§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Rippon (Hexham)
I beg to move,That this House deplores the failure of Her Majesty's Government's housing and building policies.I ought, first, to declare an indirect interest in the subject under discussion as I am a director of a building company. I suppose that I might be said to have another and perhaps conflicting interest in the Government's policies, legislation and administration, since they offer the prospect of almost infinite employment to the legal profession. Above all, I have a fundamental interest, which I think is shared by the House, in seeking to prevent the steady deterioration and destruction by the Government of the 1574 progressive policies and programmes which they inherited from their Conservative predecessors.
The pre-election promises and pledges of the party opposite on housing and on interest rates were a classic example of the exercise of "Anything you can do, we can do better". Local authority tenants and owner-occupiers were going to benefit from controls on so-called inessential building. More houses were to be built for sale and to let. Interest rates were to be cut. Land was to be cheaper, and mortgages provided on more favourable terms.
In that connection and on one particular point which is perhaps topical today, it may be that the Minister of Housing and Local Government will be able to tell us whether he intends to refer the Greater London Council's policy of an interest rate on new loans of 7⅛ per cent. to the Prices and Incomes Board.
In speech after speech, the Prime Minister has spoken of going into battle on the housing front. In his election address in October, 1964, he wrote:We have pledged ourselves to tackle the housing problem like a war-time operation.In that characteristic, blunt, straightforward way that is peculiarly his own, he added on another occasion that it was a problem…which brooks no escape or evasion.That was good, purposive, gritty stuff! Since then, all that we have had is a "phoney" war, and, if I may say so, the Prime Minister and his colleagues seem to do all their shooting from the lip.
So far from getting more houses, there has been a steady deterioration where there should have been a steady improvement. There were 434,000 houses under construction when the Labour Government came into office. It required generalship of a pretty special order to fail to complete even 400,000 houses in 1965. There was every reason to believe that the figure would have been much nearer 420,000. Instead, as we now know, the figure completed was only 382,000. I think that 1966 is seeing a further retreat from the Prime Minister's own chosen battlefield. March of this year was the fifth consecutive month and the seventh month out of the last eight in which the number of houses completed was actually less than in the equivalent 1575 month of the previous year. The Minister of Housing, left to conduct his tactical exercise without houses, has done his best to throw up a smokescreen. During the debate on the Gracious Speech on 28th April, the right hon. Gentleman, in anticipation of the figures due to come out on 3rd May, said:The March figures are much better than the February figures."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th April, 1966; Vol. 727, c. 981.]I think it came as a surprise to almost everybody to find that when they were published they were down yet again. They were down by 950 compared with March, 1965.
What I think is even more significant is that both completions and starts have fallen in the first three months of this year. It may be felt by the House that the figures for houses started are a particularly gloomy augury for the future. Only 392,507 were started in Great Britain in 1965—not, of course, Northern Ireland—compared with 426,075 in 1964.
Now we find that 13,265 fewer houses were started in the first quarter of 1966 than in the first quarter of 1965 and, perhaps even more fantastically in view of the Government's election pledges and promises, 16,276 fewer houses were started in the first quarter of this year than in the first quarter of 1964, so instead of going forward we are going steadily backwards.
Of course, it is the private sector which has been hardest hit, with 11,482 fewer houses started this year than in the first quarter of 1965, but the public sector is also sagging badly. Starts in the public sector were 1,773 down in the first quarter of this year compared with the same period last year, and 6,770 down compared with the same period in 1964.
I think that those figures put a little more clearly into perspective the Minister's somewhat disingenuous statement on 28th April thatin the public sector…despite the weather, starts are only 1,000 down in these three months."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th April, 1965; Vol. 727, c. 981.]
§ Mr. Eric Lubbock (Orpington)
I do not quarrel with any of the right hon. Gentleman's figures, but should not he also take into account the number of 1576 houses under tenders approved but not started at the end of the periods to which he is referring? Is he aware that since the March quarter of 1965 this number increased from 69,000 to 81,000 in local authority housing?
§ Mr. Rippon
I think that it is important to judge by results. There are all sorts of figures in local authority programmes. Houses may be under tender, but if they are not started one cannot be sure when they will be.
We now have a situation which caused the Sunday Times to report on 8th May:The Government is now prepared for the prospect that it will again this year fail to reach its target of 400,000 a year, and could even fall below last year's total of 391,000.I am afraid that that shows that some people are still being misled by the Socialist election propaganda which included figures for Northern Ireland. The figure should be 382,000.
But even if the figures for completions and starts, having regard to matters such as programmes and tenders started, show some improvement—as they certainly ought to do in the coming months—this, over a period of nearly two years, is a dreadful record for a Government who inherited not only firm, long-term programmes, but also a progressively productive construction industry.
Over the period 1959–64 the output of new construction work generally rose in real terms at an average annual rate of 7 per cent. It is a measure of the failure of the Government's policies that last year the figure was only 2.5 per cent., well below the achievement under a Conservative Government, and well below what is required to achieve 500,000 houses a year by 1970, plus the rest of the nation's essential building needs.
As the House will have noted, the debate today is not limited to housing, although this is perhaps the most dramatic of the Government's failures. But, of course, the Government's failures extend in general over the whole building field. We used to be told that to expand housing and education and hospital building it was necessary to hold back what the party opposite always described as less essential building and to impose physical controls. I remember the warning which I gave on 18th March, 1964:It should be clearly understood that there is no reason to suppose that the imposition of 1577 controls over what is called less essential building would do anything but harm."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th March, 1964; Vol. 691, c. 1508.]And I explained why at some length. Now, once again, we have the physical controls which failed so dismally before. But we do not have more houses, and we do not have more hospitals, or more university building. It is only the number of official residences for Ministers which is rising, and I suppose that today we ought to congratulate the Secretary of State for Scotland on entering his new official residence.
We do not hear much about hospital building. Here we have a blanket of silence. All we know, according to information which was given to the House in a Written Answer on 13th December last, is that 25 major hospital building projects costing in total about £25 million were deferred from the 1965–66 programme, and that only 19 projects costing in total £15 million have been put back in their place. No doubt we shall be told if there has been a sudden spurt in starts.
I think that I can give an example of what has been happening. Let us consider St. Thomas's Hospital. A Conservative Government sanctioned £15 million for rebuilding, but the Socialist Government first stopped rebuilding altogether. There was then some bargaining, after which the Government gave permission to spend £13¼ million, but the Treasury was prepared to provide only £11¼ million. The other £2 million has to be found out of research funds, research of the kind that keeps doctors in this country and helps to stop the brain drain which used to cause Socialists so much concern when they were in Opposition. So much for the Prime Minister's talk offorging the New Britain in the white heat of scientific revolution.Let me consider next university building. Clearly this has been cut back by the Government. For 1965–66 a Conservative Government planned that £54½ million of university building would be started. The present Government cut this by about £15 million, or more than a quarter, when, in July of last year, a six months' deferment was imposed on university projects. As the Principal of London University, Sir Douglas Logan, says in his Report for 1965–66 which has 1578 just been published, in words which pick up the Prime Minister's battle theme:It is difficult to convey to those who were not right in the firing line the administrative chaos which ensued",and he cites as an example that it took five months to get exemption from the standstill order for the halls of residence which were being financed by an anonymous donor as far as building costs were concerned.
Sir Douglas Logan went on to say:I feared the worst from the outset. 'Deferment' could mean deferment only if the building allocations for 1966ߝ67 and subsequent years were at least as large as that for 1965–66 whereas in fact they were substantially less. The reply of the Secretary of State for Education and Science to a question in the House of Commons last December was reported by a leading newspaper under the heading, 'More building for universities'. The newspaper's misinterpretation of the position is perfectly understandable, because the Minister simply announced an increase of £7 million in the programme for 1966–67 and one of £5 million for 1967–68 without revealing that the effect of the deferment was that the university building programme had been cut by £15 million.But, of course, the truth on these matters cannot be hidden for ever. it is becoming more and more widely appreciated that the loss to the universities is even greater than revealed by crude statistics. First, it must be remembered, as Sir Douglas Logan points out, that the Conservative Government stated that the 1967–68 figure was to be provisional and subject to review, but only in an upward direction. Secondly, not only has the time lost been lost for ever, but the rise in building costs since the allocations for 1965–69 were originally announced is estimated to be about £4 million. So that the universities, therefore, are millions of £s short of the capital provision that the Conservative Government thought necessary to meet the Robbins expansion programme.
I think that my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) will accept that nobody thought that we had made too generous a provision. We, too, had our battles with the Treasury, but I think that we were not quite so savagely battered as the present Ministers responsible for the nation's building programme seem to have been.
Further education projects to the value of £9 million which the Conservatives 1579 planned to start between August, 1965 and January, 1966 were deferred. This year's programme has not been increased to take account of that fact. It is the same story with colleges of education for teacher training. There was a cut of £5 million on building work from last year's programme.
The school-building programme was announced with a great fanfare by the Government on 4th March. On the face of it, the figures show a natural increase taking place year by year. The Labour manifesto boasted of carrying out the largest school-building programme in our history, but analysis of the figures shows here again that the normal building programme will be no more in four years' time than it is now. In reality, it will be substantially less because of the rise in building costs.
The current costs per place for new primary and secondary schools are now £230 and £435, respectively, compared with £189 and £336 in the first half of 1965, so it is no wonder that The Times Educational Supplement commented on 11th March:The figures for the school-building programme over the next five years make a mockery of the pledges that the Secretary of State for Education and the Labour Party have given over the raising of the school leaving age, secondary reorganisation and the rebuilding of primary schools.No doubt hon. Members opposite blame economic difficulty, and remember that the present Foreign Secretary had this to say in November, 1963, when he was responsible for these matters on behalf of the then Opposition:…if the industry is to do the job required of it, it must have confidence that there is not only a large programme, but that it will be a steady programme which will not be chopped down every time the Government run into some kind of financial difficulty."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 18th November, 1963; Vol. 684. c. 638.]He also had a lot to say about the high proportion interest rates represented in the cost of houses and the cost to local authorities of keeping them available.
As fast as these essential building programmes have been cut, so, as I have indicated, the costs have risen. The latest statistics supplied by the Ministry of Public Building and Works show that the prices of new houses rose by 10 per cent. in 1965, the greatest amount since 1580 records were kept. So much for the Prime Minister's statement at Stevenage on 16th September, 1964, that, "We shall cheapen the cost of housing by our interest rate policy". I should like to suggest that when it comes to the next General Election we shall not have a poster of the Prime Minister complacently smoking his pipe and saying, "You all know Labour Government works". What we may have is a poster saying, "Trust Jim. We all know that you can work for a Labour Government". There will be a little sub-heading, "From each according to his means".
Meanwhile, to the highest interest rate for the longest period in our history must now be added the Selective Employment Tax. I will not argue that today. Indeed, I think, Mr. Speaker, that I must not talk about the damaging effect of this discriminatory burden on the building industry generally. We shall have other opportunities to do that. I only ask the House to note the Written Reply given by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government to a Question on 17th May, on Tuesday, when he said that the Selective Employment Tax would add about 2 per cent. to the cost of the average house. That is about £70 to £80. So it goes on, with the basic cost of housing rising steadily and the interest rate remaining at a level which the Socialists certainly did not advocate when they were in Opposition.
The housing and building policies of the Government are now in ruins, and the House must consider this afternoon what has gone wrong and what can be done to put it right. In my submission, the Government have gone wrong because they have made a series of fundamental errors in policy. First of all, they have got the machinery of Government wrong. Secondly, they are not exercising their existing powers properly and efficiently. Thirdly, they do not understand either the purpose or the exercise of power in a free society. The Prime Minister has talked a lot about streamlining the Administration. It all sounds wonderful. But all we have got is more Ministers than ever before in our history and an increase of over 10,000 in the number of civil servants.
When he took office the Prime Minister, almost without pausing for breath, added 1581 the Ministry of Land and Natural Resources to the list of Departments. Having appointed the Minister and his staff, he denied them the planning powers which were the only justification for their existence. At the same time, he left the Ministry of Public Building and Works with wide responsibilities for the construction industries, for the Government's own building programme, for the co-ordination of research and development throughout Government services and inevitably with a considerable say in the allocation of resources for all these purposes.
Instead of making the Ministry of Public Building and Works a spearhead of his "war-time" building operation, he left the Minister outside the Cabinet. He had not even the excuse that he was streamlining the Cabinet. He put in it two Ministers where one had done for us to deal with the Commonwealth and the Colonies, and in spite of his previous criticism that 23 was too large a Cabinet. To keep the two Ministers occupied he set one the futile task of preparing the Land Commission Bill and gave the other the job of trying to investigate the responsibilities of the Lord Great Chamberlain.
Now he is carrying out another reorganisation, and he is getting it wrong again. Having admitted his mistake in establishing the Ministry of Land and Natural Resources without responsibility for planning and land use, he is now smashing the machinery for ensuring that the construction industries, which stand right at the very centre of economic growth, can expand their output to meet the needs of building of all kinds, not just for housing but for both social and economic purposes. I can think of nothing more likely to impede progress than the fragmentation of the responsibilities of the Ministry of Public Building and Works and the overloading of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, which is already the weakest link in the whole chain. The only cause for any satisfaction is that the Prime Minister has so far resiled—he does this frequently but usually not very graciously—from his earlier public statements as to leave the Ministry of Public Building and Works with general responsibilities for the construction industry.
But it is hardly conducive to confidence in these industries for him to say, 1582 as he did on Tuesday, that this decision is "probably right but only just". How could he imagine that responsibility for the construction industry could be tucked away in some corner of the Ministry of Housing, cheek by jowel, perhaps, with water and sewerage and all the other responsibilities of the Minister. This is a group of industries which employs one in twelve of the working population, and is responsible for executing over 50 per cent. of the nation's capital investment. I would much rather that the right hon. Gentleman gave some attention, particularly in my constituency, to improving water and sewerage supplies. These are the real subjects and the ones which might give most immediate benefit to many people.
My second criticism is that the Government do not exercise their existing powers properly or effectively, and this applies with particular force to the Minister of Housing. We had something to say about this in the House last Thursday, and I do not think that I need add much to that. The Minister of Housing has so snarled up his Ministry already that essential land for building is coming forward too slowly, town centre and other development is breaking down and delays in reaching decisions on planning appeals are growing longer all the time. The Minister has himself admitted in the House that it takes on average 44 weeks now between the holding of an ordinary planning inquiry and the Ministerial decision, compared with 32 weeks a year ago.
The decision to transfer the National Building Agency to the Minister of Housing is a particularly retrograde and deplorable action. It was never set up, nor should it ever be used, simply to assess and promote industrialised housing programmes for local authorities. It has responsibilities as an independent agency serving both public and private enterprise over the whole field of building, as set out in its articles of association. When the Conservative Government reorganised the Ministry of Works and set up the National Building Agency, we published two White Papers, Cmnd. 2233 and Cmnd. 2288—which were presented to the House in December, 1963, and were generally accepted by both sides.
1583 I hope that the Government will now publish a White Paper on the reorganisation of the Ministry of Housing, explaining why they have made these new changes and also how they brought them about. An article published yesterday in The Times indicates that there is considerable cause for public anxiety about what has been happening. It says that not only is the transfer of the National Building Agency to the Ministry of Housing regrettable in itself, but it adds:Still more disturbing is the means by which it has been brought about. Both Ministries and the Agency have preserved official silence during the fighting, but there is evidence that the takeover has been achieved covertly and by methods which must rarely have been used within a public body.These allegations are serious and they must be answered.
Apart from the skullduggery which has gone on in the Whitehall war—no doubt more important to hon. Members opposite than the housing war—there is what I can endorse as an accurate statement in The Times:When the National Building Agency was created by the Ministry of Public Building and Works, its independence as a company limited by guarantee and free from Government interference was paramount.It was, indeed, the essential condition on which the confidence of the industry, the associated professions and the local authorities was based.
Here I come to the third and, in many ways, perhaps the most fundamental criticism of the Government and their policies—
§ Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)
When talking about the National Building Agency, the right hon. and learned Gentleman will appreciate that it was inherently right for the Minister to give it directions from time to time.
§ Mr. Rippon
But in the articles of association it was also inherent that it should have an independent status and that directions should be given in an open and clear manner.
My third fundamental criticism of the Government is that they do not understand the purposes of the exercise of power in a free society. In the debate on the Gracious Speech, the Minister of Housing said that it had required the 1584 massive intervention of public authority to assess industrialised systems, to organise local authority demand and to achieve the full potential of industrialised building. He is quite wrong about this. What is needed and what the Conservative Government did is, as we said in the White Paper on the Reorganisation of the Ministry of Works, to understand that the scale on which modernisation is required is so large and so complex that a strong lead from the centre is required. There is a very great deal of difference—even if right hon. Gentlemen opposite cannot understand it—between massive intervention from the centre and giving a lead.
What was required and what is still required is a revolution by consent—not with the big stick, but with the co-operation of the construction industries, the associated professions and the local authorities. The Government cannot produce houses. They cannot produce any of these buildings. What they can do is create the conditions in which other people may carry out their job more efficiently and effectively. The key to that is continuity of demand on the one hand and the maintenance of confidence on the other.
In the next ten years, we must build not only millions of houses, many universities, colleges, schools, hospitals and all the other public buildings: we have also to invest on a large scale in new factories, roads, power stations, port installations and the rest. To meet all this, the output of the construction industries must rise by at least 50 per cent. in the next decade, and we cannot do that at last year's rate of a 2½ per cent. increase.
If this achievement is to be possible, there must be continuity of demand to justify investment on the necessary scale. It is the tragedy of what has happened in the last year and a half—the Government's failure to keep all these programmes moving forward and all the time talking about how near they are getting to maintaining the old level—that they have undermined confidence and impeded co-operation. We have a further concentration of power in the hands of a Minister who said on one occasion during the debate on the Gracious Speech that he was "alarmed" about the slow rate of completions of council houses and on another that he was "puzzled".
1585 On private housing, he said:… the puzzle is why, when there are masses of money available and when the bricks are available and the skilled labour is available, the builders cannot or do not complete the houses."—[OFFICIAL, REPORT, 28th April, 1966; Vol. 727, c. 984.]But what is a puzzlement to the Minister is part of the reason why the present situation is so bad. It may puzzle the Minister but the causes are not far to seek. The builders have had their confidence undermined by the Land Commission Bill, and by the Building Control Bill, by the extension of direct labour, by arbitrary cut-backs in already announced building programmes and, no less significant, by the restriction on bank advances. I hope for the benefit of all of us and not just for that of the builders, that the Minister of Housing will tell us where we can get masses of money at present. If he can get the money, why does he not start and get some out of the Chancellor of the Exchequer?
The Minister gave an interview in the Daily Mirror on Tuesday under the heading of "My big problems". He is quoted in it as saying:If you ask what is restraining the enthusiasm of the small builders I would say that one thing is lack of confidence"—so he admits it himself. He says at the end:Psychologically, this is a terribly difficult year for the small builder.'It is not psychologically difficult: it is actually difficult.
The Minister may remain alone in his puzzlement, but increasingly the whole nation will share his alarm at what is happening. The Socialist housing and building programmes meet neither the challenge of today nor the infinite possibilities of tomorrow. Of course, the party opposite are very familiar with failure, for they have had it so often. They know all the tricks of the trade, the sly ways of not admitting failure, and the methods by which they try to blame somebody else. But they are running out of alibis. They are failing now, and they will continue to fail, as they failed in 1931 and in 1951, because they always combine a fatal combination of fallacious doctrine and administrative incompetence.
§ 4.38 p.m.
§ The Minister of Housing and Local Government (Mr. Richard Crossman)
In reply to the speech of the right hon. and 1586 learned Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon), who moved the Motion of censure, I will try to distinguish between the parts which were specifically those of the right hon. and learned Gentleman about Whitehall, and the more general parts, in which he almost repeated point by point the attack made by the Leader of the Opposition in a speech at Perth at the weekend.
The right hon. and learned Member for Hexham is concerned partly with the reorganisation of Whitehall, and partly with what he calls the criticism of the Government's exercise of power. He has accused my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister of smashing up the Ministry of Public Building and Works, I do not think he will find that is true, and I think that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Public Building and Works will have something to say about that later in the debate. What my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has done is to leave the Ministry in charge, as sponsor, of the construction industry, and to allocate to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government a number of items in the Ministry which are essential to the housing programme. I shall have something to say later about the N.B.A. and about what we hope it will do when it comes to us.
In the article to which the right hon. and learned Gentleman referred, the sentence about himself may have been true, but as far as I know that was the only true sentence in a vindictive article of innuendo and lies, and which the newspaper should have been ashamed to print. I agree with his remarks about power in a free society. He said that we needed a revolution by consent and that we have to persuade people to move into the twentieth century. There, I entirely agree. What we are discussing is how we are to do it.
I turn to what the Leader of the Opposition said at Perth. His charge against us in housing—and I shall concentrate entirely on housing—is that we failed, according to the Conservatives, by five tests which I shall take one by one. They are that we failed by the rate of house building; the level of mortgage rates; the supply of land—one thing which he did not mention, but which his right hon. Friend mentions regularly is the problem of local authority rents; and that we 1587 Failed, according to him, on the satisfaction of demand for owner-occupation.
I shall deal with these points one by one and shall, in the course of doing so, try to provide the latest—April—figures. Although I apologise to the House for wearying it with statistics, I cannot avoid some figures in view of the speech to which we have just listened and the charges made at the weekend. I am bound to quote figures to try to correct the impression that hon. Members opposite systematically try to make, that there has been a sensational drop in house production since they left office.
The Leader of the Opposition began his speech at Perth with the blank assertion that we have failed to keep up the rate of house building reached under the Tories. The right hon. and learned Member for Hexham repeated that assertion this afternoon. Of course, they both know that this is untrue. Let us look at the figures again to see whether it is true that there has been a sensational drop in the rate of house building which the Tories achieved in 1964. In that year the rate of house building was 374,000 houses a year, and I give them credit for that. It was the best ever achieved in British history to that date.
In view of the wishes of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) I have left out the figures for Northern Ireland but I am in some embarrassment, for we shall have a summing up speech for the Opposition by the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Chichester-Clark) and I do not want to be ungenerous to him in leaving out the figures for Ulster from the total. Since, however, the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames wishes me to do this, his hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry will not think me discourteous for leaving out the Northern Ireland houses, since they are only a negligible addition to the total.
Three hundred and seventy-four thousand houses was the biggest number built. That was the rate for 1964. In 1965, the rate was 382,000 a year. I said at the time that I did not boast of the rate being higher, but it is outrageous to go round asserting that the rate is lower when, in fact, it is higher.
§ Mr. John Boyd-Carpenter (Kingston-upon-Thames)
Will the Minister recall that my quarrel with him about Northern Ireland was in no way to under-rate the importance of building in Northern Ireland, but because the Northern Ireland figure was included in a document headed "Labour builds 391,000 houses" when, as the right hon. Gentleman may be aware, the Government of Northern Ireland is not, and never has been, a Labour Government.
