it a good policy to encourage families where the breadwinner earns £12 a week to launch into the purchase of a house with repayments possibly at £3 a week?

Miss Vickers

I think that everyone should be given the opportunity to own a house. I think that £3 a week, leaving £9, would be unreasonable, but they do not always have to pay that amount. I should have thought that to have the security of a house, which is an investment, was very much better than paying out for a house one will never own and which one cannot leave to one's children.

The right hon. Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson) said, in Post-War Economic Policies in Britain, 1957: The Tory achievement of building well over 300,000 houses per annum was electorally popular and socially desirable, but it placed a great strain on our economic resources. These were the years when Britain should have been developing her basic industries. Now we see advertisements put out by the Labour Party—one appeared in June, 1963—in which the Socialists are arguing that our target of 300,000 houses was not enough. Yet they say that it was economically unwise to build such a number of houses in 1957. I should like to know if we are to be told that we should not have built 300,000 houses because we left the basic industries unattended to or to be accused in the coming election of not building enough houses. If 300,000 is considered too few, what target would hon. Members opposite suggest should be built to, and to what target will they build themselves?

My right hon. Friend the present Home Secretary has been accused several times of being a very bad Minister of Housing and Local Government. I think he has a good record, especially in regard to the housing of old people. He started particularly the one-bedroomed flatlets which have been immensely helpful to single, elderly people. Last year 29,000 houses were built for the elderly. This is a programme in which I am especially interested. I hope that when he replies to the debate my right hon. Friend will be able to say that it will be increased.

I should like to see small flats attached to existing family flats so that when the mother or father is living there a connecting door may be used between the two flats. When the mother or father dies and another person occupies the second flat, the door could be locked but the younger people could still keep an eye on the old person living next door. I hope that we shall create more of these units.

Sir Barnett Janner (Leicester, North-West)

I gather that the hon. Lady has a very high regard for the former Home Secretary. Does she agree with the Rent Act which he brought in and does she approve of that remaining on the Statute Book in the circumstances which prevail?

Miss Vickers

I voted for the Rent Act. I agree that it was a necessary Act and I do not want to see it repealed. I do not think that repealing it would be helpful to the future of housing. As we are discussing this matter, the hon. Member might consider the effect of the threat of municipalisation. We have been discussing houses to rent. One of the reasons why there are fewer houses to rent is the threat of the repeal of the Rent Act and of municipalisation. Hon. Members opposite complain that there are not enough houses to rent, and that is one of the reasons.

It is interesting that nothing has been said about rates. Another reason why people are dubious about buying their own houses is that they are not sure what will be the future of the rating system. A great deal of hardship has been caused by re-rating. My right hon. Friend has set up the Allan Committee to go into the details, and perhaps his hon. Friend will tell us tonight when we are likely to receive its report.

I was particularly interested in the reference to the use of land held by the railways. When I was a member of the London County Council in 1937 we had a project called the High Padding-ton Scheme to build over the large railway yards. This seems to me to be an admirable idea. It has been done in other countries. Is it being seriously considered that we shall build on all available land over the railway lines, particularly over such main terminals as Paddington, where there are wide stretches of available space?

I pointed out in a previous debate that some towns—Birmingham and Liverpool have been mentioned—have enormous slum clearance problems. Will my right hon. Friend handle them in the way in which the problems of such constituencies as West Ham were handled after the war, with mobile teams undertaking repairs after the blitz? Shall we have mobile teams to help these cities which have such an outstanding slum clearance problem? Is slum clearance being regarded as a national problem or as entirely a local problem?

Paragraph 35 of Cmnd. 2050 refers to houses to rent and suggests rents between £4 and £7 a week. This is far too high a figure in many areas. Is there no opportunity of bringing them down to the level of local authority rents in the West Country, which are about £2 10s. to £3? If not, I do not think that many people will take up this scheme.

Reference has been made to the improvement of old houses, and I suggest that much more could be done in this respect, and that many more local authorities could encourage people to do up their old houses. I think that my right hon. Friend said that one million had been improved up to date. In view of the facilities offered, this is far too few. A grant can be obtained for a bathroom, an indoor lavatory and a food store. Is it necessary in this day and age to plan for a food store? Surely it would be more economical to give the person a refrigerator?

Mr. Marsh

To give one?

Miss Vickers

Yes. It would be cheaper to do so. In many houses it is very difficult to site a food store. In the prefabricated houses which were put up after the war refrigerators were installed. This would be more economical and better for the individual, because many of these plans are turned down because people simply cannot fit into their existing houses all the different sections which are required to get the grant.

Mrs. Slater

Where does the hon. Lady suggest that a housewife should keep many of the things which she cannot get into a refrigerator? She must have somewhere to keep them.

Miss Vickers

The purpose of a food store, under the provisions of the grant scheme, is for perishable foodstuffs. I think that a refrigerator would be more economical and better for the householder. It is not a new idea, for refrigerators were put into the post-war prefabricated houses.

I ask my right hon. Friend whether it is possible, without having to ask the sanitary inspector or the health inspector to visit rented houses, to have an official of the local authority who can inspect these houses from time to time. When I had a Church Commissioners' house they had a right to come in, if they wished, and to look at the house. Even though I had three lavatories in the house, apparently they had a right to demand that I should put in another. There should be some inspection of many of these rented houses to see that they are up to standard and in order that advice should be given as to how they can be brought up to modern standards.

Paragraph 30 of the Command Paper on page 6 discusses regional planning and says that regional plans take into account employment prospects, transport needs and other relevant requirements and make specific proposals for localities where large-scale development, public and private, will be encouraged. Nothing has been mentioned either in the Queen's Speech or in the debate about the south-west of England. The National Economic Development Council's Report says that there should be a national policy of expansion which would include the regional picture, and, in turn, regional development programmes which would make it easier to achieve the national growth programme. At present the West Country is being denuded of population, and I fear that if we have attractive schemes for the North-East and other places, the West Country will be still further denuded.

I have been interested in the reference to expanded towns, because I feel that some of the towns in the West Country could very well be expanded. This has been done in Swindon. Swindon had a population of 60,000 but it has been expanded over 10 years to 95,000. It was in a very similar position to Plymouth and other towns in the South West in that it was dependent on one industry—mainly on the railway industry, just as Plymouth is dependent on the dockyards. The population of Plymouth is dwindling, as is that of most of the other towns, with the exception of Gloucester and Bristol, both of which have flourishing industries.

If we are to have an overall national plan and even growth we should be well advised to consult these authorities from which population is migrating to see whether they can expand their towns. The land problem is not quite so difficult in a great many of these areas, and it would be cheaper to build these expanded towns which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bromsgrove (Mr. Dance) said, already have various services, than to build new towns.

I gather that my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade has said that the Government want to make places where people, instead of tending to migrate, will want to live and work. They cannot live there if they have no work, and this lack of work leads a great many of these people to migrate to other towns. My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade has received a deputation from the West Country and I hope that the planning of housing and industry will be so considered that there will be a far more even growth throughout the country. Difficulty is created because villages and towns in. the West Country simply cannot hold their population at present. I should like to know how many councils are working under the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Act instead of Section 43 of the Housing (Financial Provisions) Act, 1958. Many more should be encouraged to work under the latter Measure because the other is very narrowly drawn.

I hope that when he replies to the debate my right hon. Friend the Minister of Public Building and Works will deal with the question of housing for Service people, i understand that my right hon. Friend is now responsible for this type of housing. There is considerable difficulty in the Service towns in the housing of Service personnel, particularly in the case of the Navy, because the Services are now centrally drafted and therefore do not belong, as it were, to a particular town. Hitherto, if they came from Chatham, Portsmouth or Plymouth the councils there could be thought to be responsible for them and they could put their names on the housing lists of those authorities.

This has now become a great problem. Houses are built for the Service Departments. Psople have only a limited time—three years in the case of the Navy—to occupy the houses, and when they come to the end of their lease they have nowhere to go. If they cannot get out of the houses they can be charged 10s. extra a day in rent. In other words, they have to pay the economic rent. I hope that in future Service personnel will be integrated into the Service towns and that the local authority will be given money by the Ministry to build houses and so integrate these people into their housing estates. It will be far better from the point of view of the families, because they will arrive among neighbours who know something about the area. At the moment individual families have varying leases which overlap and it is difficult for the families to form friendships. AH of them tend to be strangers to the neighbourhood.

I should like to ask whether it would be possible to grant mortgages free of interest to Service people who wish to build their own houses. I ask because at the moment it is extremely expensive to build houses for Service people. If they were able to build their houses free of interest it would be a considerable saving to the Government. I hope that this point will be considered.

My main point in speaking, as I have said earlier, is to ask that in the future planning of houses and the distribution of expanded towns the West Country may be particularly noted, because if this is not done the West Country will revert to its position in the first Industrial Revolution. We are now going through a second Industrial Revolution and we are changing the shape of many towns. The West Country does not wish to be left out of the new plan. I greatly hope that the enlargement of existing towns which are large enough already will cease and that the general population will be spread more evenly throughout the country. The last Census showed an increase in population of 3^ million. The population is likely to go on increasing and therefore it is essential that further planning shall be done to find out how the population can best be spread throughout the British Isles.

