HC Deb 18 March 1964 vol 691 cc1396-523

4.17 p.m.

Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham)

I beg to move, That this House notes with concern the distress caused by the continued shortage of homes, the inadequacy of the slum clearance programme and the steady rise in rents and in the price of land and houses; and deplores the failure of Her Majesty's Government to take appropriate steps to deal with these evils. The Motion mentions, first, the continued shortage of homes. That there is such a continued shortage I do not think anyone will dispute. It is now universally admitted that the rate at which we ought to be building houses is at least 400,000 a year. The aim of policy should be to get it to that figure as speedily as possible and keep it there for a long time without prejudice to going beyond that figure if it proves to be possible, or if further evidence comes to light that it is not sufficient, as it may well not be.

In face of that fact and that last year we built not 400,000 dwellings, but just under 300,000, the Amendment which I see the Government intend to move invites us to consider, not a fact but a prospect—the prospect of completing 350,000 new dwellings this year and a more distant prospect of 400,000.

But prospects, hopes and promises must be viewed in the light of the Government's performance over the last 10 years. It is important to notice—and I do not think that this is fully realised in the country—that the number of dwellings completed in Great Britain in 1963 was 20,000 fewer than the number completed 10 years ago, in 1953. If anyone objects that 1963 was an unhappy year with bad weather, he will see that even in 1962 we were 13,000 down on 1953 and that in 1961 we were 24,000 down on 1953.

The year 1953 is significant, because up to that date the Government were still enjoying the advantage of sites acquired, serviced and prepared, of plans made and even of buildings begun by the Labour Party while in power. It is from 1953 onwards—apparently the Minister of Public Building and Works has not thought of that before.

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

Nor had the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart).

Mr. Stewart

I have made the comparison with 1953 before in the House. It is from that year that our judgment of the present Government's performance must begin. But any analysis of the Government's past performance there has, in fact, been a steady reduction in building since that time.

We are left with an undoubted shortage, and a shortage particularly in council dwellings. In that respect, the figures are even more striking. In 1953, the number of council dwellings completed was 256,000. In 1963, it was 124,000, less than half of that of 10 years ago. Even that figure of 124,000 may give to the public an unduly optimistic figure of the prospect for those who wait for council dwellings. From that 124,000 we deduct those which are only one-bedroom dwellings, mainly for elderly people, and those which are inevitably required to replace buildings demolished. We are left with probably no more than about 10,000 dwellings in Great Britain available for the ordinary families on the councils' waiting lists up and down the country.

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

Plus a huge volume of re-lets which should be available from the massive local authority ownership of dwellings.

Mr. Stewart

Of course. Properties become vacant because people die, just as the demand for houses goes up because people keep being born. That is plain enough.

There is an addition of about 10,000 council dwellings a year. In the meantime, private enterprise building is almost entirely for sale. About 5,000 dwellings to let are provided by private enterprise each year. After seven years of the operation of the Rent Act there is no indication that private enterprise is any more willing to provide accommodation for rent than it was before the Rent Act was passed.

It is in this light that we must look at that part of the Government's proposed Amendment which welcomes the rapid growth of owner-occupation. If one ruthlessly cuts down, by the discouragement of local authority building, the supply of houses to rent, and if the people have to live somewhere, surely there will be an increase in owner-occupation. When the Government, in their Amendment, welcome the rapid growth of owner-occupation, they might as well say that they are welcoming the rapid reduction in the amount of accommodation to let.

This is not the way in which owner-occupation should be handled. Owner-occupation should be encouraged, but we should aim all the time at giving people as free a choice as we can manage whether they shall be owner-occupiers or whether they shall be tenants. To a great extent the increase in owner-occupation in the last ten years has been due to a steady reduction in that freedom of choice. More and more people have said to themselves, "We had better become owner-occupiers because it is the only way of getting a secure roof over our heads." There is little in the Government's record which amounts to the positive encouragement of prudent and willing owner-occupation—certainly not in the prices of houses. Since 1959, over the last five years, the price of houses has gone up by one-third. One may notice that building costs in that period have gone up by 15 per cent., so that evidently there is a considerable interest factor pushing up the price of houses to which I will refer a little later.

Real earnings have not gone up by one-third in the last 10 years, but that has happened to house prices. If we pursue a little further the Government's record on owner-occupation we find that they had a scheme which was publicised at the last General Election for the advancement through the building societies of £100,000 to help people to purchase older houses. That scheme was suspended after it had been in operation for eight months.

Sir K. Joseph

And after £96 million had been spent.

Mr. Stewart

While they are preparing a Resale Prices Bill, the Government might consider some comments in the Financial Times recently about the absence of competition in interest rates in building societies. The Financial Times said: It is arguable, at least, that greater price competition would help smooth out local variations in the supply of credit and the demand for it and make possible some reduction in the average rate of interest charged. Competition is unlikely to flourish while the seller's market persists unless the Government takes deliberate steps to encourage it. Perhaps the Government will have something to tell us this afternoon about the deliberate steps which they intend to take, although it seems to me that the weak suit of the Government's Amendment was the failure to enumerate any steps which were to be taken to achieve the objective which they have in mind.

One source of increased competition in the home loans markets would, of course, be to encourage more lending by local authorities. At present, I believe, about one-eighth of all lending on mortgage comes from the local authorities. The Government might have considered deliberately encouraging local authorities to develop a real home loans service rather than keeping the lending of money on mortgage mainly as an adjunct to the borough treasurer's department. Such a home loans service could deal not only with the provision of 100 per cent. mortgages, in which it might be helped by the Government making money available at more favourable rates of interest. Such a service could also keep a register of the properties available for sale in the locality. It could develop a private repairs service.

I mention this because an interesting proposal was made recently in a document which runs as follows: We have been markedly impressed by the evidence of need for some kind of housing information agency to which young people could go for advice on housing matters generally, including the technicalities of house purchase. Some such housing information centres might well be set up by the Ministry. This advocacy of increased public enterprise in housing comes from the Birmingham Conservative Association, although it has not so far received a corresponding echo from the Government.

I have mentioned the undoubted shortage, the inadequacy of the Government's thinking to date, the particular inadequacy of council house building and the effect which that and the lack of measures by the Government has had in increasing the difficulties of the would-be owner-occupier.

I turn now to another aspect of the undoubted shortage. I think that both the Minister of Housing and Local Government and the Minister of Public Building and Works agreed with me earlier when I said that the shortage is undoubted. What is also true is that on the most optimistic hopes of future building that shortage will persist for some considerable time. It is in face of that fact that we have to consider the problem of rent control. It is because of the continuing shortage that decontrol of rents has meant so many evictions, so much opportunity for petty tyranny by landlords, and such outrageous increases of rent.

However, I know very well that it is no use pleading with this Government to reintroduce rent control where it is needed. I want to go on and ask them what their position is about the extension of rent decontrol. I make no apology for the fact that this is about the sixth time that I have raised this question in the House, because it has never been answered on any of the previous occasions. It is a very important question, because, as the law now stands, no further legislation is needed to decontrol every dwelling in the country. The Minister has only to make an Order and submit it for at most one day's debate in this House—it is an Order under the affirmative Resolution procedure—for every private rented dwelling in the country to be decontrolled.

We are entitled to ask this question: in the unlikely event of the Tories winning the next General Election, do they propose, in the lifetime of the next Parliament, to use that power? This is a perfectly plain question, to which the leading members of the party opposite must already know the answer. There are as many as 2,200,000 families living in dwellings still controlled, rather more than half the number of families in rented property throughout the whole country. They are waiting with great interest, with painful interest, for a genuine declaration of Government intention on this matter.

We have already had certain general pronouncements of policy. The Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, speaking at the Conservative Party conference in 1956, said that the aim of the party was to abolish rent control altogether. The Home Secretary, addressing the Tory Party conference in 1960, said this: We must establish a free market if we are to solve the housing problem. I confine myself, in fairness to the Government, to pronouncements by those who are still members of the Government. I need not bother the House at present with the wilder pronouncements of the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell), entertaining as they are.

In view of our continued failure to get answers in the House, it is interesting to notice that the Prime Minister himself was asked this direct question in a television interview a few weeks ago—was it the intention of a Conservative Government, if returned, to make rent decontrol universal, or, indeed, to extend it at all? That was a perfectly fair and reasonable question. The Prime Minister gave a frank and fearless answer. He said that he was opposed to the nationalisation of land. It was like too many of the Prime Minister's answers—swift as an arrow and straight as a corkscrew.

The Minister of Housing himself is a little involved in this. I quote from two recent letters from the Department on this matter. A letter dated 4th April, 1963, said this: The Government's aim is to restore a free market in housing. A letter dated 7th November. 1963, said this: The Government is aware of the need to decontrol all houses but is pledged to take no further steps in this direction in the lifetime of the present Parliament. It is now legitimate to ask about their intentions in the next Parliament. If we do not get a straight answer in this debate, we shall be entitled to assume that it is the intention of the Government, if they get the chance, to decontrol every dwelling in the country as soon as they can. The 2 million and more families concerned have every right to have that answer told them before the General Election takes place.

I have spoken of the general shortage. It must be borne in mind that the housing problem is concerned not only with providing new homes to add to the total national stock. There is the parallel problem of the demolition of old homes. Indeed, if it were not for that, the whole problem would be very much more manageable than it is. Here again, the Government's Amendment asks the House to support the accelerating programmes of slum clearance and modernisation of houses". The word is "accelerating". The Government have a passion for present participles, for things which are perhaps beginning to happen at the moment.

They have not happened so far. For four or five years now the slum clearance programme has been about 60,000. It was 64,000 last year. There has been nothing so far which could be described as a rapid acceleration. I have no doubt that we shall be told, during the debate, how many are under preparation at the moment. The trouble in these matters is that Man never is, but always to be, blessed in the Government's housing policies. There has not yet been that acceleration.

The Prime Minister, intervening in the housing field, told us, again through the medium of television—indeed, I am not sure that it does not appear in some of the Conservative Party advertisements—that the known slums will be cleared in 10 years. The known slums, I presume, means those which were scheduled as such right back in 1955. If they are cleared in ten years, that means no increase on the present rate of clearance. What is the good of saying that in 10 years they will clear the known slums? Every year 150,000 dwellings which are over 100 years' old are added to the category.

Many people who have studied this matter consider that 100 years is too long to regard a: the proper life of a house. At present, we are not clearing slums as fast as the passage of time is creating new ones. I do not think that the Minister of Housing can dispute that. Indeed, I would say that we are not clearing them at present even half as fast as the passage of time is creating new ones.

This is important, not only for its effect on the slum dweller but for the balance of our whole building programme. Suppose that we step up the rate of building to a little under the 350,000 mentioned in the Amendment. Suppose it becomes about one-third of 1 million each year. If that rate can be continued for five years, we shall have disposed of the problem of doing what is needed to the stock of houses and remedying the actual shortage. Therefore, if we do not have an adequate programme of demolition, the position into which we can get ourselves is that we have geared the building industry up to produce more and we will not be able to produce more. It is a necessary parallel of getting building up to this rate and keeping it there that we should have an adequate programme of demolitions each year. There is nothing in the Government's performances so far to indicate that that is likely to be so.

The Motion begins by referring to the distress that is being caused by the continued shortage of homes and the inadequacy of the Government's slum clearance programme. I need not spend too long labouring that point, because we are all familiar with it.

Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)

Before the hon. Gentleman leaves the question of slum clearance, will he say what target he considers the Government should achieve? Does he consider 70,000 a year to be a substantial target? Would he set a target higher than that?

Mr. Stewart

There is no doubt that if we are to get this problem right we must set our eye on building towards 400,000. At the time when that figure is reached the slum clearance figure should be about 150,000. When one has reached, say, 350,000 on the building side one's rate of demolition should be correspondingly less. What is worrying me is the fact that the Government are making bold estimates of increased total building, but are not balancing that by their performance in demolitions.

Mr. Graham Page

The hon. Gentleman has still not given an estimate of what he would do.

Mr. Stewart

I told the hon. Gentleman what I thought were the right figures.

I was referring to the distress that is caused by these things. The total of homeless persons now cared for by the L.C.C. is 5,000; that is, at the end of February this year. That is the most striking result, but there is a less striking result which is equally heavy in its toll of human unhappiness; people are waiting on housing lists. The number in Liverpool is 40,000 and there is no sign of that number diminishing. In Birmingham, the number is 46,500 this year compared with 45,000 last year. The various lists in London show the figure to be 68,000 now, representing more than 10,000 above last year's figure. In Glasgow, the figure has been steady for some time at 75,000.

This is the measure of the distress and frustration which is being caused by the inadequacies of the Government's programmes. There are also the other distresses caused by the immense bargaining power which the housing shortage puts into landlords' hands and the tyrannies to which citizens can be subjected. I have with me a document containing comments by someone who has had wide experience of rent tribunal work. His comments relate, in the first instance, to furnished dwellings—but, as hon. Members know, they can be paralleled by what happens in unfurnished dwellings as well. He states: Many tenants are subjected to assault, wrongful eviction and, the most common abuse, the interference with the services of gas and electricity. Refusal to provide rent books is widespread in the London area. It is often necessary for tenants to seek the aid of the police authorities in cases of wrongful eviction, but often with little effect. The police are reluctant to interfere in cases which are normally matters for the civil courts and although tenants are advised in many cases to obtain legal aid, this remedy is infrequently used, not least because of the delay involved. That is the kind of background against which we must consider the housing problem.

The Motion concludes by deploring the failure of the Government to take appropriate steps to deal with this situation. The Government Amendment states that their present policy will satisfy the housing needs of the country and also slates, in effect, that their policy will remedy the present difficulties. With this in mind, I turn to the question of the steps that are necessary. Clearly, a part of the problem of resolving the housing shortage depends on what can be done to step up the total output of the building industry. The Minister of Public Building and Works will have noted the rather disconcerting Report from N.E.D.C. on this matter. I understand that he has already expressed the view that N.E.D.C. has been unduly pessimistic. The right hon. Gentleman has sources of information which are not available to other hon. Members. It will, therefore, be important for him to satisfy the House today on the view he has taken.

Mr. Rippon

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is aware that we had an important debate yesterday on this very point.

Mr. Stewart

Yes, but having studied the OFFICIAL REPORT of that debate I cannot feel that the Minister has as yet given convincing reasons to satisfy hon. Members that he, rather than N.E.D.C., is right on this matter. However, we all hope that he is right.

It will be apparent from the N.E.D.C. Report—and the Minister will not dispute this—that one will need in the building industry both a marked rise in productivity per person employed and an increase in manpower in the industry. In this connection, we notice that the industry is already to a considerable extent dependent for its manpower on immigrants to this country from the Commonwealth and Ireland. We should always bear in mind this connection between immigrants and the housing problem when we debate this matter. It is one of the curiosities of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act that the man with large private means—the man who will do nothing for the housing problem except buy houses—can come to this country without question while the immigrant who might help us to build houses must clamber over administrative hurdles to get in.

There is another matter on which we need some comment from the Minister of Public Building and Works about the N.E.D.C. Report. Towards the end of the N.E.D.C. recommendations reference is made to the possibility of there being a short-term regulation to prevent the industry from becoming overloaded—

Mr. Rippon

I do not want to keep on interrupting the hon. Gentleman, but I am sure that hon. Members are present who cook part in the debate yesterday, and who heard me clearly say that the Government would have nothing whatever to do with physical controls.

Mr. Stewart

If the right hon. Gentleman says that, then what are his views on the paragraph in the N.E.D.C. Report which tells us that greater statistical information is needed before a proper decision on the matter can be made?

Mr. Rippon

I explained in the debate yesterday exactly what I did before the N.E.D.C. Report was issued. That is one of the reasons why I have said that the Report is somewhat out-of-date.

Mr. Stewart

Is the right hon. Gentleman telling us that he is satisfied that there is no need for a regulation of the kind mentioned in the Report, either now or in the future? May I caution him before he commits himself too definitely to that view?

Mr. Rippan

I made the position perfectly clear yesterday. I do not know why the hon. Gentleman has not read what I said.

Mr. Stewart

I have read what the Minister said, but it still does not satisfy me. He has not clearly defined his position as to whether or not some of the measures described by N.E.D.C. may at some time be necessary.

There is another comment in the N.E.D.C. Report which is particularly significant. It is pointed out that one of the reasons why newer methods of building are not adopted on a greater scale is that some systems require substantial capital investment which may not be undertaken unless a large and continuing market can be foreseen. At this point there is a bridge, so to speak, between the technical side of the problem and the administrative and financial side. If we are to get the full benefit of new methods of building there must be a large and continuing market. That market must come from public demand —that is, local authority demand—and that is affected by Government policy on interest rates and the availability and the price of land.

My hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun) put a Question to the Economic Secretary to the Treasury yesterday about the recent rise in the Bank Rate and the consequent effects of that on local authority borrowing. The Economic Secretary replied: …The immediate effect is not as great as all that."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th March, 1964; Vol. 691, c. 1174.] That is true, but what is also true, as is implied in the Report, is that changes of this character in the rate of interest oblige local authorities to look with concern at their future building programmes. It is difficult to reconcile a position of uncertainty for the local authorities over interest rates with the requirement of the large and continued market for housing which is technically necessary if we are to get the output we desire.

We have urged from this side that there should be preferential rates of interest for local authorities, not only for the obvious reason that it brings down the money price of the house but that it puts the local authority in a position where it can plan more confidently for the future, and give to the building industry the kind of orders that are necessary if the technical advantages of new methods of building are to be most fully realised.

The other thing that local authorities have to be concerned about is the price and availability of land. Every time we discuss this problem we find a fresh and interesting piece of evidence available. What I want to put before the House on this occasion is a piece from the Sheffield Telegraph, which my hon. Friends from that part of the country tell me is a very reputable, temperate newspaper; and one that could not be described as taking a sensational view of problems, or as showing either undue favour to the Labour Party or undue ill-will to the Government.

A leading article in that newspaper is headed, "Dubious Honour for Sheffield", and states: The record price of £90,000 paid yesterday for ten-and-a-half acres of land at Hands-worth makes Sheffield the costliest place in the North for private building development. If it is any consolation to Sheffield, I think it probable that that city will not remain in sole possession of this trophy for very long, and that this price will be rivalled and exceeded in other parts of the North before long.

After describing the facts, the article comments—and I invite the attention of the Minister of Housing and Local Government to this: The Minister of Housing by implication abandoned the 'free market' system when, having cried woe on Labour Party proposals for a National Land Commission, he announced effective identical plans himself. I see that the Minister smiles while his right hon. Friend the Minister of Public Building and Works shakes his head.

I should not be surprised if we do not have another statement about land prices before the day is out—I should not be at all surprised at that. I only hope that it will be a little less ambiguous than the last one, which, from the Government's point of view, had the advantage that it could be interpreted to mean almost anything anyone wished. It could be interpreted, as the Minister for Public Building and Works did, to mean no more than that there would be some more new towns, or it could be interpreted—as, in his more expansive moments, the Minister of Housing and Local Government did—as meaning a very considerable programme of public acquisition of land.

The Prime Minister's recent pronouncement indicated that in his view there was no half-way house between something such as we propose and the retention of a free market in land. If the Government are resolute to stick to a free market in land I hope that it will be made clear tonight, and that we shall not be put off with some vague generalities such as the Minister used on a previous occasion.

The one definite statement in the Amendment on this problem—and this is the one definite matter to which I referred earlier—is: …the Government's policy of increasing … the supply of land "— then there is a dash, and the words "within regional plans" are inserted in a parenthesis. One can imagine the hurried minute going from the Ministry of Housing to the drafters of the Amendment reminding them that the Government wished to be "with it" and that the words "regional plans" were much in fashion today.

As a contribution to this problem, the remark that the Government are to increase the supply of land shows that they have not grasped what is in issue at all. I take it that not even this Government are claiming to create land from nothing. The statement means that they will see to it that the planning machinery works so that more land is made available for building. So far, so good. But the Government must be perfectly well aware that they only do that, and can only do that, and will only need to do that, to the extent to which there is an increased demand for building; that this process which the Government call making more land available is, in effect, simply the process under planning legislation of determining where the new building is to go.

In view of that, it does nothing at all to reduce the price of land. In so far as it can be described as increasing the supply, it only does so to meet an inevitable and inescapable demand, and the whole nature of doing what the Government call making land available is one of saying, in effect, "In the next so many years there will be building here, and here and here, but not there, and there and there."

The whole effect of that is simply to decide in whose land the pot of gold is to be hidden. That is the real nature of the process; it does nothing to bring down the price of land or to bring down the price of houses, which rose by that one-third during the last five years. There is nothing here at all to deal with the problem of the price of land.

The Government Amendment speaks of increasing the supply of land within regional plans—but what regional plans? Whose regional plans? We have none at the moment. We have the plans made by the ordinary planning authorities. We have the Government partially recognising that certain regional decisions are necessary—that came out in the debate on the Buchanan Report—but the Government then talk as though the problem could be handled simply by the local authorities.

Is it the Government's intention that they, the central Government, will, in effect, provide the local authorities in region after region with a general outline of what plans ought to be? I hope that it is—but if that is now the Government's intention it is exactly what the Government objected to when we on this side proposed it during the Buchanan debate. We must, therefore, know what the Government mean when they talk of regional plans. By whom are those plans to be drawn up? What is to be the relationship between the central Government and local government in the making of these regional plans?

When we mention this subject we are bound to remember that tomorrow, if all goes to plan, the regional survey for the South East will be published. I think that the Minister said that some sort of important statement on Government policy would be made almost at the same time as, or even preceding, the publication of the regional survey. The point is that we do not know into how mud detail the regional survey will go, but if it is to indicate what pieces of land in the South-East not now built on are to go into building in the course of the next five to 10 years, and if the Government stick to their view of a free market in land, the regional survey wit be a profiteer's guide.

We have made clear our belief that the increasing value of land, when it is not due to the actual efforts of the landowner but to the needs of the community, should go into the public purse. In view of that statement of policy from our side, it should be made clear that if, as a result of anything that may be either in the survey or inferred from it, people go on buying land at fantastic prices they do so at the peril that they will burn their fingers when the rights of the public are asserted in this matter.

Mr. Dan Jones (Burnley)

I wonder whether the Minister will agree with it.

Mr. Stewart

My feeling is that the Minister will indicate that he is not going to do anything but that somehow or other it will turn out all right. That was the effect of his previous announcement about land. It seems to me, therefore, that when we look at the history of this matter and the housing problem now facing the country and at the terms of the Motion and of the Amendment, with its prospects and promises, we are bound to say that the Government's performance discredits their promises and their prophecies. The shortage means ever-increasing hardship to our people to which the Government apparently, in the absence of any statement to the contrary, intend to add by the extension of rent decontrol.

The Government's own approach to the problem, as revealed by the terms of the Amendment, shows that they are still not prepared to take any action in the vital fields of interest rates and of land, which is essential to the solution of the problem.

5.7 p.m.

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

I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof: recognises the growing housing demands of a rising and increasingly prosperous population, welcomes the prospect of completing 350,000 new dwellings this year and the Government's further target of 400,000 new dwellings a year supports the accelerating programmes of slum clearance and modernisation of houses, welcomes the rapid growth of owner-occupation and believes that the Government's policy of increasing both the supply of land—within regional plans—and the supply of houses represents the best and quickest way of satisfying the housing needs of the country and of restraining the levels of prices and rents". I think that the best way to move the Amendment and to answer the speech of the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) would be to start off by making a progress report on the various elements of the housing problem and programme, and then to make a few comments on those parts of the hon. Member's speech which I shall not by then have covered and, finally, come to a policy announcement which I have to make before I sit down. In all the figures that I shall use I shall be referring to England and Wales, except when I say expressly that they are on a Great Britain basis.

I very much agree with the hon. Member that the housing task of the country is complicated by the need to tackle three things simultaneously. We have to overtake the remaining shortage, we have to build for growth; and we have to replace obsolescence. We could very easily, I agree with the hon. Member, by an over-emphasis on one of these three get both our building industry and the housing condition of our people less improved than they should be.

The hon. Member for Fulham, as is his custom, made a selective speech. I shall try not to avoid the bad things while pointing out some of the good things, but, as usual, the hon. Member totally failed to remind the House of one of the most important background facts against which we always discuss housing. The hon. Member quoted my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, in, I think, 1956. He quoted my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, in, I think, 1960. But, of course, there has been, as we know, an enormous change in the housing background over the last 12 years, caused by the unpredicted acceleration in the rise of the population.

Until 1956 the Registrar-General was predicting a static population until the end of the century, and an ageing population. It is, of course, not his fault that from 1957 onwards the birth rate has rocketed and has gone on rocketing.

Mr. Denis Howell (Birmingham, Small Heath)

I would point out to the right hon. Gentleman that the children born since 1956 do not yet want houses.

Sir K. Joseph

The hon. Member perhaps will allow me to develop the argument a little.

In England and Wales, from 1951 to 1963, there was a population increase of 3½ million. This was not mentioned by the hon. Member for Fulham. What is much more significant, and is the answer to the hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Denis Howell), is that with prosperity, with younger marriages, with greater survival to old age and with the generally increased capacity to pay for a house if one can find one, the size of households has been steadily falling. Consequently, a static population requires each year a larger number of dwellings and we have not had a static population. We have had a steadily and intensely rapidly rising population.

Between 1951 and 1963, as a result partly of increasing population and partly of this increased rate of household formation, due to the reasons I have given, we have had a net increase in the households in England and Wales of 1.7 million. In those same years we have added to the stock of houses a net addition in England and Wales of 2.7 million dwellings, after allowing for houses which have merely served to replace houses that have been demolished. Consequently, during the last 12 years about 1 million dwellings have been available to reduce the intensely large shortage that existed when the Tories came to power. I am not, of course, charging hon. Members opposite with total responsibility for that shortage. [An HON. MEMBER: "Yes."] No, I am not charging them with it, because during the war there was a cessation of building. I wish that hon. Members opposite were as fair in their debating.

