HC Deb 17 February 1965 vol 706 cc1167-9
9. Mr. G. Campbell

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he intends to introduce specially favourable borrowing rates of interest for housing.

39. The Earl of Dalkeith

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will introduce a scheme for specially favourable borrowing rates for housing; and what information he has about the effect of high interest rates in relation to the number of new houses started in the last quarter of 1964.

47. Mr. Galbraith

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what is his policy towards the provision of specially favourable borrowing rates of interest for housing.

Mr. Ross

In Answer to a Question on 19th January, my right hon. Friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, announced measures to mitigate the effects of the increased Bank Rate on the housing programme. Before deciding our long-term policy about loans for local authority housing, we wish to complete our reviews of housing subsidies and finance in conjuction with the local authority associations. I do not think high interest rates since October have materially affected the number of new houses started in the last quarter of 1964.

Mr. Campbell

What is the right hon. Gentleman doing now to carry out the policy, stated on page 15 of the Labour Party manifesto, which promised special, low rates of interest for housing as compared with other interest rates?

Mr. Ross

The hon. Gentleman must have confused long-term policy with short-term measures necessitated by the long-term failures of right hon. Gentlemen opposite.

The Earl of Dalkeith

Is it not about time the right hon. Gentleman made a public apology to the people of Scotland, whose illusions have been so shattered by this repudiation of a firm election promise? Does not this merely go to show that Labour Party election manifestoes are not worth the paper they are written on?

Mr. Ross

That depends who writes them, and if the noble Lord writes them, then I agree. He might make a public apology for the assumption he made in the latter part of his Question, which related to houses started in the month of October. As he knows, tenders are submitted six months beforehand.

Mr. Galbraith

As the right hon. Gentleman's reply is a further blow to the people who believed that what the party opposite said at the election they would carry out, could not the right hon. Gentleman try to help local authorities which find themselves in difficulty because of these higher interest rates by encouraging places such as Glasgow to charge more reasonable rents? In Glasgow, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, rent actually paid is only one-third of the cost of providing houses.

Mr. Ross

Has the hon. Gentleman changed his mind? He used to think that interest rates did not matter. He said that they were "a hoary old chestnut" which the Opposition—then the Labour Party—persisted in regarding as a "hot potato". He should read the Answer given on 18th November and see what was then already being done in respect of this matter.

We consider this to be a short-term measure. Let him take his mind back to the statement by the then Under-Secretary of State, who told us in 1956 that high interest rates were temporary. They were temporary for about eight years.

Mr. William Hamilton

Can my right hon. Friend tell the House and the country how long it will take the Government to get us out the morass left behind by the previous Administration?

Mr. Ross

They took 13 years to get us into it. It will not take us 13 years to get out of it.

Mr. Noble

I do not want to follow the right hon. Gentleman on the last Question, although I would have a great deal of pleasure in doing so. Does not he remember that, month after month, he alleged that high interest rates were the main reason for difficulty in housing? Has he changed his mind?

Mr. Ross

No. I always thought that the main reason for difficulty in housing was the Tory Government.

Mr. Speaker

Mr. Taylor.

Mr. Edward M. Taylor

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree—

Mr. Speaker

Order. It is my fault for not making my intention distinct. I called the hon. Gentleman in respect of the next Question.