8.25 p.m.

Mr. Richard Marsh (Greenwich)

I do not think that anybody on either side of the House would doubt the sincerity of the hon. Lady the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Miss Vickers). If I may say so, this makes some parts of her speech all the more frightening. The hon. Lady showed a complete inability to understand the enormous difficulties which confront people with low incomes when they are trying to buy a house. To suggest that it is easy for anybody—and I quote the hon. Lady's own figure-on an income of £12 a week to purchase a house is to live in cloud-cuckoo-land and to fail to face a serious problem.

Miss Vickers

I did not say it was easy: I said that it was possible.

Mr. Marsh

I am quite prepared to accept that anyone can go to Greenwich and buy rat-ridden slum property at a low price on that sort of income, but no one in this country can purchase a house of a reasonably modern type on that sort of income. I should like to give the House the sort of figures I have in mind.

Let us take a house at £3,000—and certainly in the London area that is not a luxury residence. Let us suppose that a mortgage is obtained of 85 per cent. of the price, not the valuation, which I think is a fair mortgage. Many building societies will allow a mortgage up to three times the annual salary of the applicant. This would mean on my calculation that the would-be purchaser would need to be a man earning £850 a year. This is not a terribly high salary but nevertheless it is above the national average.

On that a 15 per cent, deposit is £450, but it does not stop there. The purchaser has, with great respect to some of my hon. Friends on both sides of the House, a load of legal gentlemen to deal with as well. It is time that one Government or another made some examination of legal fees. I must say with the greatest respect that these legal gentlemen receive fees which are grossly inflated for the work involved.

Mr. Graham Page

Is the hon. Member suggesting that the legal profession does not earn its fees? There might be a new system of conveyancing, but the legal profession earns the fees for the work it does.

Mr. Marsh

My answer to that is, no, I do not think it does.

It is fair to add that to the person purchasing the house I have described, legal fees, moving expenses, new linoleum and curtains and so on would add another £200. This man who is buying a £3,000 house therefore needs an income of £850 before he is considered for mortgage, and £600 clear in the bank. If the hon. Lady the Member for Devonport thinks that that is the condition of a large number of people earning £12 a week I suggest that she has another look at the position.

I do not want to make a political attack on hon. Members opposite, however, because I do not believe that they are wicked men and women who want to see the present appalling situation continue. One of the great problems which we face after twelve years during which the party opposite has been in power is that hon. and right hon. Members opposite are out of date, old-fashioned and generally too incompetent to meet the challenge of this problem. It is a very serious problem which cannot be met by the long-winded references made by hon. and right hon. Members opposite to 1945, 1946 and 1947.

I have no doubt that there are a lot of arguments which can be put from this side to explain those figures, but I could not care less what happened in 1947 and 1948. It is rather sad that the Minister of Housing and Local Government, faced with this problem, has a jolly little waffle for practically half an hour about what somebody did 15 or 20 years ago. The first thing to do is to accept the need in this country for a complete revolution in our attitude to building methods and the whole concept of building.

One of the major problems is created by our attachment as a nation, which is greater than that of any other European country, to low rise housing as the standard of accommodation. In case there should be any question about it, I declare an interest now. I am associated with a very large firm of industrial builders. For social reasons and for financial reasons, it is no longer possible to accept in this country that practically every house which is built must have a patch of land for the growing of runner beans and lettuces. It just cannot be provided financially, and neither can we afford it socially.

We hear a great deal about building methods on the Continent in comparison with this country. In fact, the construction of true fiats in Britain today produces about 30,000 units per year, which is in the region of one-tenth the number being built in France and Germany. One of the reasons accounting for the difference in performance—the question of interest charges is a factor of real importance, but I will not go into that now—is that it is not possible today to continue to maintain an attachment to low rise housing because it is an inefficient method for producing accommodation in a country which is grossly short of land. Moreover, it is extremely difficult to find building methods which can be used to speed things up in our traditional system.

Low rise housing involves a massive misuse of men and capital. My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Denis Howell) made the point earlier that we want to hear from the Government at some time about what they intend to do to increase productivity in the building industry. What specific proposals have they to enable the industry, with a labour force which is static and quite inadequate in this field, to produce more and more buildings?

Let us have no argument in this connection about who can quote the biggest figures. I have never understood why people make such a fuss of target figures in housing. One thing which ought to be accepted on both sides of the House is that there is no possibility of any Government building too many houses in the next 10 or 15 years. So let us not hear too much about targets. Let us hear how the houses are going to be built.

The other day, the Prime Minister, for whose accession to the job all of us on this side are very grateful and relieved, told us, when asked why so many things were so wrong after twelve years of Tory rule, that the Government had been preparing the ground all that time. Now, after this twelve years' gestation, may we be told what methods are to be adopted to increase productivity in building?

According to a census of production in 1958, we have in this country 26,883 building firms, and 22,360 of them have less than twenty-five men. What about capital employed? According to a survey by the Builder in 1962, the firms having between 25 and 99 employees had approximately £45 capital employed per employee. Firms employing 100 to 199 employees had £53 capital employed per head. Firm with over 1,000 employees had over £75 capital per head. In fact, there is an enormous multiplicity of small companies, grossly under-capitalised, but the present situation calls for heavy capital expenditure if we are to produce a major increase in building productivity.

A consideration of output makes the picture even clearer. Net output per employee of firms with less than twenty-five men was £682 per annum. Net output per employee of firms with more than twenty-five men was £851 per annum. The Government should tell us whether they accept this state of affairs as the optimum use of the available manpower in an industry which is terribly short of men. The very small firm, the firm with under twenty-five operatives, is exactly the type of firm which will always flourish in the business of low rise housing, and, indeed, such firms have an important job to do, particularly in repairs, but they cannot, on that basis, meet the problem which confronts us.

Next, what do the Government intend to do about the inadequate research applied to the building industry? The level of research in the building industry is lower than that in any other major industry, yet it is an industry which everyone says we must do something about—a pious exhortation if ever there was one. Research and development in the building and construction industry is one-twentieth of that in manufacturing industry in general and one-quarter of that in agriculture. My hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) rightly reminded us that what we are speaking of in any argument between the two sides is the question of priorities. In the present situation, how can one say that a system of priorities which gives to the building industry one-twentieth of the research effort applied to manufacturing industry in general represents an ideal allocation of resources? Between 1950 and 1960, the D.S.I.R. budget rose from £4 million to £12 million. In the same period, expenditure at the Building Research Station remained absolutely static.

The great need is, first, to rethink our ideas about the type of accommodation we should provide, and, second, to rethink our ideas about how we should provide it. The present methods, whatever else may be said about them, plainly do not work. One thing which is obvious in the housing situation is that present methods have not solved the problems facing us.

What about manpower? In the summer of 1961, we had ten vacancies in this country for every bricklayer, seven vacancies for every carpenter and five vacancies for every plasterer. It was a normal average summer with no particularly bad weather. We cannot get the men for this particular operation. Therefore, it is manifest that we must find a way of producing more homes with even fewer men.

One problem which we could work towards solving is the appalling conditions under which workmen in the building industry work. Until I started taking an interest in this subject, I never thought that in 1963 men could work in such primitive conditions as those operating on British building sites. With all the alternatives which exist, one cannot think that young men will go into an industry in which they have to spend half their time wondering whether they will have a job in a fortnight's time and the other half looking at the weather and wondering whether they should continue to let the rain trickle down their backs.

I do not think that industrialised building is the complete answer. That has a limited contribution to make. But there are pressures which can be applied in the industry, including among the conventional building companies, in order to force them to provide protection against the sort of weather which is inevitable in this country. I am getting fed up with building companies which talk as if bad weather during the winter in Britain is surprising and they had not thought of it until it stopped production.

I ask the Minister whether it would be possible for the Government to advise local authorities to remove inclement weather clauses from building contracts. Let building firms take this into account and make provision for the fact that in Britain during the winter it sometimes rains, frequently snows and sometimes is very cold.

Mr. Hocking indicated dissent.

Mr. Marsh

The hon. Member shakes his head, but let companies invest in the capital equipment which will enable them to build through a bad winter.

Mr. Hocking

Assume that one had a contract for building flats or houses during last winter. In order to deal with all the problems associated with inclement weather, would the hon. Member be prepared to accept a large increase in the contract sum? Also, is he prepared to accept that it is almost impossible to take action against, say. 25 or 30 degrees of frost?

Mr. Marsh

If the hon. Member chooses to quote the extreme case, then every building company would be in difficulties, but many building companies could invest in equipment which would enable them to deal with the situation. The hon. Member keeps shaking his head, but he does not have to take it from me. I have here, by sheer chance, the document issued by the Minister of Public Building and Works this year as a result of the committee which he set up to look into what happened in building last winter. It states: If the inclement weather clause were removed entirely from building contracts bad weather would no longer be one of the reasons for which a contractor could claim extension of the contract period, and it goes on to say that this is a bad thing. It is precisely the desire to sit back and say, "We cannot do anything about this. Wait till the snow has finished and we will see whether we can extend the contract," which adds to the inefficiencies of the building industry. The quicker pressure is put on firms and the sooner they have to fight, the better it will be.