I should like to give some of the similar figures for the Greater London picture. In Greater London, in 1951, there was a shortage of houses—not a crude statistical shortage but a genuine shortage—of, as far as we can calculate, about 300,000 dwellings. Since 1951, the population of Greater London has fallen by nearly 200,000 and the stock of dwellings has increased by over 300,000. With a declining population and a greatly increased stock of dwellings, that is, of course, a net addition and one would have expected that the shortage of dwellings would have been eliminated; but because of the increased household formation, which has been particularly intense in London, where prosperity has been at its highest, there is still a shortage of about 150,000 dwellings.

To put it in one sentence, because of the habit of marrying younger and the blessing of living longer we have to get accustomed to housing four generations a century, and, I suppose, educating them as well, instead of three generations. The task of changing gear from providing housing at the rate of three generations a century to four generations a century falls on us, and that is why it is not a simple matter to eliminate shortage and still to cope adequately with obsolescence.

After having explained the background, which was absent from the speech of the hon. Member for Fulham, I come to the progress report. We expect, on all the evidence of starts, which should give us a clear guide, to build in Great Britain at least 350,000 dwellings this year, and of these at least 318,000 should be in England and Wales. Whether we look at dwellings under construction, at starts, or at completions, and whether we look in the public or the private sector, the evidence is of a rapidly accelerating increase on every front in house building.

Next year, too, we shall expect to complete again at least 350,000 and, I hope, substantially more. Suppose that in this year and the next year about 100,000 of these dwellings are needed to rehouse people who have been living in slums which are demolished or in houses which have to be cleared, as some sound houses have to be, to make way for roads, schools, and the like—if we complete at least 350 000 dwellings this year and next, setting aside 200,000 of those for replacement, then by the end of 1965 a further 500,000 new dwellings will have been made available to help towards easing the present shortage and towards meeting the existing growth.

Mr. Albert Evans (Islington, South-West)

The Minister has given us some interesting figures about his hopes for housing targets in the next year or two. Has he any information about the location of these houses? Is there any indication that they will be in the areas where the shortage is greatest? Does he envisage the provision of houses where they are needed, or are his figures overall?

Sir K. Joseph

That question is at the heart of the matter. I know where the houses in the public programme will be next year as well as this year. I know where the private enterprise programme will be this year, because it is represented by starts already made. Obviously, private enterprise, on the whole, does not start dwellings except to meet an expected demand. But, as I shall say later, the essence of the Government's problem is to find the land to enable the public authorities in the greatest need to provide the houses required for their own people. This is the heart of the problem. I shall come to that.

Mr. Eric Lubbock (Orpington) rose

Sir K. Joseph

My speech will be a long one, and I fear that it will become much longer if I am constantly interrupted.

Mr. Lubbock

I am obliged to the Minister for giving way. There is an inconsistency between the figures which he has given and the ones given by the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart). He said that 150,000 dwellings each year were coming up to the age of 100 years——

Sir K. Joseph

I have not come to that. I shall deal with it later.

I do not usually go back to the 1945–51 period, and, if I do, I am generally interrupted rudely from the benches opposite; but the hon. Member for Fulham allowed himself to go back to 1953, which is very nearly the same principle. He said that in 1953 we had a record year, and he mentioned that we were still building then a very large number of council houses. So we were. But the fact is that the transformation which my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) achieved from 1951 to 1953 was to release the private builder, and thereby add a vast number of houses built for owner-occupation to the stock being supplied by local authorities. This is what happened. Hon. Members opposite at that time predicted that it could not possibly happen.

The fact is—I should have thought that the Socialist Party could accept it—that, when the Tory Party came to office in 1951, the top domestic priority was given to housing. Surely, this was right. But, as the years went on, education first and then roads and hospitals qualified for equal priority. It is not possible to give everything priority the whole time. Therefore, we should not be judged on the housing programme over the whole of the 1950s. We should be judged by the combined programme of housing, schools, universities, hospitals, colleges, power stations, waterworks, roads, railway modernisation, and the whole investment of the Government.

Mr. Fenner Brockway (Eton and Slough)

And offices and luxury hotels.

Sir K. Joseph

One day, the hon. Gentleman will, perhaps, learn that in a prospering and increasingly sophisticated community more and more people find jobs in offices as production is carried out by fewer people helped by more complex machinery backed by an office organisation.

I come now to the main elements in the overall housing figures. Building for owner-occupation is rising extremely rapidly, judged both by starts and by completions. In England and Wales, about 45 per cent. of all dwellings are now owner-occupied. This is getting along pretty fast, particularly when it is borne in mind that, when we came to power, there were only 29 per cent. of dwellings in England and Wales owner-occupied.

It remains true, of course, that there are people who aspire to the ownership of a new house but who cannot manage the deposit. Part I of the Housing Bill, now going through the House, with its release of £300 million to help cost-rent housing societies and co-ownership, will make virtually all the advantages of owner-occupation available to such people at much lower monthly outgoings and for very much lower deposits.

At the same time as building for owner-occupation is rising so fast, local authority programmes are rising too, particularly in the areas where there is the greatest need. At this point, I shall deal at some length with the hon. Gentleman's comments about slum clearance.

In this connection—I know that I do not need to point this out to the hon. Gentleman—it is important to distinguish between slums, on the one hand, and what are called "twilight" houses, on the other. I hope that we all understand what is meant when I use that expression. These are houses which are not found by a doctor to be medically unhealthy as slums but which, not having 15 years' life, do not qualify for improvement grants. They are not medically unhealthy in the view of a doctor. A slum is. That is the distinction between them.

In the country, altogether, there are probably at present about 2¾ million houses which are either slum or twilight. In 1956, when the Government made their inquiries, there were 950,000 houses in Great Britain reported as slums. Since then, 600,000 of those have been demolished. By that measurement, there should be only 350,000 of the 1956 slums left. But, of course, there has been a constant revision of the total number of slums as doctors have condemned further houses which, in 1956, were not slums—that is, which were not reported as medically unfit to live in. Probably, 250,000 houses have been added to the known slums.

When my party gives a pledge on slums, this relates to the slums which are known to be slums at the moment, which total something over 600,000 in the whole of Great Britain. For these we claim that we are accelerating the programme. The hon. Gentleman is quite right when he says that 64,000 slums were cleared last year, and we do not need to accelerate much, so he says, to get all the slums down in ten years if the total number of known slums now is ony 650,000. The hon. Gentleman knows much better than that.

Mr. M. Stewart

I was quoting the Prime Minister.

Sir K. Joseph

No; I think that the hon. Gentleman was putting a gloss on the Prime Minister's words and was denying that any acceleration is going on. I want to hold him to this. As he should understand—I am sure that he understands it well—the real problem is that so many of these 650,000 which are now left as known slums are concentrated in massive numbers in 38 towns and cities of England and Wales and in some places in Scotland.

It is relatively easy to clear a few hundred slums in a few hundred places, but when there are 80,000, 60,000 and 40,000 slums left, respectively, in Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham, the administrative cost, the task of finding land within the reach of work and the load on the professional and building people concerned, is very great indeed. So the task of the Government is above all, to accelerate slum clearance where slums are most thickly concentrated. This is the problem.

As the House knows, my right hon. Friend the present Home Secretary concentrated the efforts of the Government in England and Wales on the 38 towns and cities where the slums lie thickest on the ground. These are the places which present us with the greatest problem. I see the hon. Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Mapp) in his place. Oldham has one of the largest concentrations in proportion to its total housing stock in the whole country. It is to deal with these 38 towns; and cities that the acceleration is so desperately needed.

I wish now to report progress on where we stand.

Mr. Charles Mapp (Oldham East)

To associate the present Home Secretary with any impetus which has taken place in slum clearance in Oldham is a manifest error, either a misjudgment or whatever it may be, on the part of the Minister. The present Home Secretary was the most disappointing Minister of Housing and Local Government that the town council had to deal with in the matter of slum clearance. I must put the record straight on that.

Sir K. Joseph

The time scale of housing means, of course, inevitably that a Minister reaps what his predecessor starts and sows what his successor will reap. I am now reaping in Oldham the initiative started by my right hon. Friend in concentrating the attention of the country on these 28 towns and cities. In these 38 towns and cities the housebuilding programmes have, in aggregate, increased by 75 per cent. over last year and their clearance rates are up by 59 per cent. over their average since the slum-clearance drive started. However, I think that what the House will probably want to know is this.

On the present programmes and achievements of these authorities, all but 12 will have cleared their slums by 1973, but I am making, and the Government are making, special efforts to improve the rate of clearance for the others. The largest problems, of course, are in Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham. I now expect Manchester to deal with its remaining 50,000 slums within 10 years. On present programmes, which we shall accelerate again, Liverpool would 'take 15 years to demolish its nearly 80,000 slums and Birmingham 20 years to clear its 43,000 slums.

We need, therefore, in the case of Liverpool and Birmingham, and in about nine other places as well, to accelerate again ever beyond the programmes at present accepted by the local authorities. But to accelerate further in these cases means that we must obtain more land and also more output from an already heavily loaded building industry. This means the release of land, and the industrialisation and thus the increased productivity of the building, industry, to which I shall come again later. In the light of those figures, I repeat that it is the pledge of the Government that all slums now known as slums in England and Wales will be virtually cleared by 1973. I cannot say entirely, because, obviously, in those three cities there may be 10,000 or 12,000 slums left out of their large numbers, but all those cities with slums will be transformed by 1973.

Now another subject which is intensely important—the problem of housing for Londoners. I see that there is some dispute as to whether it is practicable to provide 50,000 houses a year for the people of Greater London. I would like to say that this was a figure which in the White Paper introduced a year ago the Government said was the minimum necessary for the needs of London. I see no reason why at least 50,000 houses for Londoners should not be provided by new building and, to some extent, by new conversions, partly in London and partly in other schemes, or by voluntary migration or commuting outside London. Fifty thousand is the minimum that must decently be provided, and I think it is practicable to expect them to be provided.

The House will wish to know, of course, that the Government are also paying the greatest attention to the work which will have to follow the clearance of the slums. When we have the 650,000 slums down the next task will be to clear the twilight houses. A house which is 100 years old is not necessarily, because of its achieving one more birthday, a slum. Many much younger houses become slums and many older houses are a joy to live in. The middle-term task is to clear not only the slums but the twilight houses as well, but the priority must be to clear the slums which are, by hypothesis, medically unhealthy to live in.

The preparation for the surge of twilight area renewal must be an examination of the administrative, financial, legal, technical, transport and moral obligations of pulling down houses without the reason of medical need. As the House will know, there is a joint urban planning group set up by my Department, the Scottish Development Department and the Ministry of Transport which has as one of its main tasks the preparation of the twilight area replacement campaign. Another of its main tasks is the working out of the implications of the Buchanan Report.

At the moment we are having some pilot studies on the ground. The House will be familiar with the pilot project in Fulham. Another one is going on between a commercial company, Hallmark Securities, and the local authority of Bolton. I would also report to the House, that as an essential preliminary to twilight area replacement and to Buchanan, both the planning and highway grant systems are under examination.

Then there are the 2 to 2½ million houses which are perfectly decent houses but which are without modern amenities. They are being improved at the rate of 120,000 a year voluntarily. Far too few of the tenanted houses are in that figure. As the House well knows, we are introducing an element of compulsion, making the grants a shade more flexible, and we hope to get the rate up to between 150,000 and 200,000 in the immediate future. We can hope in the next 10 years to break the back of the improvement problem as well.

So much for the progress report, but, of course, the Government would like to go faster, and I will discuss what prevents us doing that. I cannot accept—and we are very used to the hon. Member for Fulham's panaceas—that interest rates are a key factor here. There is no evidence to show that interest rates need deter a local authority from building what it decides it needs to build. After all, the present subsidies are at the moment being reviewed, and the idea of the subsidy is to help people who cannot otherwise afford to pay the local authority rent.

I am glad to report that over half the tenants of local authorities are within some sort of rent rebate scheme. Fifty out of 83 county boroughs—much credit to them for most of these county boroughs are Socialist controlled—are now sensibly using the taxpayers' subsidy by way of rent rebate schemes so that the help is channelled to those most needing it. The subsidy is under review with the idea of meeting the point raised by the hon. Gentleman that the local authorities should have the confidence to plan ahead on the necessary large scale.

I do not believe, on the evidence before me, that cheap money would produce a single extra house. It would increase the demand without increasing the supply, and that is the classic way in which to put up prices very fast.

Nor do I think that land prices are restricting building. [Laughter.] No, I do not. In fact, the building industry is working as hard as it can. House building starts and completions by public and private enterprise are all soaring and there is no evidence to show that the price of land is restricting house building. It often conceals the density allowed in many places. It makes more sense to talk about the price per plot than the price per acre.

I do not believe that the price of land is limiting house building, but I know something that would. The hon. Member for Fulham made a speech today of about 40 minutes length and I shall probably take longer to make mine, but it is the first speech that I have heard from him when he did not spend at least five minutes talking about the famous Land Commission. Here is a splendid scheme for restricting house building. The hon. Gentleman looks impatient, but he should consider what is involved. The enacting of legislation to enable the Land Commission to buy scores of thousands of parcels of land in bits and pieces all over the country, below the market price, would throw the whole business of land supply into chaos and confusion with enormous damage to the housing programme. If the party opposite were returned to power, it would benefit for a year from the large number of starts begun under a Tory Government. But the year after the programme would taper off dramatically.

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

Would the Minister elaborate on that fascinating phrase, "the business of land supply"?

Sir K. Joseph

I will substitute "the process of land supply". "Process" would have been a better word to use. If hon. Members opposite think that land will be brought forward for development under the shadow of their Land Commission, they are being extremely naïve. They will have to winkle out this land and buy it compulsorily and then will have to haggle over the terms of disposal for each of these scores of thousands of parcels of land in bits and pieces all over the country. When one thinks of the bureaucracy, the delay and the increased price of existing houses, because of the failure to build more houses, one realises that this would be a paradise for lawyers and a grave clog on improving the housing of the people of this country.

I was posing the question why we cannot go faster, and I was saying that I did not believe that interest rates or land prices were the limiting factors. I think that hon. Members opposite will agree that the limiting factors are land and labour. The hon. Member for Fulham made great play with what he called the last minute parenthesis in the Amendment. I am afraid that I must annoy the hon. Member for Oldham, East yet again. This was not a last minute parenthesis. The South-East study was initiated by, again, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. He, noting the rapid increase in population, and he turn-round of population expectations, initiated the process of regional land use plans, of which the first, for the South-East, will be published tomorrow, with a White Paper. There will follow next year plans for the North-West and West Midlands. I must leave the regional plan details for tomorrow.

Mr. Mapp

Did I understand the Minister to say that we shall have the regional plan for the North-West next year?

Sir K. Joseph

indicated assent.

Mr. Mapp

That is a long way ahead. Surely something must be done to get the plan much earlier.

Sir K. Joseph

The hon. Member should not forget that a great deal is happening in the North-West before the plan is published. Runcorn was confirmed as a new town yesterday. The rate of acceleration in building and slum clearance [...]n the hon. Member's own constituency reflects great credit on his local authority and its officers and on the Government. Therefore, much is happening, but the plan, which is a complex project to carry out, will probably not be ready until next year. It is under the wing of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry and Trade.

I come now to the second limiting factor, labour. As the hon. Member for Fulham rightly said, the building industry is heavily loaded. Large voluntary buying groups are essential if we are to get sizeable orders and industrialised building systems adopted, and forward programmes are the essence of good management on the public building side. I am glad to report that 70 local authorities, accounting for one-third of the total local authority building, are already in local authority consortia, and a large number of the rest of those who account for the major part of the local authority programme, have had the idea of consortia discussed with them and are considering joining or making preparations to join.

My right hon. Friend the Minister for Public Building and Works may have more to say on industrialisation, but I should like to give a necessarily brief progress report. This year 18½ per cent. of the houses in local authority programmes will be built by labour-saving methods of the system type. We must never forget that rationalised traditional building also has a very great deal to offer in increasing productivity. Next year I expect that 30,000 local authority dwellings will be built by labour-saving systems. I expect that from 1965 the number of dwellings built by local authorities by these systems will sharply increase. I hope that within three years as many as 60,000 dwellings will be built by new labour-saving systems.

The interesting stage will be reached when we see whether the success is sufficient to make them applicable to the relatively small numbers of houses normally built by private enterprise builders for sale. It is one thing for local authorities, with many hundreds, or even thousands, to put in orders over a period of five years, and another thing for the small builder building perhaps 20 or 30 houses to use these systems. We must try to devise systems—some are in existence, including the Ministry's 5M—which lend themselves to use by small builders without a great deal of plant. These are the ways to end the housing shortage.

However fast we go, particularly with the rate of growth of population, we have a problem meanwhile. There are many people desperately waiting for houses and suffering to a greater or lesser extent while we cure the problem. I think that the House will accept that we are on the way to curing one problem. The allegations of intimidation in multi-occupied dwellings are to be dealt with by Part IV of the Housing Bill, now before the House, by way of giving local authorities summary power to enter such dwellings and to put a control order on the dwelling for five years in order to protect the safety, welfare or health of the tenants concerned.

At a Committee meeting upstairs reference was made to the possibility that intimidation may exist outside multi-occupied dwellings. I have no evidence of this. I am not saying that there has not been an allegation concerning an occasional case, but I have no evidence of any large scale trouble of this sort outside multi-occupied dwellings. If hon. Members are aware of trouble of this sort in dwellings occupied by single families, I invite them to send me details. The Milner Holland Committee, which has a very large remit, has this among its subjects for discussion. Therefore, we shall know when it reports——

Mr. Parkin

I am wondering whether the Minister's recollection is complete. Does he recall that it was put to him that intimidation would very often be a serious factor in multi-occupied houses which were not in such a state of disrepair as to require the making of a control order and action by the local authority. That is a very important point. If the right hon. Gentleman feels convinced that the Amendments which he will put down himself or which he will accept from this side during the Report stage of the Bill will meet the situation, I should be grateful if he would say so now.

Sir K. Joseph

The hon. Member is quite right in his recollection. I have no evidence that this is a problem If hon. Members will send me evidence, I shall be glad to consider it before the Report stage.

I now come to the question of rents and rent control in the period before the housing shortage is ended. I hope that it is common ground on both sides of the House that the situation has changed sharply since 1957. I am not asking hon. Members opposite to change their view about the Rent Act, but I am asking them to accept that since 1957 the pace of younger marriages, the pace of greater survival to old age and the pace of increased household formation have made the pressure in the towns and, particularly, in the big cities very much greater than could have been foreseen from the Registrar General's projections for 1956. This cannot be denied.

Against this background, the Opposition have said formally that if returned to power they would reintroduce indiscriminate and universal rent control.

Hon. Members


Mr. A. Lewis

When have we used the word "indiscriminate"? Would the Minister give the quotation? This is the Minister's own word.

Sir K. Joseph

I am interested that it is not the hon. Member for Fulham who leaps to his feet. What the Opposition have said is that they would reintroduce rent control on all dwellings decontrolled by the Rent Act, 1957. Have I incorrectly quoted them?

Mr. M. Stewart

The Minister is quite correct there, but that proceeding cannot by any stretch of language be described as indiscriminate and universal.

Sir K. Joseph

It would simply leave out of control those dwellings which were never controlled even under a Labour Government, which means a universal and indiscriminate reimposition of rent control except over all the dwellings which even the Labour Government thought ought not to be controlled in conditions of far greater shortage than now.

I should point out a few implications of such a policy. Such a policy would be bound to keep people in the cities whether they needed to be there or not. It would encourage decay. It would almost certainly cause a landlord, whenever a vacancy occurred, to sell the dwellings and thus to reduce the amount of rented accommodation available. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Hon. Members do not know the facts of life about these things. Before the Rent Act, whenever a vacancy occurred in a rent-controlled dwelling it was almost universally sold, thus reducing the rented stock. Since the Rent Act—and I admit that our evidence is several years out of date, but it is the latest available evidence—80 per cent. of the dwellings which are vacated have remained rented, admittedly at a higher price. They remain in the rented pool. That is the latest evidence, and if the hon. Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton) has any later evidence I hope that he will produce it.

Socialist policy would do far more harm than good. It would be a cure far worse than the disease. But I have been asked some direct questions, and I should like to answer them. Our position is absolutely clear until the end of this Parliament.

Mr. J. J. Mendelson (Penistone)

The hon. Member says that we do not know the facts of life. Is he not aware that in many cities and towns since the Rent Act has been repealed, when we ask many landlords privately how they are calculating their greatly increased rents, their stock-in-trade answer is that they are charging what the market will bear? That is the sort of chaos which the Minister and the Government have introduced. The right hon. Gentleman is afraid of our announcement that we shall introduce an element of control in order to stabilise the. position and to protect tenants.

Sir K. Joseph

The hon. Member makes my point—that since the Rent Act landlords have continued to rent dwellings even when they have been vacated, whereas previously they always sold them.

Mr. Mendelson

A large number of tenants have been forced to pay up to 45 per cent. of their total incomes in rent because, the calculation which the landlord makes is not based on a reasonable return on the cost but on whatever the market will bear. That has distorted the whole picture of rents.

Sir K. Joseph

I challenge the hon. Member to send me ten such cases. I shall study them with the greatest interest. But I shall expect the household budget to support his argument. I eagerly look forward to receiving such evidence from him. Why has he not sent it to me before?

Mr. Denis Howell

What about the case which I put?

Sir K. Joseph

I am trying to answer questions put by the Opposition Front Bench. Our pledge runs until the end of this Parliament that we shall not initiate any further measure of block decontrol during the life of this Parliament.

Mr. Lipton

What about after that?

Sir K. Joseph

There are about 2¼ million houses and flats in this country still subject to rent control, of which about 400,000 are in Greater London. The number is steadily decreasing as and when protected tenancies come to an end with the death or the voluntary movement of the tenant. That is the process known as creeping decontrol. The Government do not intend to interfere with this process. It has had a result that when the protected tenancies come to an end, most houses are re-let instead of being sold. If rent control were to be generally reimposed, we should simply be put back into the old position. As soon as the landlord obtained possession he would sell and nobody would have a chance of obtaining a flat or house to rent.

But in the light of the increased pressure on housing in the cities due to increased household formation, younger marriages and greater survival and longer life, the Government do not intend, if returned to power, to propose during the next Parliament any further measure of block decontrol. [Laughter.] The Opposition Front Bench spokesmen never talk about rising populations or household formation, and hon. Members opposite do not seem to understand the very much changed position in the cities due to these factors over the last five or six years. It can, of course, make things worse in the cities—due to increased properity. This is what I am explaining to the House.

There is still the difficult and very troubling problem of the position of some tenants in the areas of worse short- age, notably in London. Creeping decontrol is not itself the cause of the trouble. The trouble arises from what happens when the houses are re-let. The Opposition would solve this by not having them re-let—in other words, by having them sold, which, of course, solves nothing.

Over a year ago in the White Paper on London we referred to this question of the pressure on tenants of private houses and then announced our intention to set up a committee to report on the state of housing in London and, in particular, whether, given the shortage, rented housing is being used and managed to the best advantage. The committee, under the chairmanship of Sir Milner Holland, Q.C., has been at work for many months, but its report cannot be expected for several months yet. When the report is available the Government will act at once to deal with whatever excessive burdens on tenants it may reveal. The investigation is confined to London, but any action which may be needed will be applied to any other town where there is reason to think that a similar problem exists.

The Government will certainly not simply reimpose rent control, so freezing the market in rented housing and pushing rented housing back into the state of neglect from which the Rent Act has rescued so many, but if the report shows that there ought to be special protection for some tenants the Government will provide for them.

I come to the main plank of the Government's policy as set out in the Amendment. The main need is for more houses, and that means more land and higher productivity from the building industry. It is because of the plans which the Government have made, the regional plans and the work of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Public Building and Works in encouraging the increased productivity of the building industry, that the Government have been able to give the pledge which we have given. Our pledge is clear. Despite a rising population and an even more rapidly rising demand for houses, by 1973 in England and Wales there will be virtually no more slums. Almost all the improvable houses will have been improved. A good start will have been made on replacing the twilight areas, and there will be no shortage.

I would add that long before 1973 well over half the population will be living in houses which they own. This is our pledge and we see no reason to go back on it in any way.

What is the Opposition's policy? The Opposition's policy is indiscriminate and universal rent control, reproducing all the evils of which I have spoken. The Opposition produced no target for housing until pressed and pressed and pressed from these benches. When they produced a target, it was the 400,000 target which we had adopted six months earlier.

Mr. M. Stewart

I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman repeats that. I corrected him previously about it, and he had to withdraw it. I mentioned the need for 400,000 houses a year before the Government mentioned it. If he looks at the record of what is known as the Rachman debate in last July, he will see that he then conceded this point to me.

Sir K. Joseph

I will better the right hon. Gentleman. We need at least 450,000 a year. The point is what target does a party have? The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, in a long speech in Leeds, part of which I have the honour to represent, discussed housing at great length, but the two things he did not mention were how many houses the Labour Party thought it could build a year and how long it would take for it to abolish the slums. Yet these are the two central factors in housing policy.

Taking the figure of 400,000 a year together with the desire of the hon. Member for Fulham to push local authority building up to 200,000, the implication is that if at any time building for owner-occupation exceeded 200,000 then, despite all the soft words, restrictions would be put on building for owner-occupation. We, on the contrary, are already exceeding 200,000 "starts" for owner-occupation.