§ Mr. Crossman
The right hon. Gentleman has sustained his point. I wanted to assure him that I was showing no discourtesy, in giving the total figures, in meeting his objection concerning Northern Ireland. Having got the rate tested by the actual rate of house building, and having seen that despite these astonishing remarks the fact is that we are building now at a rate greater than ever before in history, we will take the second test of houses under construction. At the end of 1964 the number of houses under construction was 434,000, and at the end of 1965 it was 444,000. Therefore the numbers under construction remained almost exactly the same during that period, or, rather, increased by 10,000. I do not claim credit for this. I think that the number under construction may be a sign that too much capital and labour were locked up. The right hon. and learned Member for Hexham knows this quite well, because that was the number that he had when he left office. More houses are completed each year under this Government and more houses are under construction than under any previous Administration. By any test that the right hon. and learned Gentleman may choose to select, the annual rate of house building has not fallen. Since a deliberate effort is being made to give a different impression, one is bound to record the truth in this fact.
I should like to turn to another deliberate falsification made by the Leader of the Opposition, although it was not repeated this afternoon. He said in his speech at Perth:Where we"—that is, the Conservatives—encouraged home ownership, Labour has deliberately turned against it. Local authority mortgages have been cut off.These are remarks by a responsible Member of Parliament, the Leader of 1589 the Opposition. He must know that that is a deliberate fabrication. It is an invention and is simply not true. Let us look at the figures for local authority mortgages. In 1963 the local authorities advanced £104 million; in 1964 £166 million; and in 1965 they advanced £208 million, and most of this was in the third and fourth quarters of the year after the so-called moment when the local authority mortgages were completely cut off.
§ Mr. Rippon
Could the Minister give figures of the numbers of people to whom those advances were made, because one has to take into account rising costs?
§ Mr. Crossman
We now have an interesting modification, because the statement was that we had cut off local authority mortgages because we hated the owner-occupier. Both are lies, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman knows quite well that these are deliberate lies to create an impression.
§ Mr. Quintin Hogg (St. Marylebone)
On a point of order. I had always understood that for one hon. Member or right hon. Member to use the word "lies" of another hon. Member or right hon. Member was unparliamentary. May I have your Ruling on this, Mr. Deputy Speaker?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Eric Fletcher)
It is unparliamentary for one hon. Member to accuse another of lying.
§ Mr. Hogg
On a point of order. The right hon. Gentleman has twiced used the word "fabrication", once in connection with the word "deliberate". I understood that the tradition and usage of this House was that allegations of deliberate fabrication or falsification were just as bad as the use of the unparliamentary term "lies".
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I understand that the Minister is addressing me on the same 1590 point of order as was raised by the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg). I want to hear the Minister before I give my Ruling.
§ Mr. Crossman
I was saying immediately to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that in view of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's remarks, I will fall back upon the final choice and say that this is a gross terminological inexactitude.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
My Ruling is that there are well-authenticated precedents for the alternative expressions that the Minister has used.
§ Mr. Charles Pannell
Further to the point of order. Surely, in the normal use of the English language, one can say that statements are lies without accusing anyone of being a liar.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
We are not discussing the normal use of the English language. We are talking about Parliamentary expressions.
§ Mr. Crossman
I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, because his intervention has emphasised my point that the Leader of the Opposition tried to give the impression that the Labour Government, out of bias against the owner occupier, deliberately cut off local authority mortgages, whereas during the year in question they reached a record total. I do not know what the right hon. and learned Gentleman would call that, but I know what people outside will think about it.
§ Mr. Rippon
Will the Minister confirm whether he has given my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition notice of his vicious attack upon him? [HON. MEMBERS:"Where is her?"] Secondly, will the Minister confirm the accuracy of the figures which I have given, and will he reply to the speech which I have just made?
§ Mr. Crossman
I am puzzled at this. A Motion of censure is being moved by the Opposition. If the Leader of the Opposition, who spoke last Sunday entirely on housing, is not here to stand up for what he said—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I understood that the Minister had withdrawn that expression and had used an alternative expression for which there is good Parliamentary precedent.
§ Mr. Rippon
The Minister knows perpectly well where my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition is this afternoon.
§ Sir Derek Walker-Smith (Hertfordshire, East)
Would it be convenient for you at this stage, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to make clear, as is, I think, the fact, that the reason why the term "lie" is out of order in this House and why "terminological inexactitude" is in order is that the former conveys a deliberate intent to deceive, whereas the latter expression does not? Will the Minister, therefore, in turn, frankly avow to the House his withdrawal of any suggestion of deliberate misrepresentation by my right hon. Friend?
§ Mr. Crossman
I am prepared to stand by the use of the words "terminological inexactitude" in the same way as Sir Winston Churchill at the time he used them. If he thought that there was no attribution of motive in them, then I think so, too.
Let us return to the local authority mortgages and the accusation made by hon. Members opposite that we deliberately cut them off because we hate the owner occupier, we are now getting the facts. The fact is that local authority mortgages went up in that year, but they were restricted, and they were restricted because the local authorities were competing for the business of the building societies, which were then in difficulty. Therefore, a three-year average formula was reached, and during the winter we worked out a new formula under which we were able to let the local authorities resume full business again in April under a series of classifications of those to whom they should lend money.
1592 If the Opposition criticise us for that, will they tell us what their policy would be about local authority mortgages? Would they say, for example, that we ought not to have limited in any way the Greater London Council, which loaned £80 million in 1965? One-third of the Greater London Council's capital investment went out in mortgages. Was it wrong of us to limit this? Was it wrong of us to suggest that instead of competition between the building societies and the local authorities, we might have the local authorities usefully complementing the building societies, as we succeeded in doing?
Of course, we shall not get an answer to this, but I might ask the hon. Member for Londonderry whether, in winding up the debate for the Opposition, he will tell us what his party thinks about this issue. Since he must now admit that the statement that we cut off the mortgages to spite owner-occupiers is untrue, because we did not do it, perhaps the hon. Member will tell us his view of what local authority lending should be.
§ Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)
The Minister has just admitted that during the winter he did cut off the mortgages and that he has now allowed them to be resumed.
§ Mr. Crossman
The difference is that the amount of the mortgages last year was greater than under the Tories. They were restricted from being even greater. Hon. Members opposite who cannot see the difference in language between restricting an ever-growing demand and cutting it off to spite the owner-occupier are guilty of self-deception.
§ Mr. Crossman
Certainly. It could have been said that they were restricted because they had grown to colossal dimensions; but that is not what was said. What was said at Perth was that to spite the owner-occupier, we cut off the mortgages. As lawyers should know, 1593 there is a world of difference between the mewling of those two words.
I turn now to one general point about the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham and his right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and their general attitude. Nearly all their criticism of our housing policy concentrates on the private sector. They hardly mention the public sector. We came to the conclusion, rightly or wrongly, that the first job we had to do was to make up our minds about the proper balance to achieve with the limited resources between houses to let and houses for sale. We decided that of the total programme, 250,000 must be allocated as houses for rent. That was a very big increase
§ Mr. Crossman
Yes. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has put himself a target of 500,000, according to his Election manifesto. Of his 500,000, how many does he think should be for rent and how many for sale? Perhaps the hon. Member for Londonderry will reply to this in winding up the debate. What proportion would the Opposition have between the two?
§ Mr. Rippon
What the Minister must let the local authorities do is to build as fast as they need for what they require, and the private builder should be allowed to go ahead also. The right hon. Gentleman should not assume that, by 1970, 250,000 people a year will not be able to make better provision for themselves.
§ Mr. Crossman
This is interesting. The right hon. and learned Gentleman says that all we have to do is to let the local authorities build all the houses they can—
§ Mr. Crossman
—which they need—and build what they can, as fast as they can. I tell him bluntly that we at least are a Government who cannot afford to let the local authorities build all the houses they can—
§ Mr. Crossman
—and need—because the need is gigantic. The need is large in London, Birmingham, Liverpool and Glasgow. Because we inherited one million slums, the need is so great that if local authorities were allowed to do that, if, first, they were given the possibility of doing it and then did it, they could absorb all the housing resources. All the skilled labour could be sucked out of the industry on the one job of houses for rent. This is a job which is all the more important because it was held down under our predecessors, because they let the pool of rented houses drop by one million during their ten years. There were one million fewer rented houses at the end. That pool has to be filled again. The trouble is that if we were to fill it as fast as we can, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman has suggested, no houses at all would be built for owner occupation.
Therefore, one has to strike a balance. One has to say that we will allocate a certain figure to the local authorities and broadly let them fulfil it, because that is the area which we can plan and control. That was why we decided that we would let them go up to the total Of course, they can go higher—that is quite right; of course, they could do much more—but our feeling was that from our national resources we could afford 250,000 a year by 1969. That is the aim. I suggest that the Opposition might give me a more efficient answer than the right hon. and learned Gentleman gave—that we should let everybody do just what they like and that then there will be no trouble. it is very characteristic of him, and it is a totally unrealistic appraisal of the problem.
During the election the Opposition concealed from the electorate systematically their attitude to public sector building. What rate of subsidy would they give to the public sector—their old subsidy of £24 a house or our new subsidy? We do not get a clear answer to that question. In these last 18 months we have built up the machinery necessary to get the public sector moving along the lines which we require. Our first job has been to select the areas where public sector building shall be concentrated. One of the things which we inherited was the idea that it should 1595 be spread over the country, in the way already described, namely, to let any local authority build what it can and then give the local authority so low a subsidy that it cannot afford to build. That was the solution of right hon. and hon. Members opposite.
We did it differently. We have created a generous subsidy, increasing it from £24 to £67 a house, which means that local authorities can now build without putting an intolerable burden on the ratepayer or the council-house tenant. It is now necessary to decide whom we should allow to build where and how much. We therefore said to ourselves that we must have the building concentrated where the need is greatest, that we must select the seven conurbations where, as Milner Holland proved in London, the ghastly situation arose after 10 years of Tory rule. The Tories love the Milner Holland Report. They think it is wonderful. They did not make a single suggestion how to operate it in order to remove the evils revealed by the desperate famine of cheaply-rented houses not only in London but in all our conurbations.
We have selected 130 local authorities, quite a minority, out of the 1,228 housing authorities in England. We have tried to bully them and pressure them to build because they are the authorities where the need is, where we have got to get the houses built, and to the rest of the authorities we must say, "We will give you what we can." We tried to get 60 per cent. of the public sector building into these 130 authorities where the slums are. If we are to abolish the slums in a reasonable time we have to concentrate and we have to be prepared for unpopularity. We have to be prepared to say to our friends, "We have got to hold you back because others have the greatest need." That is why we say that the greatest concentration should take place in Liverpool, London, Manchester and the seven conurbations.
Having got the rolling three-year programmes which we shall revise every year, watching every local authority and spurring them on to greater endeavour, we have got to find techniques which will enable us to do it without overburdening the building industry. Here I should like to pay my full tribute to the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham for 1596 founding the N.B.A. It was a good thing to do. I think that a certain price was paid for what might be called his Departmental imperialism and the rivalry which was set up between his Ministry and the Ministry of Housing. Nevertheless the N.B.A. was a good organisation and I am glad to be able to pay a tribute to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for founding it.
However, I must say that what we inherited with the N.B.A. were over 350 systems jostling together, and no one had had the courage or the drive to sort them out and see to it that we got them down to a reasonable number to be used. That is now being done. All I would say is that following the Prime Minister's announcement on 17th May we are now arranging for the transfer of responsibility from the Ministry of Public Building and Works to myself and the Secretaries of State for Scotland and Wales. It is true that the N.B.A. will now concentrate on housing matters as it has been doing for the last 18 months. This does not mean public sector housing only. It will cover the whole field of housing and the development and application of system building. It will continue to work closely with the house-building industry on the same basis of confidence as hitherto. One other point to make is how successful industrialised building now is. The right hon. and learned Gentleman launched the idea of N.B.A. There was no actual building being done when the right hon. and learned Gentleman left office—
§ Mr. Crossman
I have given way a lot. Let me give the right hon. and learned Gentleman the figures. In 1964 just under 11 per cent. of the public sector dwellings completed in England and Wales were being built by industrialised methods. In 1965 the figure was 16½ per cent. In 1966 the figure is 22 per cent. and we shall get 40,000. This is really a beginning and I think that by 1969 we shall get the necessary 40 per cent. built.
As I said, the right hon. and learned Gentleman started the idea of the N.B.A. but he did not undertake the difficult job of training the local authorities on one side, and undertaking the harsh work of sorting out the system builders on the other.
§ Mr. Crossman
In a very modest way. That has now been undertaken, and that means that we can now claim that as a result of the work which the right hon. and learned Gentleman started there has been a breakthrough, and industrialised building has come to stay and will more and mope form the mainstay of the local government system.
§ Mr. Frank Tomney (Hammersmith, North)
Can my right hon. Friend say, in the interests of efficiency, what number he has decided upon and whether any one firm has got more than one system?
§ Mr. Crossman
The system that we have arranged with the N.B.A. is that the Agency certificates the systems and we advise local authorities which systems are used. The systems are regionally distributed. I think I am right in saying that at present some 40 have been certified for local authorities to consider using.
In addition to the N.B.A., the industrialised building programme has been greatly helped by the presence in the Ministry of somebody from the firm in which the hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain) is interested, Mr. Peter Lederer. It has been invaluable to have in the Ministry an outstanding engineer of such practical experience in system building. I am glad to say that now he is going back to Costains he will be replaced by Mr. Wood of Concrete Limited, a very outstanding constructional engineer who probably has as much experience of high rise building as anybody in the country.
§ Mr. T. W. Urwin (Houghton-le-Spring)
Before my right hon. Friend leaves teat point of the National Building Agency, will he tell us a little more about the future rôle of the Agency after it has beer, absorbed by his Department?
§ Mr. Crossman
It will not be absorbed by my Department, for the reasons that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has given. It will have an independent existence and will work with my Department. It will be concerned with system building, with advising local authorities and helping 1598 in the job of training local authorities to make good use of the systems.
I want to say a word about finance, and in particular about the issue of council house rents on which I know a number of hon. Members opposite are very concerned and on which we were constantly attacked during the election. We were asked time after time why, if we gave such lavish subsidies, we could not force councils to control their rents and introduce rent rebate schemes. This was put to us by the Leader of the Opposition in speech after speech, and I defended it. I think rent rebate schemes are good. I think that now we have rate rebate schemes, rent rebate schemes will come much more quickly. But I am not prepared to exercise dictatorship from Whitehall to remove from the local authorities their established rôle of fixing rents and allocating tenancies.
I was delighted the other day to find that I had a real supporter in this attitude, in somebody who expressed it even more persuasively than I can and said it with a mellow forensic skill which is remote from my tongue. I have found the pamphlet which refers to thedemands that the Minister of Housing and Local Government should be empowered to control local authority rent policies and require them to operate some sort of rent rebate system.It says that we must beware of trying to have things both ways. It goes on to say:If we want really responsible local government, attracting the best available local talent, the corollary is as much true independence as possible. The alternative of increased governmental control is to assimilate their position to that of mere agencies of central government, which is both more logical and more efficient to leave the civil servants.Those are the words of the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham who opened this debate for the Opposition. They came three days after his leader had repeated his attack on those of us who say that councils should be permitted to be free. It would be interesting to know who speaks for the Opposition, the Leader of the Opposition or their spokesman on housing. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman who is to wind up will tell us how this slight discrepancy between those two interesting personalities is reconciled.
1599 Having said that, I come now, because I think that the House will be interested in them, to the April figures. We can then have the full picture of the first quarter clear.
§ Mr. David Winnick (Croydon, South)
Before my right hon. Friend leaves the subject of council house rents, could he say what safeguard there is for council tenants who are faced with substantial increases, as in Croydon, of over £1 a week? Does he see any form of safeguard for them such as tenants in the private sector now have?
§ Mr. Crossman
I do not see the same form of safeguard as there is in the private sector. We introduced rent control for the tenant of private property to protect him from those who would exploit him for reasons of profit. As no council can make a profit on council housing, that kind of protection is not required for the council tenant, who, of course, has recourse to the ballot box in the normal way in self-defence. This is the reason why, in our system of local self-government, we have always said that the proper defence for the council tenant lies in the council chamber and the ballot box, not in Whitehall.
A word now about the figures—
§ Mr. Crossman
I want to get on now and give the actual figures, which I am sure the House would like to have. In April, public authorities started 15,300 houses, making 54,000 for the first four months of the year, compared with 58,000 last year; but, with 244,000 houses under construction, they have still a great deal in the pipeline, and construction times have been lengthening slightly. If this reduction in starts leads to a speeding-up in construction, the public sector will be all the healthier for it.
Public sector completions in April were 13,200, making 53,000 for the first four months, almost exactly the same as in the corresponding months of last year. Last year's weather was good. This year's weather was bad. I think that they did well during the four months to maintain the construction standard of last year.
Private builders started 20,900 houses in April a considerable improvement on 1600 March, which also was an improvement on February. That made 66,000 starts for the first four months of the year, compared with 78,900 last year. Private completions were 18,200 in April, making 63,900 in the first four months compared with 69,000 last year. So the private sector is substantially down in its completions, and the public sector remains almost constant in its completions.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. If the Minister does not give way, the right hon. and learned Gentleman must resume his seat.
§ Mr. Crossman
It is always difficult for a Minister on these occasions. I have given way a great deal, and I ought to complete what I have to say and leave the debate for the House. I have something more to say about these figures, and hon. Members can comment on them afterwards.
§ Mr. Crossman
The figures are there, and I have just given them to the House. In looking at the private sector, there is this problem. We talk about—
§ Mr. Rippon
I was saying that it is really too bad for the Minister to make a habit of giving selected extracts from figures. Some may happen to be damaging to his case while others may be favourable. I want an assurance that, whenever we are to have these detailed housing statistics, they will be given to the House immediately, in advance of debate. Otherwise, we shall only have to go over them all again next month.
§ Mr. Crossman
The official figures will be out in a week, but I thought that the House would like to have them this afternoon for the debate. If the right hon. Gentleman does not want them, he need not have them. I have given them to the House, and I did so because I 1601 thought that I would be blamed severely if I did not.
In the private sector, we do not programme, we do not control and we do not regulate. We have to rely on persuasion. The problem there is totally different from the problem in the public sector where we have loan sanction, where we have approvals, and where we can exactly control the output. In the private sector, partly because he insists on it—I have emphasised this to the builder—there is no interference, no regulation and no control. This is why I invited representatives of the building societies and the builders, along with the local authorities, to sit down with me and my officials and work out ways of achieving a steady and continuous advance to the half million. These working parties have been producing useful results, and the builders as well as the building societies are beginning to welcome the fact that, for the first time, they have been invited to co-operate with the Government in their housing plans. But I do not deny that the achievement of the private sector in the last 12 months has been disappointing, with starts hovering around the level which would provide an annual figure of 210,000. Of course, it is not so much less than the best achieved by our predecessors, but it is a long way below the 250,000 houses a year which we are determined to see the private sector provide for the owner-occupier by 1969.
§ Mr. Crossman
This disappointing level was the result of the mortgage famine last spring. However, I do not want to exaggerate its size. It has been improving from February to March, from March to April and from April to May, from the 12,000 started in February to the 21,000 started in April. If this improvement is sustained, the private sector could easily stage a come-back sufficient to embarrass any prophet of doom.
There are 203,000 houses in the pipeline in the private sector, but one of the puzzles here is that, during the last 12 months, the period for completing a house 1602 in the private sector, which used to be two months longer than the period in the public sector—[HON. MEMBERS: "No, never."]—has now drawn level. [Interruption.] I am just giving the figures. The period is now longer—
§ Mr. Crossman
The period is now 12 months, but it used to be ten months. In the course of the last year, it has prolonged itself. I am giving the detailed figures. This spring, it is taking over 12 months to complete a house for sale, compared with just over ten months a year ago and just over nine and a half months in March, 1964. It used to take builders two months less to build a house for sale. [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] Now, it takes the same time to build a house in both sectors. [HON. MEMBERS: "The right hon. Gentleman said it took longer."] No, I said that they took less time before, but they have prolonged the period now so that they both take the same time. I hope that the House has it clear. It is now taking the private sector two months longer.
§ Mr. Graham Page
The right hon. Gentleman said that it is now taking the private sector longer to build houses than before.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. We cannot have the Minister and the hon. Member for Crosby on their feet at the same time.
§ Mr. Page
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The right hon. Gentleman gave way to me. I was on my feet, and I had not finished my question to him. I wished to point out that the figures which he has given for building show that there are 15,000 fewer houses being built this year than there were last year, which means that he will not achieve as many houses built this year as last year.
§ Mr. Crossman
I was discussing the point that the figures now show that there has been a prolongation of building time in the private sector. The time for completion in the private sector is now two months longer than it was a year ago. What would make more difference than anything else to the results would be if the builders set to work with a will and completed even one-third of the 200,000 houses in the pipeline. The question we have to ask ourselves is why they will not.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman himself asked this question and he gave his explanation of the delay. One thing we are pretty clear about is that the big contractors are not affected. They are working in boom conditions, building all they can for the private and public sectors, and they do not seem to be affected by the difficulties of which we are talking. The difficulties are concentrated among the small builders, but one has to realise that 60 per cent. of houses are built by firms with fewer than 50 houses to build in a year and 30 per cent. are built by firms with fewer than ten to build a year. What we have to discover is how to stimulate the small builder to build as fast as he used to be building a year ago and as the big builder is still building. I think that we can knock out four things which are often said to be causing the delay.
The first is high mortgage rates. It is clear that, with a 7¼ per cent. rate such as we have now, a mortgage still remains one of the most profitable investments, and, with Income Tax concession, it still costs less than 5 per cent. High mortgage rates are infuriating to the buyer, but the number of houses on which advances are being made by the building societies in the first quarter of this year is 34,000 new houses, and in the record four months of last year it was 31,000. So the amount of money being advanced and the number of houses on which it is being advanced is greater this year than last year. That dispenses with the idea that it is shortage of money or the high rate of interest which has anything to do with the subject.
Nevertheless, the Chancellor and I were worried by the determination of the B.S.A. to raise the rate from 6¾ to 7¼ per cent. Now that it has taken the decision, we have decided to refer it to the Prices and Incomes Board. How to combine 1604 a continuous growth in building society business—
§ Mr. Crossman
—this is essential to the private sector housing programme—with complete security for the lender and with efficiency in management is a very difficult question. We were not convinced that the traditional building society attitude to this issue was wholly in tune with modern conditions. Though the building societies disagreed with us, I think I can say that the building society representatives feel that something of value might come out of an examination by the Prices and Incomes Board. Replying to the right hon. Gentleman about the G.L.C., the council lends on fixed interest, and these things do not apply to it.