In passing, I am interested to know what the Ministry is doing about the question of open competitive tendering, which is a disincentive to new forms of building. I know that the Ministry is looking into this, and it would be interesting to hear its views.

The housing problem is a monstrous social evil. For twelve solid years hon. Members opposite have been telling us that something is about to be done about it, and always it is going to be tomorrow. They are now telling us, after twelve years of peace-time government and with things in their favour, that if only the population will have faith in them they will be able to achieve in the last six dying months of this Government the things which they have not been able to achieve in the past. I do not think that they will. I think that they are incapable of doing it and that they are constitutionally incapable of meeting the challenge. However, if they think that they are capable of doing it, today's speech made by the Minister of Housing and Local Government will not encourage many people in the country to agree with them.

8.43 p.m.

Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)

The hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Marsh) was right to draw attention to the difficulties of the building trade in reaching any reasonable target which it may be set. I am not as pessimistic as he is about the building industry increasing productivity to reach the sort of target which the Government are now setting. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Small-Heath (Mr. Denis Howell) was very pessimistic about this.

May I quote from a recent article in the Sunday Times, which said: After 300 years of near-stagnation, building is transforming itself dramatically from a low-grade muck-and-wheelbarrow craft to a modern, science-based mathematically-managed business". I think that that is true; the building industry is being transformed. [Hon. Members: "Who wrote the article?"] It does not give the author's name. However, it is from the Sunday Times of 3rd November. The article adds: One potent spur in all this is Mr. Geoffrey Rippon's reinvigorated Ministry of Public Building and Works, now for the first time really wielding the Government's power as the industry's biggest customer. May I now come back to the question of targets. The hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart), in his opening speech, rightly said that the vital consideration is the shortage of houses and the number of houses we are going to build. Whatever arguments one uses in connection with housing, whether one talks of the Rent Act, or land prices, or any of the ancillary things, one comes back to the basic point of how many houses are to be built.

No policy or programme or argument connected with housing can be other than based on that figure. It is not only a question of the annual figure of houses. It is not the sort of figure that we are in the habit of talking about, whether it be 300,000 or the 350,000 that was mentioned at the Labour Party conference. In fact, I believe the Socialists have now put it up to 400,000. I would point out that the pressure on the Government has not come from the benches opposite in housing debates. It has come from Conservative back benchers—

Mr. G. Brown

A year ago my hon. Friend gave the figure of about 400,000 as the minimum that we ought to be building.

Mr. Page

Until today he has mentioned 350,000 for England and Wales. Only today did he adjust it to 400,000.

Mr. Brown


Mr. Page

He has never before mentioned 400,000 houses.

Mr. A. Lewis

Yes, he has.

Mr. Page

We are too much in the habit of talking of this national round of figures. What we are really concerned with is the addition to the nation's stock of houses, and not how many are being built in a year; how many of the older houses are being saved, how many are replacements and how many are really new. The targets are meaningless unless we consider them from that point of view.

Out of 400,000 houses a year which may be built, how many will be additional to the stock of houses in the country? A large proportion must go towards replacing slum clearance. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government puts the figure at 600,000 to be cleared during the next ten years. He said that the aim of the Government is to clear these 600,000 slum dwellings and replace them with new houses in ten years.

I was glad to see in the Labour Party's booklet Signposts for the Sixties that the Labour Party confirms that this ought to be done in ten years. But the Opposition are very vague about the numbers which they intend to clear in that time. That pamphlet talks about the 3½ million pre-1875 houses which have to be cleared and replaced. How the Opposition imagines that they will do this in ten years, when they propose to go through this process of setting up a Land Commission, buying the freehold of all these houses and then leasing them back to the local authorities, I do not know.

Perhaps the local authorities would like to take note of what is said about this in Signposts for the Sixties:

The Commission would also buy land required by local authorities or by other public agencies. It would then either lease or sell the land to the authority concerned. So the Land Commission would first buy the land and then lease it back to the local authorities. The Government's policy is to let the local authorities get on with the job and not to impose this Land Commission in between.

My right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government said at the Conservative Party conference at Blackpool that he would provide as much money as was required by those local authorities which had really serious problems. The Government's policy is that local authorities should choose the way in which they should do their development, whether they wish to do it themselves or whether they wish to do it in partnership with private developers, but I understand that the policy of the Opposition, again as expressed in this same document, is: At present …local authorities find it almost impossible to compel a number of different private concerns to build in accordance with their plans. But when buildings sites are publicly owned, the authorities will be able to ensure that they are developed to a single comprehensive design—even where the development is private. That is not a realistic picture of what is happening at present, Socialist councils joining with private developers to develop their city centres and twilight areas. Therefore, to impose in between, in that sort of operation, a Land Commission to buy the land and then lease it back to the local authorities seems to me quite unrealistic and quite nonsense.

My right hon. Friend said in his speech today that the Government would give stronger powers to local authorities to take over areas, clear them, and then develop them, whether by the local authorities themselves or by private developers. So far as I know, there is nothing new in this. It is something that has been put forward several times from these benches in housing debates.

Mr. Marcus Lipton (Brixton)

With what results?

Mr. Page

When we urge something enough from the back benches it gets down to the Front Bench eventually—like the target of 400,000. I think that it is right for the Government to be cautious over these things. We urge them on from behind. They have had no urging about targets from that side of the House.

This system of local authorities marrying up various properties to produce one large area for development is obviously a wise thing to do, and I am sure that the Minister intends to proceed along those lines and not put the local authorities under the thumb of a Land Commission. Would the Opposition really delay development by putting this Commission in between the Govern- ment and the local authorities and the developers? This is a bit of a sort of legal juggling. I think that it may appeal to the hon. Member for Greenwich, who was going on about solicitors and their costs. I am sure that those in the Chamber who are members of the legal profession know that this sort of legal juggling which is suggested with the Land Commission can take a very long time. We can legally juggle for a long, long time with these sorts of things, and it would only mean delay in development.

But I shall not criticise the Opposition alone. I think that both parties underestimate the number of houses which have got to be cleared over the next ten years. As I read the official policies of both parties, the figures are based on the 1955 local authority estimates. However much one patches up and gives improvement grants, and so on, more and more slums are created every year. I would have thought that over the next ten years the figure for clearance and rebuilding would have been at least 1 million. I would hope that that sort of target might be met by the increase in the figures which my hon. Friend has promised.

Mr. Lipton

The hon. Member refers to the 1955 figures prepared by the local authorities. We have more up-to-date figures than those—the 1961 Census, for example. According to the 1961 Census, in the Borough of Lambeth alone, 32.9 per cent, of all the dwellings had no piped hot water supplies.

Mr. Page

I agree that the figures should be higher than those based on the 1955 local authority estimate. I would put it that 100,000 houses a year ought to be cleared and rebuilt, which means that, whatever target we set, that number must first be deducted before we discover the number of houses we are adding to the stock.

At the same time, we must realise that we are starting with a deficit; that there are more households than there are houses. I say that deliberately in the face of what is said in the Government White Paper. There are in England and Wales 14½ million households and 13¾ million separate dwellings, so that we start with having to make up a deficit of 750,000. But when we clear slums we cannot rehouse on a one-for-one basis. In clearing a slum dwelling one nearly always finds that there are two households to be housed. One therefore starts with this deficit, which should be cleared, I would have thought, within the next five years.

Those figures come to something more than half a million new houses required each year. Neither political party will do that, so we are left with the legislation that is there because of shortage—the Rent Acts, the provisions about multiple occupation, and all those enactments necessary while the shortage exists. But I believe that the clearance of that shortage can be speeded up by the selective treatment of areas and by the modernisation of house building. By "selective treatment of areas", I mean this. We know that there are 38 towns that are particularly hit by slum clearance. Should we not recognise those towns as being entitled to receive some such benefit as we give to industrial development areas? There should be housing development areas, in the same way as there are industrial development areas. The benefits might be given either through lower interest rates for those areas or by dealing with new houses as we deal with improvement grant—give an outright grant. There are many ways in which the benefits could be given.

The other way to speed up the clearance of the slums is by modernising the building industry. Here my right hon. Friend the Minister of Public Building and Works is really getting down to it. The hon. Member for Greenwich asked what the Government were doing about modernising the house-building trade; if he looks at what my right hon. Friend is doing he will see that a great amount is being done. It was a brilliant effort of the previous Prime Minister to think of extending that Ministry, Of all the extra Ministries which the Opposition have suggested they did not think of extending this one—

Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)

We were not in power at the time.

Mr. Page

—to cope with the increased productivity that was needed from the building industry. Industrial building does not just mean prefabrication—it means that, but it means a lot more. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Public Building and Works has gone into the matter of prefabrication in the shipbuilding yards. He has produced the industrial building system known as 5M. I have never quite known what the "M "stands for but, at any rate, it means fairly rapid house building. There is the production of the one unit for the kitchen, bathroom and lavatory—all practical encouragement to the modernisation of house building. There is the simplification and standardisation of building as mentioned in the statement on preferred dimensions, issued by the Minister.

The Government are giving a sound, practical lead to the building industry in how to increase the product for house building—the consortia of the local authorities, the simplification and standardisation of the whole procedure. There is further room for improvement, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will see to it that the building industry is encouraged more and more from his Ministry.