The Opposition offer lower interest rates as a bait to owner-occupiers, but in reality there would be no freehold—because leasehold would apply to new building—ground rents would be regularly reviewed and houses would be more expensive because of the activities of the Land Commission and the reduction of building for owner-occupation. I have already tried to describe what a lawyer's paradise and a clog on housing the Land Commission would be.

Our policies are clear. They are to build, as we are building, more council houses, more houses for owner-occupation and more houses by housing associations for cost-rent and co-ownership. We shall build in the country as a whole at least 350,000 houses this year. We shall then go on to the target of 400,000 a year. The Socialists, who have only reluctantly been forced to accept a target and have not yet a programme, have policies which are either irrelevant, unworkable or perverse.

5.52 p.m.

Mr. A. Fenner Brockway (Eton and Slough)

I do not propose to address the House in the spirit which the right hon. Gentleman has shown. We are discussing the greatest human problem in the country at this time, and it would be very sad if the public began to think that we were doing so in terms of the votes which they will be giving in the election to come. The right hon Gentleman did not approach the problem from the point of view of the human needs of the people but from the point of view of the need of his party to get votes in the election.

This is the greatest social evil in our nation at present. The shortage of houses is destroying the health of our people, their happiness and their character. I do not think that anyone could sit through debates on housing in this Chamber and feel that the Government or Parliament are yet sensed with the urgency of the problem.

If an earthquake took place in any locality the Government and the nation would concentrate on giving all assistance to those rendered homeless. Yet today our people who are homeless or who are without decent homes are as great in number and in their suffering as though an earthquake had occurred. It should be for the Government and Parliament to act with an urgency and a comprehensive vigour which have not yet been shown.

I have said that the housing shortage destroys the health, happiness and character of the people. The right hon. Gentleman spoke at length about slum clearance. I wonder if he is aware that there are towns where people would even feel it a privilege to have the opportunity to live under slum conditions. They feel that because they are unable to get houses at all.

In my constituency we have largely solved the problem of slums, but what of the overcrowding, the homeless people, the evictions which occur month by month of people whom we cannot rehouse? These constitute the problems which Slough and many other towns have to solve.

I am quite sure that other hon. Members have shared the experience of my "surgery", with women constituents bringing to us doctors' letters saying that it is absolutely essential for the sake of their health and their families that they get new accommodation. Yet, because of the pressure on houses, my council and, I expect, other councils, have to limit the grounds of health to those suffering from tuberculosis—those certified as suffering from dangerous, infectious tuberculosis. In every constituency there are families the members of which are being destroyed in health because of the absence of proper housing accommodation.

It will be the experience of other hon. Members as well that, at the end of three or four hours of meeting our constituents, one is in the depth of despair about what one can do. Women who attend these "surgeries" are in a condition bordering on nervous breakdown. They endure nervous tension day after day because the walls of the houses in which they live are not shrines for human happiness and concord but prisons for the human spirit. The conditions under which they are living are causing more neuroses in the population than any other single factor.

I find that this is particularly so among our young, newly married people. I have told the House before that in my constituency I made inquiries over three months of all the newly married couples. Not one couple was able to obtain a house or a flat in the Borough of Slough. They went into lodgings, into one room, or lived with in-laws. We speak with confidence of the youth of today, but they are beginning married life under conditions which are likely not only to destroy their immediate happiness but which will leave a scar on them for life.

I think the right hon. Gentleman was in cuckoo-land when he was talking about the effects of the Rent Act. Does he know the position of families who, because rent restrictions have been withdrawn, find their rents doubled, trebled and going to the heights which they have to pay in a town like Slough because there is no alternative accommodation? Does he know of the anxiety this means as to how they are to make ends meet for themselves and their families? There has never been a more cruel Act causing greater suffering to the people of this country than the Rent Act, for which the Government have been responsible.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware, when he speaks of the little relevance of interest rates, of their effect, not only by increasing rents which the local authorities have to charge their tenants, but on the very owner-occupier of whom he is boasting? I should say that the anxiety which is now in the homes of owner-occupiers is greater than the anxiety in the homes of tenants in municipal houses. They not only have to meet the intolerable interest rates upon their mortgages but have to pay them for houses, which are little more than a cottage, £3,500, £4,000 or £5,000. They have to pay not only their mortgage rates but the increased rates which result from the restrictions which the Government have placed on local authorities in housing. They have h.p. payments to make on their television or refrigerator or washing machine. Sleepless nights are spent by these owner-occupiers, who are the pride of the party opposite, because of the worry that they have in meeting the cost of mortgages and other expenses.

The right hon. Gentleman spoke this afternoon as though he did not know that evictions occurred. My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Denis Howell) challenged him upon that point. Has the right hon. Gentleman any understanding of the kind of anxiety which comes to parents when they get notice, when they cannot possibly pay the increased charges which come under the Rent Act, when they have no money to buy houses and there is no alternative accommodation for them to go to? As eviction day comes nearer and nearer the anxiety in that family grows. When eviction takes place, the council has no accommodation in which to put that family. Children have to be separated from parents—a man in one room, a woman in another; children taken away into the residential schools of the county authorities. The right hon. Gentleman by his Rent Act and by the policy which he has been pursuing has been breaking up families more rapidly than by any other cause.

Mr. Frank Allaun (Salford, East)

I agree with everything that my hon. Friend says. Is he aware that in one of these evictions in the last few weeks in London the furniture and the clothing of the evicted family were left out in the garden for a week in the rain because they had nowhere to put them?

Mr. Brockway

I have had similar cases in Slough, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not say that I have not drawn attention to these things, because I have sent to him and to his predecessor cases similar to that.

I am also terribly concerned about the effect upon the young. I would say that a great deal of the juvenile delinquency today is due to the overcrowded conditions in the homes of our families. Young people cannot spend time in their homes because of these crowded conditions. They walk the streets, move into gangs, and juvenile delinquency takes place. The young teen-ager cannot take his girl friend to his home. That is a real problem. It means again that they have to be outside, that there is little opportunity for young people to know the families of their friends, and that this has a quite serious psychological effect.

I think particularly of boys and girls who are studying. A recent report has shown that it is much more difficult for a boy or girl from a working class home to get to a university than it is for a boy or girl from a middleclass home. I believe that is largely because they are unable to pursue their studies in the crowded conditions of their homes. I have a son of 17, and I am amazed at the way young teen-agers have to work at school compared with what I had to do when. I was at school. If that boy had to work in one crowded room, which is the condition of thousands of boys and girls in overcrowded homes, what hope would there be that he would be able to get through his examinations?

I refer to one other outcome of the housing shortage, and that is the racial tension which it causes. I believe that racial tension when it takes place in this country is almost entirely due to the housing problem. One does not find it on the floor of the workshop; but when in towns like Slough we have housing shortage and workers pouring in, because it is a comparatively prosperous city, with no accommodation for them and when those workers see houses occupied by our Commonwealth emigrants, tension begins to grow. If we are to deal with the relationship of races, one of the first things that we must do is to deal with this problem of housing. We cannot begin to think of ourselves as a civilised nation whilst people are denied even the right of a home.

I have taken longer than I intended because of the strength of my feeling, but in the rest of what I have to say I shall try to be concrete and brief. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of priorities. It seems to me that the priorities of our nation are all wrong. We spend £2,000 million a year to defend our homes when thousands of our people do not have homes, or do not have decent homes. We reach up to space with satellites when we do not have enough houses in our own bits of the earth.

The Government's priorities are all wrong in another way. My borough council submitted to the right hon. Gentleman a modest programme of 1,719 houses in six years, fewer than 300 a year. The right hon. Gentleman rejected the proposal, although he promised to look at it again. One of my objects today is to incite him to look at it again urgently and adequately. In his letter to me he said: … the council's proposals for the next few years, taken together with the greatly increased number of starts approved in 1963 are far ahead of the general rate of increase which will be permissible under the Government's expanded housing programme; so that the council are in effect asking for a considerable measure of preference over other authorities. Apart from this the Minister has to bear in mind that putting extra work on to the building industry without any regard for its capacity can only react to the general disadvantage of the housing programme by producing longer construction periods and higher contract prices. That means that a request for 300 houses a year in an overcrowded town like Slough is far ahead of the general rate of progress permissible under the Government's expanded housing programme. What nonsense that makes of the Government's claim to be engaged in a great housing campaign!

The right hon. Gentleman referred to extra work on the building industry. I interrupted him this afternoon to speak about offices. He gave me a little lecture and told me that he hoped that I would learn enough economics to know that offices were necessary. Of course they are necessary. I live in Middlesex, about which a report was published only yesterday. It showed that of 12 million sq. ft. of offices, only 3,250,000 sq. ft. were occupied and that of the remainder 2 million sq. ft. were not occupied. Another 2,500,000 sq. ft. was under construction at the end of the year. The right hon. Gentleman knows very well that the great blocks of offices now going up often have unrented rooms for month after month. The labour of the building industry is put to these tasks while there is the urgent housing shortage of which I have been speaking.

Mr. Lubbock

Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that the owners or developers of these office blocks could make a contribution towards the solution of the housing problem of the rest of the community by paying rates on office blocks the moment they were completed whether they were occupied or not?

Mr. Brockway

I should be delighted if rates were paid on unoccupied property.

I am very conscious that other hon. Members wish to speak, but I wish to deal with the problem of land. Last week, I asked the right hon. Gentleman the cost of land per dwelling in 1951 and 1963. Rather to my surprise, he said that it was £70 in each year. I looked at my Question and appreciated that I had drafted it badly, because I had permitted the Minister to refer to land bought many years ago when prices were lower. I then asked him what were the prices of sites which were bought in 1963, and I was given astonishing figures for five sites: whereas the price of land per dwelling in 1951 was £70, the prices on these five sites were £300, £470, £500, £520 and £733. That means that the cost of land per dwelling in Slough has gone up since 1951 between four and ten times. What nonsense it is to say that this has no effect on tenants! Increases in land charges would mean increases in economic rents of between 6s. 10d. and 16s. 4d. a week. If I had time, I could show that the effect of interest rates would be as serious.

The kind of speech which we had from the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon makes some of us despair, because it was not directed to the great human needs of the people who are now homeless and now overcrowded, but obviously was a bait and bribe for the voters in the coming election.

6.16 p.m.

Mr. Geoffrey Johnson Smith (Holborn and St. Pancras, North)

We all know that on matters such as this the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway) speaks with a great deal of first-hand knowledge and passionate sincerity. I want him to know that I for one appreciate the emotions which guide his thoughts, but I thought that he was less than fair to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government, for one fact which my right hon. Friend pointed out and which may have escaped the notice of the hon. Member was that in the past ten years there has been a net addition to the housing stock of the Greater London area as a whole. I want to be fair to the hon. Member, but I got the impression that he was saying that in Greater London the situation had not improved but deteriorated.

Facts must speak for themselves. I do not for a moment wish to underestimate the agony which many families have to bear because of the bad housing conditions which still exist in the Greater London area. My "surgery" is filled with such families. It is the job of hon. Members on both sides of the House and whatever party is in power to see that the best possible use is made of all the money which we vote for purposes of this sort and that pressure is brought to bear on Ministers and local authorities. But let us put it in honest and fair perspective—is the situation in Greater London worse or better than it was ten years ago? The facts are that the situation has improved.

My right hon. Friend must take his fair share of the credit for this improvement. The energy and humanity which he brings to bear in this subject have been paralleled by those who have held this high office before, and he is ably supported by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Public Building and Works who has revolutionised his Ministry since taking office. The old Ministry of Works was something to which one relegated someone who was not of his vast intellectual esteem and calibre. Under his leadership, the new Ministry has become a pioneer in the improvement of methods of building. We cannot lie down under criticisms of the sort which we have had from the hon. Member for Eton and Slough.

I fully appreciate why the hon. Member regards this subject with much more emotion than others, because I recognise that in his and some other constituencies more than others of which I could think there are concentrated the problems of a dynamic and expanding society. In the 1930s, his constituency attracted the industries which became the growth industries of the 1950s. The problem of industrial growth brings with it tremendous social problems. If we had no growth, we would probably not have some of the problems of which the hon. Member has spoken. We would not have the attraction of population, an affluent population with people marrying younger and wanting higher standards for themselves. The hon. Gentleman must admit that Eton and Slough cannot possibly absorb that population increase. With the best will in the world it is not possible for that to happen.

The hon. Gentleman can correct me on this if I am wrong, but I think that the rate at which immigrants from abroad have gone into his constituency has exacerbated the problem. I know that this has been the case in many other constituencies in Greater London, and that is why, despite the scorn that was poured on them by many hon. Gentlemen opposite, many hon. Members on this side of the House were proud to vote for the restriction of immigrants into this country when the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill was being discussed. I had to endure that scorn, and I was told that my decision was based on colour prejudice. It was not. I made my decision in an attempt to try to bring some better sense and order of priorities into solving the housing problem. Because of our own domestic problems we cannot cope with the burden of housing the overspill of Asia or Africa or the West Indies, and I should have thought that the restriction of immigrants under the Commonwealth Immigrants Act would do as much as anything to prevent the type of explosion to which the hon. Gentleman referred.

I propose to deal with two subjects: first, homelessness and, secondly, rents. I thought that the hon. Gentleman did less than justice to the work that is being done in housing homeless families and to the part played in this problem by the Government and by public authorities. I must declare an interest in this. I am one of the sponsors of the Christian National Appeal for the Homeless in Britain. The money which is raised under this campaign will go to selected societies, trusts, and other organisations working to provide homes, and also to those organisations which are attempting to provide welfare facilities for homeless and badly housed families.

Recently a grant was made to a housing trust in Notting Hill to convert about six houses for homeless families. I believe that the first of the six houses has been opened, and that the rest will be occupied in the spring. The purpose of my raising this matter is not merely to give publicity to what I think is a worthy cause, but to deal with the question which I have often been asked when I have discussed this matter, namely, why should this become a function of voluntary action? Surely this is a problem which should be dealt with by public action, by local authorities, and by the Government? I consider that it is wrong to refuse voluntary help for homeless families. If one carries the argument against the voluntary system a little further, why have a "Meals on Wheels" service? Why have all these voluntary groups which help out in the hospitals? I hope that no one on either side of the House will suggest that homeless families should not be helped by voluntary action.

Mr. R. J. Mellish (Bermondsey)

Hear, hear.

Mr. Johnson Smith

I am glad to have the support of the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish).

Mr. Mellish

I belong to one.

Mr. Johnson Smith

There is a strong case for supporting voluntary action to house homeless families, because it is possible through this campaign to unlock vast public funds. For example as the campaign points out in its brochure, a grant of £1,000 from its funds will make possible the provision of nearly £10,000 worth of homes with the help of official loans, and so on.

Perhaps I might explain how that could happen. The Minister has asked local authorities to use their powers generously. They have discretionary powers to help housing associations, which, of course, could be set up under this campaign. Local authorities have power to make loans of up to 100 per cent. of the cost of schemes designed to rehouse the homeless. Even if, for reasons of valuation on old properties, a local authority was willing to advance only 90 per cent. of the money mortgage, this would mean that for every £1 put up by the association the local authority would lend £9.

In addition, local authorities can pass on to housing associations the normal Exchequer subsidy on new buildings, and they can also pay grants fox improving or converting existing property, which is what is more likely to happen in these cases. Apart from that, donations can be used on the organisation and management side to secure the creation, or indeed the extension, of sound and well-run housing associations, in which case local authorities would be more willing to make suitable loans.

There are thousands of dwellings in this country which could be converted to house the homeless. The alternative is to put the people into the care of the London County Council. It costs £17 a week to care for a mother and two children at Newington Lodge. In other words, it is cheaper, and much better, to provide homes for them.

One has to admit that the final solution depends on direct action by the Government and by local authorities, but in the meantime I submit to the House that we as individuals cannot sit idly by and wait for something to be done. There is a legitimate way in which we can supplement the efforts of local authorities and of the Government, and that is by trying to provide houses for these people.

I deal next with rents. My right hon. Friend made an admirable speech, but I was disappointed in one respect. He referred to the Milner Holland Committee. We know that this is an important Committee, and we know that its work has to be done efficiently, but my right hon. Friend said that it may be some months before we can expect to receive its report. I had hoped that the Committee would make an interim report. Are the facts so hard to get that we must wait many months before any action can be taken?

Many people in London feel that the situation here represents a landlord's market. There are many tenants in my constituency, as I am sure there are in others, who cannot pick and choose. The hardest hit are those who are married, and who fall within the income bracket of £10 to £15 a week. Not many of those people can afford to buy a house, nor indeed should they. A family has an element of mobility if it rents property rather than commits itself to home ownership. There is often, too, the problem that if a man wants to purchase a house he has to move far away from the centre of London to find anything that is reasonably priced. Not many of my constituents—the majority of whose incomes are below the national average—are able to move very far from their jobs. The increase in fares alone makes that prohibitive, and very often the nature of their work makes it impracticable.

I agree that in every big city in the world there is a need for different rent levels. If all rents are artificially controlled at ridiculously low prices in London or any other big city it would make that city more attractive than ever, and it would therefore defeat the social purpose of reducing overcrowding. Many people are sucked in, seeking to take advantage of the amenities offered by a big city, and many more would be likely to come in if the cost of rented accommodation were no more than that of similar accommodation on the outskirts.

To return to a completely free market in London, and to allow the unfettered rule of the law of supply and demand to operate in conditions of severe scarcity, however, can only impose an intolerable rent burden upon tenants. The question, therefore, is: does a landlord's market operate in London today to such an extent that an intolerable burden is being imposed on vast sections of the Population of London, so that injustice flourishes?

My right hon. Friend made an important statement, which will give comfort to many families which enjoy the benefits of rent control. We have been told that they will continue to enjoy that protection after the lifetime of this Parliament. I welcome that announcement, but what about those whose houses are already decontrolled, and those who will be subject to creeping decontrol?

Sir K. Joseph

No one is subject to creeping decontrol; creeping decontrol takes place only when a controlled tenant dies or voluntarily moves.

Mr. Johnson Smith

I did not express myself as felicitously as I might. I accept my right hon. Friend's correction. I will put it another way. The stock of controlled dwellings will gradually diminish and the stock of decontrolled dwellings will therefore increase, and the numbers of people in London who are subject to the forces of the market place will also increase. I am wondering to what extent this will cause an increasing number of Londoners to face an intolerable rent burden.

Mr. A. Evans

Does the hon. Member agree that since 1957 probably half the number of formerly controlled habitations in London have been decontrolled? Certain samples suggest that that is so. On that basis, cannot we assume that most of the remaining controlled properties will be decontrolled in another six years' time?

Mr. Johnson Smith

The hon. Member has the advantage of me. He may be right. I am not sure. I would prefer not to comment upon it.

I want to switch the attention of the House to Germany. The German Government, too, is involved in a row over rent control. This is bound to happen if people become used to paying artificially low rents. If the cost of everything else rises and rents remain static for some time, but they are subsequently asked to pay a substantial increase to bring the rents up to a more, realistic level, the tenants bellyache. They are not necessarily always right in doing so. A series of surveys has been carried out in Germany, and the Government have come to the rough conclusion that control should be abolished except where there is a scarcity of housing of plus 3 per cent. As soon as there is a shortfall of 3 per cent. the law of the market place operates.

I suppose that the reason behind this decision is that which I gave earlier. There is a feeling that when the scarcity rate is above 3 per cent. the tenant is likely to be placed at a severe disadvantage in bargaining with his landlord, and that no landlord should be placed in such a strong position, because it leads to injustice.

Some years ago, following the passage of the Rent Act, 1957, one could argue that in many instances it would be possible for a family which could not afford a decontrolled rent to move further out, within the south-east region. The South-East Study should tell us the extent to which that is possible today. It should tell us whether housing is more easily available within this region, or whether there is such a big difference in rent.

It is a pity that we are having this debate without the benefit of the results of the study. I imagine that there has been a natural growth of population in the South-East, with a natural growth of households, and that this will continue in the future, so that the shortages in housing will last rather longer than we expected when we passed the Rent Act in 1957. I do not want to prejudge the issue, but if the Study shows that it has become more difficult for Londoners to seek a solution to their housing problems within the region——

Mr. Mellish

Of course it will.

Mr. Johnson Smith

I do not want to prejudge the Study, but if it does it would seem to strengthen the argument that I have adduced for the provision of protection to tenants in periods of shortage.

I know that the answer is in the long term. My right hon. Friend always says this, and he is right. He has devoted his energies to the problems. The solution is to build more houses—but to do this takes time. If there is only a small degree of scarcity it will not take many years to achieve a solution, but if the Study shows that the problem is worse than we have imagined the patience of many people will be exhausted.

Mr. Mellish

Does the hon. Gentleman mean that he wants more protection for the tenant, and is asking the right hon. Gentleman to do something about what he and I know, from living with it, to be the effect of creeping decontrol? Is that what he is saying?

Mr. Johnson Smith

Yes, but I do not want to spell out anything in detail to the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) or anyone else. It could be the case, but I do not want to become involved in detail; my guess about the Study may not be correct, and I do not know what recommendations the Government may make. Not knowing these things, it would be foolish to become bogged down in detail.

Mr. Mellish

I agree that none of us except the Minister knows what will be the conclusions of the Study, but I am sure it will disclose a population problem, in that about 34 per cent. of our population now lives in the South-East. Certain problems must arise as a result. Is it not obvious that the population point will have to receive the greatest emphasis?

Mr. Johnson Smith

Yes. But my right hon. Friend has made the point about the maintenance of restrictions. The question is, where? How widespread will it be? How far along the line is my right hon. Friend going? I am sure that in the light of what I fear might prove to be the problem of the South-East my right hon. Friend will have some imaginative proposals for land development at a rather faster rate than at present. He may have some more concrete proposals to make about developing towns in this area. He has not shrunk from flying a few kites in this respect in the past. Knowing him to be a man of his word we may hear some interesting recommendations from him.

The extent to which these proposals are bold and imaginative will depend on the attitude to rent control and how far it should go. We shall look with keen interest at his proposals regarding subsidies. In this whole problem one may consider how far we can speed up the release of non-essential land.

May I take up what, in this whole spectrum of things, may appear to be a small constituency point? In my constituency we had from the Transport Commission a cock-eyed plan in relation to railway land. I am glad to say that it was deferred by the borough council, the L.C.C. and the Ministry. But meanwhile we wait and people are becoming impatient. This land goes abegging. Hostels are built to accommodate the university population. This takes up housing sites which might be used for residents and they do not like it.

I visualise hostels for students being built over modernised railway stations, because students do not have families living with them, and that is a place where such hostels might well be built. I can imagine use being made of some of the railway land for office building. I should be glad if office accommodation in the area at present occupied by Government Departments could be released and converted into housing accommodation. Some of the railway land might be used—I do not want all of it—as offices for Government workers. It is such proposals as these that we hope will be considered urgently.

Whatever proposals are suggested, one recognises that their implementation will take time. I was glad to hear, therefore, that in the meantime there is to be no bonfire of controls. There will be no question of that. I particularly wish to emphasise rents, because one hears more about the land problem than about rents. I hope that my right hon. Friend will regard the problem of rents and security of tenure increasingly from a regional viewpoint. There are areas in the country where there is no real housing shortage and no rent problems. If a bonfire were made of rent controls no suffering would be caused in such areas. One could argue, therefore, that it would be a step in the right direction to have such a bonfire; that it would create an incentive to build for rent, and that I appreciate. But when one looks at these problems, as it has been necessary to do in industry, one can appreciate that what is right as Government policy in one area would not suit another area. We had evidence of that in last year's Budget in respect of the assistance given to the North-East, the depreciation of machinery and special capital grants.

I ask my right hon. Friend to look at the problem of rent control and security of tenure on a regional basis. I am sure that in doing so he will earn the gratitude of many people in London who feel that they have arrived at a position in which, through affluence and increasing population growth, households are put at a disadvantage in respect of the landlord.

6.45 p.m.

Mr. Frank Allaun (Salford, East)

I intend to bring evidence to show that out of the suffering of people who live in the back streets of the towns in this country fortunes are being made by property companies, and that the Government are conniving in this. Some people say that the Rent Act has failed. That is untrue. It has succeeded in its main purpose. It has transferred £340 million a year from the pockets of the tenants to those of the landlords. I claim that it is a "landlord's charter" and I hope that this Government will never be forgiven for having introduced it.

Today, under pressure, the Minister promised to introduce no further legislation "for block decontrol"; but the right hon. Gentleman does not need to do that because every year 320,000 families, or their houses, become decontrolled by the tenant moving or dying.

Mr. A. Lewis

The Minister does not need legislation——

Mr. Allaun

That is the point I am making.

Mr. Lewis

—because he can operate by Statutory Instrument.

Mr. Allaun

I agree. But not even a Statutory Instrument is necessary. The new situation is being created by "creeping decontrol". I maintain that it is hoped by Conservative M.P.s that the 1957 Act will be a dead issue by the time of the next General Election and that it be conveniently "swept under the carpet". I must warn the Minister that that will not be so. On the contrary, it is only now that the full effects of the Measure are being felt. The stock of controlled houses has shrunk from 5½ million to 2 million in seven years, which is pretty good going. Let us make no mistake about it, the Rent Act will be a key issue at the municipal elections and at the General Election.

First, let us look at the problem from the point of view of the victim and then from that of the money-makers. I could take the Minister to several houses in my constituency which, up to 1957, were rented at 9s. a week, which indicates the sort of property——

Sir K. Joseph

Inclusive of rates?

Mr. Allaun


Sir K. Joseph

What are the rates?

Mr. Allaun

The rates are 4s.

Sir K. Joseph

So the rent is 5s.?

Mr. Allaun


Sir K. Joseph

May I ask the hon. Gentleman to speak in terms of net rent and then we shall know where we are?