Secondly, can it be a mortgage famine which is the difficulty? Clearly not. In that sense there has been no mortgage famine this year. It may be difficult some times to get a mortgage, but the number of mortgages being given is greater this year than it was in the first four months of last year. Nor can anyone say that it is a shortage of bricks and mortar or even of skilled labour. [Interruption.] I note that the Opposition agrees with me about this. It is not even shortage of skilled labour because skilled labour is slightly easier now than a year ago.
There have been two things which have mostly been holding up building completions. The first is the concern of the builders about bridging finance. If they are concerned about this, as it appears, I hope that they will take advantage of our working parties and start discussing their practical problems with us, and if they feel that it is only the big builders who can come to see us, we shall be prepared to see them in the country and discuss the practical problems with them, because I believe that some of these things can be resolved in that way.
The main reason that they have given—this is something that I must look at—is the land difficulty. According to them, they see this difficulty arising because of the coming of the Land Commission. This seems to me to be a complete and total misunderstanding of the 1605 situation. The land famine, the shortage of building land, has little to do with the Land Commission. It is something which we inherited when we came to office. It is amazing that people should have such short memories as not to remember the difficulties—the soaring land prices, the speculative boom and the appalling shortage of land.
Let us look at the problem and see how it happened. It was the wanton demolition of the 1947 Acts planning machinery which caused the trouble. I am sorry to say that something else caused it, and that was the green belt policy adumbrated in 1953–54 by the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) when he was Minister of Housing. I say that I am sorry to say this because certainly I share the right hon. Gentleman's desire to protect the countryside and limit urban sprawl or seepage or slurb and to keep the country open between towns. But, unfortunately, the green belt policy that he promulgated had a fatal defect. It was a negative preservationist policy without any policy for development accompanying it.
If one has the first without the second, what one gets is not merely a wholly desirable preservation of the green belt but a wholly undesirable shortage of building land over the precise area where the houses are needed. The whole situation was made far worse by the complete failure in the 1950s to realise early enough that the population forecasts on which post-war development was based were hopelessly inadequate. When the situation dawned on the Tory Government of the day they did very little. The right hon. Gentleman said last week that in his view the whole of the land famine could be solved by the device of electing a Tory Government to do nothing again as they did in the previous ten years.
We have had to face the situation and get land. Since we are accused of not getting land, I want to tell the House how we got it. There is no shortage of land suitable for building; on the contrary there is plenty. There is no land shortage in that sense. The problem is how to get the right land allocated and brought forward for development at the right place and at the right time. The problem is how to break down the artificial shortages impeding both public and private building.
1606 I had to take a very unpopular decision. I had to take a slice out of the green belt near Birmingham and give Chelmsley Wood to Birmingham because there was no other way of launching Birmingham's building programme. During thirteen years of Conservative rule Birmingham was unable to build. It is now building 7,000 houses a year because we got it the land required. It was land adjacent to the city, on its perimeter. I told Birmingham at the time "I am getting you this for the short-term, and for the medium and long term we must make preparations for releasing land which avoid taking the green belt, which jump over the green belt to the other side."
I can point in each region to new allocations of land for public or private building which have been made on the authority of my Ministry in the last eighteen months either by amending development plans or by planning permission granted on appeal or "call-in". For example, in the Northern Region there is 500 acres at Sunderland; in the North-West there is 450 acres at Whiston mainly for Liverpool; in Yorkshire and Humberside there is 285 acres at Sheffield. But I will not go through the whole list. In every area one of the jobs of the Ministry has been to get land released and developed. We have some achievements there.
Secondly, we have used the new town machinery far more fully than our predecessors did. We are now engaged in doubling, by a novel use of new town machinery, Northampton, Peterborough and Ipswich. This machinery enables us to designate land and obtain it for development, and we have done this in Swindon, Aycliffe new town and Wins-ford, which enables Liverpool to increase its target from 30,000 to 60,000. There is also to be a second generation of new towns. So we are acquiring and designating land. If our predecessors in their ten years had done a quarter of the designations and acquisitions of land which we have done in our first eighteen months, we should not have the terrible land famine which we have today.
§ Mr. Rippon
Will the right hon. Gentleman say how he is able to do all this without the Land Commission? Why does he need the Land Commission if he has all this land?
§ Mr. Crossman
I was just coming to that. I was about to say to the right hon. Gentleman that all that we are doing is terribly piecemeal and so far insufficient to meet the needs of Birmingham, London, Sheffield or any other great city. Well do I know it. The right hon. Gentleman is not used to the fact that if one increases council building to the scale that we have been doing, one increases the requirement for land and needs more land. This is why we simply have, in addition to all the other machinery which we have got—which is inadequate—to revise planning law. This is something that the right hon. Gentleman mentioned. We must do it and we are on the way to doing it. Also, we have to have the Land Commission. What is the value of the Land Commission? It is not primarily in the first case to public enterprise, not to the council, not to the new towns. All these have their facilities, with my help, for acquiring land. The people who are left out of it are the small builders. [Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman says that they are not. But their very complaint is that they are.
§ Mr. Crossman
Let me finish this. The people left out, who say that they cannot get the land, are the small builders. They are the people who need the land. If I may say so, very often it is the big builder who is buying it up. What they need, therefore, is an agency which will go out and get the land for them, and, as I made perfectly clear—we have written in an Amendment to Clause 1 of the Measure to make it inescapably clear—we have power to direct the Land Commission as to where it should operate and in relation to which planning authority it should operate. I can tell the House that in the first stage when finances are limited we shall leave the local authorities and the new towns to rely on their own resources. We had to concentrate the activity of the Land Commission predominantly in releasing land for the small builder, who has a legitimate complaint.
§ Mr. Rippon
Why does not the right hon. Gentleman allow local authorities to use their existing powers to buy land and release it to small builders? Why not make the necessary amendment, which the right hon. Gentleman can do admini- 1608 stratively, in respect of the green belt, and also speed up the process of planning decisions?
§ Mr. Crossman
We have speeded them up as much as possible within existing legislation. The other stage will require a change in legislation, in removing the right of appeal in minor cases.
The right hon. Gentleman asked why we do not allow local authorities to provide land for the private builder. The private builder would not feel confident that a local authority would provide him with land. A local authority is very much in the business of house building. It wants its own land. Although I can give instructions in the case of New Towns—as I am doing—in all cases to allocate 50 per cent. of land to owner-occupation, it is much more effective to work from the centre, because local authorities cannot get into virgin territory and buy the land early. They cannot go in and capture it before development has forced up prices.
There is everything to be said for a Land Commission. All that is needed is for hon. Members opposite to help to persuade the small builder that if he knuckles down and builds his houses on the land that he has now, other land will be available to him afterwards.
§ Mr. Reginald Eyre (Birmingham, Hall Green)
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that he has contradicted the words of his hon. Friend, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Land and Natural Resources who, in the recent debate, said that the allocation of land by the Land Commission would be, first to housing associations, secondly to local authorities, and only in special conditions to private developers?
§ Mr. Crossman
He certainly did not say that. I heard his speech. I am talking of the Land Commission in the early stage, which is what the builders are worrying about. This is one of the most essential arguments in our reply to this Motion of Censure. The right hon. Gentleman summed up his argument by saying that we had shown a total failure to respond to any of the challenges in housing which faced this country today.
We have responded to the need of the great conurbations to build houses to get rid of the slums by giving them, for 1609 the first time, subsidies which enabled them to do so. We have used planning machinery—new town machinery—far more effectively to get the land. We have assisted in and started this job. We have got it ready. We know hat on the public sector side we have raised the level of building. The question is whether we can persuade the private builder to pluck up courage to do his job. I think that we shall do that as well.
§ 5.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Walter Clegg (North Fylde)
I want my first words in the House to be words of appreciation. Like all new Members, I have been treated with the utmost kindness by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House, and especially by the servants of the House—although I must confess that after a few days, taking quite impartially directions given from both right and left, I have twice finished up in the boiler house, from which I retreated feeling something like a latter-day Guy Fawkes. The kindness shown to all of us means a great deal.
My predecessor was for 16 years Member of Parliament for North Fylde. During that period Richard Stanley devoted a great deal of time and effort to looking after the affairs of his constituents. He was specially concerned with individual problems. I only hope that, in my turn, I can do the same. I have been studying the records, and I have found that my predecessor's family was represented in the House for 44 years—from 1922 until this year—without a break. My hope is to be as good a Member in my time as they were in theirs.
All hon. Members will agree that my constituency is the finest in the United Kingdom. Since the war it has seen remarkable progress in the building both of private and public housing. As the Minister has said, during that time we have seen town maps outstripped and target dates met long before they were due to be met. We have seen council house waiting lists greatly reduced. But some of the problems that we have been discussing still exist in my constituency. The shortage of land is one of the main ones.
This is not due to the hoarding of land by private owners the difficulty is that there is not enough planning permission 1610 available for land to come on to the market. This will stop development on the Fylde Coast, and especially near the coast, unless the right hon. Gentleman gets planning permission moving more speedily and therefore gives the smaller builder a chance to build.
We have many fine council estates in North Fylde, and I want to say something about the council house tenant. He is a much discussed man—a man about whom much is written. We are in danger of creating a static society among council house tenants. This is because of the system of tenure which exists as between a housing authority and a council tenant. At the moment the tenant is pretty well on a "grace and favour" basis. The right hon. Gentleman said that the fact that a public authority was subject to local elections provided good protection for the tenant. I suggest that that is not enough. The time may come when we shall have to provide a charter for council house tenants—a charter including powers for local authorities to grant leases over such a period of years as will provide a feeling of security for the tenant, subject to strict control or limited control on the part of a tenant to assign his tenancy. This would give the tenant a feeling that his home really belonged to him, and that he had a much more personal stake in it.
The question also arises of the difficulty of council house tenants transferring from one house to another. This question should be examined. It is very difficult for such a tenant to obtain a transfer within the area of one local authority, but it is even more difficult for him to obtain a transfer from one part of the country to another. That is why I say that we are in danger of creating a static society. I wonder whether the Minister would consider setting up a body on the lines of a national exchange agency for council tenants so that tenants in various parts of the country could register their desire to move and arrange exchanges with other tenants. In that way we may be able to get more mobility into our council tenants society. These matters are important. It is dangerous for families to become rooted in one spot because they do not find it easy to move if they wish.
I want to conclude by saying something which, on the surface, seems banal. 1611 The only answer to our problem is to build more houses. Hon. Members on both sides of the House agree that any doctrinal differences that stand between the achievement of our common objective of building more houses should go. There are doctrines on both sides of the House.
I make a plea for the encouragement of private landlords to build more houses with their own money. This has been a great success in other countries. It would take the strain off local authority and Government finance, and the Minister would still be able to control the buildings to ensure that no injustice was done to ingoing tenants.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Christopher Price (Birmingham, Perry Barr)
It may be dangerous for an hon. Member to make his maiden speech in a debate on a thoroughly controversial subject, but, like others before me, I take some courage from what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod) said in the Daily Mail recently, that there was no longer need for maiden speakers to worry about whether they were controversial or not. I do not know whether right hon. and hon. Members opposite will find my remarks controversial or not. I shall not try consciously to avoid being controversial. However, I want to carry out one of the conventions of a maiden speech and mention my constituency, because both Birmingham and Perry Barr are very relevant to the debate.
Birmingham is now one enormous building site. Probably more construction per square yard is going on there than in any other city in the country. Any measures designed to see this construction and produce the finished product are particularly relevant to it.
Perry Barr is the sort of area in big cities in danger of being forgotten these days. Before 1920, it was entirely green fields. There was hardly a house in the constituency. By the middle of the 1950s, it was filled up. Most of the houses were built in the 1920s and the 1930s and a few in the 1940s and 1950s. When we talk about the rate of house building as of cardinal importance, we must also think carefully about the quality of the housing, because we can learn a great 1612 deal from the mistakes made during the 1920s and 1930s.
Some of the older council houses were built very well, but serious mistakes were made and we are paying for them now. One of the mistakes was that the balance was all wrong. Hundreds of three-bedroom houses were put up for the families with young children who were moving in at the time. But it was forgotten that these parents would grow old and, therefore, no provision was made for providing enough small accommodation for them in their old age. Now we have the problem of these elderly people living in accommodation far too big for them, the only alternative being to move them far away from the area in which they have spent so much of their lives and in which they brought up their families. This is something that we must be careful to get right in future housing schemes.
In the estates put up in the 1920s and 1930s community facilities for leisure time were often conspicuously lacking. The estates looked marvellous on the drawing board—geometrically a wonderful sight to see from an aerial photograph. But they consisted simply of houses and a few schools and not nearly enough community facilities. That is another aspect about which we must be very careful. We have to ensure a balanced community in our housing development. We do not want to encourage people just to sit in front of their televisions all evening, every evening. We want to have facilities nearby where they can join in and form a real community.
These houses have been particularly hard hit because the cost of building new houses has been masked over the last five years by the fact that new rents have been constantly subsidised by council house tenants living in the older houses, and the latter feel this very strongly. In addition, we are reaching a point where many of the older houses built in the 1930s are presenting serious repair problems. I do not feel that many local authorities are putting nearly enough money into their repairs accounts to face this problem, which is growing more and more rapidly. I want to say two things about what we should concentrate on in ensuring the quality of these houses.
First—and I give right hon. Members opposite all credit for this—the Parker Morris Committee was brought together 1613 and it laid down standards in which are enshrined the principle that ordinary working-class people are entitled to exactly the same proper facilities and decent amenities in their homes as people who can afford perhaps to buy rather more expensive houses. I am glad that my right hon. Friend is persuading more and more local authorities to accept these standards as an absolute necessity for all houses and flats which they erect.
In surveying the houses built over the last 14 years in our big cities, one is struck by the tremendous contrast between the houses being built nowadays under the Parker Morris standards and those dreadful, pokey little houses put up in 1952 and 1953 in a mad rush to get 300,000 houses at all costs simply to satisfy a hysterical vote by acclamation at a Conservative Party conference. Ceilings were lowered, halls disappeared, and square footage was made much smaller. We are left with houses like this for the next 50 or 60 years. I am sure that hon. Members opposite have been in them. I would not like to have to live in one for the next 40 years or so.
I want to congratulate the Government for the encouragement they are giving to industrialised building. I am certain that in this lies the key to getting the sort of production we need for the National Plan. No one who has been to the Industrialised Building Systems and Components Exhibition that is on now will fail to have caught some of the excitement about what industrialised building can do. Of course, it is not a panacea. I do not think that it will make a building any cheaper and there are faults in it. Britain has come to industrialised building very late compared with other countries.
There are still too many systems and we need to cut them down. At a time when we are going over to decimal currency we have wrongly adopted a module of four inches. It is tragic that the powers that be did not take a metric module, which would have fitted in with the rest of Europe. Be that as it may, the system is working.
It produces more houses, although it does not produce them much cheaper. It does, however, produce better quality workmanship with the same labour, possibly less, because things fit. They are made in factories and machined to very fine tolerances. Most important of 1614 all, it gives an opportunity for the development of housing. It means that we do not have the situation which existed in the 1920s and 1930s, when the same house was built for years and years and never improved. It means that architects can work on the systems and produce small improvements all the time.
From that point of view it is something which must be encouraged even more than it is at present. That is why I am particularly pleased that in the new Selective Employment Tax we have a real encouragement to industrialised building, to the extent that a house built in a factory and not on site will be cheaper. The more industrialised building we can use the more we are going to keep down the cost of housing.
Finally, I am particularly glad to have caught your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because the Minister of Housing and Local Government mentioned Birmingham. He spoke of the land which has been released for Birmingham, and as a Birmingham Member I am particularly grateful to this Government because they have allowed Birmingham, at last, to get on with the job of solving the housing problems, the solutions to which have lain stagnant for the last seven or eight years.
§ 5.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Oscar Murton (Poole)
It falls to me to have the peculiar pleasure of following not one maiden speech, but two, one from each side of the House. I would like, first, to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for North Fylde (Mr. Clegg) on his forceful speech and for the allusions which he made to his distinguished predecessor, and for the natural and proper pride which he takes in his well-known constituency. I should also like to congratulate him on giving fresh thought to a very difficult problem, namely, the mobility of council-house tenants, not only in one area but over the country. I am sure that everyone in this House looks forward to hearing from him again on this and other subjects in the near future.
Secondly, I would like to congratulate the hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Christopher Price). He put forward an equally imaginative approach to the question of building. He spoke of the great city of Birmingham and of Perry Barr which, not so 1615 very long ago, rose from the green fields. He also made one or two allusions, having as one might say, thrown down the gauntlet about contentious subjects, to the volume of building which took place some years ago.
There is contention and contention, and I am quite certain that we accept what he has said in the spirit of keenness with which he made his remarks, in the hope and desire of making his mark in this subject. I would like to congratulate him and say again that we look forward to him making contributions on succeeding occasions in general debates in this House.
I would also have liked to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman the Minister, if he had been in his place. My congratulations would have been because he has shouldered a considerable additional burden of housing problems by expanding his not inconsiderable empire to include the National Building Agency and that ailing body, the Ministry of Land and Natural Resources. The Government have waited 13 months to announce the concentration of these powers under the Minister of Housing and Local Government, who becomes what one might call a super-Minister. But having done this, is it not strange that the final step, which would bring the axe down upon the collective necks of those in the Ministry of land and Natural Resources, should have been delayed? We do not know when this fatal blow will fall.
The country is puzzled by this, because there is, as we on this side of the House at any rate know, a continuing disparity between the Government's promises in the matter of housing and their dismal performance, in spite of what the right hon. Gentleman did with the figures which he gave us this afternoon. I am sorry to say that we are not to receive these in full for another week. I must protest mildly about this, because these figures are vital to us all in a debate of this important nature. I regret that the Minister is not here to answer this. It is extremely hard to comprehend the meaning and import of these figures from what the Minister gave us at the Dispatch Box today.
There is another important point I would like to mention. I noted, when I referred to the guillotine falling upon the 1616 Ministry of Land and Natural Resources, that it would be a good thing if the guillotine fell fast. This is because the right hon. Gentleman made a statement this afternoon which we believe completely contradicts a statement made by one of his colleagues speaking in another debate, on the Second Reading of the Land Commission Bill, on the subject of priorities for the acquisition of land, and whether that land would be given to small builders.
When this debate is wound up it would be a good thing if we were made aware of what the Government's intention is and which Ministry is speaking correctly on this matter. The country will not have failed to notice from the Press reports today that the Building Societies Association is going ahead with its intention to recommend what I am told is an all-time record of 7⅛ per cent. for mortgage loans. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister said 7¼ per cent. but I think that this was a slip of the tongue. The 7¼ per cent. refers to the G.L.C. rate, and 7⅛ per cent. is the correct figure which the Building Societies Association is recommending.
The Minister and his right hon. Friend the Chancellor have done their best to put building societies in a straitjacket. Very understandably the building societies have slipped neatly out of it before the cords were finally and irrevocably bound tightly round them. I do not blame them because, as I understand it from the Press, they attempted to obtain a tax concession to help them with the service which they render to the public. Having failed to obtain this concession, they have resisted constant pressure, so I am told in the Press, applied by the Chancellor to reduce further their reserve ratios. I believe that the ratios have been gradually and systematically reduced over the past year or two and that they have now said, "So far and no further".
This is a very serious situation, but the building societies are in no way to blame. The blame must lie solely with the Government, because it is their economic policy which has caused the trouble. The only people who are going to suffer are those families looking for homes of their own and who are frustrated because they cannot obtain mortgage facilities, either because the money is not available or, 1617 where it is becoming available, because the rate is very high. I disagree with the Minister who said, I believe, that 7⅛ per cent. is high but not insuperable. It is an all-time high, and far too high.
The failure of the Government's housing policy relating to mortgages will not be solved by the 4¼ per cent. option scheme, which, we understand, is shortly to be introduced. A real stumbling block is the initial deposit. We all know that our constituents are worried about the initial deposit. Some people profess not to understand this. They say, "Surely anyone can save £100 nowadays for the deposit on a house". My answer to that, and of right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House, is, how can anybody, starting from scratch, save the money for a deposit when he probably has to pay £3 or £4 a week for the rent of a council house or private accommodation before he can even get off the ground and begin to save?
If the Minister really wants to do something to help people to get houses of their own as opposed to keeping them in public authority houses, the best thing that he can do is to persuade himself and his colleagues that the lending of the deposit from Government sources might well be the answer. But if the Government are unwilling to make a loan of the deposit, a practical alternative is that they should let the building societies give a loan of 100 per cent. but guarantee the top 5 per cent. through the medium of the Exchequer. I feel—and this is a view which I hold very strongly—that intending purchasers should also be allowed to include their legal fees in the mortgage. They are another stumbling block, as I have seen in my constituency. When I was a local authority councillor, we hoped to persuade people to come out of council houses and go into private accommodation being built for sale, but they could not find the legal fees involved.
§ Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)
The hon. Gentleman is making a very interesting and important point. I am sure that he has a lot of support on both sides of the House for it. It would be interesting to know why his party, during its 13 years of office, failed to do anything of this kind which would have been greatly beneficial to the people.
§ Mr. Murton
We did give guarantees to building societies. The hon. Gentleman was probably rather busy during the General Election, but if he had read the Conservative Party's manifesto he would have seen that we promised something which I consider to be very much more concrete than that which the Government have promised. We shall see whether they ever fulfil it.
A scheme could be devised which would be an incentive to persuade higher income council tenants to move into owner-occupied accommodation, to set them up as home owners, and to allow the accommodation thus freed to be given to those not so fortunate in having such a high income. I have found from talking to tenants that some of them are astonished that the equivalent of the rent which they are paying for a council house would go very nearly the whole way towards a mortgage repayment on a small privately-owned house. That is another point which needs reinforcing. Encouragement towards this end could be given, and the facts should be made known.
I have spoken about mortgages and the methods which I think should be adopted to aid intending house purchases. What will certainly not aid them is the Chancellor's Selective Employment Tax. This has already been mentioned by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon). It is all very well to claim that the construction industry is now to be brought into the investment grants scheme, after second thoughts on the part of the Government, but, at best, this will help only the really large companies; and even they will be appreciably worse off than before.
My concern, however, is for the small builder. There has been discussion about the small builder today. He will be in a very difficult position. It is calculated that the Selective Employment Tax will have the effect of increasing the hourly rate by as much as 7½d. per man employed. This might well amount to 6 per cent. It will add at least 2 per cent. to the cost of homes. It has been suggested that the average increase might be £50 on the price of a three-bedroomed house. But I have seen as much as £100 quoted. The Government should take warning from this when they consider the Bill dealing with this tax. It 1619 is a vicious tax, because it strikes in the wrong places.
The Minister must also face the fact that the constantly spiralling rate bill will not help the finances of intending house purchasers. His proposed measures to abate the annual increase, as he well knows, are totally 'inadequate because, although cumulative, they are not incisive enough in their opening stages. The Conservative Party's proposal for cutting the rate bill straight away by 10 per cent. was a much more realistic and positive measure. The Government should take heed of that and do something to improve their own proposals.