I therefore welcome the statement in the Gracious Speech which indicated that the house-building rate would increase very considerably and that the building industry would be encouraged to modernise itself.

9.0 p.m.

Mr. George Brown (Belper)

I, no doubt like other hon. Members, am absolutely fascinated when I listen to right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite speak with an aura of great authority, especially when I realise how little they seem to know about what is going on. The hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) said how pleased he was that the title of the Minister of Works had been expanded to include "Public Building". But all the functions involved in the Minister's new title were the functions that I was exercising when I was the Minister of Works in 1951.

The first thing the Conservative Government did in 1952 was to take away all the functions that I had been exercising, and now the Government are supposed to be bringing them back twelve years later. The hon. Gentleman said how pleased he was that the Government had suddenly discovered this. But all those functions were there. Why were they taken away? Why did the present Lord Eccles get rid of them when he followed me? He could have been exercising them all the time.

The hon. Gentleman says that this is a new discovery, and that it is a very good thing to have done it. But I do not believe that it is being done. All that has happened is that the title has been expanded. I am bound to point out once again that in issue after issue the Conservative Party are picking up where they could have carried on twelve years ago had they had the wit then to realise that it was useful to do so,

I suppose that the great tragedy about this debate, and in a way every housing debate we have, is that we get into this party argument across the Floor of the House. I have heard many of the speeches today, and if the hon. Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Lagden) does not mind my saying it—I hope it does not do him too much harm in what is a highly marginal seat which he is almost certain to lose at the next General Election—I thought that his speech came nearer the heart of the problem than any I have heard from the other side of the House today.

This is not a question of which party can score off the other party. It is not a question of who can put up the best paper target. If I may use the hon. Gentleman's words, we are talking about a very great human problem, perhaps the greatest human problem of all. If the right hon. Gentleman will permit me to say so, it was a very great pity that he had not the same compassion in him when he made his opening speech. A more cynical, complacent speech can hardly ever have been made by a Minister of Housing.

We had nearly fifty minutes of it. Twenty minutes were devoted to the problem. A sentence or two got rid of money. A sentence or two got rid of organisation. A sentence or two got rid of slum clearance. But we had very nearly thirty minutes of what the right hon. Gentleman no doubt thought were good party electioneering polemics, living up to the Prime Minister's injunction to his Ministers, "From here on, every speech we make in Parliament must be made with one thing upper- most in our minds—electioneering." For three-fifths of his speech today the Minister, who, personally, cannot possibly understand the problem and has to rely on his knowledge of it at second-hand, had electioneering promises in his mind.

The right hon. Gentleman satisfied himself and his hon. Friends that there is not really any very great problem, that in so far as there is a problem he is dealing with it perfectly and that, indeed, he is doing it better than anyone else could do it. He was satisfied and so were they. I intervened at one stage to say that he was not "kidding" any one but himself and his hon. Friends.

I spent this last weekend, as I am now spending most of my weekends, out in the country. [Hon. Members: "Electioneering."] The country is where one should electioneer. It is a different matter here. This weekend I was in Bury, Bolton, Stockport and Clitheroe—all seats held at the moment by Conservatives. If the right hon. Gentleman believes that what he said today will save any of those seats for his party he is making the biggest mistake of his life.

The people of these towns do not believe that the problem is as little as he suggests. They do not believe that he is doing as well as he says. They do not believe that the twelve-year record of this Government is what he claims it is. There, his party have put up posters proclaiming "40 houses an hour" but they only get a horse-laugh.

The right hon. Gentleman should understand that what we have had is twelve years of failure by the Government to do the job properly. We now have to spend our time in this House, as the hon. Member for Hornchurch did, on discovering why the job has not been done properly and how we can do it better. This is what I want to examine for a few moments.

Here I will leave the Minister and his hon. Friends to their smug satisfaction, but there is one thing which must be said. The right hon. Gentleman announced today that the Government have now decided to embark upon an extended programme of public ownership of land. He announced that they were converted now to the view that there was a great case for a public authority to buy land well in advance of that land being required, and he added that it might well be that the Government would need new machinery to do this, perhaps a Crown Land Commission or something of that sort.

Sir K. Joseph indicated dissent.

Mr. Brown

"New machinery" must mean something. We will not quarrel about the name, however, but we know that there is to be a new public authority which will be able to buy land before it is in the market for development, presumably able to do so compulsorily just because it has decided to have it. This sounds rather like a magnificent piece of nationalisation of the land. If the right hon. Gentleman meant what he was saying, it goes somewhat beyond what we have proposed, because we would buy the land when it became ripe for development. He intends to buy it well in advance.

We have all got used to the phrase, "We are all planners now". It is quite new that "we are all nationalisers now ". That bogy cannot be run again at any future by-election. I presume that the right hon. Gentleman meant what he said. It reminded me of what my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) said the other day. My hon. Friend assured us that if the General Election were only postponed long enough there was nothing that the Government would not promise or announce. When I heard that they were in favour of the nationalisation of land I thought they had got to the end, but, as my hon. Friend reminded me, there is still steel.

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be ready to tell us, when we can put Questions to him, what form of machinery is envisaged and to what degree this nationalisation is to be done. Let us establish what the problem is and what the difficulties are. The first problem is not, in our view, a question of establishing targets. Of course, if one is to do any production job—I speak as one who knows a bit about industry and who has been a production Minister—establishing a target is in a way a help; there has to be something to work to. But in this business of housing, we get ourselves much too bogged down in targets, paper figures and programmes. We do not house anybody with targets.

The Minister spent a rather long and, for him, a rather happy time, but for the rest of us, including his hon. Friends, rather a boring time, messing about with the figures on whether my hon. Friend had got to 400,000 houses before he did. It was really all quite simple once one realised that to my hon. Friend's figures for England and Wales one had to add the appropriate quotient for Scotland, and that once those two figures were added together we got the 400,000 over a year ago. It was all very simple, but it took twenty minutes of the right hon. Gentleman's time to tell us about it.

We are interested in housing, and we have to find out why it is that in building houses, in finishing houses and providing houses we have fallen so far behind year by year. We had from the Minister a very long rigmarole about doubling and trebling. Some places had doubled the rate of building, some had trebled it, and some had more than trebled it. It boiled down to the fact that the Minister was talking about this year as compared with last year. Why do we not take the whole period? Why do we not look back to the original targets which the Minister, or his predecessor, gave to the local authorities and then prevented them from carrying them out? If they are doubling last year's performance when it was far less than they originally set out to do, that does not seem very useful.

The Minister quoted Liverpool and some other cities which are well up. Is it not true that Liverpool is even now, with its doubling, or whatever the figure is, being allowed to build only a number of houses per year which are nearly 600 fewer than it was building nine years ago? Let me give the figures if the Minister wants to deny them. From 1st July, 1953, to 30th June, 1954, Liverpool completed 3,047 houses. But from 1st July, 1962, to 30th June, 1963, Liverpool completed 2,400 houses, a decrease of 591. Does the Minister want to deny it?

Sir K. Joseph

I object to the words "allow". Liverpool is being encouraged, stimulated and helped, first to get its target of 5,000 houses a year and, once it gets that, to exceed it substantially.

Mr. Brown

Having made a propaganda speech for fifty minutes this afternoon, we do not need it a second time. [Hon. Members: "Oh."] Does the Minister deny the figures? Does he deny that the programme which his Department authorised for Liverpool last year was 500 fewer than nine years ago?

Sir K. Joseph

I deny the suggestion that we are restricting Liverpool in any way. We are urging it forward.

Hon. Members

Hear. hear.

Mr. Brown

Let hon. Members opposite who are cheering ask their local authorities whether it is they who are holding up the housing programmes, Birmingham had 1.395 fewer houses built last year than ten years ago; Leeds. 1,285 fewer and Hull just less than 100 fewer. Those are some of the 38 cities. It is useless to talk about doubling the figure of last year. We are well below where we were in the first year when right hon. Gentlemen opposite took over, and that is why the problem has gone on growing in the meantime. Local authorities are not refusing to build houses. In part, they have had their programmes disallowed, and in part they are obstructed by the price of land and the size of interest rates.

The Minister leans back in his arrogant and totally divorced fashion and says, "Bosh". Only when Ministers cease to be divorced from what is happening and only when they cease to call a mere statement of the facts "bosh" will they wake up to the situation, and that will not be until after the election.

The second issue is the belief of right hon. Gentlemen opposite that so long as one quotes the overall figures of housing, one has proved the case. That is not so, as the hon. Member for Horn-church pointed out. It is very much a question of what houses at what price and where. Housing is not divorced from work. The housing programme is not divorced from the economic reconstruction of Britain.

If houses are being built in the South, what the Minister calls private building, at £3,000 and £4,000, £6,000 and more to buy, that is no answer to the problems of the North-East, the North-West, Scotland, or even my own constituency. The real point is that the Government are not building a sufficient number of houses for which there is the greater demand.

Inside the global demand, the great demand is for houses which would-be owner-occupiers can buy when they have incomes of well under £20 a week and for houses which people can rent at rents not more than one-quarter of their earnings. The Minister is not building a sufficient number of these and these houses have become a steadily declining proportion of the total housing provision.