Mr. Allaun

The rent was 9s. including the rates. These properties are without bath, hot water or an inside lavatory. The type of property will be known to the Minister.

Under the Rent Act the landlord was allowed to increase the rent to 16s., including rates. Yet some houses identical to the ones which I have described, and where there has been a change of tenant, are now rented at £3 10s, a week—a tremendous percentage increase. That is in the provinces.

I have a friend who lives in London. He is a gardener and works for one of the London councils. After working a little overtime, and after National Insurance and other stoppages have been deducted, he takes home £10 a week. He has a wife and a young baby, so that the wife is unable to go out to work. The total net income for the family is £10 a week. They live in a flat consisting of one bedroom, one living room and a kitchen, and for this they pay £4 10s. a week. I understand that that is not an exceptional amount in London. This leaves the family with £5 10s. a week with which to pay for food, clothing, heating and lighting. I do not know what was the amount of the rent for this flat before the passing of the Rent Act, and I can only estimate, but I guess that it was 30s. It has gone up to £4 10s. a week, making exactly the figure of 45 per cent. of his total income which has been quoted. This happens to be an exact figure——

Sir K. Joseph

Suppose there had never been rent control at all and that rents had risen over the years with earnings. The rent for the 5s. house would, presumably—it having risen with the increase in earnings generally—have increased three or four times since 1939. Will the hon. Member bear in mind the fact—I am not defending any particular landlord—that, for 20 years while rents have been controlled, landlords have had to accept a fixed return while the earnings of the tenants and the cost of repairs and maintenance have moved up?

Mr. Allaun

The answer to the Minister is that these houses were built 100 years ago at a cost of about £40 and they have been paid for over and over again by rents to the landlord.

Let us take a really shocking case, which has been drawn to my attention this week and about which I have written to the Minister. I call it the case of the three widows. These three widows are all old-age pensioners living in the same terraced row in my constituency. All three have lived there for over 30 years. One of the ladies, whom I went to see on Saturday, showed me proudly 44 rent books going back for 44 years.

Last year, a large number of properties in the neighbourhood were bought by a new landlord, whose name is E. Ross (Cars and Caravans) Bolton, Ltd. He sold most of the houses and he pressed these three elderly widows to buy theirs, but—I do not blame them—because of their age and poverty they said that they did not want to buy. He then sent out a notice saying, first, that the houses were decontrolled, which was completely untrue, and secondly, that the rents would be raised by 17s. 6d. a week, which he could not do by law because, although he could raise them a little, I agree, he could raise them by only a much less sum than 17s. 6d. a week.

I have sent details to the Minister, who, I know, is taking the matter seriously. I hope that action will be taken in a case like this to teach these landlords a lesson. I hope that great publicity will be given to it, because I am sure that this is happening in thousands of cases of which we do not know. I hope that it will be a warning to that kind of landlord.

Unfortunately, that is not an isolated incident. I have sent to the Minister previously details concerning a 70-year-old man who has lived in his house since 1913. By registered letter there came an eviction order. When it was taken up by his Member of Parliament, the firm promptly said that it had made a mistake. In another case—again an elderly person, a widow—the landlord wrote "decontrolled" in her rent book although she is as controlled as is the House of Commons. There must be many more cases of which I and other Members of Parliament do not know. This is going on on a big scale.

In Paddington, my hon. Friend the Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin) has drawn attention to the activities of Rachman and his thugs. They could not get away with that in the back streets of Lancashire, Yorkshire and the Midlands, because in those long rows of terrace houses there is a greater neighbourliness and a greater sense of solidarity. The people would not stomach dogs and strong-arm tactics there.

Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke-on-Trent, South)

Like "Coronation Street".

Mr. Allaun

Exactly. Rachman and his thugs would received very short shrift in "Coronation Street".

Mr. Ellis Smith

Turn the fire engine on them.

Mr. Allaun

I suggest, therefore, that the landlords are attempting to do by stealth what Rachman and company did by violence. They have tried to do it mainly on people who, they think, are not well briefed in the intricacies of the Rent Acts and who may be bluffed into doing things which they need not do.

On a previous occasion, the Minister of Housing has told us that the local authorities have a safeguard against that kind of thing. He has said that the local authorities can bung in compulsory purchase orders where this kind of dirty work goes on. I am all in favour of compulsory purchase orders in this and in other cases. Unfortunately, however, there is a snag.

If a local authority takes over the house of a landlord who does this, the value for compensation purposes is fixed by the district rating and valuation officer. He must fix the value in accordance with market value, which, in turn, depends upon rentable value. Thanks to the Rent Act, the rates are high and, therefore, the value of these properties is high. There are many landlords who would say, "Thank God for a compulsory purchase order".

Sir K. Joseph

I am glad to say that the hon. Member is quite wrong in that. When it comes to buying, if a local authority puts a compulsory purchase order on a house because, in the view of the local authority, an exorbitant rent is charged, threatening homelessness to the tenants, the rent which is the basis for the compensation is not the sweated rent. There is room for argument about whether the rent agreed by the district valuer is such as would appeal to the hon. Member, but it certainly is not a sweated rent and does not take into account the sweated number of occupants.

Mr. Allaun

Exactly. The rent fixed by the valuation officer is not the controlled rent. It is the market rent, which is always higher than the controlled rent would have been.

Sir K. Joseph

Certainly. Earnings have risen three or four times since the controlled rent was established.

Mr. Allaun

But the landlord is receiving a higher rent without having done anything towards it himself.

When a Labour Government is elected, it is pledged to repeal the Rent Act, to prevent any further creeping decontrol, to restore security of tenure to those who have lost it and, as for rents of decontrolled houses, it will set up rent tribunals to fix reasonable rents. I hope that the Labour Government will give a clear indication to these rent tribunals that it means sweeping reductions where exorbitant rents have been charged.

I have spoken about the tenants. Now, let us look at the receiving end—the rent receiving end. The fortunes to which I shall briefly refer have been made without the owners raising a finger but simply by sitting back and letting their property values rise. These directors are not disreputable Soho characters. They are the pillars of the Establishment, eminently respectable gentlemen. I could quote names—lords, colonels, one air chief marshal, chairmen of Conservative associations and Conservative Members of Parliament.

Incomes from rents increased from £237 million in 1951 to £579 million in 1962. One company, the Artisans and General, raised its income from £547,000 in 1957, the year of the Rent Act, to no less than £1,313,000 within four years of the Rent Act. In this period, its ordinary dividends went up from £106,000 to £266,000. Let me take another example. London County Freeholds, which includes 9,000 Key flats among its properties, had a rent income which soared from £2,033,000 in 1957 to £3,931,000 in 1962. Its ordinary dividends rose from £219,000 in 1957 to £661,000 in 1962, a threefold increase.

Sir K. Joseph

I ought to put the hon. Member right in case other people are misled by these glib comparisons. If he is talking about rents that were controlled until 1957, the comparison of the income of 1963 or 1962 should be, not with 1957, but with 1939, since when, in many cases, there have not been any increases at all and since when incomes, earnings and pensions have all trebled. It is only fair to draw the comparison over a period of time.

Mr. Allaun

Surely, the Minister is not saying that in a matter of a few years——

Sir K. Joseph

When control was taken off.

Mr. Allaun

—the cost of living has gone up by this percentage.

Sir K. Joseph

I am sorry, but the hon. Gentleman does not seem to grasp this. If the rent is controlled for 18 years from 1939 to 1957 and is then allowed to find the market level, there is a sharp increase from 1957, which is due to the fact that it was not allowed to increase gradually from 1939. Rent control was sensible in 1939, but it is unfair for the hon. Gentleman to attribute the entire increase to a few years when it should have been spread but for rent control over an 18-year or 20-year period. I am not defending any particular level of rents. I know the hon. Gentleman appreciates that.

Mr. Allaun

Very well. I can only say that since the three or four years immediately following the Rent Act dividends have continued to rise still more. I will give some quotations to the Minister in a moment to show that they will increase still further in the future, quite regardless of the standard of living or the cost of living. Land Securities increased its rentals from £1¼ million in 1956 to £54¼ million in 1963. I will give the Minister the point that in this case the company also increased its capital, so one would expect some increase in dividends.

Sir K. Joseph

I do not think that the company owns any residential property. I think—I am not sure—that it is all commercial property.

Mr. Allaun

According to my information, it includes both commercial and residential property.

Sir K. Joseph

I do not know.

Mr. Allaun

Its dividends on £100 invested in 1950 increased by 600 per cent. by 1960. I will quote two more cases, although I could go on for a long time. The Alliance Property Company followed the Rent Act, 1957, with a 200 per cent. capital bonus in 1959. I think that the Minister will regard this as relevant to what he has just said——

Sir K. Joseph

Residential property?

Mr. Allaun

Yes. The Investor's Chronicle of October, 1963, contained this report: Rental income is rising steadily as leases fall in. But the supreme example is undoubtedly City Centre Properties. In 13 years an investment——

Sir K. Joseph

Not residential at all.

Mr. Allaun

Some of it is.

Mr. J. B. Symonds (Whitehaven)

On a point of order. Mr. Speaker, is this debate a discussion across the Floor of the House between the Minister and my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun)? I ask for your guidance, Mr. Speaker. Should not questions be addressed through you, Mr. Speaker?

Mr. Speaker

The duty of all hon. Members is to address the Chair. I have not been greatly aware of an abuse of that myself. I take this opportunity of saying that we are not in Committee and perhaps speeches would progress more if there were fewer interventions.

Mr. Allaun

I appreciate that, Mr. Speaker. I think it is possibly due to the fact that the Minister and I were engaged for 27 sittings in Committee that we have got into the habit of interrupting one another. Perhaps I am as guilty of it as anybody else, and for that I apologise.

The Minister says that some of this is commercial property. Some of it is, but the majority is not. I must quote this astonishing case of City Centre Properties, because in 13 years an investment of £10,000 became £2 million, according to Mr. J. H. O. Prosser, who, as the editor of the Investor's Guide, ought to know. Apart from Mr. Cotton, who is a big investor, other big investors are Legal and General Insurance, I.C.I., A.E.I. and Unilever. This is no small fry.

Regarding my last example of a company with sensational dividend increases, Regis Property, the Stock Exchange Gazette of November, 1963, said this: For example, there are still rents in existence at less than half market price today. In other words, the company still has a goodly sum to come by way of increased rents over the next year or so. It is obvious that, as flats and houses become decontrolled, rents rise and the dividends of these companies soar.

Sir Herbert Butcher (Holland with Boston)

Would the hon. Gentleman accept from me that what is happening in the case of Regis Property is this? Twenty-one year leases on property in the City of London which was let probably in 1939, 1940 or 1941 are running out, or alternatively leases in respect of office accommodation entered into immediately after the end of the war are now running out. The chairman of the company has said that for a period of years rent controlled tenants have been subsidised by office rents.

Mr. Allaun

I am very pleased to accept the hon. Member's statement. He clearly knows the details of this case and I would not challenge what he says.

Despite its terrible effects, the Rent Act has been backed through thick and thin by the Tory Government. They can rely on their normal safe majority in the House of Commons and on an even safer majority in the House of Lords to win when it comes to a vote. There may be splits on r.p.m., but there are never splits on the Rent Act or property matters, because the defence of the interests of big landlords and big landowners is the main purpose of the existence of the Conservative Party.

No fewer than 53 Conservative Members of Parliament are themselves known to have property interests as directors, managers, etc. I am quoting from Andrew Roth's book, "The Business Interests of M.Ps.", which lists them. This number of 53 is increasing. It compares with 39 only 18 months ago. In addition there are many Members of Parliament whose property interests are not known. Naturally, all of their property values have soared, thanks to the Conservative Rent Act.

One of those who is not listed in Andrew Roth's book, because he was not then a member of the House, is the Prime Minister, who draws large incomes from land and farm rents. His wealth is estimated by Mr. Bernard Harris, City Editor of the Sunday Express, to be such that he is certainly in the millionaire class.

Then there is the Minister of Transport—I informed the right hon. Gentleman that I Intended to mention his name in this debate—who owns 11 companies owning residential flats, with registered addresses at the Minister's home. They are estimated to be worth £200,000.

Next there is the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black). He is the chairman of 34 property companies, plus 16 subsidiary property companies, and is also a director of nine other property companies.

Mr. A. Lewis

That is probably why the hon. Gentleman is not in the House: he is far too busy on that.

Mr. Allaun

I notified the hon. Member for Wimbledon that I intended to mention his name. There is also the hon. Member for Aldershot (Sir E. Errington),who was until recently president of the National Federation of Property Owners.

These are honourable men. I am not saying that they do any dirty tricks. I only say that, because of the Rent Act, the value of their property and the size of their dividends must be increasing year by year. When a serious housing shortage exists, the deliberate removal of rent controls inevitably leads landlords, with a few honourable exceptions, to exploit that shortage. They charge what the market will bear.

I conclude by saying that the solution is, first, to scrap this wicked piece of legislation and, secondly, vastly to increase the stock of houses available to the people.

7.8 p.m.

Mr. Arthur Jones (Northants, South)

It has been with some, but I must admit limited, interest that I have listened to the speech of the hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun). He has dealt exclusively with the financial problems of the great problem of housing. This has been the theme of several speeches. The purpose of those of us who are interested in this subject is to ensure that more houses are erected. I believe it [...]s accepted on both sides of the House that this is the only method of solving this great problem.

When the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) tried to deal with this great issue of housing he limited himself to rent control, which the hon. Member for Salford, East has been emphasising, interest rates and land prices. If this is the context of the Opposition's contribution to housing, it is a very sorry theme indeed. We should be turning our attention with more emphasis to the rate of building. Leaving aside the question of land prices and the availability of land, I wish to deal with industrialised housing, because it is in this sector that a substantial contribution can be made.

To meet the rapidly rising demands on the construction and civil engineering industries, the Government's emphasis on industrialised building, particularly for housing, is now receiving greater attention. Indeed, this must be so, because it is estimated that the demand on these two great industries will increase by 50 per cent. in the next 10 years.

From information available in the technical Press and Government sources, it is clear that a large number of firms are engaged on research into new building techniques, the use of new materials and the development of compact service units—the so-called "heart units"—for internal installations. Ways and means must be found of reducing the labour content in the construction industry, the elimination as far as possible of the "wet trades" and the development of techniques which enable work to proceed in all weather; off-site building taking place in factories, where work can continue in fair weather and foul. These industrial methods must be more widely adopted in the building industry, making fuller use of mechanical handling equipment, methods of ensuring that on-site operations are reduced to the minimum and of ensuring fair-faced finishes.

My right hon. Friend the Minister of Public Building and Works, in an address to a council meeting of the Association of Municipal Corporations last July, said on this issue: I have said that industrialised building is not a panacea. But, I do believe that, in the wider sense in which I am trying to apply this concept, it is the key to the problem of increased productivity. I share that view. The A.M.C. and other local authority associations have given my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government full support in the efforts being made to direct the attention of housing authorities to the possibilities which industrialised building offer. They have also welcomed the conferences which the Ministry is arranging on an area basis throughout the country.

As a vice-president of the A.M.C., and in my capacity as chairman of the housing committee of the Borough of Bedford, I attended the conference which was called at Oxford on the 25th of last month. The local authorities invited, in addition to the County Boroughs of Northampton and Oxford, included the borough councils of Aylesbury, Banbury, Dunstable, Hemel Hempstead, Luton, St. Alban's and Watford, and among the urban and rural councils were Bletchley and Letchworth. Many of the urban and rural authorities in the area were invited and a substantial number of them were present.

The advantages of industrialised building can be secured only by contracts of substantial sums and continuity of demand for these housing units. The main purpose of the conference to which I have referred was to encourage the formation of a consortium of authorities which would plan their housing programmes and co-ordinate demand, which is a prerequisite to success. This can be achieved initially only by a limited number of the larger authorities. This was clearly recognised by the members and officers representing the small authorities, who brought a sense of realism into the discussions on this topic.

It is appreciated that the smaller authorities have played a vital rôle in the Government's successes in housing in recent years, but I am sure that the local authority representatives at the Oxford conference appreciated that, initially, it is a small, high-powered steering committee of officers and members from the larger authorities which must get the task under way. It was realised that if it became too large it would not be purposeful and would conflict with the various interests represented. I suggest, therefore, that when conferences are called this difficulty is recognised and the invitations for such area meetings are arranged accordingly.

At these regional industrialised housing conferences the interests of the Ministries engaged in these activities should be co-ordinated. At present we have the Ministry of Public Building and Works engaged in research on industrialised housing while the Ministry of Housing and Local Government is more responsible for the implementation of housing schemes. If their activities did not appear so divorced, the local authorities, which are concerned with the initial costs of industrialised housing and maintenance costs over the life period of the house, would be assured on some of the practical advantages to be gained.

In addition to planning considerations, a substantial case must be made for industrialised housing if it is to be got over successfully to local authorities and if they are to overlook the disappointment of the immediate post-war efforts in non-traditional housing. Can local authorities be supplied with details and locations of industrialised building schemes under construction and prototypes which are being developed by enterprising manufacturers? The latter should be given every help with publicity to see that those with successful developments are able to bring them to the attention of housing authorities.

In the main I am limiting my remarks to ground and two-storey dwellings. The multi-storey developments of industrialisation are making good progress, but it is in the bungalow and two-storey dwelling sector that we have a long way to go. Local authorities are finding that the prices for industrialised houses are about 10 to 15 per cent. above the current prices for traditional patterns. This is in addition to the hesitancy to which I have referred, which is bringing a great deal of unwillingness from many local authorities to embark on schemes of this character.

In his reconsideration of housing subsidies will my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government think of some differential subsidy to cope with this price factor? It is hoped that this would only need to be of a transitional character—until methods of production and continuity of work enabled unit costs to be reduced. We all look forward to a cost advantage in industrialised building over a com- paratively short period once the inertia of the present situation can be overcome.

We have almost overcome the earlier disappointments, and the irritating views of those who do not know whether or not industrialised building will prove to be a success. The staffs at the Ministries engaged on this work are to be congratulated on the progress so far achieved in research and in the presentation of the case to the housing authorities, but there is still need for more and better information and for more realistic procedures.

7.21 p.m.

Mr. John Mackie (Enfield, East)

The hon. Member for Northants, South (Mr. Arthur Jones) accused this side of the House of [...]eing too interested in the financial and land price side of the problem and not interested enough in the building of houses. He is wrong there, but, whether he likes it or not, he must realise that before starting to build houses one must have the finance and one must find the land. Finance and land price, therefore, are very important aspects of the subject. I agree with the hon. Member that industrialised building is an interesting development, and one that will certainly help the situation.

We are all worried about the housing situation. The hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mr. G. Johnson Smith) thought that we were unfair in suggesting that things were not improving. We all know that there are more houses and more accommodation available, but I doubt whether the hon. Member's "surgery" is any less or his housing list is any less. Mine certainly is not. In the five years during which I have been a Member of this House the problem has seemed never ending.

My hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway) is very lucky to be able to quote only £700 as the highest price for a house site. In the village in which I live, some 20 or 30 miles north of London, I could quote him figures of up to £2,000.

My job is growing food. I used to think that to be the most important job in the world, because we cannot live if we cannot eat, but Lord Boyd Orr, in the early years of his food surveys, found that although people were being put into good houses in the 'thirties, the rents were so high that the people could not afford food. To those with incomes of the kind mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun), rent is a very important matter. Since I have represented an industrial borough, I have come to the conclusion that food and housing are of equal importance.

I must take the Minister to task on the subject of the number of houses built in 1953. He said that it was perfectly sensible that the number should be reduced. Does he suggest that because 330,000 houses were built in 1953 there was a case for reducing the number to the present figure of something less than 290,000? Although he spoke of earlier marriage, people living longer and the affluent society, how could he possibly make out a case for reduction and for there being no priorities? The first and foremost priority all along should be for housing, and I quite fail to understand his arguments in favour of reducing the 1953 building figure.

Another point to bear in mind is the size and quality of the houses built since 1953. One of my hobbies is studying houses and planning houses. I have been amazed in the last 10 or 12 years to find how much smaller the houses are, and how few amenities are offered within the house. I do not speak here of the amenities one can later put in, such as washing machines or refrigerators, but the amenities within the house itself.

I recently looked at a private-enterprise house in Harlow. It had one living room and a kitchen, and two bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs. That house was offered at £4,500. Can the Minister give figures of cubic capacity, and not just the number of houses? This is very important, because we also have the problem of housing old people.

When my grandfather died, my grandmother came to live with us. It is a good thing for children and young parents to have the granny living with them. The older person can often act as a baby sitter, and is also a good influence on the children. I often feel that one of the factors in juvenile delinquency is the lack of a grandparent's influence. The trouble now is that the houses do not have that extra room that is so necessary for accommodating grandparents. In addition, the quality of houses has gone down in the last 10 or 12 years.

The Minister said that the Labour Party's scheme for getting land for housing would be a paradise for lawyers. I am sorry that he is not present at the moment. A few months ago in an Adjournment debate I told the House of a situation in my constituency where land speculators had bought land for £7,500 for which the council would have to pay something in the region of between £200,000 and £240,000. A legal battle has been going on for over two years. About three years ago I mentioned another case in Enfield which involved a seven-year legal battle to get certain land for housing purposes. If the right hon. Gentleman does not think that the present system constitutes a lawyer's paradise, I do not know what is. I do not know of any other system that could be as bad or as expensive as the present one.

The Minister told us what is happening to the twilight houses, and how they are taken over. In a recent housing debate I said that it was a very dangerous for any town to embark on a programme of very limited repairing of odd houses here and there 70, 80, 90 or 100 years old. The Minister chided me for saying that, and said that a lot of these houses were worth repairing. My point was that such repairing made things difficult for a local authority. If I may, I will give details of the type of case I have in mind.

In the Bush Hill area in my constituency a family trust owned between 120 and 130 houses of considerable age. At the beginning of last year the trustees decided to sell, and the houses were offered first to the sitting tenants at prices of £900 and £1,400 each. The tenants had until a date in June to accept the offer. After that, the balance of 81 houses—11 of them uncontrolled and 70 of them controlled—were put on the market.

This area has been looked at by the council for a considerable time as an area which would have to be redeveloped because it contained old houses. The council wanted to buy but it was out-bid by a speculative company which after buying started to sell the houses. It was not interested in owning the houses as a landlord. It bought the block for £56,000 which represented just over £700 a house. I should like to describe the sort of thing that began to happen after a few months, when it was brought to the notice of the council.

The company started offering first and foremost houses to decontrolled tenants. I should like to quote particulars of four of them. In the first case the tenant took over from his mother-in-law, the previous tenant in 1960. His rent was £1 9s. 3d. The property was offered to him on a 99-year lease, at an annual ground rent of £10 10s., for £1,750. He has since been given notice to quit. Another tenant had been resident since January, 1957, at a rent of £1 18s. 3d. He was asked £1,750 for the house and has now been served with notice to quit. In the next case the tenant is a man aged 79. His rent is £2 3s. 9d. He also was offered the house for £1,720 with a 90 per cent. mortgage. Notice to quit has now been served and has expired. The next case was that of a 63-year old widow. She also has been offered exactly the same conditions.

This is the sort of injustice which the council has to face. Apart from the dreadfulness of the situation, this sort of thing embarrasses the council in its housing programme, because people have to be rehoused when they receive notice to quit. I should like to emphasise the size of the houses—20 ft. by 12 ft. with two up and two down, a cupboard of a kitchen and an outside toilet. The council had to take immediate action because it would have embarrassed its housing programme to rehouse these people out of turn. The council therefore decided to schedule the area for redevelopment. The council, however, did not know of the 40 people who had bought their houses before the sale last June and that about a score of them had repaired their houses. One or two had put in bathrooms and a few were applying to the council for a grant.

Hon. Members will realise from all this the position in the area and the embarrassment caused to these people and the council. The people who had carried out repairs wanted to know their position. In a developing area like this over a period o[...] 10 years some people had allowed the property to deteriorate until the houses were slums. Other people who by their own efforts were living in nice houses found themselves next door to this deteriorating property.

I visited four or five of these houses. They were occupied by nice young people with young families. They were very worried people. This was a most difficult situation. As far as I can see, the council did the only possible thing which was [...]o schedule the area because, if a great many improvements were carried out at the expense of the tenants and the time came to develop, it would cost the council a tremendous amount of money to take over.

I maintain that this is a problem which can be solved only if the council in an area of this kind is instructed to look at the area and take it over as a whole. It should be possible for the council's surveyor to have a good look at the houses and for the council to repair them and make these people council tenants. The council could then do the job of redevelopment without the enormous expense to which in this instance the council will be put.

Since the council announced that it would redevelop, the speculator has said that he will sell the lot and he has asked a price which would give him a fantastic profit. I think that he is the man who will also collect about £250,000 from the allotments to which I referred earlier. None of this would have happened if there had not been decontrol. This has put all these people and the council on the spot and has cost public money.

The Amendment states that … the supply of houses represents the best and quickest way of satisfying the housing needs of the country and of restraining the levels of prices and rents. This company has put some of the houses on the market. It sold the first one for £1,[...]00 about a year ago. The next few were sold a few months later for £1,750. A few were sold later still for £2,400. One of the houses which I visited last Sunday and which was occupied by a young couple had been sold the day before for £2,700, and I was told yesterday that another house has been sold for £3,000. I mentioned earlier the rents which these people were paying. Some had been paying £4 10s. before all this matter blew up. It is obvious that some people have little faith that the Government's programme will reduce the prices and rents of houses if this sort of thing can happen. I do not think that the Government can measure up to the words of the Amendment when I can quote figures like these.

7.36 p.m.