I wish to draw the attention of the Minister, who is still not here, to a most unfortunate by-product of his Rent Act. I am sorry that the Parliamentary Secretary who is concerned with that is not here either. The Rent Act is having an effect in housing young couples which was not foreseen. Many young couples begin their married life in very small flats or in older houses or in rooms let in those older houses, mostly unfurnished. I have found in my constituency that the owners of these houses containing small flats and unfurnished rooms are frightened by the provisions of the Act and the difficulties with which they would be faced if, for one reason or another, they wished to terminate the weekly or monthly tenancies which previously they operated.
Through worry of what might befall them, and to avoid this worry, they do not let those rooms any more and, in consequence, Poole, which normally has a very adequate range of accommodation, is, for the first time for many years, facing a shortage. Not only is there worry for the landlords, but there is even greater worry for those denied the accommodation.
§ Mr. Winnick
Would the hon. Gentleman like a return to the position which obtained under the Rent Act, 1957, when there was no security of tenure? Would he want the tenants of furnished accommodation to be evicted without a court order? Would he make the position clear?
§ Mr. Murton
In the case of furnished accommodation, the normal procedure was to go to the county court if a proper agreement was in force. The situation of this narrow band of people about whom I am talking is very much worse than it was before.
I turn to another problem. I am sure that the right hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) will not object if I quote something which he said in November, 1964. He was speaking in an interview with a trade journal, Building. It was called something else then, but I believe it is called Building now. He was discussing brickmaking, and he said of these manufacturers:I have offered them a guarantee. I have assured them that every brick they can produce over the next four years will be taken up.He went on to say:Nothing has a greater psychological effect on a man than seeing plenty of bricks on the site.I do not want to make too much of this, because I think that enough has been made already in the form of bricks—I gather, to the tune of about 900 million. I am not so worried about the psychological effects of seeing bricks on the site as the psychological effect upon the workers and the manufacturers who have bricks in their yards, because I understand that now yards are full, and the stores of bricks are moving out into the green fields. I am sure that the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food will shortly be grumbling because so much valuable land is covered by bricks—not used, but in stacks.
It may be thought that I treat this subject with some levity, but, in reality, I treat it with great seriousness and worry because in my constituency we have a number of brickmaking firms which have put in special equipment at the admonition and exhortation of the Labour Government and now they are faced with a glut and they are in a position where they may have to pay off men. In my constituency, it is a serious problem. There are other constituencies with great 1621 brickworks where the position is even more critical, and I should like to have an assurance from the right hon. Gentleman, if the message is passed to him, or from whichever Minister is to wind up the debate, that something is being done about this, and that the Government really have the intention to use those 900 million tricks, because if we divide that number by the number which go to make a house it will be seen that there is practically a whole year's housing lying on the ground in fields.
We should like to see the Government live up to those promises they made. They accused us of paper promises. Let us see what they can do with their promises. Use the bricks, and use them quickly.
§ 6.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)
I will come in a minute or two to the points which the hon. Member for Poole (Mr. Murton) made, but in so far as he has to deal with maiden speeches he will appreciate that from this side of the House I must first address my remarks to the hon. Member for Fylde, North (Mr. Clegg), who sits in front of him, and to my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Christopher Price) and offer them congratulations on their maiden speeches. I should think we enjoyed both of them very much.
I just want to tell them that there is in this place rather a myth about the difficulty of making a maiden speech. Those speeches will be about the easiest speeches they will ever make in this House. Actually, there is a flaw in this idea that a maiden speech is such an ordeal and is so difficult.
Both hon. Members will have learned by now that the House is so kind, so tolerant to maiden speeches. They must never be adversely reflected upon in subsequent debate, and there is a sort of conspiracy to make a new Member feel at home. It will never be repeated.
I was followed, when I had made my maiden speech, by Mr. Peter Thorneycroft. I am sorry, for personal reasons, that he is still not here. He said about making speeches that they get harder as one goes on, and they do.
This speech of mine is a sort of maiden, in so far as I have not spoken from the 1622 back benches for five or six years, I think. I am, therefore, in a very curious sort of position. My hon. Friend who is to reply to the debate will be replying largely for any sins of commission or omission I may have committed at the Ministry.
I do not want to talk very much about tricks and mortar and building licences. Indeed, at this moment I feel like a man with a load of bricks off his mind. I do not want to refer to this particular subject, but the House will understand that in so far as I do bear some responsibility for what has happened it did seem to me that I should intervene at this time and then get to some other more cheerful subject, such as abortion law reform or something like that.
I should like to deal, first, with the question of bricks, because I really think that this gives us a key to the whole debate. I am glad the hon. Gentleman mentioned it, because I always like to follow the previous speaker. I wish to quote from an authority whom nobody here will impugn, Sir Arthur Worboys, at the annual meeting of the London Brick Company. He was speaking about conditions in 1964 and the 11 per cent. upsurge that year, and the shortage of bricks which was reflected in Parliamentary Questions from both sides of the House. Indeed, the very last debate before the election in 1964 was initiated, I think, by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Public Building and Works, about the shortage of bricks. It is against those conditions that we came in and I dealt with the brickmakers. The hon. Member has been scrupulously fair in so far as he quoted the figure I had given for four years, whereas other people have sometimes quoted it in the context of six months.
I happen to believe in four-year plans, and that the weakness of our system here is that we have annual Budgets and annual Sessions of Parliament—the sorts of things fit for a pastoral society—the rotation of crops, the seed time and harvest. The sooner we get down to consider matters over four-year periods the better, and we could come nearer to a four-year plan if we could carry legislation over from one Session to another instead of having the rather unseemly legislative scramble at the end of the year.
1623 However, to come back to Sir Arthur Worboys, he said:When the Minister saw brickmakers in November, 1964, and set a target for an 8 per cent. increase in production in the following year, his reasons for doing so were justified by the heavy demand experienced for bricks in 1964 and the expectation of further growth in 1965 to meet a predicted steadily rising housing programme. Of course he had in mind the part to be played by industrialised building but, in his own words, 'In the context of a long term expansion of construction the increase of industrialised building will still be supplementary to traditional methods.' I am quite sure the Minister genuinely believed that a crash programme was required to get the extra bricks needed quickly and we should not forget that the 8 per cent. target was still well within the ultimate growth in brick production envisaged in the National Plan. What the Minister did not foresee and appreciate was the effect on building of the measures taken to correct the balance of payments and which later were enhanced by the Chancellor's severe cuts last July. In this respect, I suggest, brickmakers have a longer experience than the Minister of the cyclical conditions to which the industry has been accustomed in a national economy so precariously balanced between the requirement for growth and the need to protect sterling.I hope that today we look at the question of the protection of the building industry in the context of the whole national economy. This industry, particularly, reflects the economy, and we cannot insulate the building industry from it. If, therefore, we consider that sterling was in peril in 1965, and that harsh measures were necessary—and hon. Members on the other side were calling for even harsher measures—frankly, something like the Chancellor's proposals had to be embarked upon. It is against that background that I would justify anything which we said at the time.
§ Mr. Arthur Jones (Northants, South)
May I remind the right hon. Gentleman that it was subsequent to those decisions that he was asking the brick manufacturing industry to expand its production?
§ Mr. Pannell
The hon. Member is incorrect. I am stating what Sir Arthur Worboys said. I met them in November, 1964. The Chancellor's cuts were in July of the next year. As a matter of fact, the general trend in the industry was seen in the January or February. The hon. Member has his dates wrong.
§ Mr. Arthur Jones
I apologise if I am wrong, but I know the right hon. Gentleman's advocacy in the early months of 1965 for an increased production of bricks. I remember him speaking in that respect on many occasions.
§ Mr. Pannell
In this House we do not bandy charges of that sort without quoting more accurately than a general blanket assumption. When one hon. Member assures another that it was not so, then he should be taken as having stated a fact. If an hon. Member opposite said to me, "I assure you", I should, of course, accept his assurance. We talk of each other as hon. Members, and we take that to be so. People should not shuffle out on half-statements. But it does not matter. Truth is indivisible.
I turn to a subject in which, probably to my embarrassment, I may carry the hon. Member with me. I want to mention the Selective Employment Tax. Of course, a Minister must take responsibility for anything he does when he is Minister, and I should certainly regard it as completely unpardonable if, when he ceased to be a Minister, a right hon. Gentleman referred to anything which had happened in his Ministry while he was a Minister. But he is. I think, entitled to reflect on the things which did not happen when he was a Minister.
I therefore come to the point that I left office on 4th April and that I had never heard of the Selective Employment Tax while I was a Minister. I cannot, therefore, be charged with any of its implications.
§ Mr. Pannell
As the hon. Member said. I am not guilty.
Paragraph 18 of the Selective Employment Tax White Paper says:The construction industry will pay the tax and there will be no refunds. This will induce economy in the use of labour. To the extent that the industry incorporates large quantities of manufactured goods (equivalent to about one-third of its total costs) there will be some offset to the effect of the tax.That bald statement seems to me to be bereft of reasoning. It seems to me to be as about insensitive as it is daft.
I want to raise some rather more serious points. I will not go into the arguments 1625 about co-operative societies and such subjects and I will try to speak about things of which I have had some experience. It seems to me that while we can bandy across the House such things as the Corporation Tax for a long time, we might have thought about the Selective Employment Tax a little more before it was launched and, to use an aircraft industry expression, we might have got the bugs out of it.
I notice that immediately the tax had been introduced there was a retreat in respect of agriculture from the proposal to recoup the money in the Price Review. The Ministry of Agriculture stands nearer to the industry of agriculture than perhaps any other Ministry stands to its respective industry. The next closest analogy is the building industry and the Ministry of Public Building and Works. The Ministry of Public Building and Works is nothing unless it is the leader of the industry, the protector of the industry and the Department without any doubt at all which has the greatest expertise in this field.
I wonder how much this Ministry was listened to—because very often the Treasury seem to do things which do not sound intelligent to technicians.
§ Mr. Pannell
I will not give way. It is a difficult enough speech to make in all conscience.
I remember Sir Stafford Cripps introducing a Budget in about 1950. Clause 13 of the Finance Bill—I remember it very well—proposed to put a tax on electric vehicles. I worked on electrical vehicles before I came to the House, and I think that I could claim, in a technical sense, to know more about them than anybody else in the House. I remember going to the Chancellor or the Finance Secretary at the time, and frankly I could not get down to their level. It needed a whole deputation of engineers under David Kirkwood before the Clause was finally withdrawn from the Finance Bill. It was withdrawn merely because engineers had looked at it afterwards. Surely it would be far better sometimes for engineers and builders to look at things beforehand.
It is about time that we faced up to the nonsense of the Chancellor saying, "I cannot anticipate my Budget speech". 1626 What that means, in effect, in this country is that all sorts of people are taken into the Chancellor's confidence. I am not attacking my right hon. Friend the Chancellor; this applies to any Chancellor of the Exchequer. He becomes incommunicado to his colleagues. Permanent Secretaries are taken into consultation under seal of secrecy. And then everybody awakens one morning and finds out what has happened. This is just nonsense. I could give examples from various Administrations. It seems to me that it would be far better if we looked at such things as these taxes which affect industry, and took them in a more leisurely way.
Looking back on the Dalton episode, can anybody be particularly proud of it? On both sides of the House, when a Minister makes a gaff we raise a hullabaloo out of all proportion to the seriousness of the mistake. I remember that I came into the House two minutes late at a time of hysterical election excitement—and what a fuss everybody made about that. We all slip up in that way, do we not, Mr. Speaker?
Everyone claimed that a great constitutional principle had been breached simply because, before three weeks of an election period, with the almost certaintly, as the bookmakers bore out, of a return of a Labour Government, I suggested that those who were dealing with building licences over £100,000 should "hold their horses" for a bit. I did this to stop them from getting into trouble, from engaging surveyors, from engaging architects, from doing all sorts of things. After all, how much preparation can one do in three weeks for a building costing £100,000?
The right hon. and learned Member for Hexham (Mr Rippon) has a vested interest in this matter, for he is a director of a building company. I wonder why he did not rush to my aid as quickly as he attacked my right hon. Friend the Minister—which he did in such a way that the Minister was scarcely able to say a single word.
§ Mr. Rippon
Is the right hon. Gentleman asking me to come to his aid? He does not need me to come to his aid. He is making a splendid speech. It is a pity that his right hon. Friend does not understand that this work takes a lot of preparation.
§ Mr. Pannell
I have a great regard for the right hon. and learned Gentleman, as he knows, but as a director of a building company he seemed rather reluctant at that stage to support me in the knowledge which he and I have that in the three weeks no great harm could have been done at all. But there was a tremendous degree of excitement about that at the time.
I want to say a word or two about the building industry. The hon. Member who preceded me spoke about building societies and all the rest and we have tended to get away from the people who do the building—the building operatives. I cannot repeat this too often. The Press think it rather funny when I keep reminding hon. Members that houses are built by builders. I want to give a few of the facts of life about the building industry.
The National Plan is designed to achieve a 25 per cent. increase in national output between 1964 and 1970. This involves achieving a 4 per cent. annual growth in output long before 1970 and an annual average of 3.8 per cent. between 1964 and 1970. The output of the construction industries, on one opinion I have seen, is that it must increase by about 4½ per cent. a year, which is faster than the growth in national output. I have seen what I would call good figures on this matter stating that at whatever figure one fixes the growth rate of the national economy, whether 3½ per cent. or 4 per cent., to work it out the building and construction industries must, in the end, increase their growth rate by at least 1 per cent. higher.
Bearing this in mind, I do not believe that one can lump the construction industries in with the service industries. We must compare like with like When I worked for a living before coming to this place I was a mechanical engineer. I believe that the motor car industry is a socially irresponsible one. Yet it is the most "sacred cow" from the point of view of Chancellors, particularly in matters of exports. I also believe that the motor car industry has tended to distort the thinking of Chancellors in that many other manufacturing industries also provide goods for export. However, while we call for the construction industries to 1628 achieve greater output, they are being held back.
The building industry is not growing. It is not an attractive industry. There were 14,000 fewer men employed in it a year ago compared with the previous year and not enough apprentices are entering the trade. In 1964, 29,416 boys entered the industry, which was a reduction from 31,473 boys who entered it in 1962. The famous N.E.D.C Report of 1964, which the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham thought was a very optimistic document—he was Minister at the time—referred in paragraph 40 to the acute shortage of skilled men and to the supply of apprentices being well below the then present rate of wastage.
There is another aspect of the building industry that must be taken into account; the amount of work it can carry. It is, in the main, an ageing industry. It is responsible for employing 10 per cent. of the country's male workers, 60 per cent. of whom are under 40, compared with 50 per cent. for all industries and services. Men tend to leave the industry by the time they are 40 and the reason is obvious. Often, perhaps usually, men must work in the wind and rain and before they reach that age they are looking for other jobs, perhaps jobs attached to industrial plant. They do not stick it once they are about 40.
Site conditions have fallen behind and, while I admit that the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham did a good job at the exhibition in the Horseferry Road, it must be accepted that, unlike so many other industries, the building trade still has the overhang of "hands" rather than people. Staff conditions are woefully lacking. It is remarkable to consider what are called white and blue-collar workers in the United States. The craftsman in America has terrific prestige, probably higher than that of clerical and sedentary workers. There is no great city in the United States which does not have an annual competition for the champion bricklayer. The champion is feted, not quite on the scale of a beauty queen because he is feted for a different reason. The right hon. and learned Member for Hexham may remember that the N.E.D.C. Report stated:What is clear is that there is no certainty in present conditions that this industry will be able to meet the demands made upon it, 1629 and the possibility cannot be ruled out that falling short may hold back expansion of the economy as a whole.Although the right hon. and learned Gentleman did not agree with that then, he probably will agree now. It is, on balance, more likely to be true now, because I found when I took office—and I got my information from the same sources as the right hon. and learned Gentleman when he was Minister—that the industry could not bear the load that was demanded of it. I asked the industry if it could carry it and I was told that it could not. Although people do not like it when I advance this figure, I say with all sincerity that, in 1964, £100 million worth of work was available to the industry, but it could not do it.
Time and again it has been said that the industry should be stretched so that it is able to expand and do this work, but all the evidence shows that if an industry is to expand—is to achieve far greater growth rate—to talk about "economy of labour" in such an industry is a bit ridiculous. Therefore, if I were making a case against the Selective Employment Tax, I would make a case on behalf of this industry.
I do not want to be reported or taken as being against the Selective Employment Tax, although I agree with one hon. Gentleman opposite who, in a maiden speech, said that if we are to have an imponderable sort of tax, it should apply to industry generally. It would then be possible for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor to alter the basis of that form of taxation. I agree that we want new forms of taxation, but my right hon. Friend the Chancellor must be told that whatever else he might have done—if he had dealt with motor cars and all the other industries; the traditional ones which are so often dealt with in Budgets, like wine and whisky—the effects would have been predictable, but the Selective Employment Tax is completely unpredictable.
Having said that, I should make it clear that the tax is none the worse for that because we must live in the time of dynamism and change. Had the tax been imposed across the board I would have welcomed it. But the present situation is similar to what happened to the building industry on a previous occasion about investment allowances. They were 1630 cut out and now they are given as a sop. I will not refer to that issue because I was mixed up in that one. Suffice to say that the arguments are the same, although the reasons seem to be different.
There is no doubt that in the conditions which existed 12 months ago, with overheating of the industry by 2 per cent. or 3 per cent., the Building Control Act was justified; that is, at that time. However, I always said that I did not want the building industry to be subject to blanket stop-go again. I realised that a much more sensitive instrument—something more permanent in our legislation—was necessary to be able to affect the industry one way or the other. If that Measure was justified, I doubt whether the Selective Employment Tax is justified as well.
What is the object of the exercise? Do we want to keep things in balance? Is the tax being introduced merely for the Chancellor's considerations? The answer is no. We are concerned, at the end of the day, with growth. We are concerned with providing a decent living for our people. This is, therefore, a socially desirable industry from every point of view, and it cannot be separated entirely from the conditions of the people who work in it.
I will not go over all the arguments again, because other hon. Members wish to speak. It must be remembered that practices are growing up in the building industry which the new tax will help to foster. [Interruption.] There are corrupt practices growing up in the industry. The National Builder stated in March, 1966—a journalist was discussing the labour gangs idea with a colleague:Our income tax system is a mish-mash of historical bits and pieces. A wage earner is chained to PAYE, itself a 1939–45 war-time invention, which some people still regard as illegal because it deducts income before assessment…
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. We cannot discuss on this Motion taxation in general. We can discuss the impact on the building industry.
§ Mr. Pannell
I am very conscious of that, Mr. Speaker, but when I have finished I am sure you will see that I have not abused your tolerance.
Growing up in this industry are what are known as labour gangs, people who contract out of sick-pay payments and out of 1631 protection and everything so that we go back to a kind of industrial jungle. The habits of these people are thoroughly anti-social, but by this tax they will be rewarded rather than rebuked. The article goes on:A self-employed person is in a much more advantageous position. He gets into Schedule D and thus can claim relief on a range of expenses which is denied the ordinary wage earner. My fellow member, for example,"—this is a journalist talking of trade unionists—earned £1,500 (or thereabouts) for the 1963–64 accountancy period, but he paid a mere £125 in income tax. This is quite legitimate; in fact, he pays an accountant £15 per year to handle his affairs.'This is perfectly true, I can imagine it.
The article continues:As he says to me, 'The tax business is really a legalised fiddle. I have been amazed at the number of reliefs that can be claimed if you are your own boss'. In my own tinpot way I have reckoned that he will be paying at least £250 a year in tax under PAYE.This practice has been condemned by employees and employers alike. Merely as a result of bringing this into the Selective Employment Tax the industry considers that it is likely to foster the practice.
The position was put very well by my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-West (Mrs. Renée Short) the other day, when she said to the Minister of Labour:Is my right hon. Friend aware that the payroll tax proposals are encouraging the most undesirable practice? Is he aware that builders are being encouraged to sack their building workers and take them on as labour-only subcontractors? Is he also aware that if the practice extends any further into civil engineering, public safety may well be at risk because of the lack of supervision under this type of contract?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th May, 1966; Vol. 728, c. 892.]This is a statement of fact. Some hon. Members may remember the case, reported in The Times, of a man who sacked all his staff in order to get out of paying redundancy payments. He put himself outside—and divorced his employees from—a beneficial Act of Parliament and he said, "The Selective Employment Tax is 'on' and I shall get that back again as well." No one will commend that type of employer. I happen to have old-fashioned ideas about collective bargaining. I do not always believe 1632 in accepting the lowest tender. I believe in a fair price. That applies to trade union labour as well.
This industry is too often left out of account. The expert advice of the Ministry of Public Building and Works is not listened to often enough. It is not just a service industry. Far too often the men in it have to work in the wind and the rain. We ought to see how we can improve their lot and their conditions.
I say this with great respect to my right hon. Friend the Minister. The name of the Ministry is itself a misnomer. It has graduated from the First Commissioner of Works, the Estates of Land and Forests and many antediluvian titles. It now has a name which seems to be a hangover from historic buildings and glorified conveniences.
§ Mr. Pannell
Please allow me to finish this flow of oratory.
The Ministry should be given a sort of title and status applicable to the workers in the industry and the industry itself. When I refer to "workers" I do not do so in an inverted snobbery sense; I mean the workers from the top to the bottom of the industry. I got into trouble for using the words "at your peril". Because I used a question-begging phrase I got into trouble. Words mean something and they sometimes have a poetry beyond their meaning.
The word "construction" would sound much better in this connection. Why not a Ministry of Construction? One of the great arguments about nomenclature arises when people talk about grammar schools as that term refers to a whole range of history, and "comprehensive" is an ugly word. "High school" sounds better. It would be better to call this Ministry the Ministry of Construction. Then people could take a pride in it and it would be commened by the industry as a whole.
The right hon. and learned Member for Hexham is rather upset about the National Building Agency. When he was in office he was inhibited and did not know what to do about the Agency. Being a Tory, he objected to the idea of collective bargaining and a collective view of things and rebelled. He did not know how to use it. I have always 1633 been in favour of this work going over to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government because a building agency has to be organised and to have a catchment on other areas and to take over its problems. A good job has been done there.
This, in a way, has been a bit of a maiden effort, a valedictory speech. It is not a subject which I want to pursue or to speak on again.
§ 6.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Nicholas Scott (Paddington, South)
In the gentle game of cricket there is a tradition that a man making his debut frequently gets a rather loose ball as his first so as to get him off the mark. There is a corollary that he shall not hit that ball for four, but that he shall take a single. I hope that in "breaking my duck" I shall not take undue advantage of the courtesy, patience and tolerance which the House extends to me.