The Minister made a big point of referring to these as public housing. I wondered what he thought that meant. He seemed to think that it did not matter if this building became a smaller proportion of the total, but it does matter, because nobody else is building houses to rent at prices which people can afford. When he was questioned about this by my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart), the best the right hon. Gentleman could do was to say that he hoped it would share in the increase which he hopes will occur in a year's time.

What can we do to deal with the situation? What problems exist? The first is one which the Minister reckons that he cannot solve. It is that of the price of land and the planning of the use of land. He did not think that the price of land could be brought down. This is an utter confession of failure. The price of land has to be brought down. Our proposals for a Land Commission able to acquire the freehold of land on terms which will attract it into the market—and it is silly to suggest that the terms which we have laid down to guide the Commission in the acquisition of land will not attract land to the market—is a way of bringing down the price of land to far less than the terms now being enforced. At present, there is not something called a market price; what we have is the result of a free market which Ministers enforce and under which speculation has a completely free rein. The cost of land is just forced up out of relation to any value at all.

This situation must be remedied. Unless it is we shall not make any progress. Let us suppose that the Minister were able to build to his target, as I hope he will be able to—and as I hope we will be able to—with the present land prices and the present interest rates. If that were done we should simply bankrupt every housing authority in the country. We should break the back of every ratepayer, because the burden coming on to the rates in consequence would be so high that people would have to starve.

If we are having to compete for Lord Lambton's land at tens of thousands of pounds an acre—[Hon. Members: "Order."] The noble Lord's land; it is the same land, and the same price. If we have to do that, the consequential price will have to be borne somewhere. If it cannot be borne on rents or mortgage repayments it must be borne on the rates. One reason why the programmes have been reduced is that local authorities—meaning the ratepayers—cannot afford programmes with these land prices and these interest rates.

This problem must be dealt with and, with great respect to the Minister, our proposal is still the only one that holds the field. He has no proposal to set against it except his own nationalisation programme, and his own policy, which he said would not deal with the price of land.

Then there is the question of the level of interest rates. The Minister said that special rates of interest would disturb the market, or distort the pattern of things. But we have done this before. The Government have done it. It was his Government who offered to lend a vast sum of money to the Cunard Company at a special low rate of interest. If this can be done for shipping and steel without creating any terrible consequences why cannot it be done for housing, which is at least as big a social problem? It can be done, and it has been done. I believe that it was the hon. Member for Crosby who said that he thought that this should be done for areas of special need. Like breaking the rent racket, this is something that must be done, otherwise we will not build the houses.

We are faced with a situation in which a house which costs a little over £2,000 to build, land included, costs the buyer the better part of £8,000 by the time the money has been borrowed and repaid. In such a situation we cannot possibly meet the housing need. We must break the financial stranglehold imposed by this situation, and the only way to do it is to float loans at low rates of interest to owner-occupiers, co-operative housing associations and to local authorities who are building for rent or who are modernising—and we must not forget the millions of houses that need to be improved. Loans at reduced rates must be made if the prevailing general rate of interest is high, otherwise no one will be able to find the amount of money for the programme, and the job will never get done.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Mr. F. V. Corfield)

I suggest that if we are to float loans, we must pay the market prices.

Mr. Brown

I will leave that issue alone. The issue is: make the money available at lower rates of interest.

The next thing to do, if we are to solve this problem, is to end the Rent Act or, at any rate, replace it with different legislation. The thing which is causing so much of the trouble in our big cities is the Rent Act which the Government forced through. This is what is bringing about homelessness—[Hon. Members: "Oh."] Indeed it is. This is what is enabling people to be evicted. This is what is covering all the operations of racketeering landlords, and unless we get rid of it the problem will go on growing and will get beyond our capacity to deal with.

The Rent Act has had terrible consequences which are having a terrific effect today. Let the Minister ask any of his hon. Friends who are on rent tribunals and trying to ameliorate the situation. People can be given only three months' security. Let him ask what is the situation. He will be told without exception that if the housing problem is to be tackled this is one of the things which will have to be changed.

The fourth thing with which we have to deal, if we are really going to get on with it, is the building industry. Various people have spoken about that. My hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Marsh) spoke about it. As at present constituted, the industry is not big enough. It is not sufficiently well organised or modern in its attitude to the techniques of building, or training, or apprenticeship schemes to enable it to do the kind of building job which is required if we are to provide the houses, schools, hospitals and the other things.

There has to be a vast change and, here again, I am bound to mention what I referred to at the beginning of my speech. In 1951, at the Ministry of Works, a series of joint bodies in the industry were directing attention to these matters. Every one of them was wound up when the present Government came to office. I should like to hear that the Minister is to reconstitute them, because they are the sort of bodies which will bring about the required change in the building industry. If they are being reconstituted it will be a terrible commentary on the fact that twelve years have been wasted during which the job might have been brought to fruition.

There is another thing to do. It is no use talking about this building programme in isolation, and how many houses are to be set as a target. There are all these other building programmes—the Minister of Education and his schools; the Minister for Science with his higher education provisions; the hospital every 19 days; the great road construction programmes—[Hon. Members: "Hear, hear."] Before hon. Members cheer too much, they should remember that a hospital is to be started every 19 days, but no one has told us how often they are to be finished.

If we are to have, as we need to have, a building programme of this size, the housing part of the programme has to be related to all the other parts of the programme; and the total investment in building has to be related to the total social investment programme. There is no proposition to do this. There is no machinery for doing it. What we are playing about with today, and what has emanated from the Government benches, is empty paper promises. They do not relate to anything. They will not end in anything—in houses, or schools or hospitals being built. They will end in promises that will be dishonoured next year or the year after just as the housing and the slum clearance targets have been consistently dishonoured throughout the last twelve years. If it is denied—[Hon. Members: "Time."] I assured the Minister that his share of the time would depend on whether I was interfered with too much. If it is denied that the slum clearance programme has been dishonoured—[An Hon. Member: "Housing."] Slum clearance does involve housing. If it is denied that the slum clearance programme was dishonoured, I give these figures to the Minister of Public Building and Works and ask if he wants to deny them. The target from 1956 to 1960 was to clear 378,000 slums. That would have meant an annual rate of 75,600. In fact, up to the end of 1960 the average was 52,000 and the total number was 123,000 short of the target set in 1956. Are those figures right or not?

This is not an exercise in paper targets. This has to be a matter of solving the kind of problems to which I have referred. We have to be able to get the land for social use against possibly more profitable private use. How is that done if the Government reject our proposals? What proposals do the Government make? We have to get the land at a price a good deal less than is prevailing. If they reject our proposals, how will the Government get that done? They have to provide money for it to be done at a good deal less than the cost now prevailing. The Government reject our proposals for special loans at low rates of interest. How do they propose to do it?

To get this and other building done, we have to have priorities for the various building programmes. If the Government reject our provisions and reject the controls which we left behind us, as this Government have done, how do they propose to get it done? If they are to concentrate on houses, where does this come from, with an industry of the present size and as much out-of-date as the present one? The basis of our censure of the Government is that, while they reject every proposal we make, they have none of their own. They have fallen short right through the twelve years in which they have presided over the nation's affairs. They will again fall short and this problem will go unsolved.

Whether this House censures the Government or not, the final word will rest with the country, who certainly will censure the Government.

9.34 p.m.

The Minister of Public Building and Works (Mr. Geoffrey Rippon)

I have a considerable regard, sometimes bordering on affection, for the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown). He used to make some very good speeches on defence, but he has not caught up with all that has happened in the building and housing industry since he was Minister of Works twelve years ago.

Even then, apparently, he did not know what he was doing, or what his powers were. He said that his Ministry had the same powers as the Ministry of Public Building and Works, but it was not responsible for virtually the whole of the Government building programme including Service building. It was not able to exercise the Government's power, as a client of the building industry, at all. It was not responsible for the coordination of research and development throughout the Government service. It is this power which is enabling the Government, in association with the building industry and the associated professions, to raise production. Of course, I do not believe that there is a single hon. Member who does not regard the provision of a decent home for every family as a fundamental social objective. As the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) said, the dispute is not about the needs; it is about the adequacy of the policy. The only relevant issue in the debate is the pace of the advance.

The right hon. Member for Belper said that this is nothing to do with targets. He wants nothing to do with programmes. He wants the facts, and he wants to look over the whole period. If he looks over the whole period he will see that ever since the Conservative Government took office in 1951 we have steadily stepped up the number of new houses, the slum-clearance programme and the modernisation programme. Whether he looks at new houses, slums cleared, modernisation or the provision of homes for old people, he will see that there has been a steady improvement. I will not go over the whole record. Hon. Members can read it in the documents. For example, the right hon. Gentleman said that we had not maintained the average slum clearance rate of 75,000 a year. Since 1959 we have cleared 250,000 slums, and I reckon that that is about 75,000 a year. Of course, a rising population and rising standards of living, consequences partly of a Conservative Government, and an increase in the number of separate houses and households, means that we have to do more, and we believe that, on the sound basis which we have already prepared, we can increase the pace again both in new houses and in modernisation. We intend to move from 300,000 houses a year first to 350,000 and then to 400,000, and at the same time we shall increase the pace of modernisation to provide some 200,000 improvements a year compared with about 120,000 at the present time.