Sir Herbert Butcher (Holland with Boston)

I owe an apology to the House for not being in my place when the debate opened, and, in particular, to the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart), but I was engaged in duties in connection with a Committee of the House which meets on the lower terrace level. I also think it right to declare an interest as a director of a building society and as a director of a firm which is engaged in building houses for private enterprise.

I have listened with a great deal of interest to the comparisons of prices presented by the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Mackie). They cause me to reflect that any owner of property, whoever he may be, whether a landowner on a very wide scale or a family estate of several hundred houses, or the single owner-occupier in almost any part of this country, has had a very substantial unearned increment in the value of the property due to the inflation which has inevitably taken place during the years since the First World War.

Debates on housing always seem to revolve round questions of rent control, rates of interest, and cost of land, and now, perhaps with a certain amount of novelty in it, round the question of industrialised building. I agree with everything that has been said in the debate and in journals on this subject about the desirability of pressing forward with industrialised building, but we are bound to come against the difficulty as we push forward that the larger the orders placed for factory-made houses and components the more monotony is likely to be introduced into the districts.

If, as my hon. Friend the Member for Northants, South (Mr. Arthur Jones) was saying, local authorities are going to unite to place large orders for similar houses covering a certain number of towns, there is a substantial obligation on the town planning authorities and those responsible for landscaping and design to ensure that there is a maximum variety of finish and outlook. In this connection, it is most desirable that as many trees as possible should be retained and that a deliberate attempt should be made, for instance, by setting some houses further back from the road and by the application of good scenic landscaping, to introduce variety into these building areas.

I turn now to the question of rent control, which seems to worry hon. Members opposite——

Mr. A. Lewis

And our constituents.

Sir H. Butcher

—and their constituents, but, may I say, only some of their constituents. Rent control is no worry to a man purchasing his own house or to a council tenant. The fact remains that to control the rent of property is fundamentally the wrong approach if we wish to ensure that proper housing is provided for our people. We ought to have the courage to allow houses to find their natural level of rents, by the law of supply and demand, but come to the assistance of the poorer and less fortunate members of the community by subsidising the people rather than subsidising or artificially distorting the rents payable for property.

I have noted with interest, but not altogether with approval, the fact that there is to be no alteration in rent control and that the present arrangements are to be continued. I cannot help feeling that there is some obligation on tenants to make a contribution towards easing the housing shortage. I suggest the tenant should be expected, if he is to enjoy the benefit of continued rent control, to release living accommodation which is not fully and properly occupied within the house or apartment which he has. I believe, also, that the continuance of rent control will slow down the development of the inner areas of the suburbs of our great cities where it is essential that development should take place since those are the places where homes can be nearer to workplaces and where travel and shopping facilities exist. Therefore, although I accept that, after having surveyed the problem as a whole, the Minister proposes to take no action to speed up rent decontrol, I hope that this will not retard the development of the new houses which we want.

I do not consider that there is very much to be said on the question of interest rates. For every borrower there must always be a lender. In a fair and free market, the laws of supply and demand come in, but if they do not operate there is a hidden subsidy somewhere to somebody.

Mr. Mackie

The hon. Gentleman sits for an agricultural constituency. Would he apply the same principle to agriculture, that we should not create an artificial situation by subsidising agriculture?

Sir H. Butcher

I am dealing at this moment with the question of loans. In my view, agriculture is an entirely different subject. I should be most happy to discuss it with the hon. Gentleman on an occasion when the House has before it some question dealing with agriculture.

Mr. Mackie

But it is the principle of the thing. The hon. Gentleman is suggesting that for nothing in this country, neither housing nor anything else, should there be a subsidy or an artificial situation created. Does that apply to agriculture?

Sir H. Butcher

The hon. Gentleman is not going to push me quite as far as that. What I said was that if a subsidy is paid to someone there is someone else paying it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] If the hon. Gentleman insists on making an intervention about agriculture, I will say that it is right that people in the towns should pay a subsidy to the people in the country; but if I go on like this I shall soon incur the displeasure of the Chair.

We must accept that if someone receives a subsidy other people are called upon to pay it. However right this may be in agriculture, it is entirely wrong in housing, when everybody is entitled——

Mr. A. Lewis

Is not the hon. Gentleman aware that at this moment the taxpayer is subsidising the private landlord to the tune of thousands of pounds a week? There are many people today, some of them in my constituency, who, because their rents have been doubled or trebled and they have no other income, have to go to the National Assistance Board for help. From the National Assistance Board they draw the money and then pay it straight over to the landlords. This is a direct subsidy to the landlords paid by the taxpayer and those who contribute to the National Insurance Fund.

Sir H. Butcher

It is entirely right and proper that people who go for National Assistance should be put in such a position that they can pay a contribution towards the cost of their housing whether in terms of instalments to a building society, rent to a local council, or rent to a private landlord.

Mr. A. Lewis

That is no answer to my question.

Sir H. Butcher

I come now to what was said by the hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun), who spoke about an enormous increase in rents. He referred to one case, of which I have knowledge, the property concerned being almost entirely commercial. The hon. Gentleman must realise that, so far as those substantial sums of money have been received and distributed, Income Tax and Surtax have been applied to them. So far as they were not subject to Income Tax and Surtax, they passed into the hands of charitable bodies and had a beneficial influence as a result.

The other subject which we always discuss in our housing debates is the price of land. There is no more difficult subject to think about than the price of land, nor is there anything more fascinating to examine. The cost of housing is built up of three elements, the cost of the land, the cost of the building and the value which the purchaser sets on the his desire to buy the property. I take, first, the cost of land. Not only is there the question of the difficulty of ease of developing the site; there is also the desirability of the land in the eyes of the person who wishes to live there. This is why people are prepared to pay a great deal more to live in some places rather than in others. In the area spoken of by the hon. Member for Enfield, East a few minutes ago, there are no pieces of land priced at anything like the £[...]00 mentioned by his hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway). However, in the Greater London area, I should regard £700 as an extremely low figure for housing at the present time.

Mr. Laurence Pavitt (Willesden, West)

For each house?

Sir H. Butcher

For the plot—for each house or, to adopt the phrase which is used, for planning permission for an accommodation unit. Land used to be valued at a price per acre and then at so many £s per foot frontage. Now, however, it can safely be valued on the basis of planning for so many dwellings to the acre, planning permission having been given for so many units, the number of units being used as the multiplier to give the price. That is the figure for the land on which the houses will stand, and it is a figure which the land will fetch as its market value.

We have reached an extraordinary situation. The price of land varies enormously—£700, £1,000, £2,000 and more for houses near our great cities. Around Glasgow, Birmingham, Manchester and similar places, these high and, in my view, undesirable prices for plots of land are readily paid, and the level will probably increase in the future. One can secure admirable and attractive plots of land in some of the smaller towns of Yorkshire for less than £200 a plot. That is true of places in the West Riding. In recent years I have known similar prices to be paid for land admirable for development in Devonshire. One cannot artificially restrict demand.

Why do people pay these strange figures? What makes up the price of housing? The answer is, the cost of the land and the cost of the house that one puts on it and people's odd ideals. People will pay more for the privilege of putting "London, S.W/" on their notepaper than they will to put "London, S.E/". If we move further up the river, people are prepared to pay much more for putting "S.W/" on their notepaper than they are for putting "S.E/". Do not ask me why, but some people are prepared to pay enormous prices for mews property in Belgravia but turn up their nose at a decent semi-detached house in Tooting. I do not understand it, but in a free country people must be allowed to spend their money how they like.

Mr. Mellish

What the hon. Member says about the desirability of certain districts may be true, but I am sure he will agree that it applies to a very small minority in London. The vast majority of people who legitimately desire to have a home would go north, south, east or west.

Sir H. Butcher

I quite agree. Anybody who is without a home will go anywhere to find one. But how are we to provide such people with homes? That is what hon. Members should endeavour to direct their minds to rather than argue about how far rent control has interfered with demand. In my view, the right thing to do is to subsidise the person and not artificially interfere with property.

The problems of the South-East are pretty bad. We must do a great deal more to make the industrial areas of the Midlands and the North far more attractive to our people. I welcome what the Government have done. They have done a great deal in giving grants, making remissions of Income Tax and improvements in road services. I hope that the rail services will be equally improved to make the Midlands and the North more accessible.

However, I do not think that that alone will do. In some way, we must appeal to the leaders of that strange group of executives of the middle level who mean so much. There was a lot of discussion in the House a little while ago about the "brain drain" out of this country to America because people were feeling frustrated. These are the people who have a particular and important place in our community. We must make the Midlands and the North attractive to this group of people. There is a responsibility on the Government to make them attractive so that young people will go and live there. Do not let us think that this can be done immediately by making them attractive to the young men. We must make them equally attractive to their wives. We must provide in these areas the same opportunities for schooling, culture, and so on, as are available anywhere else.

Mr. Graham Page

We have the Beatles in the North-West, which makes it glamorous.

Sir H. Butcher

I would not say a word against the Beatles. They have put Liverpool on the map. However, I hope that we shall have coming out of Liverpool not only the Beatles and their form of culture. My hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) has almost given me a peg on which to hang another hat. One of the country's great orchestras is in great danger. Here is an opportunity for someone in the North to make a real cultural advance. Instead of having all the orchestras crowding in the South in competition with one another we should give them a generous subsidy so that, just as there is the Salzburg Festival and the Edinburgh Festival, a great city like Sheffield could deliberately lay itself out as a centre for cultural activity. If we just sit back and deal with rent restriction and tinker with arrangements for buying land through various odd commissions, well meant though that may be, we shall not get anywhere.

The proposal of the party opposite is that when land is ripe for development the Government should purchase it and pay a bonus at the time of purchase but not the full market value, the idea of the bonus being to bring the land into the market and to give something to the farmer whose land is to be converted from farming land to building land. The idea of not giving the full market value is to keep the land lower in price when it is broken up into plots. That seems to me admirable, but let us follow through the process.

Suppose that the plots are sold in bulk to a private enterprise builder. A restriction must be put at once on the price at which he sells the land content of his house, otherwise we shall have given him a magnificent profit straight away. Therefore, we restrict the land content of his house and all we do is to allow him the cost of the land, plus the interest charges on the land while he is developing it, plus a small profit to take account of risk in dealing with the land, plus the cost of his labour, plus the cost of his buildings, plus a working profit, and he has a very cheap house to sell. Suppose that he advertises it and along comes an enormous crowd of people to buy the house. What is to be done? Is he to sell to the first young couple who come along, some of whom are sufficiently bright to take a £300 or £400 profit on the contract as soon as they have a binding contract. There is nothing to stop them doing that unless we are prepared to impose on that plot a further restriction against resale for a period of years.

How long are we prepared to keep up that sort of thing? Are we to inhibit that man from taking an increased profit on his house when the profit on the other house 200 or 300 yards away is rising? If by chance the price of land should diminish, would we be prepared to give him a guarantee against loss in return for the fact that he has been inhibited from selling? That kind of scheme would not be right.

We must accept that it is supply and demand which in the end govern these things. Let us make those parts of England which were once the traditional homes of industry more attractive in every possible way. Let us ease the pressure on the South and on the great cities. Let an increasing number of people live in the smaller towns with the cultural advantages which too many people wrongly think only the South can give.

7.59 p.m.

Mr. Eric Lubbock (Orpington)

In the short time I have been interested in politics I have come to learn how dangerous i[...] is to enunciate general principles when discussing a particular case. The hon. Member for Holland with Boston (Sir H. Butcher) fell into that trap when he said that in no circumstances should we subsidise house dwellers but that it was perfectly satisfactory to do so in respect of agriculture or the Liverpool Philharmonic.

I do not think that the argument is as simple as the hon. Member makes out. I do not regard the subject of rent control, for example, as being all black and white. I do not say that one should not subsidise any tenants who live in private rented accommodation. At the same time, injustice has been caused also to some of the landlords, who may not all be Rachmans, as they are sometimes painted. One gets private rented accommodation in the ownership of an old lady, for example, who has it as her only source of income. Therefore, I shall be quite satisfied to see rent control disappear in the end although I do not wish it to do so in the conditions of housing shortage that we now face.

I welcome the announcement by the Minister this afternoon——

Mr. A. Lewis

What announcement?

Mr. Lubbock

His announcement that if the Conservatives were re-elected, no steps would be taken to decontrol dwellings which do not become controlled by vacancies occurring.

Mr. Lewis

Does the hon. Member really believe the pledges of the Conservative Party? He was not in the House prior to 1957, when the Minister's predecessor, replying to the late Aneurin Bevan, pledged the Government not to introduce decontrol. In 1957, however, they did it. If they were to win the election, they would forget this promise, as they forgot the other promises.

Mr. Lubbock

I should imagine that many of the promises made at the time of the last election were not kept by the Government when they got into power.

Mr. Rippon

Will the hon. Member name any one of them?

Mr. A. Lewis

The Rent Act.

Mr. Lubbock

We are discussing the Rent Act and I am talking about the promise made by the Minister today that if the Government were re-elected, no steps would be taken to decontrol further property, apart from that which becomes naturally decontrolled by vacancies which arise in the course of time.

Mr. Rippon

I appreciate what the hon. Member is saying and the force of his general argument. He has, however, backed up the false assertion of the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. A. Lewis) that the Government did not keep their promises.

Mr. A. Lewis

It is a statement of fact that the late Aneurin Bevan challenged the Tory Government before the 1957 election to give a declaration that it would not introduce decontrol. The Tory Party gave that pledge, but in 1957 passed the Rent Act. Surely, that was a broken pledge.

Mr. Lubbock

It sounds like it to me, but I was not in the House at the time, so I cannot confirm or deny what the hon. Member has said.

I do not see rent control as something which is black and white, as it is sometimes painted. We want to know a great deal more about the effects of decontrol before we can make a decision to allow further dwellings to be decontrolled. The Minister began his speech at the start of today's debate by referring to a study which was made of this subject. If my recollection is right, the results of the study of the effects of decontrol in London were published three years ago and no further investigation has been undertaken into it since, although, perhaps, this is one of the matters which will be gone into by the Milner Holland Committee. It is possible that the effects of decontrol on people who were subjected to it will be examined.

I agree with the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mr. G. Johnson Smith) that it is rather a pity that we have to wait some months before the report of the Milner Holland Committee appears. Is it not possible that the Committee could be asked to make an interim report with any recommendations which it may have arrived at already? It seems highly improbable that, having sat for several months, the Committee has not reached any conclusions. I should like the Minister to consider requesting the Committee to submit to him, for consideration by the House, any recommendations which it has already arrived at. I should certainly like to see them before the next election.

Sir K. Joseph

The problem facing the Committee is that for the first few months it formulated the questions it wanted to ask. It then waited until the answers were gathered before it could make much progress with assessing the problem. For the first few months, the Committee was not able to get the facts. This had to be done first.

Mr. Lubbock

I appreciate that. The Committee requested hon. Members to give evidence and I received the form from the Committee two or three months ago. There must now have been time for the answers to be processed and I hope that the Committee might have reached conclusions from the information which it has gathered. I should like particularly to know whether the Committee has any evidence to support the conclusions of the study of the effects of decontrol to which I have referred.

The Minister states that some 400,000 houses in Greater London are still under control. I believe that when the previous Report was published, the rate at which they were becoming decontrolled was fairly steady and that this was expected to continue. It would be interesting to know whether those forecasts have been borne out in practice.

Connected with this subject is that of the homeless families, particularly in Greater London. I had intended to make similar remarks to those of the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South, because I am also one of the sponsors of the Homeless in Britain Fund, started by Christian Action. I agree with the hon. Member that it is not enough for any Member of Parliament or any member of the public to say that this is a matter which should concern merely the Government or the authorities and for individuals to take no action. It is important for us to take action if we have any social conscience, not only because of the effects of what we can do—because that is comparatively small—but also because, by doing this work, we can, perhaps, stimulate a greater awareness of the problems of homelessness among others.

I do not maintain that this is at all an easy problem. Certainly, it is not an easy one for the local authorities, because they have many families on their waiting lists. How are they to judge whether to give priority to someone who has been living in substandard accommodation for many years or to somebody who has recently been evicted? This is a judgment which falls to be made by the officials of local authorities and the housing committees and I do not envy them that responsibility. In the face of these difficulties, it is up to individuals to try to help with the problem if they can.

I would say to the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South, if he were in his place, that it should cause him shame that a voluntary organisation of this character has had to take over where the Government have failed. Nevertheless, having said that, I heartily endorse the efforts of this voluntary body and I hope that they will be as successful as they look like being.

I wish to ask the Minister one or two questions about his speech this afternoon. In giving the figures of comparisons over the next few years, he said that it was expected that 318,000 houses would be completed in England and Wales in 1964 and about the same number in 1965. He then divided that figure among new dwellings and replacements and said that 100,000 houses were needed each year for clearance, which would make half a million new dwellings available in the next two years. I question whether 100,000 houses for clearance is enough in any one year.

The most recent authoritative estimate that I can remember on the subject was that of Mr. Needleman, who said that the rate of replacement needed to be raised from 60,000 to something like 180,000. When I intervened earlier in the debate, the Minister did not quite grasp my meaning. The hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) had said that to keep pace with the dwellings which were approaching their hundredth birthday, one needed to replace about 150,000 dwellings a year. Therefore, the Minister's target of 100,000 is only two-thirds of what is necessary. Perhaps when his colleague winds up the debate, he will correct me if I am wrong. I remember distinctly the figure given by Mr. Needleman of 180,000 which, he said, was needed to replace the houses that were going past their hundredth birthday.

While I admit that there is no particular significance in the age of 100, it is the figure which has been accepted for use in the National Income Blue Book. It so happens also that we are approaching the hundredth anniversary of the Public Health Act, 1885, before which the conditions imposed upon buildings from a sanitary viewpoint were much less strict than they are today.

I hope that, by the year 1985, we shall not have any dwellings over 100 years old. Of course, no doubt there will be exceptions in that some will be modernised so that they may last much longer. But these will be counterbalanced by the many houses of less than 100 years of age which have been built to much lower standards than we believe are necessary today.

The Minister talked about the distinction between slum houses and twilight houses and pointed out—he emphasised it more than once—that the criterion was whether the house had been declared medically unhealthy or not. This is rather a spurious distinction. A house which may be medically healthy for one person may be extremely unhealthy for another. This question is to some extent subjective. Are we not to take account of the spiritual health of the inhabitants of these twilight houses? That may be as important in some cases as more mundane matters like sanitation.

As I come in from my constituency I see, on the other side of Westminster Bridge, enormous tenement buildings looking like old workhouses. I dare say that they are only twilight houses.

Sir H. Butcher

The hon. Gentleman's description could also be applied to many blocks of luxury flats with high rents.

Mr. Lubbock

I do not think, if the hon. Gentleman saw the buildings I am talking about, that he would care to pay an inflated rent for a flat there.

Mr. R. J. Mellish

I have been in the buildings the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) is referring to. They are slums.

Mr. Lubbock

What I am trying to point out is that the distinction that the Minister makes between slums and twilight houses is not very realistic. He says that there are 650,000 slums and a total of 2,750,000 slums and twilight houses, so his definition allows a certain amount of looseness.

The right hon. Gentleman said that at the present rate of clearance, slightly stepped up from the current 64,000 a year, we should be able to clear the slums by 1973. He agreed with the hon. Member for Fulham that this would not mean a very significant advance on the present rate of clearance.

One gathers from this that the Government will not begin to tackle the question of twilight houses before 1973. Can I have understood aright that they are slightly to step up the present rate of slum clearance of 64,000 a year in order to deal with the 650,000 slums by 1973 and that, meanwhile, some plan for dealing with twilight houses is to be evolved? Are we not to make even a start on them before 1973?

The right hon. Gentleman did not even mention the "pre-fabs" built under the Housing (Temporary Accommodation) Act, 1944. I have been perturbed about the slow rate of clearance of these "pre-fabs" for some time. I wrote to the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government last year pointing out that, at the present rate of removal, it would be another 15 years before the last one was cleared.

The hon. Gentleman replied that if I looked at the figures at the end of 1963 I would see that the rate of demolition had been improved and that it would be six to eight years before the last "pre-fab" disappeared. Unfortunately for him, I have a fairly long memory, although I suffer from the problem which scientists are beginning to discover, that of "information retrieval". I could not find the information in my files but I could remember the sense of it.

When the 1963 figures were published, I looked up the figures for the last four December quarters and found that the rate of reduction of "pre-fabs" had varied between 5,000 and 6,000 a year over the last four years and that the total was now down to 70,580. A little arithmetic shows that it will be 12 to 13 years before the last one is removed although they were built to last only 10 years. They are already seven years beyond the life for which they were built.

I wonder if the Minister has ever been in a "pre-fab". I doubt it. If he has, I expect that it was one which had been specially prepared for his visit, complete with nice new muslin curtains. I recently visited one in my constituency where it is necessary to put a bucket under the roof every time it rains because the inside of the aluminium roof has condensation running between the plaster boards. Every now and then the local authority renews the insulation but it never lasts long. We see no sign of this sort of problem being dealt with and the Minister did not even condescend to mention it today.

I do not see any sign of urgency by the Government in tackling many of the problems we have been discussing, so I shall tonight recommend my right hon. and hon. Friends to go into the Division Lobby against the Government.

8.16 p.m.

Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)

The hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) based his slum clearance figure on the age of houses being 100 years old and said, as I understood it, that as each house became 100 years old it should be demolished. I hope I am misinterpreting him. I live in a 100-year-old house which is very good.

Mr. Lubbock

I quoted a figure given by Mr. Needleman of the National Institute two years ago.

Mr. Page

I do not believe one can have any rule of thumb over this. It is necessary for a local authority continually to review the housing in its area, to decide which houses need clearing and which may be improved. Indeed, the hon. Member drew attention to the fact that some houses which are not very old—the "pre-fabs"—should be removed at once. There are many much older houses, perhaps 150 to 200 years old, which were substantially built and can certainly be brought up to modern standards. We should not base our arguments on the 1955 Survey. We have gone wrong at times in basing arguments on those figures.

In this Parliament we have had many housing debates—rightly so, because no matter concerns our constituents more and no matter involves more human happiness if we succeed and more human distress if we fail. I would point out here that individual members who happen to have an interest in companies which hold property or in building societies—and I declare my own interest here—are no less concerned about the human aspect of the problem than are any other hon. Members. I say that because of some remarks made earlier in the debate.

Although we have had many housing debates in the last five years, the background has changed fundamentally from what it was five years ago or even two years ago. Of course, we still have the demand for houses, and at present it is probably greater than ever before. That surely is because increased earnings and savings, younger marriages and the improved health of the elderly have all led to increased demand for separate homes.

Although there is still a shortage, greater perhaps than at any time since the war, because of that demand, we must set that demand against the background of 3½ million new homes built since 1951 and a stepping-up of the rate of new building. The hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) joked about the increasing population. He might like to know that for every child born under the Conservative Government a new house has been built. We intend to keep up that record, although perhaps a little pressed at the moment by the Royal Households.

The background to this debate is different from that which applied even a couple of years ago. Not only have there been 3½, million new homes since 1951, but 500,000 slum houses have been cleared, and the concentration now is on the local efforts at slum clearance, namely, in the thirty-eight cities in which the house-building rate has been put up by about 75 per cent. We are talking now also against the background of 50 per cent. rise in owner-occupation and a great advance in the modernising of the older homes by means of the standard grants.

In addition, there is one other very important point which has come up in the last eighteen months to two years. That is the availability of more money through building societies to enable people to buy their own homes. This has put a completely new aspect on the problem in the last couple of years. Previously the building societies could not find the money to meet the demands of those who wanted to borrow money to buy their homes. Now the money is available, and this has been a very great relief, particularly to the young married couples and to those seeking a home for the first time. This position arises out of the general policy of the Government which has enabled savings at a rate never dreamed of ten years ago.

After all, the building society money is the savings of the people, and because of these savings people have been able to buy their own homes. What people? I take the figures given recently by one of the larger building societies to show the sort of people who are now able to buy houses. Taking the figures in the North-West, one-quarter of the new house purchases and one-half of the existing house purchases are by people with incomes under £16 a week. Taking the income a little higher, one-half of the new house purchases and two-thirds of the existing house purchases have been made through this building society by those whose incomes are between £16 and £24 a week.

Mr. Mapp

Does the hon. Member appreciate that in many of the older towns a very large proportion of the 50 per cent. buying their homes through building societies are doing so under distressed conditions, paying £400, £500, £600 for homes which are on their last legs? They are driven to this resort in order to house themselves.

Mr. Page

That may be so in certain circumstances, but I think that the hon. Gentleman has exaggerated it when he says 50 per cent. I think that a small percentage of sitting tenants are perhaps obliged to purchase under those conditions, but the point is that the majority who seek assistance through building societies are those with small incomes.

The figures in the North-East are very much the same. Over one-third of the new house purchases and nearly one-half of the existing house purchases are by people with incomes under £16 a week. This has been made possible over recent years.

Mr. A. Lewis

What are the figures for London?

Mr. Page

I have not taken the London figures. I am quite prepared to believe that for the purchase of houses in the London area one needs a higher income.

Mr. Lewis

Can the hon. Member obtain the figures for me? Surely when he was getting figures it would have been better to have got national figures; or, if regional, to have brought in London and some of the big cities.

Mr. Page

I can provide the hon. Gentleman with the document from which I have taken these figures, which was issued by the Co-operative Permanent Building Society. It gives the London figures, but I did not bring the document into the House with me. I shall let the hon. Gentleman have it.

The availability of money through the building societies has enabled people with small incomes to purchase new houses as well as to purchase older houses.

There has been a further change in the background to our discussions on housing over the past year or two in the acceptance of the fact that system or industrialised building has a real contribution to make and that there can be a substantial increase in production from that. Several Members in this House, in previous housing debates four or five years ago, were urging that industrialised building and a break away from the traditional building would give us an increase in productivity. Frankly, I say that at that time we were groping; we hoped that we were saying the right things, and we believed that we were.