As the hon. Member for Paddington, South I follow Commander Robert Allan, who served in this House for 15 years following very distinguished and gallant service to his country in time of war, with service to the House as a private Member, P.P.S. to two Prime Ministers and as a junior Minister. He gave dedicated service to the constituency of Paddington, South which has earned him and his wife a warm and lasting place in the hearts of all those who live there. He served the constituency with distinction and dedication and he set standards for his successor which it is my proud ambition to emulate.
It is customary, I gather, also to mention—whether it is relevant to the matter under debate or not—one's constituency when making one's maiden speech. I shall spare the House a "Cook's tour"—or rather a "Jason's tour", as we call it in Paddington, where there are canal tours—but there is no subject which is closer to the hearts of Paddington people than the one which we are debating today.
There is much which is sad about the history of housing in Paddington. The multi-occupation of neglected properties provided the background for the operations of Rachman and others like him. But I point out to those who debated the 1965 Rent Act the other day that it was not the 1957 Act which provided the mainspring for those activities, but the neglect 1634 of the housing stock in the inner ring due at least in part to rent control, and the pressure put on that stock by new arrivals in the area which was responsible for creating those conditions.
But it is mainly about the future that I want to talk this evening. Paddington is part of the inner ring, sometimes called the rotten ring or the twilight zone, of London. Many of its houses are in a poor condition. They are, by definition, also areas of great opportunity where new housing environments can be created.
The important thing is that, as we seek to creat these new environments, we define what it is that we are trying to do. At the moment, two main types of development are taking place in Paddington. There is private development, largely catering for luxury needs, and there is the building of large council estates. My fear is that, if this process continues, eventually a line will be drawn between the two types of development. There will be two communities with little in common and virtually an iron curtain dividing them. As these areas are redeveloped, we should seek to create a truly balanced community in them and we should encourage the middle band of housing between the two I have mentioned.
We know that today the average council household is better off than the average household in privately rented accommodation. It is, therefore, less than realistic to continue to subsidise in many areas council tenants while withholding any sort of subsidy from those living in privately rented accommodation. The Westminster City Council, which covers the Paddington area, is at present introducing a rent rebate scheme. This, as far as I can tell, is a realistic scheme and will benefit council housing in Paddington. There is, however, another side to the coin. I believe that it is possible and practicable to work out a scheme for subsidising private tenants when their needs are as great as those of their fellows in council accommodation.
I want, next, to mention the work of housing associations in catering for the needs of the middle band of housing, for they can do an immense amount to help those who are in the worst housing state in the big cities. They can make 1635 a great impact on the type of multi-occupied property of which there is so much in Paddington by converting those houses into decent self-contained flats which could then be let at non-profit rents, with local authority control to prevent them from becoming again overcrowded. What housing associations need is encouragement and loans from local authorities and encouragement from the central Government to enable them to make their full contribution to meeting housing needs in large cities.
There is a need to encourage younger couples, in particular, to buy some of the smaller sound, older houses in areas like Paddington for owner-occupation. The big obstacle here is the reluctance of building societies in particular to grant sizeable mortgages on older properties. A scheme was in existence by which mortgages were provided on pre-1919 houses. I would hope that it would be possible to reintroduce such a scheme through building societies—perhaps through building societies and local authorities—because this would be a real help to young couples seeking to buy such houses. They would then improve them and bring them up to modern standards with their earnings.
In a further attempt to satisfy the needs of this middle band of housing, when comprehensive redevelopment schemes are considered and introduced they should not be exclusively public or local authority development, nor exclusively private development. It should be possible to involve both types of development within one scheme. If the clearing of slums and the redevelopment of twilight areas is left solely to local authorities, it will take a very long time and there will at the end be a very ill-balanced community within those large developments.
I would hope that it would be possible to give special encouragement to the large institutional investors to take part in large-scale redevelopment schemes hand in hand with local authorities, with regulated rents, with a fair return on their investment, so that they could make a positive contribution to the redevelopment of such areas.
Finally, I appeal to those responsible for implementing the housing policy, whether centrally or locally, to abandon any doctrinaire devotion to a particular 1636 type of redevelopment and to think in terms of redevelopment by public and private authorities. I am convinced that only a massive combined effort can answer our needs.
I appeal to everybody to ensure that when we have the opportunity for large-scale comprehensive redevelopment we build for the future. Too often we can see being built today the slums of the next 25 and 30 years. It is well worth extra investment now if we are to create really exciting environments for those who will live in these areas in the many years that lie ahead.
I am convinced that we can wed the tradition of Wren and the other great builders with the concepts of Buchanan, that the sound Victorian houses that we still have in Paddington can be blended with the new comprehensive development that we hope to see, and that we can have inspiring surroundings and a really balanced community to make up tomorrow's London.
§ 6.56 p.m.
§ Mr. John Forrester (Stoke-on-Trent, North)
I am extremely grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for giving me the opportunity of addressing the House for the first time. I crave the indulgence of hon. Members on this occasion. I will endeavour to earn the gratitude of the House by being brief and please my hon. Friends by promising not to mention even once the Selective Employment Tax.
I have the honour to represent Stoke-on-Trent, North. People ask, "Where is Stoke-on-Trent?", or, more often than not, they say, "That is the Black Country, is it not?" With all due respect to my colleagues from the Black Country, that is the beginning of an argument. These people never follow the question, "Where is Stoke-on-Trent?" by asking, "What do they do in Stoke-on-Trent?" Hon. Members will know that the names of our manufacturers are known all over the world. The things that we produce in the potteries are synonymous with beauty and quality wherever those virtues are admired. Our coal industry has played a vital part in the country's economy in days gone by and is still doing so. It would be an odd house that did not possess at least one thing which was made in the City of Stoke-on-Trent.
1637 We are proud that two of our firms were awarded the Queen's Award to Industry for their export achievements and that another firm was given an award for technological achievement. If all industries had an export record equal to that of the pottery industry, we should not have a balance of payments crisis.
I have the honour to follow as Member for my constituency Mrs. Harriet Slater. My distinguished predecessor was a most able and conscientious Member who attended to her constituency duties most diligently. One tends to think that perhaps she, in common with so many Members on both sides, was too good a Member and was too conscientious, because I am certain that the work that she put in here and in her constituency was responsible for the breakdown in her health which caused her to retire at what might be considered to be a comparatively early age.
I know from conversations with Members of the House and with officials that Mrs. Slater has left her mark here permanently. Indeed, her name will go down in the history books as the first woman Whip, an honour of which I know she was very proud. I sometimes wonder whether the previous Parliament would have lasted for 17 months if she had not wielded that whip so effectively on some of her colleagues. She performed many tasks ouside the normal calls of duty, which helped to keep this Parliament in being.
I am conscious of her devotion to duty, and of the high standard that she set for herself and expected from other people. If I could but approach her standard during my stay in this House, I should be more than satisfied.
It is the duty of any civilised society to provide for its people decent houses and education. It used to be bandied about that it was no good giving better homes to people who lived in slums, because they would not know how to look after them anyway. Time has shown that when one improves a man's environment his whole being usually begins to improve at the same time and to take on something of his new surroundings. This is good not only for the individual, but also for the nation.
I am pleased that the Government are conscious that we must plan our housing 1638 programme ahead. This has not always been the case, but I hope that in the years to come we shall know exactly where we are going. The supply industries and the construction industries are entitled to know precisely what targets the Government have in mind, so that they can make their long-term plans accordingly.
We are concerned because in the pottery industry, which is a supplying industry for the builders, we have come across short-time working in the sanitary supply industry. With a record number of houses produced last year, we are a little mystified as to why this should be. Perhaps it is that the sanitary industry and the brickworks industry have not taken into account sufficiently the impact of new materials and that we have not realised what this will mean in terms of production.
I would hope that the Ministry of Housing and Local Government could perhaps forecast a little more accurately in future the extent to which it expects new materials to overtake the old ones. Can it do some research and tell us what traditional materials will be replaced, how long it will be before that happens, and by what percentage? This would prevent the personal hardships of short-time working as it is being experienced in Stoke-on-Trent at the moment and would also prevent the consequent loss of production and the wastage of skilled manpower.
I am quite certain that all right hon. and hon. Members, on both sides of the House, want to see more housing provided. We shall not be satisfied until all the slums have been cleared. But we want to be absolutely certain—and I think that the hon. Member for Paddington, South (Mr. Scott) was right in this—that we are not building today the slums of the future; that when we have knocked down houses that are 80, 90, or 100 years old we do not have to start to knock down those that are only 30 or 40 years old. Our aim should be to build quantity and quality. I would, perhaps, even suggest that if we had to choose between having a smaller number of houses of quality and a higher number of houses of inferior materials—perhaps even bad workmanship and bad design—we should go for quality and not quantity.
1639 Houses are an expensive commodity. We do not want to find that when we have paid for them we have immediately to knock them all down. Councils spend public money on houses, people spend hard-earned savings on buying their own houses, and it is not right that they should, perhaps, be faced with a big bill in a very short time for repairs and renovations. There are still, unfortunately, far too many jerry-builders, and I hope that the Government will press ahead with their plans for voluntary acceptance of good standards of building. If they cannot get this by voluntary action, I hope that they will not hesitate to introduce legislation so that we can have good standards of building and thus protect the people who buy those buildings.
Two of the biggest headaches of local authorities and private citizens are the high interest rates and rising costs. Most right hon. and hon. Members on this side of the House, despite what some people think, are keen on home-ownership, and it is because of this that we hope that the Government will soon be able to introduce their scheme for lowering the mortgage rates for private purchasers. The Government have introduced higher subsidies for local authorities, and this should assist the councils to build more houses more cheaply in the future, and, perhaps, at the present time, also.
I cannot help reflecting, however, that this probably helps the backward authorities. In Stoke-on-Trent we have built about 30,000 council houses, and we are now approaching the stage when we have to decide, not how many more thousand houses we need for our present population, but, rather, whether we need any more houses, or whether we must now concentrate on specialised building for old-age pensioners, and so on. The fact that we built so well, so early, rather seems to mean that we shall not qualify for the increased subsidies, or that only a very small proportion of the houses that we have for rent will now carry the bigger subsidies. It sounds as though those who have been kicking their heels, who failed to solve the problem earlier, are those who will profit most. It looks as though the first shall be last in this instance.
1640 In an authority such as ours, in those circumstances, we shall not be able to use the extra subsidies to alter the pattern of our rents for council houses, as the Minister has suggested in one of his White Papers. I was glad to hear him say this afternoon that there is no truth in the rumour that he will introduce a national rent policy. But, when he is discussing rents, I hope that he will bear in mind the fact which I have just pointed out, and that he will also remember that many areas do not enjoy the very high wages that some of the more affluent areas enjoy.
My city is one of the former, and what would be a fair rent in London, Birmingham or Coventry would be a disaster in some of the industrial areas of the North. I hope that the Minister will bear this in mind. The necessity of having to increase rents continuously—periodically is, perhaps, a better word—is a problem which is in need of the most urgent solution and to which I hope that the Minister of Housing and Local Government will give most careful consideration.
It is the duty of the nation to house all people decently. We need an adequate supply of the right kind of accommodation for a particular stage in a person's life. A person may start with a three-bedroom house for a family, then have a two-bedroom house, and later a bungalow. This is something that we should be planning now. There is no proper balance between rented and owner-occupied accommodation. I hope that when we build we shall build wisely build well, and build to last.
§ 7.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric Lubbock (Orpington)
It is indeed a great pleasure to follow two such talented and interesting maiden speeches as those to which we have just been listening. The hon. Member for Paddington, South (Mr. Scott) has a very important housing problem in his constituency. As he said, his constituency is part of the inner ring of greater London which has been neglected in the past, and in which, as he put it, there is an enormous opportunity for imaginative redevelopment. I very much sympathise, in particular, with the point he made about co-ordination between the programmes of council house building and those of private developers, and that we should 1641 not in constituencies like his create separate areas of an apartheid nature which divide council house residents from those who live in private occupation.
The hon. Gentleman made an extremely important point there, and I was also very pleased to hear him underline the importance of housing associations in urban redevelopment. We see that they have contributed by their increased output to the solution of the housing problems even during the last year. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will have many interesting things to say in the months to come about the problems of urban development and the contribution that the housing associations can make to the solution of that problem.
The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Mr. Forrester) follows, as he said, Mrs. Slater, who was very much liked on all sides in the House. I was delighted to hear the hon. Member's nice tribute to her. We shall all miss her very much. We are, however, delighted to welcome the hon. Member as her successor.
I very much agree also with the hon. Member when he says that we shall not be satisfied with the performance of any Government until all the slums have been cleared in this land of ours and until we can be completely satisfied that in the new buildings that we are erecting to replace the slums, we do not in turn create new potential slums which might place a burden on the next generation. I entirely agree with the hon. Member that building standards should be of almost as great importance as the actual quantity of houses that we erect. I congratulate both hon. Members and I express the hope that we shall hear frequently from them on this important subject.
I turn now to the speech of the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) and to the Conservative Motion to which he was speaking. The view of my hon. Friends and myself is that that Motion and the right hon. and learned Member's speech are altogether too extravagant. It is premature to make such a sweeping condemnation of the Government as is contained in the Motion and in the right hon. and learned Member's speech.
I noted some of the phrases used by the right hon. and learned Member, and 1642 I would like to remind the House of what he said. He said that there had been a steady destruction and deterioration of the policies that were inherited from the Tories. I did not think very much of Tory housing policies. I did not think that there was very much that could be destroyed or deteriorated in those policies.
§ Mr. Lubbock
The right hon. and learned Member for Hexham said that the Government's failure extended over the whole housing field. He implied that they had not done one good thing since they came into office. My hon. Friends and I cannot accept that. Thirdly, the right hon. and learned Member said that the housing and building policies of the Government are in ruins. He bases all this on one quarter's building figures which do not show much of an improvement on last year. I shall make some criticism of that myself, but it is altogether too extravagant of the right hon. and learned Member and his right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition to go up and down the country screeching that the Government's housing policy is in ruins based on such totally inadequate evidence.
I was interested to hear the right hon. and learned Member's speech and to note the point made by the Minister that the Opposition appear to be almost entirely preoccupied with owner-occupation. Owner-occupation is extremely important. We have a high percentage of it in my constituency. But I agree with the Minister that one sometimes wonders why right hon. Members on the Tory Front Bench forget completely about the rented sector and, when they do by chance remember to discuss it during our debates on housing, as the hon. Member for Poole (Mr. Murton) did in his speech, they always speak from the point of view of the landlord. Every time that is a coconut, as every hon. Member who served on the Rent Bill Standing Committee will agree.
Because the shortage of accommodation is primarily in the rented sector, I prefer to deal with that sector first before I make a few remarks about owner-occupation. One of the most important features of the present situation—I do not say that 1643 this is a new feature, but it is one to which, perhaps, we do not pay sufficient attention—is the steady drain that takes place from the pool of private rented accommodation.
Since the passing of the Rent Act, 1965, it may even be that this trend has accelerated—I made this point in the Standing Committee on the Rent Bill—because as landlords obtain vacant possession of properties, they are even more likely now to sell them for owner-occupation rather than relet them on a regulated rent than they were prior to the passing of that Act.
That is not a criticism of the Act, but it means that local authorities should be encouraged to acquire dwellings which are let at controlled rents from the landlords by negotiation between the local authority and the landlord. I am glad to see the Joint Parliamentary Secretary present, because I have written to him about this and I have tried to press him to encourage local authorities in this policy. If they were to do this, they would over a period of years expand the amount of rented accommodation which was available at their disposal and, as vacancies arose in the controlled property, they could let it at normal rents to people from their waiting list.
That is one respect in which local authorities could, perhaps, help themselves as well as helping the landlords of these controlled properties who, in many cases, have been unfairly treated over a period of years. I am not speaking of houses which have been bought as an investment, but, as the Joint Parliamentary Secretary knows, there are instances when the landlord has the property as practically his sole income and he has held it for a large number of years without receiving much return, certainly not enough to compensate him for the rise in the cost of living.
In many of the examples which I have met, when I have suggested to the landlord that he should offer his house to the local authority he has said that he would be delighted to do so but that for some reason, when it comes to the stage of negotiation, the local authority is not willing to purchase his property, either because it is too far away from the other council estates, the rent collector cannot get up there, it is not the type of 1644 property that the local authority has in mind, or for some other reason. I think that local authorities need encouragement.
§ Mr. Mellish
It has been our general policy since we have been in power so to encourage local authorities. I am glad to tell the hon. Member that the Greater London Borough of Lewisham, for example, does this in a good and persuasive way and has acquired a great deal of property. One cannot, however, do more than encourage local authorities. They cannot be forced to acquire property.
§ Mr. Lubbock
The hon. Gentleman does not need me to tell him that some boroughs are better at this than others. Knowing how persuasive the hon. Gentleman is, I am sure that he can go round to the boroughs which are not following the advice which I have given and see that they come up to the level of the London Borough of Lewisham, which, I have no doubt, is doing the really good job that the hon. Gentleman says. If others follow that example, this will materially assist the housing problem in Greater London. Possibly this applies in other big conurbations also. If so, they should consider the experience of London.
While I am on the subject of London, I thought that the Minister's remarks about the green belt were a little ominous. The right hon. Gentleman went a lot further than I have heard him go before in saying that there should be no bar on the outward spread of building around the big cities unless the land concerned had been put to good recreational or other use. In other words, we are not to have the blanket green belt policy which has hitherto been observed by Governments of both complexions, whether Conservative or Socialist.
I would like the Minister to think again about this. I believe it to be entirely the wrong policy. I do not want to see Greater London continually spreading outwards. My constituency has some of the most beautiful country in Greater London which is very much enjoyed by the people from inner London, who come out to us at weekends and bank holidays and who find a bit of green within easy reach of their homes. I do not, however, speak of it from that point of view.
1645 It is the general policy of population dispersal which conditions my thinking on this subject. I do not wish to see the major cities growing still larger. I wish to see a much better relationship of the regions one to another concerning population growth. That means not encouraging the further growth of places like Birmingham, Manchester and London, but creating completely new centres of growth well away from those places so that there is no movement of population between them.
I do not think that the Government have gone nearly far enough in that direction. If they adopt the policy of nibbling away at the green belt, which seemed to be in the Minister's mind, that would be extremely reactionary. I hope that I have misunderstood what the Minister said. All Governments have failed in thinking of this policy of dispersal in a really imaginative way.
I was reading an article last week about a scheme proposed by Mr. Teggin—I wonder whether the Joint Parliamentary Secretary has seen this—about the idea of having a new city on the Wash. Instead of having small new towns of 100,000 or 120,000, Mr. Teggin is proposing that in this new Wash city there should be 750,000 people—a complete new city—and the author of this article, Dr. Peter Odell, says that it would fit in particularly well now that gas has been discovered in large quantities in the North Sea. Of course, this is not the only argument in favour of the Wash city, but it is an example of the kind of imaginative thinking that the Government ought to be pursuing instead of just encouraging the growth of our large cities and tinkering away at the problem of building new towns within access of the conurbations or expanded towns where the people living in those towns can easily get into London for employment. This is not dispersal at all, and the Government should consider this matter very seriously.
I have already mentioned the Rent Act. I think that in spite of the fact that we had a debate the other day initiated by the hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun), this ought not to be left out of a general debate on housing and building. The effect of the Rent Act, as we have observed it so far, is one of the most important features of the present theme. As I was not able to take part 1646 in that debate, due to other commitments, I should like to say to the Joint Parliamentary Secretary that although there has been some improvement in the situation, we have not yet reached the stage where evictions can be prevented altogether and where no one whatsoever is thrown out on the street. That was, after all, the purpose of the Act.
The problem of homelessness is still with us. We still have the service tenants who lose homes through no fault of their own, and we have the problem of caravans, which I have mentioned to the hon. Gentleman before. This is becoming even more serious now that we have the 1965 Rent Act. People who live in caravans are placed in a much more inferior position compared with that of anybody else in the country. They have no right of protection whatsoever against arbitrary eviction by the site operator at a moment's notice. Very few of them have written agreements, in spite of the fact that the National Caravan Council has recommended its members to supply written agreements, and, of course, not all site operators are members of the National Caravan Council. No local authority, it seems, will accept responsibility for a person who is turned off a caravan site. What does he do? He goes to another site operator and perhaps pays a further fee of £50 to £150 to get a new plot, and he is there with no security of tenure again. As the hon. Gentleman, I hope, can imagine, this is a very unsettling kind of life which leads to great anxiety.
I have a case in my constituency of three families who have been given notice to quit by the end of this month. One is a family with two small children aged two and four. The husband works at one of our big London power stations. This is a very essential occupation in Greater London, but it is not an occupation which is particularly well rewarded and it is no use anybody telling me that my constituent can go and buy a house. As he has been at this place for a matter of only two or three years, under the rules agreed by all the London boroughs, he will not be put into one of their houses.
What advice can I give him? I have telephoned practically every chief officer on the local authority and I have received a great deal of sympathy, but the fact 1647 remains that my constituent's caravan is going to be towed on to the street at the end of the month. He will then be trespassing and, so far as I can see, there is nothing that I can do to help him. I wish the Government would give attention to this problem, because there are nearly 300,000 people living in caravans and they are entitled to the same kind of protection as the Government have given to those who live in houses.
Before I leave the question of rented housing, I should like to take up the Minister's remarks about the improved subsidies which were introduced by the present Government. Since the new subsidies were first announced, and certainly since they were planned by the Government, the costs of building have risen considerably. I have some figures which were given at a G.L.C. meeting on 17th May this year. They show that the average capital cost—I think this must be for a three-bedroom house—excluding land, has risen from £4,300 in the year ending 31st December, 1964, to £5,040 in the year ending 31st December, 1965, which, as the hon. Gentleman will see, is a very considerable rise indeed. I suggest to the Joint Parliamentary Secretary that it is no good the Government announcing increased subsidies, which, as he knows, my party welcomes, if at the same time these are going to be practically swallowed up in the enormous rise in building costs.
I must say that there are certain things that could be done more energetically to limit this most steep rise in housing costs. The question of industrialised building methods has been mentioned, and the G.L.C. has done a great deal in this respect. The G.L.C. is going into industrialised building on a large scale, and it is already beginning to derive some financial benefit from it. At the beginning of the National Building Agency's existence it was very difficult to get any hard and fast figures in relation to what the contractors expected industrialised systems to do as regards the cost of an individual house. But now we are beginning to show results. I understand that the houses that are now being built for the Greater London Council—three-bedroom houses of very nice design which I saw at the I.B.S.A.C. Exhibition the other day—are costing £2,250 which I believe is less than 1648 the average tender price for a three-bedroom house constructed by conventional methods.
But this is not the end of the line, and if we can push the quantities up and reach a level of 40 per cent. of total local authority building, we shall find that industrialised systems will save something like 25 per cent. on the cost of a house. Therefore, whatever the Government have done so far, it is not enough. Much more needs to be done to persuade local authorities to adopt these new methods, and, as the Minister said, to educate them in applying these methods.