I am glad to say that after the setback which we undoubtedly had as a result of the weather, the production of building materials and the rate of building has picked up enormously and will, I hope, soon reach record levels. As was pointed out earlier in the debate, in 1962 305,000 houses were completed in Great Britain. The hon. Member for Fulham said that we should show that we can go the considerable further way required to reach 350,000 houses a year. The 1963 figure for completions will inevitably reflect that bad weather, but, in spite of that, we think that they will reach about 300,000.

What is relevant is that the number of houses started has for some months been running at the rate of over 400,000 a year. We must allow for the low figure during the first months of the year, but it means that perhaps 350,000 will be started in 1963. By 1964, therefore, weather permitting, we shall be within reach of the Government's present target of 350,000 houses completed a year, and by 1965 we shall have topped this figure. We shall then move forward to 400.000 houses a year.

We are entitled to know a little more about where the Opposition stand. There is a certain conflict between what the hon. Member for Fulham said and what the right hon. Member for Belper said. At every stage since 1961 the Opposition have first said that the Government's target was impossible and then that it was not sufficient, and in between the Leader of the Opposition has said that it was economically unwise to build so many houses. Do the Opposition now say, as they did in 1951, that our target is impossible, or do they think that they can do better? The Amendment implies that they can do better, the hon. Member for Fulham implied that it was about right and the right hon. Member for Belper implied that it was impossible. This is exactly in keeping with what the right hon. Gentleman said on 13th November: How are they going to do all that at the same time and still leave a totally unrestricted private building construction programme? In other words, presumably if we have 400,000 houses a year, which the hon. Member for Fulham thinks possible, we must also have building licensing again. The right hon. Gentleman continued: How are they going to do it? Assuming they are, how will they do it without imposing restrictions upon the private building programme and, at the same time, upon the building industry and building materials industry in their present state of organisation and their present out-of-date techniques? "—[Official Report, 13th November, 1963; Vol. 684, c. 198.] My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer tried to tell him, though obviously he could not understand, how the rate of fixed investment was rising and how the construction industries were expanding.

We can do it and it is our purpose to do it, without distorting the rest of our proposed construction programmes and without creating inflation or any of the other disasters forecast by the right hon. Member for Belper. If he does not think it can be done as far as the Labour Party is concerned, he must say where the party opposite will cut back—the education programme or some other part of the programme.

The truth is that, as the hon. Member for Fulham said, the problems of overcrowding, homelessness and slums are directly related to the capacity and efficiency of the construction industry. The hon. Member dealt with some of the physical problems. To provide all the new building planned within the Government's various programmes and to meet the demands of the private sector, the construction industries will have to increase their output by over 50 per cent, within the next decade and without any great increase in their demands on the country's limited labour force.

The Opposition, perhaps for the first time, showed at Scarborough that they were beginning to grasp the implications of the scientific and technological revolution, but the right hon. Member for Belper showed that he apparently is still totally oblivious of what is going on and how the industry and the Government have already adapted themselves to meet the challenge of rising demand. We can carry out the present building programme—new housing, slum clearance, the modernisation of schools and hospitals and all the rest—simply because of the growing capacity over recent years of the construction industry for which unfortunately and quite wrongly the right hon. Member for Belper has such a low regard.

When I opened the debate on the Housing Estimates on 2nd May I said that in order to get the necessary increase in building output we needed something in the nature of an industrial revolution in building. I believe that there are now healthy signs that this is well under way. It is and must be a revolution by consent, with all concerned playing a full part. This is very different from the Socialist conception of planning by control and regulation.

The hon. Member for Fulham quite rightly referred to three important aspects of improving industrial capacity—continuity of demand, a national building code, and a combination of demand in larger long-term orders. This is what has already been happening over the last period of time. One of the keynotes of the modernisation of building method is the assurance to industry of continuity of demand. I said that from the moment I first became Minister, because this is the only way to create the confidence which is essential if industry is to invest on the necessary scale. We have therefore already planned, and have announced, major investment programmes further ahead. As for a national building code, I reckon that that should be brought into force next summer or at latest by next autumn.

It is very important that local authorities particularly and other public clients should interpret building regulations and bylaws, however framed, in a progressive way which will encourage and not inhibit modern methods. We shall also encourage other clients of the industry to get together and combine their demands in larger long-term orders. My right hon. Friends the Ministers of Housing and Local Government and Education are doing a great deal in that respect.

My hon. Friend the Member for Crosby(Mr. Graham Page) rightly pointed out what a lot is happening in the industry at present, with employers and unions and professions working together. There really has been a great quickening in the pace of change. There has recently been encouraging progress in the development of industrialised systems. There are now over twenty systems in production or at a late stage of development which offer good possibilities for houses as distinct from multi-storey flats. About half are in the prototype stage, and will be contributing in good quantity to next year's programme of local authority housing. Among them, the 5M and the "heart unit" system to which my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Miss Vickers) also referred, will be coming into use.

My hon. Friend made detailed points as did other hon. Members about which I and my right hon. Friend will write to them. This is one of the advantages of having the Government building programme concentrated in one Department. I am planning to build 2,000 houses for the Services in one contract employing industrialised techniques on an appropriately large scale.

The hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Marsh) spoke of the importance of research and development. A great deal is happening in research. I have offered up to £150,000 a year for three years, if the building industry will find a corresponding amount, for the establishment of a building research and information organisation. This offer has been accepted in principle and a working party is now exploring it further. Meanwhile, I am also placing contracts to the value of about £50,000 a year with a number of colleges and universities for investigations which have a direct bearing on the industry's productivity. We have done a great deal this year in producing a report on winter building, following it up with an exhibition, and are going ahead with the advice of a committee drawn from the industry. A great deal is being done in the industry itself by firms and the professions working together to pursue a number of research projects of importance. 1 emphasise that the building employers,

the building unions and all associated professions are working, and working effectively, on those matters which the Opposition seem just to have discovered. Of course, it is important also that we get recruits, good recruits, into the building industry. I do not envisage a large increase in the total number, but we do need recruits. It is an indication of the progressive attitude of the building industry that its apprenticeship arrangements have recently been changed. It is the first major industry in the country to cut the length of apprenticeship. A reduction from five to four years has been agreed in principle. I am glad to say that the apprenticeship intake shows auseful increase this year. We are working hard to put an end to what has been called the "muck and wheelbarrow" conception of the building industry not only by winter building research and by bringing more "dry" construction methods into operation but by providing better site amenities. These are the realities. It is only by methods of this kind that we can provide the additional houses which are the only answer to the housing problem. The only way to end overcrowding, homelessness and slums lies in increasing the output of the construction industries in the way we are already doing it.

We are, I believe, creating a continual process of advance in every field. This is why, as the Prime Minister said, we can accelerate our programmes from prepared positions. None of these building programmes would be accelerated to any degree by the adoption of the Opposition's proposals on land prices, interest rates or leasehold reform.

Of course, the availability of land is a key problem. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government has never denied that there is the need for land to be made available. We are going ahead with measures to make it available in sufficient quantities. Local planning authorities also have a responsibility to help in this respect. For the present, the overall programme is not, and has not been, slowed down for lack of land. Great cities undoubtedly have difficulties, and hence the importance of the regional studies which my right hon. Friend announced, and the plans for the second generation of new towns and expanded towns. The right hon. Member for Belper. not for the first time, completely misunderstood what my right hon. Friend had to say on the subject of land acquisition. He was not suggesting anything like the Socialist proposals. Of course, for all that has got to be done, it is necessary to acquire land for public purposes either by compulsory purchase or by agreement. This has been done for a long time. It is not nationalisation. My right hon. Friend referred to the acquisition of land planned for major redevelopment, and he said that this should be bought well in advance by a public authority for disposal as required. But this represents no departure from current policy. The right hon. Gentleman knows that new towns already have power to acquire land in advance of their immediate needs, and are encouraged to do so, and so are local authorities.

The point that my right hon. Friend was making was that the second generation of new towns and expanded towns will provide more scope for this activity. That is quite different from the Socialist proposal to acquire piecemeal through a land commission all the odds and ends of land which come forward each year for development. The Conservative proposals are positive and selective. The Socialist proposals are bits and pieces, reacting all the time and never initiating. My right hon. Friend definitely did not define the limits of our policy or say that there was need to create new machinery.

Mr. G. Brown

He did.

Mr. Rippon

What my right hon. Friend had to say about the need to cooperate with private enterprise in—

Mr. Brown

The Minister has just said that the Minister of Housing and Local Government did not say that there would be new machinery. Did not he say that?

Mr. Rippon

My right hon. Friend left open the question of whether there would be new machinery.

Reverting to what I was saying, there must be co-operation with private enterprise. In the older established new towns, sites have been sold to private builders for the erection of houses for sale, such as at Crawley and Harlow, and the role of private enterprise will, we trust, be extended in later new towns and in the extension of new towns by natural increase. Private enterprise also plays a large part in schemes promoted by local authorities. For example, Cramlington, the new town north of Newcastle promoted by the Northumberland County Council, will be built almost exclusively by private enterprise.

Dame Irene Ward (Tynemouth)

Hear, hear.