Now, by the initiative, the research, and the new ideas and lead given by the Minister of Public Building and Works——

Mr. Ellis Smith

It was urged in the last war.

Mr. Page

Perhaps the ideas sprang from the last war, and I wish that we had applied them a little quicker to the provision of homes for the people. But we are applying them with energy now through my right hon. Friend and the Ministry of Public Building and Works, and I am sure that this will enable the new target to be reached by the use of industrialised building, particularly by the local authorities which can give the long-term and large contracts.

It is now proved and accepted that industrialised building can produce an increase in productivity in housing. In reaching the target of 350,000 houses a year we are, in fact, a year ahead of our promise. I think we can confidently say that that figure will be reached this year by the number of starts and the number of houses at present under construction, and that we shall be able to go on to the 400,000 figure very quickly. The hon. Member for Fulham says that when we get to the figure of 400,000 we ought to be clearing 150,000 slums. The Minister, I think, put the figure at 100,000, not that there is a very great difference between 100,000 and 150,000.

Mr. Richard Marsh (Greenwich)

Just 50 per cent.

Mr. Page

I am not clear whether either the hon. Member or my right hon. Friend was talking about the actual number of houses to be cleared, or the new houses built to replace those cleared. An inquiry by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government in 1961 showed that for every three families moved from a slum clearance area, one more household broke away—I would have thought that the proportion would be rather larger, but that was the figure shown by the inquiry—so that four houses had to be built to cope with the three households which were moved from the slum clearance area because of the extra household that was formed. I am not sure whether the hon. Member for Fulham is prepared to clear 150,000 houses from the slums and build 200,000 houses to replace them, but, by simple mathematics, that would be 50 per cent. of the 400,000 houses a year to be built.

I question whether the remaining 50 per cent. would be sufficient to meet the demand of the completely new households which will be produced over the next few years. Within that remaining 50 per cent., would local authorities be building for general needs? These figures need a little more study. But the argument is only as to the content of the 400,000 and no argument as to the niceties of that content can justify the words which the Opposition use in their Motion.

When they talk about inadequacy, it is incumbent upon the Opposition to say what is adequate, and when they talk about shortage to say what in their view is sufficiency, and when they talk about failure to say what in their view would be success. The Opposition have again shirked saying that and have again shirked their obligation in the debate.

8.32 p.m.

Mr. Laurence Pavitt (Willesden, West)

I have listened to the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page), when he has spoken in Committee, with a great deal of respect, because he always brings a good deal of legal knowledge to this subject. However, tonight I have disagreed with practically every word he has said. I accept the ideal that it is desirable that a local authority should constantly review its slums, but what nonsense that is in the present situation in my constituency where there are still 475 slums to be cleared from the 1955 assessment of accommodation deemed to be unfit for human habitation. There is no point in chasing the local medical officer of health to find more to add to that number when although we are rehousing as quickly as we can we still have a large residue.

Nor do I agree with the hon. Member's figures about the possibility of mortgages from building societies. That is not my experience in a constituency which is only eight miles from here. Two factors intervene. One is that in industry today there are many people who are able to take home weekly pay including overtime which would justify a building society mortgage, but whose rate of pay is insufficient. The other is that when there has been sharp inflation in the price of houses, the building society's valuation is so much less than the seller is asking that far too much has to be found by deposit, often too much to be afforded by a young couple getting married.

I disagree profoundly with the practice of bandying about figures of large successes. I cannot translate those into terms of my own experience in my own constituency. I know that the Government can produce large numbers, but it is not only a matter of building more houses but of where they are built, their type and how they satisfy the housing need. It does not help acute areas such as mine if a large number of houses are built on the stockbroker fringe of Surrey. It does not help my area if houses are built in Scotland which is being drained of people coming here to seek employment. The areas of industry acting as a magnetic attraction for employment are the areas suffering from housing problems.

I want to draw attention to what lies behind the figures that we have been discussing since half-past three this afternoon. We do not need to convert the Minister—we have done that in the last four years—to the realisation that the problem exists in pockets and that there are many depressed housing areas which need special attention. There is a Bill going through the House which pays some attention to that, but the trouble is that it does far too little and too late. The hon. Member for Crosby knows that every time we have tried to strengthen that Bill in Committee and to ensure that ordinary amenities are provided, the Government have resisted our proposals in order to safeguard landlords.

I do not want to talk about only Willesden, but I do so because its problems are prototypes of many other similar areas, including the 38 mentioned by the Minister. Unless we can get to the reality of the statistics, the debate will remain arid. We are talking about so many homeless families. I should like to describe my experience of the Friday before Christmas. A homeless man came to see me. He was 26 years of age and he came to see me at my weekly "surgery". He told me that he had been married for three years and had a child aged two. The lodgings which he had managed to find were unable to accept children and for three months the family had been split up. He said that his marriage was breaking up because he was living in one place while his wife and child were in a hostel elsewhere, and now his wife had had a second baby and would be leaving hospital on Christmas Eve. But there was no place for her to come home to. He asked me to do something to bring the family together again and to save his marriage.

I had to tell him that there were 274 families in the constituency who were in similar circumstances and that there was no room at the inn for him. This is the situation in Willesden where we have many families split up. At present 48 are housed in Middlesex county hostels. How can we prate of family life in those circumstances?

Fortunately, this story had a happy ending because I was able to find a fairy godfather—Dr. Beeching. My constituent was a railway man who was earning £l2 a week. Hon. Members opposite have probably ridden behind him when they have travelled from Euston to Liverpool. Dr. Beeching was able to find him a railway cottage and that solved his problem. But I was still left with 274 families which are split up and the 48 in hostels without any Dr. Beeching to rescue them.

The Minister said that the Government's problem was to help the local authorities to find the land. My own authority has over the years provided over 5,000 dwellings for people in its own area of land shortage, but when it found 24½ acres which would have housed 40 dispossessed families, the Minister refused in 1959 and again in 1962 to confirm the compulsory purchase order.

I refer, of course, to the land in Oman Avenue. The right hon. Gentleman knows the case. The land is owned by All Souls College, Oxford. I am ashamed that an institute of learning is prepared to turn down an application to enable the homeless to be housed, and I am surprised that the Minister dismissed the case by saying, first, that houses are eventually going to be built, and, secondly, that the proposal provides for only 40 families and in view of the many difficulties that we have, this number is only a sprinkling. If the Minister allowed the council to purchase these two and a half acres to build houses, the people who are living in hostels would regard him as even more of a veritable fairy godfather than the constituent to whom I previously referred regards Dr. Beeching.

I challenge the Minister to tell me which are council houses and which are privately developed houses in my area. One of the reasons given for turning down the request for a compulsory purchase order was that if permission to acquire the land was granted, and council houses were built there, they might spoil the amenities of other flats in the area. If the Minister accompanies me to Donnington Avenue I will show him blocks of flats which are side by side and invite him to tell me which flats lower the tone of the neighbourhood. I challenge him to tell me which are council property, and which are private property.

I am surprised that hon. Gentlemen opposite say that the price of land has no bearing on this problem. We have had to borrow £10 million, which we are repaying at a very high rate of interest. The cost of land and the rate of interest charged on money borrowed are relevant factors in the numbers of houses which can be built for our people. We paid £240,000 for twelve acres of land in Mount Pleasant Road Kensal Rise. We paid £250,000 for a similar site in Salusbury Road in the constituency of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Willesden, East (Mr. Skeet). Our only hope at the moment is that Dr. Beeching will release some of his surplus railway land to enable us to develop it in other ways. The trouble is that when we seek to get planning authority in the present acute situation, six months elapse before anything happens and innumerable delays occur.

In Willesden the average dwelling costs £3,000 to build. We have to pay £6,000 by way of interest over 60 years, which means that to house one person in Willesden costs the council £9,000, plus a charge for all the other service contingencies that occur.

I refer next to the problem of substandard houses, with which we are trying to deal. I take these figures from the 1961 census. There were 15,000 families in Willesden who had to share W.C.s. There were 310 houses without a W.C. at all, yet I remind the House Willesden is only eight miles from Big Ben. There were 17,000 people who had to share fixed baths, 12,000 without a bath, and 18,000 without a hot water tap. The present situation makes nonsense of the figures that we have been given of what has been done in the last ten years, as my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway) showed this afternoon. What kind of family life, and what kind of neighbourly understanding, can there be if one out of every three persons in Willesden has to share accommodation?

I also draw the Minister's attention to the problems that arise from going to the rent tribunal. I have sent him details of this case, and I am awaiting a reply. I take this opportunity of thanking the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary for their replies to my letters, as since the debate started I have had two of them handed to me. My constituent wrote: My wife, baby son, and myself are living in a furnished room and kitchenette, and we're paying £4 10s. a week plus approx. 30s. electricity. Yesterday, the rent tribunal fixed the rent of my room at £2 10s. a week, so the landlord has now trebled the cost of my electricity. I have phoned the rent tribunal who said that they can do nothing about this. I wrote to the Minister, to the Electricity Board and to the local authority. I have to inform the Minister that that man has been forcibly evicted, with the aid of the police, because the claim was made that the electricity bill was not paid The reason for that was that the landlord wanted to charge him £4 10s. instead of 30s., and that rather lends strength to the Bill which my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Woodside (Mr. Carmichael) was given leave to introduce this afternoon. I think that some form of resale price maintenance should be clapped on electricity charges in furnished accommodation.

Sir K. Joseph

Have the latest details of the case been sent to me?

Mr. Pavitt

I have sent the Minister details of this case, and I am awaiting his reply. He has had two letters, one giving the facts and the second informing him that since my first letter the man had been evicted from his house. It is against that sort of background that we ask the House to consider the problem that we are discussing.

There are 4,447 old people living alone in the two constituencies of Willesden. On Friday morning I was out canvassing, as hon. Members in the London area do when local elections are in the offing. I could not get an answer to my knock at one door because the previous day the old gentleman who lived there bad fallen into the fire and been burned to death. This was only last Friday. These are the human problems involved in our talk about so many units of accommodation being made available, and a certain percentage of slum clearance having been carried out. These are the problems which hon. Members have to translate in their constituencies. They have to tell the people that it will be all right, and that by 1973 everything will be fine. The old persons—the 4,447 people to whom I have referred—who are living alone are not interested in the housing problem in 1973. In passing I pay tribute to the marvellous work done for the old people by the W.V.S., with its "Meals on Wheels" service.

These are the social problems that we have to consider against the background of housing, and unless the Government can produce more direction, energy and drive not just in the twilight areas but in the really black areas, such as mine, the realisation of the proposal made by my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) will take far too long for civilisation to be able to bear.

There is no help for the 5,928 people who are still on my housing list, in spite of the fact that last year my local borough re-housed 357 families. Out of that 357, no fewer than 267 were slum clearance cases. It was quite right that they should be rehoused. Another 74 were hardship cases—cases where illness or some other reason required their special consideration. But that did not save the man with coronary thrombosis. We could not rehouse him. I had a letter of thanks three months later from the widow, telling me that her husband had died because he could not negotiate stairs. He needed accommodation downstairs, but such accommodation is unobtainable in Willesden. Although we rehoused 357 families, only 16 came off the housing list. At that rate I have worked it out that the housing list will be cleared in 364 years' time. Surely we cannot tolerate this kind of situation.

In spite of the last-minute Bill that we have just finished upstairs, which has come at the end of this Parliament, as a result of the gradual conversion of the Government, under pressure from my hon. Friend the Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin), the Government still persist in their doctrinaire belief in the law of supply and demand. They still cannot see anything else but the pounds, shillings and pence of the market economy. In those circumstances, I hope that when the House divides tonight it will show its hearty detestation of the failure of the Government to deal with areas of acute housing hardship, such as mine.

8.48 p.m.

Mr. Norman Pannell (Liverpool, Kirkdale)

It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Willesden, West (Mr. Pavitt) who speaks so eloquently on this subject but, without wishing to be impertinent, I recommend him to check his housing list. He might find that the position that he has referred to does not exist today. Such a check has been carried out in Liverpool. In opening the debate the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) said that there were 40,000 on the waiting list in Liverpool. That was the position a few months ago, but all those on the waiting list have since been written to and asked whether they were still applicants for houses. Thousands did not reply, and now the number has been reduced to about half what it was. I am pleased to be able to make that correction, because it does Liverpool no good to exaggerate what I agree to be a difficult situation.

Mr. Brockway

Is it the case in Liverpool—as it is in Slough and many other towns—that because there are so many applicants restrictions have to be imposed upon them, and that the housing list therefore under-represents rather than over-represents the number of people who need houses?

Mr. Pannell

Only to a limited extent. There is a qualifying period of five years' residence, and a person must be on the waiting list for six months after his application has been received before he can be registered for a house, but those are the only limitations.

Mr. A. J. Irvine (Liverpool, Edge Hill)

But is the hon. Member assuming that those people on Liverpool's housing list who have not replied to the inquiry are not now in need of accommodation?

Mr. Pannell

I do not know how one should regard it, but if these people who have been on the waiting list for houses for years, were written to and asked specifically whether they wished to remain on the list, and if there was no reply, one would imagine that they have no further interest in acquiring a house from the corporation.

It is often said that in Liverpool there are 80,000 unfit houses. I do not know whether the hon. and learned Member for Liverpool, Edge Hill (Mr. A. J. Irvine) will agree when I say that that is an exaggeration, unless an unfit house is one without running hot water and without a bathroom. There are at least 80,000 such houses in Liverpool, but many are capable of conversion, and it is an exaggeration to represent Liverpool as having 80,000 slum houses. In comparison with other great cities Liverpool is in a rather parlous situation. I consider that such areas as Liverpool should be specially scheduled and have the same degree of housing subsidy as is given to comparable areas in Scotland which receive the general grant on what we should consider a very generous scale.

Twilight areas represent one of the principal problems in Liverpool. Although the new housing legislation will enable efforts to be made to overcome that difficulty the effect will be long term. We cannot look for any real amelioration of the position in the immediate future. I must declare an interest, as I am the chairman of a non-profit-making housing society which has caused me nothing but expense and worry. I formed it under the provisions of the 1961 housing Measure in the hope of converting some of the houses in the twilight area with the aid of loans from the Ministry, but the whole project has misfired.

Houses near the cathedral are so unfashionable and command such a small price that after conversion the district valuer will not agree a value equal to the cost of acquisition and conversion. The amount of loan from the Ministry is limited to the value placed on the property by the district valuer, and therefore the project has to fall. It is a matter of great disappointment to me, because if these houses fall into the hands of other people I am afraid that their future owners may include speculative landlords who will get as much rent as possible for them in the shortest possible time.

When I desired to convert a house in order to obtain an improvement grant it was necessary for me to introduce all the modern amenities including a fire escape if the building was more than 24 ft. high. If the property was semidetached it might be that the other half would be crowded, with one family living in every room, and there would be no obligation to provide a fire escape. This indicates the difficulty facing a local authority which attempts to do anything about property in twilight areas. Although the Act may make provision for something to be done, an authority which attempts to do it will have the problem of rehousing all the people who live in the property. There is a temptation for people to crowd into a house so that they may be entitled to be rehoused.

Before giving way to the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish), I propose to gallop a little on my hobby horse. Although the position is chronically bad in Liverpool, it is immeasurably worse in Birmingham, London and other great cities. It is, therefore, criminal folly to allow more and more immigrants into the country, at the rate at which they have been arriving, which is 70,000 a year since 1st July last year. That will aggravate an already dangerous position.

8.55 p.m.

Mr. R. J. Mellish (Bermondsey)

The hon. Member for Liverpool, Kirkdale (Mr. N. Pannell) referred in his closing remarks to immigrants. I do not wish tonight to become involved in that debate; we have had it before. But we must always make clear what we mean by "immigrants". We must always make it clear that when we talk about keeping people out of Britain we mean the Irish and the Cypriots and the Maltese and the West Indians and others. Do not let us apply our immigration policy only to those whose faces happen to be a little darker than our own. Whatever the hon. Member says or does not say on this subject, let me tell him that if every immigrant were to be returned tonight, wherever they come from, there would still be a vicious housing problem in London, the greatest city in the world.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway) rightly said, it is inevitable that when talking about housing one tends to become emotional and to talk about the human aspect. I will try hard not to be emotional, but I shall refer to the human aspect. This is why we have once again introduced this subject on the Floor of the House.

I thought that in his speech the Minister was taking the advice of the Prime Minister that in every speech made one must have an eye on the General Election. I thought that the Minister's speech was directed to that purpose alone. In some instances he seemed to ignore the obvious. In some respects I thought that it was almost dishonest. For example, he said that land prices and the rents charged today have very little relevance to the arguments on housing and the shortage of housing.

Sir K. Joseph

indicated dissent.

Mr. Mellish

The right hon. Gentleman said that, and I took it down carefully. He said that the argument about the price of land and the price of rents had nothing to do with the abundance of houses.

Sir K. Joseph

What I said was that I thought that there was no evidence that the price of land or the rate of interest were limiting factors in the number of new houses built. That is a very different thing.

Mr. Mellish

The hon. Member can have it whichever way he likes on that argument. He says that the rate of interest and the price of land have very little relevance to new house building. I thought that my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) had made an extraordinarily good case to show that this is one of the burning issues which faces those who are living in London in a housing shortage.

The hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page)—I am sorry that he is not here at the moment—put his finger on the point when he said that in spite of the Conservative Government's claim to have built over 3 million houses since they have been in office, the demand is bigger than ever before.

It is quite right to say that the standard of living has improved in Britain. Anyone who does not admit that is foolish. It has risen since 1945, and I hope that each year as we leave the last war it will rise even higher, whatever Government is in power. This is not a debate on the economic situation, but I argue that the rate of improvement in the standard of living in this country has not been as great as in other countries. But that is an argument for another occasion.

Of course, people are asking for better things today. I am not all that old, but I can remember the time when it was not regarded as fearful to live in a slum—and I was born in a slum. It was not considered intolerable to have two or three families sharing a toilet and to live in accommodation which by modern standards would immediately be regarded as unfit by any medical officer of health. I am talking of days only just before the war. Of course, people are coming on to the housing lists who would not before have dreamed of doing so.

But that is no excuse not to meet the new demand or to meet what I regard as the progressive outlook of our people in wanting something better and not being satisfied with the lowest common factor. The Government always say, "We have built x number of houses". The Minister of Housing said it and I am sure that the Minister of Public Building and Works will say it. They ask, "How many do the Labour Party propose to build?" The Minister agrees that this is the question which he will ask. But I do not think that this is just an argument about how many houses we build. To a large extent it is an argument about what sort of houses we build, where we build them and at what price they are built.

Here we are back on the main argument. If they wanted to do so, the Labour Party could announce that they would build 500,000 houses a year, and I have no doubt that we could build them. The Conservative Government built over 300,000 houses in 1953 for the very simple reason that they stopped building schools and they stopped building hospitals.

Sir K. Joseph

indicated dissent.

Mr. Mellish

The Minister cannot deny the truth of these matters. The then Minister of Education had the most awful time in this House because of the cuts which were made in the education programme to satisfy the Government's target of 300,000 houses. Therefore, it is a question of priorities. I shall not go into competition with the Government on the number of houses to be built. I want to talk to the Minister about how to deal with the housing shortage as I see it now and what I think the Government can do and should be doing.

The vast majority of families buying their own homes today do not do so because they want to be property-owning democrats or because they love the idea of buying their own homes. They do so because they have no other choice, because there are no houses to let. It is as simple as that. I speak as a London Member. Hon. Members opposite, to be fair to them, have said that their experience is the same. The hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mr. G. Johnson Smith) said this. People come to London Members and tell us how in sheer desperation they have turned to estate agents to try to get a home. Private enterprise last year built only 5,000 flats and houses for letting.

What I want to see to alleviate this immediate problem—I am not speaking now of long-term building—is a genuine 100 per cent. mortgage granted by local authorities at a low rate of interest. I want it done now. Will the Government allow local authorities to finance their home loan schemes from the Public Works Loan Board? What is to be done to protect those buying their own homes from the consequences of sub-standard building? Perhaps the Minister of Public Building and Works will tell us when he replies. There is a Private Member's Bill on the stocks at the moment dealing with this subject. I do not think that it will ever see the light of day. The Government should introduce a Bill to deal with this subject. It is a known fact that at the moment substandard building is going on. Jerrybuilding is taking place to a large extent in many homes which are being built today. What does the Minister of Public Building and Works intend to do about it?

What do the Government intend to do about the problem of the young married couple trying to buy a home, if one is available, applying for a mortgage and then being told that the house is valued at a much lower figure, either by the building society or by the local government surveyor? Every Member of the House knows that this happens. The 100 per cent. mortgage is in many instances a myth. A house is built at, say, £4,000. The young couple try to get a 100 per cent. mortgage. The house is valued at only £3,500. Therefore, the loan is only £3,500, even if a 100 per cent. mortgage is granted, and in many instances building societies do not grant 100 per cent. mortgages. The young couple are therefore asked to find an extra £500. I can tell the Ministers from experience that hundreds of young couples walk away from estate agents' offices crying because of this. What does the Minister intend to do about it?

The Minister says that co-ownership is the simple answer. I tell the Minister that at this moment of time it is impossible for these sort of people to buy houses at today's prices. I have obtained details of the average price of houses in London, not from Transport House, but from building societies. The average price of a new home in London is £4,133 this year, compared with £3,788 a year ago, an increase of £345. Taking the example that I know the House will want to think about, if last year a young couple thinking of getting married saved £300 towards a deposit on a house and went to buy a house this year, that £300 has gone down the drain. The Minister says that this does not matter and that it is not relevant to the housing shortage. He says that it is not a valid argument. He says that it is not what the Government are concerned with.

The rise in the price of second-hand or old houses is even greater. They have risen from £3,584 last year to £4,120 which is the, average price of a secondhand house in London today—in other words, an increase of £536, or 15 per cent.

My hon. Friend the Member for Fulham, who made his usual brilliant speech today—he always speaks brilliantly on housing—reminded the Minister that since 1959 the average price of new homes has risen by 34 pet cent. During this period the price of housing increased more than any other component in the cost-of-living index. We are told by the Government that this does not matter and that it is not a relevant argument when considering the housing shortage. Do they realise that building coats have increased by 15 per cent. so that the difference between the 15 per cent. on the one hand and the 34 per cent. on the other accounts for the leap in land prices?

By keeping interest rates at a generally high level, no appreciable reduction can be made in the rate at which home loans are made. A young married couple going to their local hon. Member will explain—and this will be borne out by many hon. Members on both sides of the House, not only those who represent London constituencies—that when they have tried to get a loan the interest has been maintained at such a high rate that the prospects of their getting sufficient money are appalling.

The Alliance Building Society said that that company's interest rates would be reduced on 1st April this year. As a result of the increase in the Bank Rate which has been announced, the society is not now going to reduce its rates for home loans. The Public Works Loan Board has altered its rates of loans 29 times in the last 12 years—and this is the body from which local authorities borrow. In his speech today the right hon. Gentleman said that it was non-sense to argue that a local authority was deterred because interest charges prevented it from planning. I do not know what is the local government experience of the right hon. Gentleman, but I suspect that all his experience rests with the City of London—and any experience he has in that area of the shortage of homes, particularly being a sheriff and, I gather, not democratically elected——

Sir K. Joseph

The City of London makes the largest rate fund contribution to its housing account of any local authority in the land.

Mr. Mellish

The City can afford to make a grant to anyone. All I am saying is that a local authority never quite knows where it stands because of rising interest rate charges. It is not encouraged to plan ahead when faced with rising land costs, building costs and ever-soaring interest rates. One of the biggest deterrents to local authority building is interest charges, which are so high.

Mr. Graham Page

While on the subject of interest rates, is it not a fact that the local authorities borrow very large sums of money at very low rates of interest—under 4 per cent.—and are making a good deal of housing progress because of that?

Mr. Mellish

The hon. Gentleman must be living in a different world from me. He had better ask his right hon. Friend for the answer to that one. In 1951 the L.C.C. could build a flat in London for £2,000 including the price of the land and, by borrowing over 60 years—and these are the happy days the hon. Member for Crosby probably has in mind—at 3 per cent. the local authority would have to find £72 a year for that period to pay off the loan, with interest. Thus the cost of the flat at the end of the 60 year period would be £4,300. Consider the cost today, although according to the Minister this is not relevant to the argument. Exactly the same flat would today cost £5,400, including the land. Borrowing today over 60 years at the current rate of interest —which is 6⅛ per cent.; and whatever hon. Members opposite say that is the rate at which local authorities are borrowing—the local authority would have to find £341 a year and at the end of the 60-year period the flat would have cost £20,000.

Sir K. Joseph rose——

Mr. Mellish

I will give way. I am trying to explain what this means to local authorities generally.

Sir K. Joseph

I have pointed out that, despite all these figures, more houses are being built each year and are being bought; and that is a convincing answer to all of the hon. Gentleman's figures.

Mr. Mellish

The Minister does not understand. He must appreciate the way we and many others consider this matter. Of course there are houses to let. If I had £10,000 I could go out tonight in the London area and get one. I can assure the Minister that there are several hundred homes to let in London, and, if one has the money, one can get them. People in my constituency would not have a housing problem at all if they each had £10,000 available. As they have not that sort of money, they must seek a rented house, or try to buy a house through the building society, which they so often find impossible.

We on this side are desperately anxious that young people should have the right to buy their own homes. It is important to say that. For too long have we been identified as a party of the council tenant. Will the Minister tell us what is being done to ease the burden of legal charges on house purchase? That is a matter for his Department and for him. Quite recently, the Sunday Times very properly said—and some of my hon. Friends may not like this—that the legal fees are excessive, and that home buyers are, in effect, subsidising the whole legal business. Talk about the poor living on the poor!