I must also refer briefly to the speech of the right hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell). I agree with every word that he said about the effect of the Selective Employment Tax on the construction industry. This had already been mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) in his speech during the Budget debate, and indeed my right hon. Friend also mentioned the other problem discussed by the former Minister—that of the proliferation of the one-man-only labour sub-contractors, which had been one of the central themes of the excellent maiden speech made by the hon. Member for Bethnal Green (Mr. Hilton) in the Second Reading debate on the Building Control Bill. As the Parliamentary Secretary will be aware, the hon. Member is in a position to speak with some considerable experience of this matter because he has for some time been the research officer of the National Federation of Building Trades Operatives. Therefore, I hope these views will be conveyed to the Chancellor because he has had them now from his hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green who is an expert on the subject; he has heard them from the former Minister; he has heard them directly from my right hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland, and no doubt he has had representations from the building industry itself. This is a situation which must cause everybody the greatest anxiety, and it is not too late for the Chancellor to think again about his proposals for the construction industry as he has already done, wisely, for agriculture.
Finally, I come to the question of home ownership. I think it must be a matter of great anxiety that the building 1649 societies have now decided, I gather, to raise their lending rates to 7⅛ per cent. But so far as I can see, under existing circumstances they cannot be blamed for what has happened. They asked the Chancellor to make some concessions in his Finance Bill, and this he refused to do. He could have done it last year when my hon. Friends and I put down an Amendment which would have exempted the building societies from Corporation Tax and Capital Gains Tax. I still think that that would have been a sensible thing to do, because the profits of a building society are not profits in the sense in which that word is used for an ordinary commercial or industrial company. They do not belong to equity shareholders who have no part in the company itself. They are used to finance further lending by the companies and so expand the number of people who can own their own homes. There is, therefore, a strong case—it would be out of order to develop it now—for some tax concessions to the building societies to help them to keep their interest rates down to a reasonable level.
I do not know what the pros and cons of the disagreement on reserve ratios between the Minister and the building societies may be. It would have been helpful if the right hon. Gentleman could have said a little more about this subject in his opening speech. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman who is to wind up will tell us why the Government are confident that reserve ratios much lower than their present levels would be satisfactory and why the building societies for their part consider that they must be maintained at their present level.
If there is this disagreement between the Minister and the building societies, one method of resolving it would be by the Government guaranteeing the building societies if they reduced their reserve ratios below the level they think appropriate. That is a question which might be discussed with the building societies to help in reaching agreement with them.
There seems to have been a lack of communication between the Government and the building societies. There have been so many areas of disagreement. The building societies have said that the two-tier interest rate scheme is totally unworkable. If we are to extend home ownership into income groups lower than those at present able to benefit from 1650 mortgages, we shall have to think again about this scheme, and, perhaps, adopt something along the lines of the Merrett-Sykes proposals under which every person who borrowed from a building society, whatever his actual tax rate, would be able to deduct at the standard rate from the payment he made to the building society, the society then being able to reclaim that afterwards.
§ Mr. Mellish
The building societies have never said that our proposed mortgage schemes are totally unworkable. They have said that they have another scheme which they think is better.
§ Mr. Lubbock
That is a matter of interpretation of what the building societies have said. I accept what the hon. Gentleman says because, no doubt, he has been in closer contact with the building societies than I have. But there is no difference between us that the building societies do not like the Government's proposed scheme. It ought to be possible, in discussions with them, for the Government to achieve the same objective of helping people in lower income groups than are at present able to take out mortgages without at the same time imposing the enormous administrative burdens on the societies which, I understand, they say the Government's scheme would involve.
Since the Labour Government came into office, they have done only marginally better than the Tories did in their final year of office. After a year and a half of Socialist Government, they cannot expect to go on using the excuse of Tory mismanagement. They are still more than 25 per cent below the target of 500,000 houses which, quite rightly, they set for themselves by 1969–70, and, although the Minister has assured us once again today that the target will be met, I should have greater confidence if the figures given by him today had been more encouraging.
I make no complaint about those figures being given in the middle of the debate. It was helpful to have them in advance of publication so that we could consider them before we made our speeches, and I thought it rather ungracious of the Opposition to criticise.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I would remind the right hon. and learned Gentleman that interventions prolong speeches.
§ Mr. Lubbock
I appologise, Mr. Speaker. I am just coming to the end. It appears from the figures which the Minister gave that completions in the local authority sector are running at the same rate as last year, whereas in the private sector they are considerably down, so that, taking the total figures for the first four months, we are not doing as well as we did in 1965. No doubt, there is a good explanation for this. The weather always has something to do with it, and the Minister mentioned that.
What we want before the debate ends is an assurance from the Government that they expect during 1966 at least to exceed the number of completions we had in 1965. There must be a considerable improvement in the housing situation before the Labour Government's performance matches the promises which they made at the election times. Although we on this bench are not prepared to support the sweeping and inaccurate attacks made on them by the Tories this afternoon, we do not think that either Minister has a right to take pride in merely keeping pace with Tory achievements while promising the millenium in four years.
§ 7.35 p.m.
§ Mr. George Rogers (Kensington, North)
At the outset, I wish to refer to the two maiden speeches we heard today, two excellent speeches in a long series of excellent maiden speeches since this Parliament assembled.
My next-door neighbour, the hon. Member for Paddington, South (Mr. Scott) has much the same problems in many respects as I have. My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Mr. Forrester) was, probably, the first man in the House ever to say that it was an honour to be a Whip. I speak as one who was a colleague of our much respected Harriet Slater, the former Member for that constituency, whom we all admired and were extremely fond of.
What amazes me is the lack of nerves which all the new Members show. They speak felicitously, with easy phrasing quite unlike the stammering which most of us experienced when we first came here—I know I did—and they seem to have none of the humility which we had 1652 when we first entered Parliament. Whether this is because, in the last few years, we did not create an impression in the country which would give new Members humility, I do not know, but they certainly seem to have none of the humility and nervousness which most of us experienced.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) said that the House tried to make new Members feel at home in their maiden speeches. He might have added that, in their subsequent speeches, their reception may make them wish that they were. I can assure the two hon. Members that the cut and thrust of debate in the House can be fierce at times. I propose now to give an example in the comments I have to make about the Opposition Front Bench spokesman today.
I do not know what happened to the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) between his defeat in 1964 and his return here at the last election. He used to be an equable, balanced man whom we all respected. He has come back an insecure neurotic. He cannot sit still for five minutes. He cannot bear to hear something with which he disagrees without jumping up and interrupting. I do not believe that, in all my 21 years here, I have ever known a Minister to be interrupted so much by interventions and sedentary interjections as my right hon. Friend was today.
It is a good job for the right hon. and learned Gentleman that he was dealing with that Minister, because he might otherwise have been handled much more harshly. I hope that he will settle down and, after reflection on the rebuke which the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) gave him for his attack upon us, will subside into that ordered and responsible assessment of our achievements with which we were familiar in the last Parliament. If not, he will cease to have the respect which we once so freely gave him.
I never cease to be surprised, after 21 years, at the wonderful amnesia about their own record which the Tories can produce at any given moment. They have a sublime impertinence when dealing with their own faults and records and an equally sublime impertinence when dealing with the records of others. They reduce their own faults to an infinitesimal 1653 point which is almost non-existent, but, on the other hand, they exaggerate our faults to an extent which becomes sheer fantasy.
Why do they bother? The electorate gave the verdict at the last General Election on the views which the right hon. Gentleman expressed this afternoon. Yet before we have been in office a month he comes forward with his half-baked extravaganza about the failures of the Government. Even the hon. Member for Orpington has to admit that we have done fractionally better than the Tories.
We know that the hon. Member for Orpington is impartial, so if he says that we have done fractionally better that is an objective assessment. After 16 months with a majority of between one and three and one month with a good majority, we have done fractionally better than the Tories did. I feel confident that in five years we shall have done substantially better than the Tory Party did.
Let the Opposition not be at all desponded. If, after three or four years, the Labour Government have not done better than the Tory Party did in respect of housing, the most vociferous criticism will come not from the Opposition benches, but from this side of the House. If the Government do not produce land at a reasonable price, if the Land Commission does not work, and if the Government do not carry out the promises that we made to the electorate, let the right hon. Gentleman opposite rest assured that my hon. Friends and I will have a very strong measure of criticism.
But I know perfectly well that if that should happen the most disappointed people will be the Ministers themselves, because they passionately desire, as we all do, to solve the hideous housing problem which is a stain upon our nation, and still represents some of the worst slums in the world, and certainly the worst in Europe, at least the most developed parts of it.
One hon. Member opposite who should know better was actually unaware that thousands of tenants were evicted without court orders. He said "If there were tenants evicted without court orders". But thousands were evicted by private bailiffs. When property was decontrolled there was no need to go to court for an order. Yet one hon. 1654 Member was unaware of this fact. Perhaps this amnesia about the record of the Tory Party is not surprising. The hon. Member is an estate agent. Perhaps his point of view would not be particularly towards the hardships of tenants. It would be in another direction.
There were also the remarks of the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter). He actually chided the Minister for including Northern Ireland in the housing figures because it had a Tory majority. When did the Tory Party forbear to take the credit for the houses put up by Labour-controlled authorities? They boasted about their housing record for years when in most of those years a large proportion of the increase in housing was the result of the work of vigorous Labour housing authorities. Indeed, the London County Council would have done far better than it did if the Tories had not restricted it by their financial policy, and if they had not refused to give it permission for any more out-county estates at a time when it needed out-county estates to take the overspill resulting from its large slum clearance plans.
This brings me to my constituency. It is all very well to talk about owner-occupiers, mortgage rates and high interest charges, but in North Kensington, South Paddington and many other parts of London the problem is one of rented property. There is no land for either small or large builders to erect houses on which building societies can grant money. There is no land there at all. The old property is, in many cases, too bad to be bought, and building societies will not give mortgages on it. Even where local authorities grant mortgages, they will not give more than a proportion of the selling price because the property is old and rotten and in many cases not worth the money and the price has simply been inflated as a result of the policies pursued by the Tory Party when in office.
What we want is emphasis upon a drive to clear our disgraceful slum areas and house the people of London and the other great conurbations in decent places worthy of the twentieth century. This is wanted for people who have lived in the twilight areas far too long.
The Minister rightly said that if people do not like the way in which their local 1655 authority behaves they can use the ballot box. That is all right for some areas, but it does not work in the Royal Borough of Kensington. It has been a Royal borough since about 1890, and it has never had anything but a Conservative majority. In its wildest moments it never even got so far left as the Liberal Party in the days of Lloyd George. It has always been Tory. So it is a one-party State, and it has all the complacence of a permanent one-party majority. All power corrupts, and it certainly has corrupted the energy and initiative of my local authority.
The problem that we have in Kensington is the result of 50 years of complacency, 50 years of handing over housing responsibilities to housing associations and anyone else who would take them off the hands of the local authority, rather than that it should do the work itself. Since the war it has done better. It started very slowly, but it has got better. I understand that the Government have now asked it for a greater target. When the Minister has the information, I should like to know how far it is towards achieving that target and whether he can give it any assistance to increase the tempo with which the target is being achieved so that my people may have more hope than they have at the moment.
§ Mr. Mellish
I can tell my hon. Friend that the present Minister has told the Royal borough that it can build to capacity and that if it comes forward with any extra demands for housing it will be given permission. I can only say that, as in the case of many other London boroughs, its first three months' performance is not at all a happy one, but I do not want to condemn the borough on a three months' performance. However, my hon. Friend can take it from me that something will be done in the forthcoming months to ensure that the target which the borough has been given is realised.
§ Mr. Rogers
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that information.
I shall be glad of any help that he can give the Greater London Council over its comprehensive redevelopment of the Kensal New Town, which was envisaged immediately after the racial troubles in my constituency in 1957. We were supposed then to be a special borough 1656 because of our special problem, but we have seen precious little special help so far. Also, the scheme for the comprehensive redevelopment of that area, which was proposed then, has not yet begun.
I know that this is not the fault of the Greater London Council. It needs extra help from the Government. If the Government can give any extra help, I shall be very grateful if they will do so.
§ Mr. James Allason (Hemel Hempstead)
Would the hon. Gentleman agree that the delay in the development of the Kensal New Town was entirely the fault of the Labour-controlled London County Council, and that the Kensington Borough Council has been extremely keen to press forward with this for many years?
§ Mr. Rogers
This is dangerous ground for the hon. Member. One of the reasons why rehousing in Kensington has always been so slow is that for years the borough council refused to let the London County Council into the borough to do any of the rehousing. The London County Council wanted to do this very often, but the borough council refused. I know that the borough council resents the fact that the Greater London Council has come into the area at all now. Responsibility for this lies in the broader aspects of the policy introduced by the last Government.
I am not surprised that there has been some reduction in the tempo of new house building. We are changing sights a little, and altering direction. We are altering taxation. All this is bound to cause a certain loss of confidence, especially among the smaller builders. The large contractors—the kind of firm with which the hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain) is concerned—can handle this sort of thing. They have expert staff and large reserves. It is more difficult for the smaller man. Furthermore, he is apprehensive.
For years he has been making hay while the sun shines. He has made a lot of money. He has paid too much for land, but this was because he knew that in boom conditions he could get it back from the purchaser. House and land prices have been inflated by the business of auctioning every piece of available land for the highest price to the builder, who knew that he could get it back from the prospective purchaser. But with betterment tax and the other new taxes he 1657 now feels that he will not make so much money for himself.
Some builders are not at all public-spirited. They are not in building to satisfy a social need but because, like the landlords, they are able to fill their pockets satisfactorily. There is the builder who, knowing that a building is scheduled, or that trees are protected by local orders, will chop down the trees and destroy the protected buildings because he knows that he will merely have to pay a fine, which he can put on the cost of the houses that he will sell in boom conditions. He may be able to get the gullible public to pay for his defiance of laws to protect our property and our trees.
I hope that those luxuries are over. We have have far too many luxurious days since the war. We all know of flats built by private enterprise and advertised as luxury flats, although the only thing about them that is a luxury is the price. If we can bring down the profit margins on these new houses and flats to a reasonable sum by reducing the cost of land we shall be doing the public a good turn.
I am not sure that a certain amount of buyer's resistance has not developed in this matter. Near where I live a number of houses were completed last year, but no extra ones have been built on that site because not one of the completed houses has been sold. The reason is that they are not only too dear, but are ugly, both in design and colour. Because of those defects and the price there is a certain amount of buyer's resistance. The repayments on houses costing £8,000, £9,000, £10,000 and £11,000 which are being erected in the suburbs are ridiculously high. Not many people have incomes large enough to be able to afford these repayments over many years.
I agree with most of what the hon. Member for Orpington said about the building societies. He talked a good deal of sound sense. I wonder whether the Government have explored the question of interest rates. When I was in New Zealand, at the Commonwealth conference at the end of last year, I found that that country had several ways of assisting people to buy houses. It had a 3 per cent, interest scheme which, admittedly, was not applicable to every 1658 purchaser. It would be a good idea if the Government made some inquiries about such a scheme, because if New Zealand—a country with far fewer resources than ours—can operate such a scheme, even on a limited basis, we should be able to do something like it, where necessary.
I will now leave the debate to other Members. My feeling is that it is premature. The country has shown that it wanted us to be given a chance to prove that we can do the job we said we would do. The Opposition are wasting time having this debate. Like the electors, they should have given us a fair crack of the whip. I am quite confident that the Government will do the job that they have set out to do, and that by the time we next go to the electors we shall have a housing record of which we can be proud, and which will not have been gained at the expense of tenants exploited by private landlords, as was the case in the old days.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Jones (Northants, South)
I offer my congratulations to the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Christopher Price) on his maiden speech. He is the only hon. Member now in the Chamber who made his maiden speech today, but the fact that we have had no less than four in this housing debate—and that all those who have made maiden speeches have spoken with authority and deep knowledge—is an indication of the importance of housing not only socially and economically but in respect of every facet of the nation's life.
I entirely agree with the closing remark of the hon. Member for Kensington, North (Mr. George Rogers) to the effect that the Government are changing the emphasis on housing, and that in the interim period there is bound to be a lessening of construction work. If that admission had been clearly made by the Minister earlier in the debate it would have been accepted by hon. Members on both sides of the House, but the Minister went out of his way to defend the Government's policy, giving no explanation of the fact that there is a lessening of building activity generally, not only in completions but in starts.
The right hon. Gentleman caused amusement to hon. Members on both sides when he pleaded the not bad but poorer 1659 weather conditions this year. We know how wet it has been, but it has not been wet to the extent that it can in any way have affected house completions or starts. That argument is not acceptable to anyone with a close knowledge of the building and contracting industries.
The circumstances of the programme that we see today have arisen because of the changes in Government policy, to some extent because of the promises they have made, and also because of the proposals which have led to increasing uncertainty both in the private and public sectors of the building industry. These uncertainties are by no means resolved, and the Minister has not made any contribution to their resolution by his remarks today.
We are able to see no progress on the question of concessional interest rate. The interest rate is rising against the Government's hopes and despite every effort on their part. Despite the fact that they have been in consultation with building societies for about 12 months, this has not brought the Government and building societies any closer together. I pay tribute to the efforts that the Government have made, but there is a clear failure here. A little pique is involved in the Government's now taking to the Prices and Incomes Board the proposals of the building societies for a 7⅛ per cent. interest rate. During a period of high interest rates this increase is bound to be reflected right through the economy, as it has been in the mortgage rates for the Greater London Council.
For the Minister, when challenged on that, to say that it is a fixed rate surely is a denial of most of his own case, because it is a fixed high rate—a fixed higher rate than ever before. The advantage of building society rates is that they move up or down but not so the mortgages made available by local authorities. So, to some extent, the Minister was denying his own case in this regard.
We have yet to see the substance of the Government's proposal and promises have now been made for at least 18 months on interest rates. This has led to uncertainty among house buyers. Many house purchasers, prudently, have said, "I shall not buy a house with the present level of interest rates; I shall wait and 1660 see what the Government's proposals are." But the longer they have waited the more difficult their circumstances have become and the more expensive have the interest rates turned out to have been.
This is the difficulty. I see the Government's point of view in trying to paint a good picture, to show a promising policy, but they do so regardless apparently of their ability to fulfil the undertakings they are making. That is the great difficulty of the Government today in their housing policy and to some extent they have only themselves to blame.
The same applies to builders and developers. There is, as the hon. Member for Kensington, North said, a sales resistance, but, in addition, there are the unknown features and the uncertainty of the proposals for the Land Commission. These are causing developers to hesitate to plan their development schemes years ahead of their immediate requirements.
Building contractors, both large and small, plan, if prudent, three, four or five years ahead, and they are not feeling the measure of confidence in the situation to expend the substantial sums involved in the necessary land acquisitions. They cannot say what the cost of that land will stand at when eventually they will be enabled to build. The incidence of the levy, and so on, is there, but indeterminate, and it introduces a feeling of uncertainty and insecurity.
We have had the Government's proposals on leasehold reform. Much of the development now taking place of multi-storey flats for sale is caught by the White Paper's proposals. It is a very satisfactory form of development, giving as it does a high density, being properly designed, a high standard of amenity, on central sites convenient for people's employment without the responsibility for the maintenance of gardens, for which there is a lessening demand.
But the implications of the leasehold reform proposals of the Government are leading builders to hesitate to embark on schemes of this character. This is not only so in the private sector, but also in the public sector, where local authorities have been equally unsure of the measure of development and building they should undertake. They have suffered desperately this year on the question of interest 1661 rates, which has made development costly and the interim period of development a substantial debit on their housing revenue accounts. They have also had the difficulties of higher rents.
The hon. Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Winnick) mentioned that, in Croydon, the rents for council houses have gone up by as much as £1 per week. This must lead local authorities which are conscious of their housing responsibilities to hesitate and wonder whether council house rents are not getting to the point at which many of the applicants on their lists will lose the ability to pay and where many people will decide to purchase a house if they can get the deposit together.
So, for the local authorities, there is this uncertainty and, in addition, the new subsidy arrangements meant that many schemes deferred for perhaps six or nine months during the past year, waiting to see the level at which the new subsidies would be placed. Although selected authorities were allowed to take advantage of the higher subsidies for schemes that had been started in the interim period, this was not previously known and prudent authorities hesitated to embark on schemes without knowing the financial implications involved.
The building consortia among local authorities, initiated by the last Government, were getting substantially under way through the ability they offered their members to enter into bulk purchasing arrangements. These have also encountered difficulty. For example, a consortium in Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire had been proposing to base its arrangements on 3,000 units for 1966 but was told that the programme would be cut by one-third. This affected not only the plans of the consortium, but, also, building generally in the public sector.
So we have this rather bewildering pattern of change. Although it has been said that perhaps the debate is premature, surely an 18-month period is long enough for the Administration to begin to get the bugs out of this thing and begin to make up their minds and implement decisions they reach. But so many decisions are still unresolved. There is still uncertainty. Essentially, this stems from the paragraph in the National 1662 Plan in the chapter dealing with housing, which gives the clue to the Government's thinking. Paragraph 3, on page 170, says:… the house-building programme has never been planned as a whole.Behind all the Government's thinking is the fact that they are determined to plan the house-building programme. That is the essence of their case. This controls all their thinking and whatever steps they take they are determined to see that these conform to an overall plan.
But the house-building programme has been planned before. It was planned between 1945 and 1951 with the disastrous result of licensing and the proportion of public sector building fixed at two-thirds and the private sector at one-third. It failed dismally then and I predict that we shall see a failure in house building again if the Government put their determination to plan the whole thing as first priority. There are so many factors in house building. This is also emphasised in the National Plan, which points out that large numbers of smaller builders are engaged in the industry. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned this today. The National Plan goes on:… the Government think it essential to try to achieve a steady and predictable house-building programme, planned as between the public and private sectors …".This the Government will find impracticable. It is beginning to lie at the root of their problems. What they were not content to do was to build upon what was a successful housing programme up to the end of 1964, when a record number of house completions was achieved, followed by a higher number of completions last year as a flow-over from the earlier programme. If they were content to build upon that success, without trying to strike at the very roots of how that success was achieved they would stand a much better chance of substantially enlarged housing programme.
In many parts of the country there are adequate numbers of council houses to meet the new requirements of those in need of housing assistance. I welcome the emphasis which the Minister placed on the selection of expansion in the public sector. This is mentioned in the White Paper, Housing Programme 1663 1965–70, paragraph 7, with which I agree, says:… the Government's aim to increase the building programme fastest in the regions where housing needs are greatest—where existing housing is exceptionally bad or inadequate or where new housing is wanted to assist economic growth.Looking at paragraph 12, there is the surprising words:While the Government must provide for a steady growth of building for owner-occupation it would be criminal—what an extraordinary word to use—at the present time not to allow for an even faster growth of building to let.We do need a faster growth of building to let, but on a selective basis. The burden of my case is that houses for owner-occupation should be a priority call upon our resources, with equal priority in the public sector to slum clearance and residential development, building in the development areas, building in London, and the residential requirements in the new towns. Where subsidised accommodation is adequate, local authorities should be encouraged to sell to tenants in circumstances where this would not be detrimental to estate management.