Mr. Rippon

There is a real problem about the acquisition and availability of land for building, but our programmes are not affected, as the right hon. Gentleman suggests, by the cost of land. We must face the fact that land is expensive when it is scarce and demand is high. No juggling with the figures will alter that economic fact. What we can properly do is to offset this disadvantage in appropriate cases by subsidy arrangements which are three-fold. There is the ordinary housing subsidy. Secondly, there is the additional housing subsidy for high buildings and, a third rate to help local authorities to purchase expensive land. All these are proper methods which can be, and are being, reviewed. I do not believe that anything that the right hon. Gentleman said alters that position.

The right hon. Member for Belper went on to say that it was important to have low interest rates. Obviously low interest rates are preferable to high ones. But to keep the whole economy in proper balance it is necessary to weigh other considerations. The Leader of the Opposition has said that we should not hesitate to use monetary controls, ruthlessly if necessary, as one in our armoury of methods.

What the Opposition are really proposing is a second method of subsidy. They want to add to the existing subsidies and differential rents differential interest rates. This may be a perfectly proper thing to do. It is done in some countries. It is done in Sweden, where land and house prices are not cheap. But it is done as the alternative method of subsidy. If we are to have differential rates of interest, the Opposition must say over what section of the public or private programme they would prefer to introduce them. [An Hon. Member: "Housing."] Housing alone? A month or two ago the hon. Member for Fulham added education. They are also important, as the Opposition will say, when we come to education.

High interest rates and land prices are not holding up home ownership. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government gave the figures, Over 42 per cent, of houses are now owner-occupied. My hon. Friends the Members for Coventry, South (Mr. Hocking) and Holland with Boston (Sir H. Butcher) drew attention to the figures compiled by the Co-operative Permanent Building Society. They showed an analysis of 12,000 loans granted in the first half of this year. Over half were granted to people earning less than £20 a week and more than a quarter to people earning less than £16. I should like to be as fair as I possibly can to the Opposition on the question of their proposed Land Commission. The most favourable interpretation, I suppose, is that given by the hon. Member for Fulham on 8th July when he said: Our proposal is that when land comes to be built upon it shall pass into public ownership."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th July, 1963; Vol. 680, c. 897.] He went on to say that it would not be confiscatory because the Opposition would pay more than the present use value but less than the real value. My hon. Friend the Member for Crosby said that would mean no land coming freely on to the market, massive compulsory acquisition, and the poor wretched lawyers, whom the hon. Member for Greenwich does not like, going to the Land Tribunal and saying, "This is a case, sir, more or less of confiscation."

Once the land is acquired, says the hon. Member, the job is to lease it.

Sometimes it would be on a commercial basis. Therefore, it follows, sometimes it would not. That means there must be a system of allocation, and then discriminatory treatment of lessees. When it was commercial, the hon. Member for Fulham said, there would be a rent revision clause. That does not give a great deal of satisfaction to young couples.

Then, he said, the more usual case would be to lease for development for housing or for some other purpose at less than commercial value, but there would be a control on the developer to see that he did not sell at too high a price, and presumably there would be another control on the young couple to see that they did not sell it either. The hon. Member said that this would not mean the end of home ownership. He said there would be a perpetual lease. In other words, there would be an indefinite lease until one wanted to do something with the land, and then it would be taken away from the occupier.

The Socialist Government fell in 1951, as their predecessors fell in 1924 and 1931, because of the fatal combination of fallacious policies and administrative incompetence. They have shown today that the years between have taught them nothing. I will dedicate to hon. Members opposite a little verse: When you're on the road from Scarborough to London Be careful, brothers, of the way you drive. You'll never find the Signposts to the 'Sixties On your old red map of 1945.

I ask the House to reject this Amendment decisively.

Question put. That those words be there added:—

The House divided: Ayes 243, Noes 340.