My hon. Friend the Member for Fulham got no answer to his question about the Conservative Party's manifesto in 1959 on the subject of loans to building societies for pre-1919 houses. In an interjection, the Minister spoke of £100 million, of which he alleged that a considerable proportion had already been spent, but he forgot to mention that the same manifesto said that, if need be, the Conservatives would increase the figure. The need has been there all the time, and I hope that the Minister of Public Building and Works will tell us whether it is the intention of the Government to start that scheme again, and to extend it. I can tell him that the building societies would like the opportunity of using the money for the purpose.

Fewer council houses are being built now than in 1950, and the quality of council building has been drastically reduced. The average size of the three-bedroomed council flat was 1,050 sq. ft. in 1950, but it has now been reduced to an average of 897 sq. ft.

Talking of London—the London that means a lot to me, not only because I am a London Member but because I was born and bred here—12,000 families are registering every year on the L.C.C. housing list, which already has the names of 60,000 families. The terrible fact is that last year we were able to rehouse only 4,000 families, although 10,000 families were rehoused in 1951. From what we have heard today, I understand that Glasgow has a housing list of over 70,000, Birmingham has a list of 46,000 and, in spite of what the hon. Member for Kirkdale has said, there can be no doubt that Liverpool faces housing problems almost as bad as London's.

The hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South spoke of the homeless, as did the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) who is not here— the trouble with the Liberal Members is that they are always missing when one is speaking from the Front Bench. Both hon. Members referred to the voluntary societies with which they are associated. These societies do a great job. They are composed, in the main, of people who are so shattered and ashamed to think that there is homelessness in this year of 1964 that they feel that they, as individuals, should do something about it.

Homelessness in London shows no sign of abating. Over 1,000 families a year are admitted to L.C.C. accommodation. Tonight, there are over 5,000 women and children completely homeless. I have been to Newington Lodge, where the homeless first go. One can go there, and come out ready to sob one's heart out. These people are not the coloureds of whom the hon. Member for Kirkdale spoke. More than half of them are Londoners, born and bred. Tonight they are homeless. If the Minister would visit Newington Lodge and make inquiries he would find that most of these families are victims of the Rent Act.

I do not deny that we have our problem families. Whatever form of society we may have there will always be a section of the community for which, somehow, few people can do anything. I admit that some of them are in these hostels, but the vast majority are so ashamed and helpless that one can only feel ashamed and helpless too when one visits them. And it does not end there. When they come out they go to halfway homes and there the number is appallingly high.

The frustration in dealing with housing is that the normal families are also on the waiting list and the question is to whom priority is to be given—the homeless or the person who has been on the waiting list for a long time. These are the balancing factors and the Minister in his cold-blooded way talks about the price of houses as not counting very much and as having little to do with the case made. If houses were much cheaper not only in London but elsewhere a great deal of this problem could be solved.

The right hon. Gentleman talked about slum clearance and about twilight homes. Let hon. Members note that expression. Some of these homes that I have described do not get any light, let alone twilight. About 150,000 houses become 100 years old every year. Most medical officers of health today will not declare a home unfit for habitation for the simple reason that they know that the local authority cannot do anything about them. The medical officer is inhibited from saying what he knows he ought to say about a particular house because he knows all the difficulties.

The same applies to overcrowding. What is the point of a medical officer of health applying the public health Acts and designating a house as overcrowded when the local authority cannot do anything about it? This is where the argument about immigrants comes in, and I agree that in many instances they are one of the biggest problems that we have to face today.

About 4 million dwellings will be 100 years old by 1980 according to the N.E.D.C. Report, but the right hon. Gentleman said that by 1973 we shall have solved the housing problem. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] What was the 1973 remark about then? [HON. MEMBERS: "Read it tomorrow."] It is a pity that the right hon. Gentleman does not make it clear. He certainly gave the impression that 1973 would be the date when the housing problem would be solved.

We have argued at ad nauseam about the Rent Act. The Home Secretary must be ashamed at times of some of the misery created by the Act which he brought in. This is an interesting situation to which I should refer for the benefit of my hon. Friends and others who did not hear what the Minister said. The right hon. Gentleman said today that if the Conservative Party again comes to power—which is a terrifying thought—he has given a pledge that there will be no further decontrol of properties, that is that the £40 rateable value will stay for London and Scotland and the £30 for the rest of the country.

Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)

There will be another Tory revolt.

Mr. Mellish

Let us be grateful for small mercies, but as things are going the truth is that creeping decontrol will itself have put a great number of people in this position. There can be no doubt of the unhappiness caused by decontrol, in spite of the argument by the party opposite that it has not had a severe effect. I can only say from my experience as a Member of Parliament that one of the worst problems that I have to deal with is this matter of decontrol, and the fact that, for instance, when the tenant, the mother of the family, dies the house becomes decontrolled.

I do not know the answer to this problem except the answer given by my party. We have said that we shall repeal the Act and that means that we shall reinstitute controls, confirm existing controls and stop creeping decontrol. This is what we are committed to do and this is what we shall do. Two million people are still living in controlled tenancies. We on this side of the House give a firm and definite pledge that those tenancies will be protected not only immediately but while we are in power.

One interesting subject for speculation, in the light of what was said earlier, is what the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) will say about it. Of course, he is always resigning on great points of principle. He was the Minister of Health and he resigned for one reason or another. He cannot resign from anything now except his own seat in the House. A couple of weeks ago, the right hon. Gentleman said that rent control was a giant evil and must be removed. This Government have now decided that they will keep it on. All this makes a mockery of what we were told about the Rent Act. It was much heralded as a tremendous advance in housing, one of the great things which the Government were doing to release property for accommodation, but now they say that, if they get back to power, they will do nothing more about it. For my part, I can only say that we shall be grateful for the small mercies which we have had.

Those of us who were born and have lived in London and have seen the housing problem grow around us recognise that it will not be solved by slogans about building x number of houses. There is still a case for urgently examining the question of accommodation which is available in many areas through under-occupation. I have always favoured, where possible, the abolition of private rented property. I have never believed that property is something from which people should draw a private gain. I have always believed, and my party believes, that property should be regarded as a social asset.

What about the problems which we shall face as time goes on? Tomorrow, we shall see the result of the South-East Study. We have a pretty good idea of some of the figures which it will disclose. I quote here from the Spectator—I gather that the editor is another right hon. Gentleman who has done his bit of resigning— The report on the south-east survey will show that we must start to plan immediately for an extra population of at least two million and more, probably over three-and-a-half million people, within the next twenty ears, in the metropolitan corner of England; the corner which lies south and east of a line from the Wash to Bournemouth, and which already contains some 34 per cent. of the population of Britain, crowded on to only 17 per cent. of its land surface. I hope that the result of the survey will show us plans for what is to be done in the future. No one can decide to build x number of houses unless he knows where they are going to be, and what more will be done to attract people away from the already congested areas. I ask the Minister of Public Building and Works to give us an indication of what we may expect tomorrow, an indication of the Government's long-term planning, an indication about new building techniques, whether the Government have any revolutionary ideas about industrialised house building systems and so on.

There is a case to be made for improvement within the building industry. I do not deny this from either the worker or management point of view. But the building industry as is constituted cannot possibly meet the commitments which are asked of it now. How is it to be reorganised? What plans has the Minister got? It is no good throwing out targets if one knows, as the Minister must know, that the building industry could not meet any targets, whether the Labour Government set them up or a Tory Government set them up.

We should like to know more from the Minister about genuine planning for the building industry itself. What about his own Department? I should like to see the day when the Ministry of Public Building and Works really became a Ministry of building and works, with the greatest direct labour force in the world, building houses, factories and everything else. Why not? At least it would give a continuity of programme which could be guaranteed, avoiding the problems which face so many building contractors today. We have heard from experts on the benches opposite that one of the problems facing the building industry is the lack of continuity in programmes. If we had a State authority building and backing up the local authorities in their building, we could, I believe, give real planning and continuity.

The human misery created by the housing shortage is not something we can afford to play about with, bandying empty slogans or kicking the ball across the House of Commons. As one who has to live with it week after week, I say to the party opposite that the housing problem is not solved and it does not look like being solved in the foreseeable future. There is a great deal more misery to come. We tabled this Motion because we speak on behalf of all those who, in spite of what the Government have done, are still suffering. It was right that we should table it, and we shall vote for it tonight.

9.25 p.m.

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

We have been discussing, as we have done on many other occasions, what we all agree is a great human problem. In so far as the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) was clearly moved by genuine concern for the difficult problems which this subject raises, we must welcome his speech. As he said, this is not a problem which can be easily solved. My argument will be directed towards showing that it cannot be solved by the methods which the Opposition propose.

Naturally, the hon. Member for Bermondsey dwelt on the situation in London, which we know raises special problems. It has been estimated that we need to build about 500,000 houses for London in the next ten years. Here, as elsewhere, the long-term problem is the provision of land. The Government's initial plans were set out in the White Paper London—Employment: Housing: Land, Command 1952. The regional study for the South-East which will be published tomorrow is the next major step forward in that direction. I am sure that the hon. Member for Bermondsey will not expect me to anticipate that.

As I understand it, there is now no dispute about what is a reasonable target for new homes for London—between 50,000 and 60,000 a year. That is a possibility—indeed, I should say a strong possibility—if the right policies are followed. But we must accept that the most acute problems in London can be met only by making the best use of the existing stock of houses in London. This stock is insufficient to meet all the pressures which result not only from the demands of people in London but from all the movement into London which I think we must try to discourage to a large extent. Indeed, as the hon. Member for Bermondsey said, we must attract people away from the areas of congestion.

The hon. Member for Bermondsey dealt, quite rightly, with the problem of homelessness. As he said, we have been involved in London government with many problem families. Sometimes people park themselves on the doorstep because they want to go to the top of the queue. But there are very many extremely hard cases. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government is in constant touch with the London County Council and is well aware of the strenuous efforts which it has been making to grapple with this problem. I hope that hon. Members who were not present during the debate will read and study the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mr. G. Johnson Smith). He stressed the need for co-operation between the local authorities and the housing associations, and the part which can be played by voluntary effort.

The more widespread problem is occasioned by the extent of bad and overcrowded dwellings in London and the need to make better use of existing accommodation. This was a matter to which the hon. Member for Willesden, West (Mr. Pavitt) addressed himself very closely. We know of the difficulties about houses which do not have proper standards. But London, like the rest of the country, is now carrying out an increasing programme of improvement and modernisation within the Government's policies, and the proposals in the Housing Bill will enable the rate to be stepped up. Our aim over the country as a whole is to step up the rate towards 200,000 houses a year. There has been some suggestion that the construction industry is already too overloaded. I do not accept all these pessimistic views, but there is a limit to the rate at which this work can be carried out.

We have heard a great deal about rent control this afternoon. This is a problem predominantly again for London and some of the other big cities. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I said predominantly. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] My right hon. Friend has dealt with this in detail. For the benefit of hon. Members who were not present earlier in the debate, the hon. Member for Bermondsey referred to my right hon. Friend's statement that the Government will not propose any further block decontrol but will not interfere generally with creeping decontrol.

Experience has shown only too clearly that if rents are kept unreasonably low by control nothing comes on to the market to rent. It is true to say that the repeal of the Rent Act, 1957, would mean fewer and not more houses for rent. As the hon. Member for Bermondsey said, there is certainly a real need for more houses to let, and this will be met partly by the growing activities of the housing associations. [Interruption.] Twenty-five million pounds is already pledged.

Mr. Denis Howell

Nobody is building them.

Mr. Rippon

Certainly, the position would be better still but for the Socialist threats to repeal the Rent Act. [Interruption.] The incentive to developers to build houses to rent is not much improved by reason of the fact that the Labour Party no longer intends to try to peg rents. That was made clear by the Leader of the Opposition in his speech at Leeds on 8th February, when he said categorically that The Labour Government will repeal the 1957 Rent Act and replace it by a measure providing machinery for a fair settlement of rents as between landlord and tenant. We would like to know a little more about this measure and the principles upon which the tribunals which are to be set up would operate.

I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Holland with Boston (Sir H. Butcher) was quite right in saying that rent control is the wrong approach. There may be other ways in which we can help people in need—[Interruption.] Rent control is the wrong approach and——

Mr. Mellish

Then why not abolish it?

Mr. Rippon

—what we shall never forget is that the years of rent control were the prime cause of the present twilight areas in our cities.

Mr. Mellish

The Minister has said once again that rent control is the wrong approach and is evil. Why, then, do the Conservative Party not propose to do something about it if they are returned to power?

Mr. Rippon

One of our difficulties has been that rent control operated for so long that it wholly distorted the situation and created grave difficulties. [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] My right hon. Friend has dealt with the special conditions which have developed over the years. I have said that we will not have any more block decontrol, but creeping decontrol has moved much faster than anyone expected. Therefore, we are moving all the time towards decontrol, whereas the Opposition deliberately say that they would go back to the full rigours of rent control.

The only way in which we can provide better homes is not by imposing a new set of controls, as the Opposition want, but by building more new houses and improving the existing stock of houses. I do not want to deal again with the matters which we go over time after time in these debates. The Conservative record is a good one. Our achievements are well known. Under the Conservatives, one family in every four has moved into a new house. Over ½ million slums have been cleared since 1955.

We have now laid before the House detailed plans for even faster progress. The target of 350,000 houses for Great Britain will be reached this year, almost certainly comfortably passed, if we are as lucky as we have been so far in the clement weather. We will thereafter proceed as rapidly as possible to the 400,000 target. It has been made clear today—and we need not challenge the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) any more about it—that the Opposition now apparently accept the target of 400,000.

Mr. M. Stewart

We suggested it first.

Mr. Rippon

Indeed, the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) has made the same assertion that the Opposition mentioned that target first. They mentioned it as a desirable end but were rather slow to refer to it as a target. Last week the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East complained bitterly that the Conservative Government had taken over all the Opposition programmes. But, considering the difficulty they have had in making up their minds as to whether the Government were promising too little or too much, that is a bold assertion.

The hon. Member for Fulham, if I heard him aright, murmured something today about 450,000 houses a year. Is that to be claimed as the first statement of the Opposition's new target?

Mr. Stewart

The right hon. Gentleman misheard me. He should withdraw.

Mr. Rippon

I gladly withdraw. I must have misheard the hon. Gentleman. But certainly the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East accepts that 400,000 houses a year is about right and that we should go forward on that basis.

The first difference between the two sides is that within the 400,000 target the Opposition, as the hon. Member for Bermondsey indicated, would seek to provide a higher proportion of local authority houses. It is not clear how many more. But whatever was done would certainly be at the expense of owner occupiers. I do not accept that people only buy their own homes because they cannot get houses to let.

Mr. Mellish

I did not claim that for the total.I said that many people are compelled to pay high prices for houses because they cannot rent homes. Many would prefer to rent.

Mr. Rippon

There is a difference of opinion on that matter. Within the total of about 350,000 houses we envisage that this year there will be about 150,000 local authority houses. When talking about local authority housing we must have regard, as my right hon. Friend said, to the total pool of local authority housing available in the country and we have now reached the stage when 30 per cent. of the families of the country are in council houses.

Mr. Mellish

What is wrong with that?

Mr. Rippon

There is nothing wrong with it. I am merely pointing out that a very large pool of local authority housing is available and that there must come a limit to the need to expand that total over the country as a whole. We do not want to swell in any way council housing lists with those who would prefer to make their own arrangements, as many undoubtedly do.

We should also bear in mind that, since the local authorities which have the greatest problems are now driving ahead as rapidly as physical resources of staff and land will permit, there might well be, if we tried arbitrarily to increase the proportion of council houses, a slowing down of building. Alternatively, one would build council houses in areas where there was not the same great need.

The hon. Member for Bermondsey asked specifically about arrangements in relation to the purchase of pre-1919 houses. When we suspended the £100 million scheme it was nearly exhausted. A total of £96 million had been spent. We found that it had tended to put up the prices of older houses. If one makes easy financial facilities available, prices tend to rise. More important, we are now getting the improvements which were one of the conditions of the £100 million scheme and this process will be accelerated by the new Housing Bill with area improvements.

The House should also bear in mind, in considering owner occupation and the alleged difficulties of young people and others, that building society lending rises each year. Last year it totalled £840 million.

The second and more fundamental difference between us is that the Opposition are apparently convinced that to succeed with their policy it will be necessary to hold back what they are apt to call less essential building and so reimpose physical controls. This has been implicit in many of their recent speeches and it was put directly by the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway) who shouted out, "What about luxury hotels?".

It should be clearly understood that there is no reason to suppose that the imposition of controls over what is called less essential building would do anything but harm. The facts of the position are that of the £3,100 million worth of construction work completed in 1963, 27 per cent. went on housing, and we would all accept that it is right that there should be that high proportion. 21 per cent. went on other new work for public authorities, roads and schools and the health services and power stations and the rest. 10 per cent. went on industrial building, and here again most hon. Members would agree that that is right and necessary; indeed, it was only in 1957 that the Leader of the Opposition was saying that though the Conservatives by building 300,000 houses a year had done something which was politically popular and socially desirable, nevertheless they had placed a great strain on our resources, because we ought to have been devoting more of our resoures to developing basic industries. Then there is 30 per cent. on maintenance, and most of us would agree that that is important and a vital part of our construction programme.

What is left? Four per cent. on offices, 2 per cent. on shops and 6 per cent. on churches and garages and the rest. Let us take all this hotch-potch of miscellaneous new work and say that here we will find a large amount of non-essential building. However, much of this will be accepted as essential. New housing estates need shops and offices and cinemas and even garages. New factories need offices. New motorways need cafes and even the Opposition are committed to the principle of the Offices Act. Perhaps there is half of that miscellaneous sector which could be stopped if one was sufficiently ruthless, and that would not necessarily go to housing, because some of the capacity at present so occupied could not be redirected because it is carried out by specialist firms.

It must be accepted that if an absolute ban on so-called non-essential work were imposed, some system of licensing would have to be imposed by a Labour Government. This would require legislation and the setting up of machinery to consider applications and to issue licences. In addition, there would have to be some means of policing the operation of the scheme. All this would take time to set up and it would involve a lot of staff who could be more usefully employed elsewhere, and there would be great loss of output during the period of transition. In practice, since planning control already imposes limitations, there is only a small percentage of projects which might finally be found to be really non-essential, in which case the gain both to housing and schools would be negligible.

Similar arguments apply to the alleged overload on the industry. No system of licensing of this kind would bite for at least three years, and it would be impossible to redirect the production of specialist firms. The fact is that one cannot hope to serve the economy by holding down by controls the capital demands of private enterprise. This is an almost impossible task in a democracy. But it is doubly damaging in Britain, because it involves deciding who should supply whom with what in the private enterprise sector which is responsible for more than three-quarters of the output of the country and all its exports. All those decisions which the Opposition say they would make are bound to lead to arbitrary injustice and terrible inefficiency. There is only one way in which to step up the building of houses and the schools. That is by steadily increasing the capacity of the construction industry, and that is what is happening.

I do not think that I can rehearse all the arguments that were put forward during the important debate that we had yesterday. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Fulham, the hon. Member for Bermondsey, and most of his colleagues were not present on that occasion.I agree with the view expressed thin by the hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) who said: Tomorrow, on a three-line Whip, hon. Members will be lined up to debate housing, but what will we discuss? … We will be arguing as if it were something that could be put in a shop, without labour, but the great matters that divide us, the arguments on the allocation of houses, Rachmanism, and the rest, must depend entirely on the production of houses. I cannot remember when we last had a full-scale debate on the production of houses …".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th March, 1964; Vol. 691, c. 1284.] It is not the Conservative Party's fault that the Opposition have put down the wrong Motion on the wrong day.

Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)

Mr. Speaker, I do not think that anyone would have any objection to the right hon. Gentleman reading that quotation as a matter of fact, but is it in order to reproduce the speech of someone who is not a Minister from a debate of the, previous day?

Mr. Speaker

I think that some licence is usually allowed as to the limits within which we go. I did not think that they had reasonably been exceeded.

Mr. Rippon

The hon. Member for Leeds, West was speaking for the Opposition yesterday.

Assuming that the capacity of the construction industry limits the total amount of building that can be done, the Opposition's main contention is that their policies will reduce the price of land and building costs generally. They base their case on the assumption that a Labour Government would, first, have a lower Bank Rate, secondly, introduce differential interest rates, and thirdly, lower land prices. The hon. Member for Bermondsey said, as if it was something dreadful, that there had been 29 changes in interest rates over a period of time. But that is the whole object of the adjustment of interest rates. It is action which can be taken in a timely fashion, and the essence of its use is that this step is taken when there are pressures on the economy from either internal or external sources.

No one doubts that a low Bank Rate is preferable to a high one, but, as my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government has explained, this question of the Bank Rate and interest rates has not in any way inhibited local authorities from going ahead with their programmes.

Mr. Walter Monslow (Barrow-in-Furness)

On a point of order. Can some attention be given to the right hon. Gentleman who seems to be suffering from some pathological trouble?

Mr. Speaker

As far as I know, pathological troubles raise no point of order for the Chair.

Mr. Rippon

I should have thought that pathological troubles were confined to the party opposite. The Leader of the Opposition has said himself: Though we have complained of the Government's over-reliance on bank rate and the credit squeeze we should not hesitate to use monetary controls ruthlessly if necessary as one in an armoury of weapons", and the armoury of weapons inevitably includes building controls. No doubt hon. Gentlemen opposite now recognise that the deliberate cheap-money policy of the Labour Government between 1945 and 1951 resulted in wiping out half the savings of all the people who put their trust in the Government. It pushed up prices in the most inflationary period in our history and contributed to the devaluation of the pound. Now we are apparently being asked what we can do to insulate the Cardiff City Council from measures to protect sterling. None of us can opt out of this.

As I understand from the hon. Member for Bermondsey the Opposition have in mind a specially low rate of interest for such services as housing and education—the two examples given by the hon. Member for Fulham. That would mean that one-third of the total investment in construction would enjoy a specially low rate of interest—and no doubt there would be other claims. It would be a hidden subsidy, in addition to the present overt subsidies which are openly reviewed from time to time.

Let there be no mistake about what is meant by the Opposition's saying that they will ensure that cheap loans are made available for housing. If it means that they will keep interest rates down below the prevailing level, higher taxes will result, and prices will rise. If we have 100 per cent. mortgages and specially low rates of interest the prices of houses will rocket enormously. All this will be an additional public subsidy, attracting additional taxation in order to make up the difference between the rate at which the Government borrow, and the lower rate at which they lend.

The one consistent aim of the party opposite is to persuade the British electorate to think that they can have houses and other things without paying the proper price for them.

Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us what interest rate the Government pay the Bank of England when the Bank of England lends them money?

Mr. Rippon

The right hon. Gentleman knows that I am not going to be drawn over that one. The real point is that cheap money is the favourite loss leader of the Labour Party. Woe betide the nation if it is diverted into falling for any of the bargains that it will find in the Wilson and Callaghan emporium.

The other way in which the Opposition claim that they can reduce housing costs is by reducing the price of land. They have various proposals for doing this, and the House should probe them carefully. As the hon. Member for Bermondsey said, there can be no doubt that the availability and acquisition of land are matters of great relevance to housing and other building. There is no doubt that land is expensive, especially when it is scarce. Our policy is to ensure that more land is released both for public and for private development.

The Opposition claim that we can provide sufficient housing and other building only if we adopt their concept of a land commission. Basically, this body would nationalise all land for which planning permission was sought for development or redevelopment. The only exemptions, according to the hon. Member for Fulham, would be minor developments such as the building of a garage, or the building of a house by a person for himself, on his own land. But such cases are the exception rather than the rule.

I would like the House briefly to consider a specific case that might arise. Let us suppose that Mr. Smith, who lives in a twilight area in Greater London, in an old Victorian house with a large garden, is about to retire, and is thinking of selling his property for redevelopment as houses or offices. At present, all that he has to do is to put in an application for planning permission. This may be granted, after a public inquiry, and he can then sell at the market value. But with the land commission he will first have to consider whether he wants to sell it at all, and what he will get for it. This will be the existing land value plus something for the insult; we do not know what. Let us say that he puts in his application and that it is granted, The commission then says, "We are going to nationalise your land for such, and-such a price"—and this will presumably be determined at another public inquiry. The land commission will then lease it to the developer. If the planning permission is for offices the lease will presumably be on a commercial basis, whereas if it is for housing or some other socially approved purpose, we are told that the Opposition will not strike a purely commercial bargain.

That means special treatment for some developers and therefore a system of allocation among them all. It involves the discriminatory treatment of lessees. If the land is for housing development and is sold to Mr. Jones—[HON. MEMBERS: "Mr. Smith."]because the price of land is below the market price, one would control the price of the house, and so presumably the price of the house if Mr. Jones sells—[HON. MEMBERS: "Mr. Smith."] Mr. Smith has gone to the South Coast. When Mr. Jones wishes to move, he will have to have the price at which he assigned his lease assessed again by the Land Commission, in case he should make a profit. If he moves, he may want to move into a house owned by Mr. Robinson, and before Mr. Robinson can sell his house he too will have to have the cost assessed by the Land Commission.

What a senseless proposal. What a travesty of owner-occupation. The whole scheme is so grotesque that if it did not come from the official Opposition it would only merit a fourth leader in The Times.

What the Opposition's proposals amount to is this: first restrict the price of land; then distort demand; then have C.P.O.s on a massive scale; then have disputes over compensation; control the allocation of land; control the price of development on assignment, and, finally, impose a bar on redevelopment, the penalty for which would be forfeiture of lease with more haggling over compensation. What an economic miracle of paralysis and confusion.