In this way, much of the interest burden on the housing revenue accounts of local authorities would be lifted. In supporting house ownership the Government are paying lip-service to it and not making an effective policy of house building for sale part of their proposals. It is a programme of this character which would be most likely to ensure a successful housing policy.
§ 8.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Allan Williams (Swansea, West)
When I took my place in the Chamber at 3.30 p.m. I had a speech prepared which may not have been logical in its points, but which was logical in its flow. Now, having eliminated those points which have already been discussed, and having added some others which I would like to answer, I am afraid that I will probably have to flit from point to point. I beg the indulgence of the House in so doing.
Many of us will remember that during their last years of office Tory Ministers stamped around the countryside warning us that as a nation we were to have to 1664 increase production in our building industry by about 50 per cent. by the early 1970s. They warned us, quite rightly, that we would have to do this with an increase in manpower of only 2 per cent. Surely it follows from this that what is needed is a more efficient use of manpower, or to put it another way, the manpower at present being used in the building industry is not being used intelligently or efficiently. Hon. Gentlemen opposite must make up their minds about what they want. Do they want more efficient employment in the industry?
Many of them have criticised us simply on the grounds that as a result of the Selective Employment Tax things in the industry will not be quite as they were. This is the essence of achieving more efficiency in any industry. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) said that the tax could have a damaging effect, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) made a similar point. No one would deny that this tax may have a harmful effect. Nearly every tax can or does have an harmful effect on some sector of the economy.
What we have to ask is what are the alternatives, what would the Opposition have done, and what harmful effects would have arisen as a result of their measures and whether they would have been worse than those resulting from ours. We have been told that the tax will affect prices. This could be true, but it need not be—
§ Mr. A. P. Costain (Folkestone and Hythe)
Has the hon. Member seen an Answer by his own Minister to a Question I put down, in which the Minister admitted that the tax would increase prices? Why does the hon. Member say that it might when the Minister admits that it will?
§ Mr. Williams
If the hon. Gentleman could be patient, no doubt all of these mysteries will be solved for him.
I said that it may, and in some cases perhaps, will affect prices. In other cases it may not, as I will demonstrate in a moment. In some areas, such as London, it would be foolish to pretend that the price of housing is based upon the cost of housing. In many of the key areas of the country there is a pure demand and supply position in which the shortage 1665 of housing and the excessive demand for it dictates the price level, and these prices are far higher than any level which would be justified by costs.
In these cases the Selective Employment Tax need make no difference at all. Even in the areas where these conditions do not apply the industry could, if it had the will, absorb part or, in some cases, the whole of the extra cost which this tax could impose. Better use could be made of labour. Far too much labour is wasted on the building sites through lack of supervision; far too much labour is wasted simply because of a lack of business "know-how." Far too many small and medium-sized building sites have no phasing whatever of their ordering of supplies. Consequently, for days on end, sometimes for weeks, workers are doing little or nothing or skilled workers may be doing unskilled work, waiting for essential supplies.
Again, the building sites could adopt better techniques in order to absorb some of these costs even though it may not absorb all of them. We have heard fears voiced by hon. Gentlemen opposite that this could force small builders out of business. This could be true, but does that really matter? About 40 per cent, of the output of the building industry comes from firms employing less than 25 men. Perhaps some of these small builders need to be forced out of business so that their labour force could be released to go to the more efficient unit. These efficient firms could even end up with reduced labour costs. At present, the big and efficient firms who have a careful timetable of production are having to pay a premium on their labour costs to ensure that they have the amount of labour needed. It could be that the release of labour from the smaller and inefficient firms would lead to greater efficiency in industry.
Another point which was made was that we had failed to enable people to own their own home. Indeed, this point was made by the Leader of the Opposition over the weekend. As I will demonstrate with figures later, hon. Members opposite are hardly in a position to attack us on this score since, during their last 10 years of office, at least 380,000 people who could have had homes—and before anyone jumps up to ask me to 1666 explain this, let me say that I will explain it later—were denied homes by the calculated housing policy of the Conservative Government.
Right hon. and hon. Members opposite talk about the owning of homes. For 13 years they tolerated and preserved a situation—we have heard it eulogised this evening—in which a person could pay for his house and not own it. It is called the leasehold system. I am sure that most hon. Members know how this system works. At the end of the lease, despite the fact that a person has paid for the house, it reverts to the ground landlord and becomes his property, and the leaseholder can be forced to put it in good condition for the ground landlord to take it from him.
We had a debate on the leasehold system shortly before the dissolution of Parliament. Right hon. and hon. Members opposite denied in that debate that the leasehold system caused hardship. They said that leaseholders should be able to buy their homes at a fair market price. They used the word "fair", so it sounded reasonable. But when my right hon. Friend the Minister of Land and Natural Resources probed a little further into what they meant by a "fair market price", the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) admitted that he meant that not only did the leaseholder have to pay for the plot, but that he had to pay again for the bricks and mortar. This was their interpretation of a fair leasehold policy.
Those of us who sat through the debate well remember that certain hon. Members opposite described leashold reform as, on the one hand, a spivs' charter, and, on the other, confiscation. If right hon. and hon. Members opposite felt as emotively strongly as this and that leasehold reform was so iniquitous, what should their reaction have been? Surely they had a clear responsibility, which was to march into the Division Lobby against leashold reform. After all, they had opposed it for 13 years. But nothing would have tempted them into the Lobby at that time because they knew that an election was near. Although they thought it an immoral Bill—it had to be if it was confiscation and a spivs' charter—they could bury their consciences in view of the imminence of a General Election. 1667 [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] If any hon. Member opposite wants to intervene to deny that, he is welcome to do so. I should be fascinated to hear his denial.
Another allegation made against the Government is that we failed to keep up the rate of house building. The first thing which has to be made clear is that we built more houses than the Tories ever built. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] We did. The official figures support that. I have an Answer, dated only yesterday, on this point. We did build more houses than the Conservative Party built, and we are building more houses now than the Conservative Party ever built. Its spokesman today said that what we needed was a continuation of what he described as the progressive Conservative policies on house building. He said that we must keep moving forward in the house production race. I am sure that all hon. Members on this side of the House agree with that. But I am not sure that all hon. Members opposite agree with it.
If they agree with their spokesman, where were they in 1955, 1956, 1957, and 1958? In each of those years the figure of housing output was lower than it was for the year before. In 1954, the Conservatives reached a level of house building which they did not equal until 1964. Where were their consciences and good intentions during those ten years? By 1958, in Wales, they were building only 66 houses for every 100 houses they built in 1954. In England, they built only 79 houses for every 100 houses they built in 1954. It took them until 1964 to creep back up, and at last they got beyond the 1954 figure. This is why I say that the Conservative Government cost 380,000 people their homes.
In answer to a Question which I put to the Minister of Housing on 3rd August, which asked how many more houses would have been built in England and Wales had only the 1954 output been maintained—and we have heard from the Conservative Party today that it must be the intention of any efficient Government to maintain and, indeed, accelerate the level of building—I was told that 352,000 more houses would have been built in England alone, the equivalent of one year and two months' output, and that 30,000 more houses would have been built in 1668 Wales, the equivalent of two years' out-put.
Who can seriously believe the talk of right hon. and hon. Members opposite about what would have been achieved had the Conservative Party been reelected? They tell us that they would have built more houses than we built last year. I am tempted to ask: with what? They have spoken today about a surplus of bricks. We can talk about a deficiency of bricks when we came to power. At the end of September, 1964, there were four days' supply of bricks in the brick yards. What were right hon. and hon. Member going to build the houses with—promises? Perhaps they would have used Conservative Party election manifestos.
What was the Tories' policy towards housing? The right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph), at the Conservative Party conference—I am sure that no good Conservative would lie at the Conservative Party conference—in 1963, which is a significant year because the Tories knew that there had to be an election by 1964 and I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman would not be held back by any inhibitions, said that it "would not be realistic" to set a housing programme of 500,000. But by 1965 the Tories had changed their minds and were saying that they could build 500,000 houses, and a year earlier than we could.
§ Mr. Costain
Would the hon. Gentleman admit that by the ordinary progression of increase the building of 500,000 houses was quite possible? But his own Government's National Plan shows a reduction in increased production. How does the hon. Gentleman explain that?
§ Mr. Williams
I would say to the hon. Gentleman that I am surprised that the Conservative Government had as Minister of Housing someone who so little understood what was going on. With all the information of a Department available to him, he should have been quite capable of estimating the number of houses which would be built next year. So it should not have come as a surprise to him to find that there was an increase in the number of houses built in 1964 and 1965. We must assume that, since the right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East said that it was not realistic to set a housing programme of 500,000. it really was not realistic in his opinion.
1669 In Wales, this year is a remarkable boom year in building. Last year we increased house building in Wales by 3 per cent. over that in the year before. In the first quarter alone of this year we are 16½ per cent. up, on starts of building, on the same period last year. For every six houses which were being built in Wales last year there are seven being built this year. This is a measure of the attainment of this Government in housing.
§ Mr. Edward M. Taylor (Glasgow, Cathcart)
Does the hon. Member appreciate that while these wonderful things are happening in Wales, in Scotland completions, starts, and tenders are all very seriously down this quarter?
§ Mr. Williams
I do not know the statistics in Scotland, and I do not pretend to. I will take the hon. Member's word for that. All I can say is that in the area of the country which I represent we are getting better treatment in housing than we have ever had, and for this we are very grateful.
Finally, because I know one or two other hon. Gentlemen want to speak—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—I would briefly urge that the Minister looks to some practical measures which would be of great help to people who want to buy their own houses, and one of these would be to impose some sort of control upon solicitors' costs and some control on estate agents' costs; because if we add solicitors' costs in buying and selling to the estate agents' costs we often find that, together, they come to as much as 5 per cent. of the deposit on a house. This would itself facilitate the home ownership which we want in this country.
My final point I would ask the Minister to have regard to is, that high priority be given to the need to preserve older houses, because far too little attention was given to those when right hon. Members opposite were in office, when, during a phase in Wales when 18,000 houses were being built to replace houses which were derelict, a further 10,000 were actually allowed to slide into disrepair. It does not make much sense to be gearing up the industry when, at the same time, we are chasing our tails by unnecessarily adding to the demand for housing.
I suggest that at last we are having a positive approach to the country's housing needs, and that the past record of the 1670 Conservative Government in no way enables the Conservatives today to criticise our Government on this matter.
§ 8.32 p.m.
§ Mr. H. P. G. Channon (Southend, West)
As I know that a number of other hon. Members wish to speak, I shall try to be brief, but I must take up the hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Alan Williams) on one point. The only defence we have had so far from the benches opposite of the Selective Employment Tax being imposed on the construction industry is that it will force out small builders, drive them bankrupt and that that will be a good thing. If that is the explanation of the Government's imposing this tax on industry, then they ought to be ashamed of themselves.
§ Mr. Alan Williams
I did make the point that it could lead to the redistribution of labour within the industry and that it could lead to greater efficiency. I trust the hon. Member will not overlook this argument.
§ Mr. Channon
Indeed I will not, and I hope the hon. Member will not overlook the fact that one-third of the industry is involved in maintenance work and that it will be extremely difficult to raise that to greater efficiency.
I hope that the House rather than take the hon. Member's views will take those of the right hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell). I was delighted he spoke earlier in this debate, and I agree with practically everything he said. In particular, he was quite right about the Selective Employment Tax. It is a fantastic situation that the Government should impose a tax upon the building industry, when the object is to encourage its output—a tax which, as was pointed out, will help the manufacturers of fruit machines. It is fantastic to impose a tax which penalises the people building houses. I cannot believe any hon. Member, whichever side of the House he sits, wishes to support a policy which penalises builders and charities and helps the manufacturers of fruit machines.
The late Minister of Public Building and Works did the House a service—
§ Mr. Channon
I should have said the ex-Minister. The right hon. Gentleman 1671 has many years of useful life in front of him in this House.
This is a debate in which the Government are being accused of failing in their house building policies. Hon. Members have sometimes derided what we set about, and what action has been achieved, so may I briefly remind them of the figures, which have not been seriously challenged. There were 434,000 houses under construction at the end of 1964.
Did they build 434,000 houses? Did they build 420,000 houses? They were left with a target of 400,000 houses and they could reach a target of only 352,000 houses. I am glad that at least the Minister of Housing had the decency to say that it is not a record of which he is proud. I should think not. There was a short-fall of 50,000 houses between the target left to the Government and the number built whereas, on 31st December, 1963, there were 381,000 houses under construction and 373,000 houses were produced in 1964, a short-fall of only 8,000.
The Government's failure produced this extraordinary short-fall last year. The hon. Member for Kensington, North (Mr. George Rogers) put his finger on the point when he spoke of lack of confidence in the building industry. This has been a major factor in what has taken place. Of course there is lack of confidence. How can there not be when we have building control put on, the import surcharge, house prices rising and a Selective Employment Tax? All these factors, naturally, have undermined the confidence of the building industry.
The part of the speech by the right hon. Member for Leeds, West with which I disagreed concerned the stock of bricks. How did he encourage confidence in the brickmaking industry by his policy? In 1964 the brickmakers of this country produced 7,800 million bricks and they were told by the right hon. Gentleman that this was not enough and that they must expand further. They were told that they must produce an extra 600 million bricks in 1965. The target which he wanted achieved was 8,400 million bricks. Does he still wish that they had achieved this target? Had they done so, there would have been 1,100 million bricks in stock 1672 at the end of last year, because at 31st December last year there were 561 million bricks in stock and the industry had reached nothing like the target which the Minister had set.
§ Mr. Pannell
To be fair, Sir Arthur Worboys was at some pains to tell me, when I asked for this increased production, that it had been the intention to increase production anyway. I do not want to delay the hon. Member in the short time he has available, but if he reads the whole of the speech from which I quoted he will see that this point was very well brought out.
§ Mr. Channon
I accept that, but it is as well that they did not increase production otherwise the brick situation would have been very much worse than in fact it is. There would have been 1,100 million bricks in stock at the end of December. We heard in earlier debates about 882 million bricks at the end of March. We have heard the April housing figures given by the Minister today. They were given us a week early, and we were delighted to have them. Can the Minister give us the April brick figures? Presumably if the housing figures are available we can also be given the brick figures for April.
It is my guess that when we are told them, whether tonight or later, we shall find that the figures of brick stocks have gone up again. It is my information that bricks are still being stocked all over the country, in spite of the fact that it is the middle of May and that the situation this year is worse than it has ever been. It is worse than it was even after the bad winter of 1962–63, which was the worst winter we have had in this country for years. I believe that the brick situation this year was even worse than it was after that winter. We have a Government-inspired glut of bricks rather than a weather-inspired glut of bricks.
The Minister this afternoon produced figures for the first four months of the year showing that there has been a drop in the housing figures compared with last year. One hon. Member told us that there had been an increase in the figures for Wales, in which case the decline in England must be much more serious even than I thought. The figures are down in Scotland and down in England. I am glad that Wales at least has had some joy out of this.
1673 We were told that the weather was bad. I wonder whether the Minister took the trouble to check with the Meteorological Office, because in fact there was less frost in the winter of 1965–66 than in the winter of 1964–65. I took the trouble to check that with the Meteorological Office. The excuse is therefore totally invalid, and I hope that the Minister will not use it in winding up the debate.
This debate is not about 13 years of Conservative rule, although hon. Members opposite try to ride out of the situation always by quoting the past. Let us have some policy from them. Are they proud of their record and of what is happening this year, when after four months the figures for housing completions are down on the four months of last year, and when even last year they failed to meet their own modest target by 18,000 houses? At this rate of progress, do they expect to reach the target of 500,000 houses a year by 1970? If so, they are going backwards in order to do so, because the figures are going down and not up.
This is a record of failure by the Government. They are building fewer houses and more expensive houses. House prices have risen faster than at any time since figures were first kept. They are higher than they have ever been. Mortgage interest rates are higher. The import surcharge put the prices up. On the Minister's own admission, the Selective Employment Tax will put up the price of houses. What we have had after 17 months of Labour Government—not just of one month—is a Government which has produced more controls on the building industry, for we have started to go back to the old days of building licences and the Government have managed to put up the price of houses higher than they have ever been. Having built fewer houses and having managed to have a shortfall in house-building, hon. Gentlemen opposite say that they are proud of their record.
I suggest—and it was typical of the hon. Member for Orpington to indicate that he would abstain, which is what I think the Liberals will do—that whatever has happened in the past in the housing situation, over the last 17 months the Labour Government have completely 1674 failed to live up to their promises to the electorate in two successive elections.
The Prime Minister said that the Socialists would tackle the housing situation like a war-time operation. Had we tackled the war the way the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends are tackling the housing situation, we would have lost. The party opposite has a record of muddle and mismanagement in this sphere, with fewer houses this year than last—fewer, more expensive houses and more controls—and that is the failure which has led us to censure the Government and why we will vote against them tonight.
§ 8.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Barnes (Brentford and Chiswick)
Some of the hottest exchanges particularly at the beginning of the debate, have been about figures. Let us not talk about statistics—about which set of figures is right and which is wrong—because whether or not the figures are true, I do not want to talk about them. I want to speak about people, people who are hoping to live in the houses about which we are talking today.
Particularly I want to speak about people in London and the great conurbations, for so many of whom the only chance of getting a decent home of their own is to obtain a council place. I was staggered at the laconic remark of the right hon. and learned Member for Hex-ham (Mr. Rippon) when he threw out the phrase about local authorities being allowed to build as fast as they could and as fast as they needed to do. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing has rightly made clear to him what the factual implications are of doing that. What surprised me about the remark was the apparent lack of involvement it showed with those whose only chance of obtaining a decent home is to get a council place.
There is, as the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) said, this Tory obsession with the problems of the owner-occupier. My hon. Friends, on the other hand, are trying to offer to every section of the community—we have had the Rent Act for those living in unfurnished accommodation, and coming along are leasehold reform and the scheme of option mortgages—the right to have a home of their own. Of course we need 1675 to build houses for owner-occupiers, but, as the White Paper rightly says, we need to increase at a much faster rate the building of houses to rent.
It is not completely out of character that hon. Gentlemen opposite should tend to take this view, because when they were in power, from 1953 and throughout the 'fifties, they allowed the number of houses being built by local authorities to decline each year until, in 1961, we had the lowest number built by local authorities since 1948, which, of course, was only three years after the war.
Dealing with London, the Milner Holland Report made it clear that the people hardest hit in the housing situation were familities with below-average incomes with two or three children—and in London one does not have to be earning much below the average to be in trouble with one's housing, particularly if one has a family of any size. So let us talk about families for a moment and forget about statistics. Let us, for example, talk about a family with three children living with the wife's mother. The wife's mother has a three-bedroomed basement flat. She also has two adult children living with her, a man and a woman. The only possible sleeping rota that can be worked out in this family involves the father of the three young children moving out at night to sleep with his brother in another house. Like so many basement flats throughout London, dampness comes in. It means, particularly during the winter months, that the children have a stream of colds and chest complaints of one sort or another.
Let us talk about a different family; about a man who is a baker's rounds-man and who takes home £14 5s. to his wife and three children who live in two rooms in a flat on the top floor of a building. Because they live on the top floor and there are people living in the flat underneath theirs, the children must be very careful not to make too much noise. Being very small, these children are not very good at being quiet. The husband is good about not making a noise because he was brought up under similar conditions, but he does not want to have to train his children to tiptoe across the floor like he had to do when he was small.
1676 When he comes home he may find his eldest child—perhaps aged only 3 or 4—playing on the corner of the street because his wife is busy putting the younger children to bed and there is no room for the eldest child in the flat at the time. The man himself was brought up on street corners and he has felt that he had seen the last of that kind of thing. He does not want his children to have to suffer in that way.
I quote these instances to emphasise that it is important always to keep before our minds when talking on this subject that it is about people rather than figures and statistics. I quote the cases of these people because the only chance they have of being decently housed is of getting a place provided by the local authority. If they were to move out of an unsatisfactory basement flat they would have to be prepared to pay about £8 a week in rent in order to find a suitable unfurnished flat for a family of that size. This is why it is absolutely right that in the National Plan the Government should set a target of 250,000 houses a year built by local authorities and 250,000 built for owner-occupation by 1970. It is no exaggeration to say that the future happiness of thousands of people depends on that target being met.
It is not enough merely to worry about the building of houses. When local authority waiting lists are such a size and the competition for places on lists is so great, it is vital that applications should be dealt with fairly and properly. I hope that the Minister of Housing and Local Government will encourage local authorities to deal with applications all the time as fairly and efficiently as possible. There is room for improvement in this respect. I do not believe that it is a good thing for any administrative organisation, when it receives an application for anything, to send out a printed card with the words on it, "Date as postmark" and stating that a reply will follow in due course. That is a lazy way of dealing with applications. Inevitably, there will be cases where a further communication for some reason or other is not addressed to the applicant. It makes people very angry when they have a card such as this and find that it is not followed tip within a reasonable time.
§ Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, West)
I am not sure which is the constituency 1677 of my hon. Friend. Could he tell us in detail what the policy of his local authority is in allocating houses so that other hon. Members might compare his experience with that in their local authority areas?
§ Mr. Barnes
My constituency is Brentford and Chiswick, which is in the new London Borough of Hounslow. The local authority is operating a points scheme. I shall not go into details of the scheme because they would be of parochial interest only, but we have to remember when talking of London that local authorities have had difficulty under the reorganisation of local government throughout the London area and through the changing of the size of their areas. If my hon. Friend will allow me, I shall not go off on that tangent.
§ Mr. Brian O'Malley (Rotherham)
Would not my hon. Friend consider that one of the great condemnations we should make of the last Administration, looking at the matter from the point of the view of the council house tenant, is their complete lack of control of land prices particularly in constituencies such as his during the whole 13 years in which the party opposite was in office?
§ Mr. Barnes
I am sorry, but I missed the beginning of my hon. Friend's remarks because I was distracted. May I be allowed to know what the beginning was?
§ Mr. O'Malley
I was asking my hon. Friend to consider the rocketing prices of land in great conurbations as a result of the failure of the Tory Party to do anything about it in the whole of their 13 years in office.
§ Mr. R. Chichester-Clark (Londonderry)
Would the hon. Gentleman discourage interruptions from his hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton), because it would be a great pity if, through any accident, the only Scottish Member who seeks to take part in this debate, namely, my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor), were precluded from doing so?
§ Mr. Hamilton
On a point of order. That is an aspersion on Scottish Members, including myself, who are anxious to take part in this debate but who, because of the abusive speeches made from the Opposition side, have been unable to do so.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Sydney Irving)
The quickest way of allowing Scottish Members to speak is for the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) not to intervene.
