HC Deb 19 June 1964 vol 696 cc1793-6

3.51 p.m.

Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)

I beg to move, That this House notes the rapid progress which has been made towards the aim of a property-owning democracy, welcomes the steady increase since 1951 in the country's stock of new houses, resulting in the present position that nearly half the number of families in the United Kingdom own the homes in which they live, and congratulates the Government upon its success in creating the conditions for a further acceleration in the rate of building of houses for owner-occupation. In the few minutes that are left for debate I cannot do justice to this Motion which raises a most important subject. All I can hope to do is to put a few facts on record in support of the statements made in the Motion. For example, the net increase in the stock of houses since 1951 is 3½ million and there are now under construction just under 400,000 houses and flats. That was the figure on 31st March last, and of these 182,000 were by private builders and 6,000 by housing associations. In the first three months of 1964 over 82,000 permanent houses were completed compared with 46,000, or only half that figure, in the same period of 1963. The number completed last March was 28,000 compared with 18,000 in March, 1963.

The figures of dwellings under construction at present are significant. There are 216,829 under construction by public authorities, and 182,354 by private builders. It is clear from these figures, as may right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government has said, that the target which was set for this year of 350,000 houses has been well passed. We are now constructing at the rate of 370,000, or something over 1,000 houses a day. More houses are now under construction than have ever been at any time since the war.

I would relate this to what is said in the Motion concerning home ownership by pointing out that home ownership has increased by 50 per cent. since 1951, and whereas in 1951 three out of every 10 householders owned their own houses, the figure is now 4½in every 10. More significant still, over a quarter of the population are living in houses which have been built in the last 20 years.

It cannot be said that these houses have been built for the wrong people—the people who do not really need them. I take the following facts from building society figures which have been published. It is clear from those figures that the sort of persons who are buying houses for themselves and becoming owner-occupiers are those who really need them.

I take the figures for the North-West, since my constituency is in that area, and I find that a quarter of the new homes and half the existing houses are bought by people with incomes of under£16 a week. One-half of the new houses and two-thirds of the existing houses are bought by those with incomes between£16 and£24 a week.

Mr. Ray Gunter (Southwark)

Will the hon. Gentleman allow me?

Mr. Page


Mr. Gunter

It is all very well saying "Well". The hon. Gentleman is making some bright statements. He professes to have an interest in my constituency. He says that the houses are being built for the right sort of people. When 5,000 people are on the housing list and are living in the most disgraceful conditions, is he suggesting that the houses are being built for the right people?

Mr. Page

The hon. Gentleman only has to look at the figures. I obtained my figures from the Co-operative Permanent Building Society which does a great deal of business with this type of housing. In its findings which were published recently, it says: 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). Here are some real facts.

Mr. Gunter

The hon. Gentleman has got it all wrong.

Mr. Page:

The details may differ in different parts of the country. I have quoted the figures for the North-West, and I have also given the average figures throughout the country.

Of course, I admit that we are faced with an ever-increasing demand for new houses. It is a demand which is not satisfied by the target set by the Government or by the Opposition. Indeed, the target is the same for both sides of the House—400,000 houses a year. We are faced with an ever-increasing demand by an increasing population, by the school peak coming to marriage age, the rising standard of living causing earlier marriages, separate homes for older relatives and longer life after retirement. All these factors build up to an increasing demand. The problem is how to meet that demand and to produce the number of houses that we need. It is a problem of land, labour and money.

Mr. Gunter

And priorities.

Mr. Page

I have shown by the figures in my possession that our priorities are right. These are the people who really need the houses, those in the low income groups. We are meeting this demand and we are doing so by making the money available through the building societies, by making it possible for people to save as, indeed, they have saved. The building societies now have£6,000 million assets from which they can lend the money. The Government have made that possible by enabling people to save.

All that the Opposition can do is to hold out prospects that if they come into office they will permit some lower rate of interest to those purchasing houses. This was blown sky high by the Leader of the Opposition the other day when, in reply to the Building Societies Association's president, he said: …we are not…proposing to introduce through the public sector some special or discriminatory form of subsidised loans for house purchase. So we know now that there is no lower interest rate being offered by hon. Members opposite to those seeking house purchase. That was held out by them as a sop to those who are looking for houses. But, of course, the way to get lower interest rates is to make more savings available so that the building societies do not have to pay such a high rate for them. That is what is happening. Over the past two years the building societies have been trying to find outlets for the money, instead of as in the past, when they were trying to find money from investors. There is now the possibility for young married couples to get houses.

Mr. A. Fenner Brockway (Eton and Slough)

No young couple can get a house in Slough.

Mr. Page

I have been quoting the figures. The hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway) has only just come into the Chamber. If he had been here earlier, he would have heard the figures that I was quoting. That is all I have to say, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Brockway

I have heard the whole of the hon. Gentleman's speech—

Mr. Speaker

Order. It is intolerable that we should have shouted interruptions from a seated posture.

It being Four o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.