The Opposition cannot break away from the fallacy that in some magical way we can provide better housing by returning to the full rigours of rent control, by juggling with interest rates and by the introduction of land nationalisation on what the country must understand would be a massive scale. The Opposition have produced this Land Commission all because a relatively small number of people receive high prices in a free market—prices which purchasers are prepared to pay and on which the vendor pays tax in many forms. For the rest, all the Opposition can say is, "Anything you can do we can do better"—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] The record shows that they have never done better, and this debate demonstrates that they never will do better. Their arguments, and indeed their policies, ought to be dismissed as irrelevant, immaterial and incompetent, and the House should reject the Motion and adopt the Amendment.

Question put, That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question:—

The House divided:Ayes 228. Noes 297.

Division No. 50.] AYES [10.0 p.m.
Abse, Leo Baxter, William (Stirlingshire, W.) Blyton, William
Ainsley, William Beaney, Alan Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.
Albu, Austen Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J. Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W. (Leics, S.W.)
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E>) Bence, Cyril Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan)
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Benn, Anthony Wedgwood Bowles, Frank
Awbery, Stan (Bristol, Central) Bennett, J. (Glasgow, Bridgeton) Boyden, James
Bacon, Miss Alice Benson, Sir George Braddock, Mrs. E. M.
Barnett, Guy Blackburn, F. Bradley, Tom
Bray, Dr. Jeremy Hoy, James H. Pentland, Norman
Brockway, A. Fenner Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey) Popptewell, Ernest
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Prentice, R. E.
Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper) Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, c.) Hunter, A. E. Probert, Arthur
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Hynd, H. (Accrington) Proctor, W. T.
Callaghan, James Hynd, John (Attercliffe) Pursey, Cmdr. Harry
Carmichael, Nell Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill) Randall, Harry
Castle, Mrs. Barbara Irving, Sydney (Dartford) Rankin, John
Chapman, Donald Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.)
Cliffe, Michael Jeger, George Reid, William
Collick, Percy Jenkins, Roy (Stechford) Reynolds, G. W.
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) Rhodes, H.
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Jones, Rt. Hn. A, Creech (Wakefield) Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Cronin, John Jones, Dan (Burnley) Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Crosland, Anthony Jones, Elwyn (West Ham, S.) Robinson, John (Paisley)
Cullen, Mrs. Alice Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Robinson Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)
Darling, George Jones, T. W. (Merioneth) Rodgers, W. T. (Stockton)
Davies, C. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Kelley, Richard Rose, William
Davies, Harold (Leek) Kenyon, Clifford Strinwell, Rt. Hon. E,
Davies, Ifor (Cower) King, Dr. Horace Silkin, John
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Lawson, George Silverman, Julius (Astan)
Deer, George Ledger, Ron Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)
Delargy, Hugh Lee, Frederick (Newton) Skeffington, Arthur
Dempsey, James Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock) Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)
Dodds, Norman Lever, L. M. (Ardwtok) Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)
Doig, Peter Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.) Small, William
Donnelly, Desmond Lipton, Marcus Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)
Driberg, Tom Lubbock, Eric Sorensen, R. W.
Duffy, A. E. P. (Colne Valley) Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
Ede, Rt. Hon. C. McBride, N. Spriggs, Leslie
Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly) McCann, John Steele, Thomas
Edwards, Walter (Stepney) MacDermot, Niall Stewart, Michael (Fulham)
Evans, Albert McKay, John (Wallsend) Stonehouse, John
Finch, Harold Mackie, John (Enfield, East) Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Vauxhall)
Fitch, Alan McLeavy, Frank Stross, SirBarnett(Stoke-on-Trent, C.)
Fletcher, Eric MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles) Swain, Thomas
Foley, Maurice MacPherson, Malcolm Swingler, Stephen
Foot, Dingle (Ipswich) Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Symonds, J. B.
Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale) Mallalieu, J.P.W. (Huddersfield, E.) Taverne, D.
Forman, J. C. Manuel, Archie Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) Mapp, Charles Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)
Galpern, Sir Myer Marsh, Richard Thompson, Dr. Alan (Dunfermline)
George, Lady Megan Lloyd (Crmrthn) Mellish, R. J. Thomson, G. M. (Dundee, E.)
Ginsburg, David Menderison, J. J. Thornton, Ernest
Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C. Millan, Bruce Thorpe, Jeremy
Courlay, Harry Milne, Edward Tomney, Frank
Grey, Charles Mitchison, G. R. Wade, Donald
Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Monslow, Walter WainWright, Edwin
Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly) Moody, A. S. Warbey, William
Griffiths, W, (Exchange) Moms, Charles (Opertshaw) Watkins, Tudor
Grimond, Rt. Hon. J. Morris, John (Aberavon) Weitzman, David
Cunter, Ray Moyle, Arthur Wells, William (Walsall, M.)
Halo, Leslie (Oldham, W.) Mulley, Frederick White, Mrs. Eirene
Hamilton, William (West Fife) Neal, Harold Whitlock, William
Hannan, William Noel-Baiter, Francis (Swindon) Wigg, George
Harper, Joseph Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn, Philip (Derby, S.) Willey, Frederick
Hart, Mrs. Judith Oliver, G. H. Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Hayman, F. H. O'Malley, B. K. Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)
Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur (Rwly Regis)
Herbison, Miss Margaret Oram, A. E. Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Hill, J. (Midlothian) Oswald, Thomas Winterbottom, R. E.
Hilton, A. V. Padley, W. E. Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Holman, Percy Paget, R. T. Woof, Robert
Holt, Arthur Pargiter, G. A. Wyatt, Woodrow
Hooson, H. E. Parker, John Yates, Victor (Ladywood)
Houghton, Douglas Parkin, B. T.
Howell, Charles A. (Perry Barr) Pavitt, Laurence TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Howell, Denis (Small Heath) Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd) Mr. Redhead and Mr. Rogers.
Howie, W. Peart, Frederick
Agnew, Sir Peter Batsford, Brian Black, Sir Cyril
Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.) Beamish, Col. Sir Tutton Bossom, Hon. Clive
Alfason, James Bell, Ronald Bourne, Arton, A.
Amery, Rt. Hon. Julian Bennett, F. M. (Torquay) Box, Donald
Arbuthnot, Sir John Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos & Fhm) Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. John
Ashton, Sir Hubert Berkeley, Humphry Boyle, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward
Atkins, Humphrey Bevins, Rt. Hon. Reginald Braine, Bernard
Awdry, Daniel (Chippenham) Biffen, John Brewis, John
Balniel, Lord Bingham, R. M. Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter
Barber, Rt. Hon. Anthony Birch, Bt. Hon. Nigel Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry
Barlow, Sir John Bishop, Sir Patrick Brown, Alan (Tottenham)
Browne, Percy (Torrington) Hirst, Geoffrey Page, Graham (Crosby)
Bryan, Paul Hobson, Rt. Hon. Sir John Page, John (Harrow, West)
Buck, Antony Hocking, Philip N. Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)
Bullard, Denys Hogg, Rt. Hon. Quintin Partridge, E.
Bullus, Wing Commander Eric Holland, Philip Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)
Burden, F. A. Hollingworth, John Peel, John
Butcher, Sir Herbert Hopkins, Alan Percival, Ian
Campbell, Gordon Hornby, R. P. Peyton, John
Cary, Sir Robert Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Dame P. Pike, Miss Mervyn
Channon, H. P. G. Howard, Hon. G. R. (St. Ives) Pitman, Sir James
Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.) Howard, John (Southampton, Test) Pitt, Dame Edith
Clark, William (Nottingham, S.) Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral John Pounder, Rafton
Cole, Norman Hughes-Young, Michael Powell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch
Cooke, Robert Hulbert, Sir Norman Price, David (Eastleigh)
Cooper, A. E. Hurd, Sir Anthony Price, H. A. (Lewisham W.)
Cooper-Key, Sir Neill Hutchison, Michael Clark Prior, J. M. L.
Cordeaux, Lt.-col. J. K. Iremonger, T. L. Prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho
Corfield, F. V. Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Proudfoot, Wilfred
Costain, A. P. James, David Quennell, Miss J. M.
Coulson, Michael Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich) Ramsden, Rt. Hon. James
Courtney, Cdr. Anthony Jennings, J. C. Rawlinson, Rt. Hon. Sir Peter
Craddook, Sir Beresford (Speithorne) Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle) Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. Sir Oliver Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Rees, Hugh (Swansea, W.)
Crowder, F. P. Johnson Smith, Geoffrey Renton, Rt. Hon. David
Cunningham, Sir Knox Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.) Ridley, Hon. Nicholas
Curran, Charles Jones, Rt. Hn. Aubrey (Hall Green) Ridsdale, Julian
Currie, G. B. H. Joseph, Rt. Hon. Sir Keith Rippon, Rt. Hon. Geoffrey
Dalkeith, Earl of Kaberry, Sir Donald Robinson, Rt. Hn. Sir R. (B'pool, S.)
Dance, James Kerans, Cdr. J. S.
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Kerby, Capt. Henry Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)
Deedes, Rt. Hon. W. F. Kerr, Sir Hamilton Roots, William
Digby, Simon Wingfield Kershaw, Anthony Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard
Donaldson, cmdr. C. E. M, Kimball, Marcus Royle, Anthony (Richmond, Surrey)
Drayson, G. B. Kirk, Peter Russell, Sir Ronald
du Cann, Edward Kitson, Timothy Sandys, Rt. Hon. Duncan
Duncan, Sir James Lagden, Godfrey Scott-Hopkins, James
Duthie, Sir William (Banff) Lambton, Viscount Seymour, Leslie
Eden, Sir John Lancaster, Col. C. G. Sharples, Richard
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry Shaw, M.
Elliott, R.W. (Newc'tle-upon-Tyne, N.) Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Shepherd, William
Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn Lilley, P. J. P. Skeet, T. H. H.
Errington, Sir Eric Linstead, Sir Hugh Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)
Erroll, Rt. Hon. F. J. Litchfield, Capt. John Smyth, Rt. Hon. Brig. Sir John
Farr, John Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfield) Soames, Rt. Hon. Christopher
Fell, Anthony Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral) Spearman, Sir Alexander
Fisher, Nigel Longbottom, Charles Speir, Rupert
Fletcher-Cootie, Charles Longden, Gilbert Stainton, Keith
Fraser, Rt.Hn. Hugh (Stafford & Stone) Loveys, Walter H. Stanley, Hon. Richard
Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton) Lucas, Sir Jocelyn Stevens, Geoffrey
Freeth, Denzil Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Stodart, J. A.
Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D. McAdden, Sir Stephen Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm
Gammans, Lady MacArthur, Ian Storey, Sir Samuel
Gardner, Edward McLaren, Martin Studholme, Sir Henry
Gibson-Watt, David Maclay, Rt. Hon. John Summers, Sir Spencer
Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, Central) Maclean, Sir Fitzroy (Bute & N. Ayrs) Tapsell, Peter
Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife) McLean, Neil (Inverness) Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Glover, Sir Douglas Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.) Taylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.)
Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham) McMaster, Stanley R. Taylor, Frank (M'ch'st'r, Moss Side)
Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, M.) Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax) Teeling, Sir William
Godber, Rt. Hon. J. B. Maddan, Martin Temple, John M.
Goodhart, Philip Maginnis, John E. Thomas, Sir Leslie (Canterbury)
Gough, Frederick Maitland, Sir John Thomas, Peter (Conway)
Gower, Raymond Markham, Major Sir Frank Thompson, Sir Kenneth (Walton)
Green, Alan Marlowe, Anthony Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)
Gresham Cooke, R. Marples, Rt. Hon. Ernest Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. Peter
Grosvenor, Lord Robert Mathew, Robert (Hotiliton) Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin
Hall, John (Wycombe) Matthews, Gordon (Meriden) Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)
Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough) Maude, Angus (Stratford-on-Avon) Tilney, John (Wavertree)
Harris, Frederio (Croydon, N.W.) Maudling, Rt. Hon. Reginald Touche, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon
Harris, Reader (Heston) Mawby, Ray Turner, Colin
Harrison, Brian (Maldon) Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.
Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C. Tweedsmuir, Lady
Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd) Mills, Stratton Vane, W. M. F.
Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.) Miscampbell, Norman Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hon. Sir John
Harvie Anderson, Miss Montgomery, Fergus Vickers, Miss Joan
Hastings, Stephen More, Jasper (Ludlow) Walder, David
Hay, John Morgan, William Walker, Peter
Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel Morrison, John Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir Derek
Heath, Rt. Hon. Edward Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles Wall, Patrick
Henderson, John (Cathoart) Neave, Airey Ward, Dame Irene
Hendry, Forbes Nicholson, Sir Godfrey Webster, David
Hicks Beach, Maj. W. Nugent, Rt. Hen. Sir Richard Wells, John (Maidstone)
Hiley, Joseph Oakshott, Sir Hendrie Whitelaw, William
Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe) Orr, Capt. L. P. S. Williams, Dudley (Exeter)
Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk) Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth) Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater) Woodhouse, C. M.
Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro) Woodnutt, Mark TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Wise, A. R. Woollam, John Mr. Chichester-Clark and Mr. Finlay.
Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick Worsley, Marcus
Wood, Rt. Hon. Richard Yates, William (The Wrekin)

Question put, That the proposed words be there added:—

The House divided: Ayes 297, Noes 228.

Division No. 51.] AYES [10.12 p.m.
Agnew, Sir Peter Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)
Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.) Elliott, R. W. (Hewe'lle-upon-Tyne, N.) Jones, Rt. Hn. Aubrey (Halt Green)
Allason, James Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn Joseph, Rt. Hon. Sir Keith
Amery, Rt. Hon. Julian Errington, Sir Eric Kaberry, Sir Donald
Arbuthnot, Sir John Erroll, Rt. Hon. F. J. Kerans, Cdr. J. S.
Ashton, Sir Hubert Farr, John Kerby, Capt. Henry
Atkins, Humphrey Fell, Anthony Kerr, Sir Hamilton
Awdry, Daniel (Chippenham) Fisher, Nigel Kershaw, Anthony
Balniel, Lord Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Kimball, Marcus
Barber, Rt. Hon. Anthony Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh(Stafford & Stone) Kirk, Peter
Barlow, Sir John Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton) Kitson, Timothy
Batsford, Brian Freeth, Denzil Lagden, Godfrey
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D. Lambton, Viscount
Bel1, Ronald Gammam, Lady Lancaster, Col. C. G.
Bennett, F. M. (Torquay) Gardner, Edward Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos & Fhm) Gibson-Watt, David Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)
Berkeley, Humphry Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, Central) Lilley, F. J. P.
Bevins, Rt. Hon. Reginald Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife) Linstead, Sir Hugh
Biffen, John Glover, Sir Douglas Litchfield, Capt. John
Bingham, R. M. Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham) Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfield)
Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.) Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)
Bishop, Sir Patrick Godber, Rt. Hon. J. B. Longbottom, Charles
Black, Sir Cyril Goodhart, Philip Longden, Gilbert
Bossom, Hon. Clive Gough, Frederick Loveys, Walter H.
Bourne-Arton, A. Gower, Raymond Lucas, Sir Jocelyn
Box, Donald Green, Alan Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. John Gresham Cooke, R. McAdden, Sir Stephen
Boyle, Rt. Hon, Sir Edward Grosvenor, Lord Robert MacArthur, Ian
Braine, Bernard Hall, John (Wycombe) McLaren, Martin
Brewis, John Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough) Maclay, Rt. Hon. John
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col.Sir Walter Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.) Maclean, Sir Fitzroy (Bute & N. Ayrs)
Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry Harris, Reader (Heston) McLean, Neil (Inverness)
Brown, Alan (Tottenham) Harrison, Brian (Maldon) Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.)
Browne, Percy (Torrington) Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) McMaster, Stanley R.
Bryan, Paul Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd) Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)
Buck, Antony Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.) Maddan, Martin
Bullard, Denys Harvie Anderson, Miss Maginnis, John E.
Bullus, Wing Commander Eric Hastings, Stephen Maitland, Sir John
Burden, F. A. Hay, John Markham, Major Sir Frank
Butcher, Sir Herbert Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel Marlowe, Anthony
Campbell, Gordon Heath, Rt. Hon. Edward Marples, Rt. Hon. Ernest
Cary, Sir Robert Henderson, John (Cathcart) Mathew, Robert (Honiton)
Channon, H, P. G. Hendry, Forbes Matthews, Gordon (Meriden)
Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.) Hicks Beach, Maj. W. Maude, Angus (Stratford-on-Avon)
Clark, William (Nottingham, S.) Hiley, Joseph Maudlins, Rt. Hon. Reginald
Cole, Norman Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe) Mawby, Ray
Cooke, Robert Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk) Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.
Cooper, A. E. Hirst, Geoffrey Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.
Cooper-Key, Sir Neill Hobson, Rt. Hon. Sir John Mills, Stratton
Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K. Hocking, Philip N. Miscampbell, Norman
Corfield, F. V. Hogg, Rt, Hon. Quintin Montgomery, Fergus
Costain, A. P. Holland, Philip More, Jasper (Ludlow)
Coulson, Michael Hollingworth, John Morgan, William
Courtney, Cdr. Anthony Hopkins, Alan Morrison, John
Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne) Hornby, H. P. Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. Sir Oliver Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Dame P. Neave, Airey
Crowder, F. P. Howard, Hon. G. n. (St. Ives) Nicholson, Sir Godfrey
Cunningham, Sir Knox Howard, John (Southampton, Test) Nugent, Rt. Hon. Sir Richard
Curran, Charles Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral John Oakshott, Sir Hendrie
Currie, G. B. H. Hughes-Young, Michael Orr, Capt. L. P. S.
Dalkeith, Earl of Hulbert, Sir Norman Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)
Dance, James Hurd, Sir Anthony Page, Graham (Crosby)
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Hutchison, Michael Clark Page, John (Harrow, West)
Deedes, Rt. Hon. W. F. Iremonger, T. L.. Pannelt, Norman (Kirkdale)
Digby, Simon Wingfield Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Partridge, E.
Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M. James, David Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)
Drayson, G. B. Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich) Peel, John
du Cann, Edward Jennings, J. C. Percival, Ian
Duncan, Sir James Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle) Peyton, John
Duncun, Sir William (Banff) Johnson, Eric (Blacldey) Pike, Miss Mervyn
Eden, Sir John Johnson Smith, Geoffrey Pitman, Sir James
Pitt, Dame Edith Skeet, T. H. H. Turner, Colin
Pounder Rafton Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick) Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.
Powell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch Smyth, Rt. Hon. Brig. Sir John Tweedsmuir, Lady
Price, David (Eastleigh) Soames, Rt. Hon. Christopher Vane, W. M. F.
Price, H. A. (Lewisham, w.) Spearman, Sir Alexander Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hon. Sir John
Prior, J. M. L. Speir, Rupert Vickers, Miss Joan
Prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho Stainton. Keith Walder, David
Proudfoot, Wilfred Stanley, Hon. Richard Walker, Peter
Quennell, Miss J. M. Stevens, Geoffrey Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir Derek
Ramsden, Rt. Hon. James Stodart, J. A. Wall, Patrick
Rawlinson, Rt. Hon. Sir Peter Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm Ward, Dame Irene
Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin Storey, Sir Samuel Webster, David
Rees, Hugh (Swansea, W.) Studholme, sir Henry Wells, John (Maidstone)
Renton, R(. Hon. David Summers, Sir Spencer Whitelaw, William
Ridley, Hon. Nicholas Tapsell, Peter Williams, Dudley (Exeter)
Ridsdale, Julian Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne) Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Rippon, Rt. Hon. Geoffrey Taylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.) Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
Robinson, Rt. Hn. Sir R. (B'pool, S.) Taylor, Frank (M'ch'st'r, Moss Side) Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Rodgers, John (Seveno[...]) Teeling, sir William Wise, A. R.
Roots, William Temple, John M. Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard Thomas, Sir Leslie (Canterbury) Wood, Rt. Hon. Richard
Royle, Anthony (Richmond, Surrey) Thomas, Peter (Conway) Woodhouse, C. M.
Russell, Sir Ronald Thompson, Sir Kenneth (Walton) Woodnutt, Mark
Sandys, Rt. Hon. Duncan Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon S.) Woollam, John
Scott-Hopkins, James Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. Peter Worsley, Marcus
Seymour, Leslie Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin Yates, William (The Wrekin)
Sharples, Richard Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)
Shaw, M, Tilney, John (Wavertree) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Shepherd, William Touche, Rt. Hon, Sir Gordon Mr. Chichester-Clark and Mr. Finlay
Abse, Leo Driberg, Tom Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)
Ainsley, William Duffy, A. E. P. (Colne Valley) Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)
Albu, Austen Ede, Rt. Hon. C. Jones, Rt. Hn. A. Creech (Wakefield)
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly) Jones, Dan (Burnley)
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Edwards, Walter (Stepney) Jones, Elwyn (West Ham, S.)
Awbery, Stan (Bristol, Central) Evans, Albert Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)
Baoon, Miss Alice Finch, Harold Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)
Barnett, Guy Fitch, Alan Kelley, Richard
Baxter, William (Stirlingshire, W.) Fletcher, Eric Kenyon, Clifford
Beaney, Alan Foley, Maurice King, Dr. Horace
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J. Foot, Dingle (Ipswich) Lawson, George
Bence, Cyril Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale) Ledger, Ron
Benn, Anthony Wedgwood Forman, J. C. Lee, Frederick (Newton)
Bennett, J. (Glasgow, Bridgeton) Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)
Benson, Sir George Galpern, Sir Myer Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)
Blackburn, F. George, LadyMeganL1oyd(Cr[...]rthn) Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)
Blyton, William Ginsburg, David Lipton, Marcus
Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G. Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C. Lubbock, Eric
Bowden, Rt. Hn H. W. (Leics, S.W.) Gourlay, Harry Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson
Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan) Grey, Charles McBride, N.
Bowles, Frank Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) McCann, John
Boyden, James Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly) MacDermot, Niall
Braddock, Mrs. E. M, Griffiths, W. (Exchange) McKay, John (Wallsend)
Bradley, Tom Grimond, Rt. Hon. J. Mackie, John (Enfield, East)
Bray, Dr. Jeremy Gunter, Ray McLeavy, Frank
Brockway, A. Fenner Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.) MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles)
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Hamilton, William (West Fife) MacPherson, Malcolm
Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper) Hannan, William Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Harper, Joseph Mallalieu, J.P.W. (Huddersfield, E.)
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Hart, Mrs. Judith Manuel, Archie
Callaghan, James Hayman, F. H. Mapp, Charles
Carmichael, Neil Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur (Rwly Regis) Marsh, Richard
Castle, Mrs. Barbara Herbison, Miss Margaret Mellish, R. J.
Chapman, Donald Hill, J. (Midlothian) Mendelson, J. J.
Cliffe, Michael Hilton, A. V. Millan, Bruce
Collick, Percy Holman, Percy Milne, Edward
Corbet, Mrs, Freda Holt, Arthur Mitchison, G. R.
Craddook, George (Bradford, S.) Hooson, H. E. Monslow, Walter
Cronin, John Howell, Charles A. (Perry Barr) Moody, A. S.
Crosland, Anthony Howell, Denis (Small Heath) Morris, Charles (Openshaw)
Cullen, Mrs, Alice Howle, W. Morris, John (Aberavon)
Darling, George Hoy, James H. Moyle, Arthur
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey) Mulley, Frederick
Davies, Harold (Leek) Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Neal, Harold
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, H.) Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Hunter, A. E. Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip (Derby, S.)
Deer, George Hynd, H. (Accrington) Oliver, G. H.
Delargy, Hugh Hynd, John (Attercliffe) O'Malley, B. K.
Dempsey, James Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill) Oram, A. E.
Dodds, Norman Irving, Sydney (Dartford) Oswald, Thomas
Doig, Peter Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas Padley, W. E.
Donnelly. Desmond Jeger, George Paget, R. T,
Pargiter, G. A. Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E. Thornton, Ernest
Parker, John Silkin, John Thorpe, Jeremy
Parkin, B. T. Silverman, Julius (Aston) Tomney, Frank
Pavitt, Laurence Silverman, Sydney (Nelson) Wade, Donald
Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd) Skeffington, Arthur Wainwright, Edwin
Peart, Fredrick Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.) Warbey, William
Pentland, Norman Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield) Watkins, Tuder
Popplewell, Ernest Small, William Weitzman, David
Prentice, R. E. Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.) Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Price, J. T. (Westhoughton) Sorensen, R. W. White, Mrs. Eirene
Probert, Arthur Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank Whitlook, William
Proctor, W. T. Spriggs, Leslie Wigg, George
Purser, Cmdr, Harry Steele, Thomas Willey, Frederick
Randall, Harry Stewart, Michael (Fulham) Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Rankin, John Stonehouse, John Willis, E. C. (Edinburgh, E.)
Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.) Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Vauxhall) Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Reid, William Stross, Sir Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.) Winterbottom, R. E,
Reynolds, G. W. Swain, Thomas Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Rhodet, H. Swingler, Stephen Woof, Robert
Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Symonds, J. B. Wyatt, Woodrow
Roberts, Goronwy (Caemarvon) Taverne, D Yates, Victor (Ladywood)
Robertson, John (Paisley) Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.) Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Rodgers, W, T. (Stockton) Thompson, Dr. Alan (Dunfermline) Mr. Redhead and Mr. Rogers
Ross, William Thomson, G. M. (Dundee, E.)

Main Question, as amended, put and agreed to.

Resolved, That this House recognises the growing housing demands of a rising and increasingly prosperous population, welcomes the prospect of completing 350,000 new dwellings this year and the Government's further target of 400,000 new dwellings a year; supports the accelerating programmes of slum clearance and modernisation of houses, welcomes the rapid growth of owner-occupation and believes that the Government's policy of increasing both the supply of land—within regional plans —and the supply of houses represents the best and quickest way of satisfying the housing needs of the country and of restraining the levels of prices and rents.

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