Division No. 1.] AYES [10.0 p.m.
Abse, Leo Benn, Anthony Wedgwood Brock way, A. Fenner
Alnsley, William Bennett, J. (Glagsow, Bridgeton) Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.
Albu, Austen Benson, Sir George Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Blackburn, F. Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Blyton, William Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)
Awbery, Stan (Bristol, Central) Boardman, H. Callaghan, James
Bacon, Miss Alice Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G. Carmichael, Neil
Baird, John Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W. (Leics, S.w.) Castle, Mrs. Barbara
Barnett, Guy Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan) Cliffe, Michael
Baxter, William (Stirlingshire, W.) Bowles, Frank Collick, Percy
Beaney, Allan Braddock, Mrs. E. M. Corbet, Mrs. Freda
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F, J. Bradley, Tom Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)
Bence, Cyril Bray, Dr. Jeremy Cronin, John
Crosland, Anthony Jeger, George Randall, Harry
Crossman, B. H. S. Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, 8.) Rankin, John
Cullen, Mrs. Alice Jones,Rt.Hn. A. Creech(Wakefield) Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, s.)
Dalyell, Tam Jones, Dan (Burnley) Reid, William
Darling, George Jones, Elwyn (West Ham, 8.) Reynolds, G. W.
Davies G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Rhodes, H.
Davies, Harold (Leek) Jones, T. W. (Merioneth) Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Davies, Ifor (Cower) Kelley, Richard Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Deer, George Kenyon, Clifford Robertson, John (Paisley)
Delargy, Hugh Key, Rt. Hon. C. W. Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)
Dempsey, James King, Dr. Horace Rodgers, W. T. (Stockton)
Diamond, John Lawson, George Royle, Charles (Salford, West)
Dodds, Norman Ledger, Ron Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.
Donnelly, Desmond Lee, Frederick (Newton) Silkin, John
Drlberg, Tom Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock) Silverman, Julius (Aston)
Duffy, A. E. P. (Colne Valley) Lever, Harold (Cheetham) Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)
Ede, Rt. Hon. C. Lever, L. M. (Ardwick Skeffington, Arthur
Edelman, Maurice Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.) Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)
Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly) Lipton, Marcus Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)
Edward, Robert (Bilston) Loughlin, Charles Small, William
Edwards. Walter (Stepney) Lubbock, Eric Smith, Ellis (Stoke, s.)
Evans, Albert Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Snow, Julian
Fernyhough, E. McBride, N. Sorensen, R. W.
Finch, Harold McCann, John Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
Fitch, Alan MacColl, James Spriggs, Leslie
Fletcher, Eric MacDermot, Nlall Steele, Thomas
Foley, Maurice Mcinnes, James Stewart, Michael (Fulham)
Foot, Dingle (Ipswich) McKay, John (Wallsend) Storehouse, John
Forman, J. C. Mackle, John (Enfield, East) Stonet, William
Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) McLeavy, Frank Strauss, Rt. Hn, G. R, (Vauxhall)
Galpern, Sir Myer MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles) Strass,Dr.Barnett(Stoke-on-Trent,C.)
George, LadyMeganLloyd(Crmrthn) MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling) Swain, Thomas
Ginsburg, David Mahon, Simon Swingler, Stephen
Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C. Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Symonds, J. B.
Gourlay, Harry Mallalieu, J.P.W. (Huddersfield, E.) Taverne, D.
Greenwood, Anthony Manuel, Archie Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Grey, Charles Mapp, Charles Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)
Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Marsh, Richard Thomas, lorwerth (Rhondda, W.)
Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Lianelty) Mason, Roy Thompson, Dr. Alan (Dunfermline)
Griffiths, W. (Exchange) Mayhew, Christopher Thornton, Ernest
Gunter, Ray Mellish, R. J. Thorpe, Jeremy
Hale, Leslie (Oldham, w.) Mendelson, J. J. Timmons, John
Hamilton William (West Fife) Milne, Edward Tomney, Frank
Hannan, William Mitchison, G. R. Wade, Donald
Harper, Joseph Moody, A. S. Wainwright, Edwin
Hart, Mrs. Judith Morris, John Warbey, William
Hayman, F. H. Moyle, Arthur Watkins, Tudor
Healey, Denis Mulley, Frederick Weitzman, David
Henderson,Rt.Hn.Arthur(RwlyRegis) Neal, Harold Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Hewitson, Capt. M. Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon) White, Mrs. Elrene
Hill, J. (Midlothian) Noel-Baker,Rt,Hn.Philip(Derby,S.) Whitlock, William
Hilton, A. V. O'Malley, B. K. Wigg, George
Holt, Arthur Oram, A. E. Wilkins, W. A.
Hooson, H. E. Oswald, Thomas Willey, Frederick
Houghton, Douglas Owen, Will Williams, D. J. (Neath)
Howell, Charles A. (Perry Barr) Paget, R. T. Williams, LI. (Abertillery)
Howell, Denis (Small Heath) Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.) Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Howie, W. (Luton) Pargiter, c. A. Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)
Hoy, James H. Parker, John Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey) Parkin, B. T. Winterbottom, R. E.
Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Paton, John Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Pavitt, Laurence Woof, Robert
Hunter, A, E. Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd) Wyatt, Woodrow
Hynd, H. (Accrington) Pentland, Norman Yates, Victor (Ladywood)
Hynd, John (Attercliffe) Popplewell, Ernest Zilliacus, K.
Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill) Prentice, R. E. TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Irving, Sydney (Dartford) Price, J. T. (Westhoughton) Mr. Short and Mr. Redhead.
Janner, Sir Barnett Probert, Arthur
Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas Proctor, W. T.
Pursey, Cmdr. Harry
Agnew, Sir Peter Barlow, Sir John Biggs-Davison, John
Aitken, Sir William Barter, John Bingham, R. M.
Allan, Robert (Paddington, 8.) Batsford, Brian Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel
Allason, James Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Bishop, F. P.
Amery, Rt. Hon. Julian Bell, Ronald Black, Sir Cyril
Arbuthnot, John Bennett, F. M. (Torquay) Bossom, Hon. Clive
Ashton, Sir Hubert Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos & Fhm) Bourne-Arton, A.
Atkins, Humphrey Berkeley, Humphry Box, Donald
Awdry, Daniel (Chippenham) Bevins, Rt. Hon. Reginald Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. John
Balniel, Lord Bidgood, John C. Boyle, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward
Barber, Rt. Hon. Anthony Biffen, John Braine, Bernard
Brewis, John Green, Alan Maddan, Martin
Bromley-DlvenporLLt.-Col.Sir Walter Gresham Cooke, R. Maginnis, John E.
Brooke, Ft. Hon. Henry Grosvenor, Lord Robert Maitland, Sir John
Brooman-White, R. Gurden, Harold Markham, Major Sir Frank
Brown, Alan (Tottenham) Hall, John (Wycombe) Marlowe, Anthony
Browne, Percy (Torrington) Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough) Marples, Rt. Hon. Ernest
Bryan, Paul Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.) Marshall, Sir Douglas
Buck, Antony Harris, Reader (Heston) Marten, Neil
Bullartt, Denys Harrison, Brian (Maldon) Mathew, Robert (Honiton)
Bultu), Wing Commander Eric Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Matthews, Gordon (Merlden)
Burden, F. A. Harvey, Sir Arthur Vera (Macoiesf'd) Maude, Angus (Stratford-on-Avon)
Butcher, Sir Herbert Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.) Maudling, Rt. Hon. Reginald
Butler.Rt.Hn.R. A.(Saffron Walden) Harvie Anderson, Miss Mawby, Ray
Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn) Hastings, Stephen Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.
Carr, Compton (Barons Court) Hay, John Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.
Gary, Sir Robert Heatd, fit. Hon. Sir Lionel Mills, Stratton
Channon, H. P. G. Heath, Rt. Hon. Edward Miscampbell, Norman
Chataway, Christopher Henderson, John (Cathcart) Montgomery, Fergus
Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.) Hendry, Forbes Moore, Sir Thomas (Ayr)
Clark, William (Nottingham, S.) Hicke Beach, MaJ. W. More, Jasper (Ludlow)
Cleaver, Leonard Hiley, Joseph Morgan, William
Cote, Norman Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenahawe) Morrison, John
Cooke, Robert Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk) Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles
Cooper, A. E. Hirst, Geoffrey Nabarro, Sir Gerald
Cooper-Key, Sir Neill Hobson, Rt. Hon. Sir John Neave, Afrey
Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J, K. Hocking, Philip N. Nlcholls, Sir Harmar
Cordle, John Holland, Philip Nicholson, Sir Godfrey
Corfield, IF, V. Hope, Rt. Hon. Lord John Nugent, Rt. Hon. Sir Richard
Coetaln, A. P. Hopkins, Alan Oakshott, Sir Hendrie
Coulson, Michael Hornby, R. P. Orr, Capt. L. P. S.
Courtney, Cdr. Anthony Hornsby-Smlth, Rt. Hon. Dame P. Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Hendon, North)
Craddock, Sir Bereeford (Spelthorne; Howard, Hon. G. R. (St. Ives) Osborn, John (Hallam)
Crawley, Aldan Howard, John (Southampton, Teat) Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)
Critchley, Julian Hughes Haliett, Vice-Admiral John Page, John (Harrow, West)
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. Sir Oliver Hughes-Young, Michael Page, Graham (Crosby)
Crowder, F. P. Hulbert, Sir Norman Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)
Cunningham, Sir Knox Hurd, Sir Anthony Partridge, E.
Curran, Charles Hutchison, Michael Clark Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)
Currie, C. B. H. Iremonger, T. L. Peel, John
Dalkeith, Earl of Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Percival, Ian
Dance. James Jackson, John Peyton, John
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry James, David Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth
Deedes, Fit. Hon. W. F. Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich) Pike, MisB Mervyn
Digby, Simon Wingfield Jennings, J. C. Pllkington, Sir Richard
Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M. Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Pitman, Sir James
Doughty, Charles Johnson Smith, Geoffrey Pott, Percivall
Douglas-Home, Rt. Hon. Sir Aleo Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.) Pounder, R. J.
Drayson, G. B. Jones, Rt. Hn. Aubrey (Hall Green) Powell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch
du Cann, Edward Joseph, Rt. Hon. Sir Keith Price, David (Eastleigh)
Duncan, Sir James Kaberry, Sir Donald Price, H. A. (Lewisham, W.)
Duthie, Sir William (Banff) Kerans, Cdr. J. S. Prior, J. M. L.
Eden, Sir John Kerby, Capt. Henry Prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carehalton) Kerr, Sir Hamilton Proudfoot, Wilfred
Eilliott.R. W, (Newc'tle-upon-Tyne,N.) Kershaw, Anthony Pym, Francis
Emery, Peter Kimball, Marcus Quennell, Miss J. M.
Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn Kirk, Peter Ramsden, Rt. Hon. James
Errington, Sir Eric Kitson, Timothy Rawlinson, Sir Peter
Erroll, Rt. Hon. F. J. Lagden, Godfrey Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin
Farey-Jones, F. W. Lambton, Viscount Rees, Hugh (Swansea, W.)
Farr, John Lancaster, Col. C. G. Rees-Davies, W. R. (Isle of Thanet)
Fell, Anthony Langford-Holt, Sir John Ronton, Rt. Hon. David
Fisher, Nigel Leather, Sir Edwin Ridley, Hon. Nicholas
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry Ridsdale, Julian
Forrest, George Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Rippon, Rt. Hon. Geoffrey
Foster, John Lilley, F. J. P. Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)
Fraser,Rt.Hn.Hugh(8taffOrd&8tone> Linstead, Sir Hugh Robertson, Sir D. (C'thn's & S'th'ld)
Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton) Litchfield, Capt. John Robinson, Rt. Hn. Sir R. (B'pool, s.)
Freeth, Dunzil Lloyd, Rt.Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfield) Robson Brown, Sir William
Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D. Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral) Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)
Gammans, Lady Longbottom, Charles Roots, William
Gardner, Edward Longden, Gilbert Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard
George, sir John (Pollok) Loveys, Walter H. Royle, Anthony (Richmond, Surrey)
Gibson-Watt, David Lucas, Sir Jocelyn Russell, Ronald
Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, Central) Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Sandys, Rt. Hon. Duncan
Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife) McAddsn, Sir Stephen Scott-Hopkins, James
Glover, Sir Douglas Mac Arthur, Ian Seymour, Leslie
Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham) McLaren, Martin Sharpies, Richard
Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.) McLaughlin, Mrs. Patricia Shaw, M.
Godber, Rt, Hon. J. B. Maclay, Rt. Hon. John Shepherd, William
Goodhart, Philip Maclean, SirFitzroy(Bute&N.Ayrs) Skeet, T. H. H.
Goodhew, Victor McLean, Neil (Inverness) Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chlswich)
Cough, Frederick Macleod, Rt. Hn. lain (Enfield, W.) Smithers, Peter
Gower, Raymond MacLeod,SirJohn(Ross & Cromarty) Smyth, Rt. Hon. Brig. Sir John
Grant-FerrM, R, McMaster, Stanley R. Soames, Rt. Hon. Christopher
Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax) Spearman, Sir Alexander
Spelr, Rupert Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.) Webster, David
Stanley, Hon. Richard Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin Wells, John (Maidstone)
Stevens, Geoffrey Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.) Whitelaw, William
Steward, Harold (Stockport, 8.) Tilney, John (Wavertree) Williams, Dudley (Exeter)
Stodart, J. A. Touche, Rt, Hon. Sir Gordon Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm Turner, Colin Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
Storey, Sir Samuel Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H. Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Summers, Sir Spencer Tweedsmuir, Lady Wise, A. R.
Talbot, John E. Van Straubenzee, W. R. Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
TapseM Peter Vane, W. M. r. Wood, Rt. Hon. Richard
Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne) Vaugnan-Morgan, Rt. Hon, Sir John Woodhouse, C. M.
Taylor, Frank (M'ch'st'r, Moss Side) Vickers, Miss Joan Woodnutt, Mark
Taylor, Sir William (Bradford N.) Vosper, Rt. Hon. Dennis Woollam, John
Teeling, Sir William Walder, David Worsley, Marcus
Temple, John M. Walker, Peter Yates, William (The Wrekin)
Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir Derek
Thomas, Sir Leslie (Canterbury) Wall, Patrick TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Thomas, Peter (Conway) Ward, Dame Irene Mr. Chichester-Clark and
Thompson, Sir Kenneth (Walton) Watklnson, Rt. Hon. Harold Mr. Finlay.

Main Question again proposed.

Sir Stephen McAdden (Southend, East)rose

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

Debate to be resumed Tomorrow.