§ Mr. Barnes
I am anxious to pursue this line of argument, namely, the way in which applications are dealt with by local authorities. I have already quoted one example. I have had several examples brought to my attention of another thoughtless action. This is where people who go to make an inquiry about a housing application, not to the main office, but probably to the local sub-office, are told, "Your best way of getting a home is either to emigrate or to have six children". This is the sort of thing that is sometimes said. It can be said thoughtlessly, but it is bad public relations. If this country needs anything, especially in regard to the whole matter of housing, it needs better public relations by local authorities and a greater respect for the members of the public with whom they deal.
I emphasise the fact that people dealing with local authorities set much store by what officialdom says to them. Let me again cite the case of the family I described earlier who are living in the basement flat—the mother's flat. This family had been on the housing list for a number of years. I am going back two or three years now. In desperation they decided to move away from London altogether. The husband thought about which parts of the country would be most suitaible for him to obtain similar employment. He decided to move to the Isle of Wight with his family.
The family were on the Isle of Wight for 6 or 9 months. This was not a satisfactory solution for the family by any means, because they found that the husband was unable to command a job at a rate of pay anything like that which he needed in order to support his family in the way they had been accustomed to being supported while they had been 1679 living in London. Therefore, the family decided to return to London, not to the same house, but to the same London borough in which they had lived before.
The family contacted the local authority again. They were assured by the individual to whom they spoke at the local office of the housing department that they could take up on the housing list at the point at which they had left off, that their position would not be changed. The husband went back to his family and told his wife of this. Hopes are raised very easily. The wife was extremely pleased that this was the case. But it transpired that this was not the case, that the family had lost the place they originally had on the housing list before they moved to the Isle of Wight and, as a result, they had been put back a considerable amount of time.
§ Sir Harmar Nicholls (Peterborough)
This is a case very suitable for the ombudsman that we were promised in the Labour manifesto.
§ Mr. Barnes
I agree with the hon. Gentleman; this is absolutely so. This is the type of case one would want an ombudsman to look into. I will go on with this theme, because it is an important subject and I should like to see it through.
§ Mr. Barnes
I am sorry, but I must drive home this point about local authorities. I should have thought that hon. Members opposite would have felt that the way that local authorities handled matters of this kind is of great importance.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Sydney Irving)
If the hon. Gentleman who has the Floor does not give way, the hon. Gentleman must sit down.
§ Mr. Barnes
The individual in the office of the housing department told this gentleman that he was extremely perturbed about this matter and telephoned the head office of the local authority. Again he returned to the individual concerned and reiterated that the local authority's director of housing was very perturbed about this situation, but that because he had gone to the Isle of Wight with his family they had lost their place on the housing list. This gentleman returned to his family and told his wife, "The council is very perturbed. I was standing there while the clerk at the local office rang up the head office and spoke to the housing director, and he said that the council is very perturbed."
I urge the Minister of Housing and Local Government—[HON. MEMBERS: "Where is he?"]—to try to bring home to local authorities throughout the country, and especially to housing departments, that individuals set a great deal of store by remarks that are made when they have dealings with local authorities. Many right hon. and hon. Members would probably agree, especially those who have had any administrative experience, that in a case like this it is much better to write a letter, because when one writes a letter, whether to a housing department or to an organisation of any kind, that is a piece of paper which lands on somebody's desk. It niggles them; it worries them. They try to put it in their in or out tray, but if they have a conscience at all this bit of paper on their desk worries them. But if you talk to them on the telephone, or go in and have a conversation with them, there is no record of the exchange between you as there is when a letter is written. That is why it is so exasperating and heartbreaking that there are many people all over the country going to see housing departments, being interviewed, ringing them up, and setting far too much store on what they are told.
Therefore, I should like the Minister to be aware of this problem. I realise that we were talking about the problems in London, with the reorganisation of local government throughout London. 1681 There are the problems of the bulging housing lists in London. Many people cannot get on the lists, and there are these problems in many constituencies. I ask the Minister to encourage local authorities to use a more efficient way of dealing with housing applications, and to improve their public relations.
§ Mr. O'Malley
Would my hon. Friend say what his opinions are on the rôle of an ombudsman in local affairs and local government, with particular reference to the kind of case that he has quoted?
§ Mr. Barnes
That is a very interesting point, but I am most anxious, because time is very short, not to be distracted from the two central points that I have been trying to make throughout this speech. [HON. MEMBERS: "What are they?"] The two points that I have endeavoured to make and which I had hoped I had made clear are, firstly, the importance of giving a greater priority to local authority building of houses to rent, rather than owner-occupied houses, which is what we have had in the past. The second point is, for hon. Members who missed it or who have just come into the Chamber, the need for better and more efficient handling of housing applications by local authorities.
Time is drawing very short, and therefore I should like to summarise what I have been trying to say. The real subject that we have been debating is not the figures and statistics that have been bandied about. It is the homes that are desperately needed to create the conditions which alone make happiness possible for thousands of people throughout the country. People want these conditions while they are young and while their children are young. This is why I would back the Government to the hilt to meet the target of half a million houses a year by 1970. Poised as we are on this big breakthrough in housing, I can only say that it is churlish of the Opposition to table their Motion.
§ 9.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Edward M. Taylor (Glasgow, Cathcart)
My hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon) spoke for ten minutes to enable the hon. Member for Brentford and Chiswick (Mr. Barnes) to say all he had to say in 20 minutes. I would not, however, like the 1682 House to lose the opportunity in 30 seconds to hear what has happened in Scotland.
In Scotland last year, we built 2,000 fewer houses than in 1964, and in the first quarter of this year completions were down by one-sixth on the same quarter of 1965. Housing starts in Scotland in the first quarter of the year were down from 10,000 to 6,000—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Sydney Irving)
The hon. Member who has risen must not continue to intervene when the hon. Member who has the Floor does not give way.
§ Mr. Taylor
The tenders for the houses to be built next year and in the future years were down by one-quarter—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I must insist that the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) does not persist in his intervention when the hon. Member who has the Floor has not given way.
§ Mr. Taylor
I would like to say the final word. In Scotland, as I believe in England, the Government have carried out a gigantic confidence trick by saying a great deal and by having a scandalous record, a record which is all the more scandalous bearing in mind the terrible housing problems of Scotland.
§ 9.3 p.m.
§ Mr. R. Chichester-Clark (Londonderry)
I am certain that the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton), as I know he will, will acquit me of any malice towards Scottish Members and will realise that I am only too anxious that they should get an opportunity to take part—
§ Mr. William Hamilton
Give me two minutes, the same as the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) got.
§ Mr. Chichester-Clark
The hon. Member has not been here all day waiting to make a speech, as my hon. Friend has been.
§ Mr. Chichester-Clark
Perhaps I may begin by referring, first, to some of the maiden speeches to which we have listened with great pleasure this afternoon. My hon. Friend the Member for Paddington, South (Mr. Scott) made a most attractive and fluent speech, which clearly showed his grasp of the subject. I most certainly offer him my congratulations and, I am sure, those of the House.
The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Mr. Forrester) said in his maiden speech that he would avoid mentioning what his hon. Friends had said of the Selective Employment Tax. That was carrying uncontroversiality a long way, but the hon. Member was most successful in that. I am sure that we all congratulate him on making a fine speech. The hon. Member indirectly paid tribute to our ideas on a National House-Building Registration Council, and we were gratified by that.
I would like also to refer to the maiden speech of my hon. Friend the Member for North Fylde (Mr. Clegg), which was delivered with such confidence and sincerity. As he said, Richard Stanley's family have been represented in this House without a break for 44 years. With the majority which he commands, my hon. Friend will have no difficulty in emulating that record without a break. I congratulate him on a speech which was well delivered and which, in brevity, was an example to us all.
There was an excellent speech, too, from the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Christopher Price), on which we congratulate him sincerely. He spoke with obvious knowledge of his subject. His majority does not suggest, however, that he will have a 44-year tenure of membership.
I come next to the speech of the right hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell). There is nothing maidenly about the right hon. Gentleman, but he showed virtue this afternoon, for not only did he ask for a degree of immunity, which, some, I am sure, would grant him—but, I fear, I cannot entirely—but he 1684 made what, I am sure, was recognised by the House as a most courageous and, as he said, a very difficult speech. We all listened to it with very great interest. He was almost non-party in his approach. I could go even further and say that he might almost have made his speech from this side of the House.
I shall have to be critical of the right hon. Gentleman in due course, but I must commend him for the courage with which he made his speech and for the manner in which, during his tenure of office at the Ministry of Public Building and Works, he tried—and "tried" is the operative word—to stand up for the industry of which, as he said, the Ministry of Public Building and Works ought to be the leader. This is recognised in the industry, whatever other criticisms they may make.
I find myself in a great deal of agreement with much that he had to say, especially about the Selective Employment Tax and its possible effects in adding to the manpower problems of the industry. However, I would probably get into trouble, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, if I were to pursue that line very much further. The right hon. Gentleman doubted whether the Building Control Bill, with which he had some connection, was justified—that is, if it was to be followed by the Selective Employment Tax. I must say that I agree with him there.
The right hon. Gentleman shares with us on these benches the concern which we all feel about the manner in which this tax may give undue encouragement to the already spreading growth of labour-only. He referred to its dangers and he was, no doubt, thinking particularly of the possibility of the inefficiency of a labour-only gang being let loose on the electrical side of the industry where obviously its activities could be lethal. I am sure that that is the kind of thing he had in mind.
To come to the subject of the debate, this is a grave moment for the housing and building industries. It is a time when, so far from advancing, we are actually in retreat. So far from the new Britain being built, increasingly less of anything is being built at all. It is a time when spokesman after spokesman from the industry has complained of lack 1685 of confidence and uncertainty as to the future. It is a moment when the Minister of Housing—who is not noted for the modesty of his claims on occasions—admits to the House and on television that the position in the private sector is far from comforting and he says that he is not at all proud of the Government's achievements. Today, he merely said that it was disappointing.
What is going wrong? Why is the new Britain not being built, and why is it only a dream in the minds of the Prime Minister's speech writers? Why this failure? The Minister expressed himself puzzled about the situation, but I thought that my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) unravelled the tangled skein for him very effectively. I shall try, if I must, to do so again.
The position is this. The private building industry depends on forward planning, a regular flow of orders and the knowledge that it can proceed with a reasonable degree of certainty whether there are controls or not. This means that builders should have the prospect —this was mentioned a good deal this afternoon—of a regular flow of building land and not the prospect of the supply drying up. The Minister made comments on this which I found unconvincing this afternoon.
It means, too, that contractors should see orders for new work increasing in value as against the same period of the previous year, and not falling as in 1965 as against 1964 and as they have been doing month by month since. It means that private builders should be able to be sure of a reasonable flow of bank loans for their requirements and should not be faced with Bank of England directives drying up that supply at the same time as the Government press for more building. That is very important.
It may well be that that is the reason why the Minister mentioned this afternoon the slowing up and the delays in completions. That may well be. It also means that builders should have an idea of how many houses can be built for sale in the future, and that is without the changes of mind which the Minister's speech made apparent from time to time. We have had different committed totals 1686 mentioned in almost every speech. I have evidence of that beside me.
§ Mr. Chichester Clark
If the right hon. Gentleman wants me to quote it, I will do so.
First, at the Labour Party conference of 27th September, 1965, speaking of builders and ideas for housing, he told us that there should be roughly a 50–50 split. Later, in "The Housing Programme" issued in November, 1965, we find him saying that there should be a tolerance on either side. After that, there comes another quotation, when he said:I am going to leave private enterprise completely free to build every house it can sell.That came in a B.B.C. Home Service party political broadcast on 11th May, 1966. Now we know where we are—or do we? Do the house builders know where they are? With respect, I do not think so.
Besides which, the builders should not have to spend their time watching the public sector in the form of direct labour organisations being artificially stimulated at their expense. What is really needed—this has been said so often, notably in some powerful speeches from this side today—is a restoration of confidence in the industry.
My hon. Friend the Member for South-end, West (Mr. Channon) was very vehement and entirely right in what he said and gave many examples of this. In passing, I must point out that there were few industries which, in 1964, were more ready to co-operate with the present Government than the building and construction industries, and this was true of the building societies as well. But few have been more disillusioned.
Some strange things were said by the Minister today. He told us that the big builders were going ahead with their house building. Obviously, he has not heard about Wimpey and he has not read Taylor-Woodrow's annual report, in The Times of 18th May, which said:The number of houses constructed and sold during the past year was considerably less than in 1964. Contributing factors to this were the credit squeeze and shortage of mortgage funds for owner-occupiers, together with uncertainty over interest rates.1687 I wanted the Minister to know about that.
There are other factors creating the lack of confidence. Seemingly little things can create it. On Tuesday, the Prime Minister announced that the National Building Agency was to be transferred to the right hon. Gentleman's Ministry, the Agency so successfully created and which operated so well under the aegis of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hexham. I concede that such a transfer should not necessarily cause builders to lose a great deal of sleep, but they have found it worrying. Some of the reasons—whether they were entirely accurate or not, perhaps one does not know, but I believe that they were—were set out in an article in The Times from which my right hon. and learned Friend read. The Minister made a vicious attack on The Times this afternoon, but we have had no explanation as to what is going on.
There have been strong rumours—I must say this and get a denial if it is not true—that the National Building Agency has been developing its own system of industrialised building, a move which is condemned as unethical and certainly not conforming to the purpose for which it was established. We must try to elicit a denial of that this evening. It is further suggested in the industry that the transfer from one Ministry to another took place so that the Minister could produce his own national system, with the expertise of the N.B.A., a system which would then be adopted and recommended, perhaps with the backing of loan sanctions, to local authorities.
§ Mr. Crossman
If the hon. Gentleman wants it, all I can tell him is that, as I said before, there is not a word of truth in any of that about myself.
§ Mr. Crossman
I said that there was not a word of truth in that allegation about what I have done. It is an allegation about what I did. I am saying that it is untrue. If the hon. Gentleman asks me, I deny it. I hope that he will accept my denial.
§ Mr. Chichester-Clark
Of course, I shall accept the right hon. Gentleman's 1688 denial, but that is not quite the point. I was asking whether the N.B.A. itself had been developing a system, possibly with co-operation, which the Minister may not have known about. I accept that he has not done it, but we are talking about the N.B.A. which has only now been transferred to his Ministry. Perhaps he now follows what I mean.
If there is to be a national system —as I say, I accept what the Minister says and give him the benefit of the doubt on the question whether this is a form of nationalisation of part of the construction industry—what guarantee is there that it will be subjected to any kind of competitive forces? It may well prove that a system is developed which will be more expensive and, possibly, difficult from the standpoint of our balance of payments because it will not have the expertise and experience of private industry which will be competing with it and which would tend to make it price-conscious and more competitive in its development.
But the industry will be even more suspicious unless it is assured that a state of affairs does not exist in which the N.B.A. will be able to use in the Ministry the knowledge which it has derived from systems submitted for appraisal by outside builders. This worries the industry very much, and we want an assurance about it tonight. I trust that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary will give that assurance. We will get that assurance will we not?
I also want to speak about direct labour. The industry is not happy about the emphasis placed on local authority direct labour organisations by the Government. The Opposition are not against direct labour in certain sectors. Direct labour organisations do the most important and necessary work, particularly maintenance work. But it is ludicrous to suggest that by the abolition of the one-for-three rule last November healthy competition was provided for private builders. How can any private builder be expected to compete with the resources of the general rate fund and the taxpayers which can be found standing behind direct labour departments to bail them out if the need arises?
The argument used to justify the infamous Circular 50/65 about the importance of continuity to direct labour 1689 work in expanding the house building programme is completely specious. Of course continuity is desirable. Every builder longs for it. That is what I said when I began my speech. But this is suggesting continuity at the expense of the independent builder. We might well see certain local authorities attempting to abandon altogether the practice of putting out work to competitive tender. This was what Mr. Kirby Laing was warning the right hon. Gentleman about in his presence at a dinner last November. I do not know how the right hon. Gentleman squares such a happening with the Banwell Committee's Report. It would be interesting to hear the argument—it would be an interesting theological argument—on some other occasion.
But all this is being done for a form of enterprise—direct labour—which is not notably productive and which is, sometimes at least, grossly and scandalously inefficient at public expense. I am at a loss to know why the right hon. Gentleman should be taking action which will draw labour from private building to direct labour departments in an industry which already has serious and growing labour shortages in various sectors. The right hon. Gentleman know that output per man employed by contractors—we have had the figure once today, but I will give it again—on new housing work for public authorities—not private enterprise—in 1964 was £2,825, while the output per man employed by local authorities was £1,990.
I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman—he is too shrewd—would want to advance the argument put forward by the Manchester Direct Works Committee in its 1963–64 annual report when it tried to suggest that Ministry statistics confused productivity and output. He knows very well that that report contradicted its own argument a few pages later on. However, the fact is that the output of direct labour departments is far from satisfactory and that to increase their work artificially, which seems to be what is happening, simply means that fewer houses will be built, and in all probability they will be built less quickly. I am sure that that is a result which no one in the House wants.
Also, there are the periodic scandals which occur, such as at Cardiff and Liver- 1690 pool, where the ratepayers are left "carrying the can" for inadequate estimating and sheer inefficiency. The case that everyone has read about is that at Salford. There is a real tribute to direct labour.
Beside me I have the Dale interim report into overspending by the Salford Direct Labour Department. It does not make good reading. I wonder whether the Minister can be happy about the abolition of this corrective check of periodic competition for a department which may prove in this case to have lost £500,000 on contracts worth less than £6 million, or where 33 out of 40 contracts were overspent—one by 38 per cent. We have seen more than enough of the general rate being poured down the drain in this way, and this comes from the people's guardian of the burden of the rates who sits opposite me tonight.
Another thing that I want to know is whether the Government plans for the future include provision for direct labour departments to pay taxes, on the same basis as private builders pay taxes. I take it that we will receive some sort of assurance on this point tonight. We will get that, will we not? The industry want to know. When the Government first announced their nexus of building controls in 1964–65—the Control of Offices and Industrial Development Act, the six months' moratorium, and the Building Control Bill with its unhappy history of retrospection and Ministerial confusion — these controls appeared to be directed against the big builders, whom the Government, in their all too finite wisdom, thought had too much work to do.
We were told that the builders were doing the wrong sort of job. A variety of reasons was put forward for the controls. One day it was the balance of payments, then it was overheating in the industry—and then, in a flash of revelation, we had the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Boyden) telling us that we were having the controls in anticipation of future crises which the Government thought likely.
It seemed that only the big builders were to be hit by these controls, but that is not what has happened. The little man is being hit harder than anybody. The 45,000 firms mentioned tonight by 1691 my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West, who employ between one and 10 men, derive little or no benefit from investment grant schemes. They have been hit because their profit margins are already low, and they will have to pass on all the new taxes instead of absorbing them, as some of the bigger firms can.
Then there are the building material producers, especially the smaller ones. They are hit by this ludicrous brick stocks position. Bricks are now sitting around in yards and fields and car parks all round the country. The small man is affected most. He has limited transport and storage facilities. The position is very serious in some parts of the country.
I remember the right hon. Member for Leeds, West telling us, in a most engaging way, that he was the prisoner of whatever he happened to say at the time. Of course he is the prisoner of what he says. What he said at one time was, "Nothing has a greater psychological effect on a man than seeing plenty of bricks on a site". They are not all on the sites, but there are plenty of bricks—in fact, there are so many that the appetite of some building material producers may sicken, and next year we may have a shortage of production.
The brick scandal stands out on its own. It is worth a debate on its own, although I doubt whether the Government would welcome that. My hon. Friend the Member for Poole (Mr. Murton) said that he knew areas where the situation was particularly serious. The Government have an injured look when we mention bricks, and the right hon. Member for Leeds, West looks like a family pet whose tail has been trodden on while it is still wagging. He says, "Why are you blaming us for turning a shortage into a glut?" We are not blaming the Government for that; what we are blaming them for is for turning a year of record production and expansion—1964—into a year of gloom and cut-backs in production, and now into a year of crisis, which is continuing and deepening.
It is remarkable that we got the housing totals for March today, but we have not yet had the brick totals. Perhaps we shall get them later on tonight. Heaven knows, they will be bad enough, but April may 1692 well be the cruellest month. It may well be worse, but I hope not.
"We shall plan the bricks", said the Prime Minister. We warned the Government in November, 1964, just how expensive a bit of false planning would be. That is what has happened. I shall be surprised if we hear more about the weather in 1962–63 as compared with last year. There is no comparison. We have heard from the Minister that the glut in 1963 was as bad as this year. It is a false comparison. Anyone who compares the weather of 1962–63 with last winter should really go to see his meteorologist.
The position is simple. The Government's house-building programme has run into serious trouble. One should have expected it, because there was the same flop after the war, resulting in the same dismal failure. We have stated what has gone wrong and what will still go wrong as long as the Government indulge in futile irrelevancies like the Land Commission and the Building Control Bill and allow the economy to stagger along from one Budget to another every few months, each more austere than the last.
It is fitting that the Minister of Housing and Local Government should be the field commander for the "supremo's" war operation on housing. Some time ago, the House was reminded of a famous dictum delivered to the Royal United Services Institution. It was:If the art of propaganda is to conceal that you are doing propaganda, then the essential substance of propaganda is that, if you give a man correct information for seven years, he may believe the incorrect information on the first day of the eighth year, when it is necessary from your point of view that he should do so.The speaker was the Minister of Housing and Local Government.
But the right hon. Gentleman will not get eight years—there is no doubt of that—and I hope that he will not find the first part of his dictum about giving correct information beyond his powers. I wonder whether he has not altered his dicta to suggest that, if one tells the people often enough that more houses will be produced, the rates will be reduced and mortgages will come down, they will not believe the hard correct facts, which are that fewer houses are being built, rates are rising astronomically and mortgages are historically high and getting higher—just as, in the same way, 1693 the people may be made to believe that in February the Winter Emergency Committee is warming their rooms and that the Commonwealth Peace Mission and the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance have ended the war in Vietnam. This is the same approach.
The Government have delivered a serious setback to the construction industry. They have used it as an economic regulator, which they said they would not do. They have checked its expansion and damaged its confidence, making it virtually impossible for it to achieve its tasks. We see falling orders for new construction and limping productivity—a very tarnished tribute to purposive planning and gritty action. We see the anxiety of many builders about the position of their long-term fixed price contracts because of their fears that the taxation ideas of the Government may have grave repercussions. We shall have an assurance about that, of course, tonight, will we not?
There is a slump in building for sale, together with record mortgage rates, damaging and irrelevant controls and the hare-brained Land Commission scheme, which will mean less building land and dearer housing prices. By the present methods, the Government will not achieve their objectives. As my hon. and learned Friend said, the Government are combining doctrinal fallacy with administrative incompetence and if, as it seems, they want change in the industry, they can bring it about by a different method—through confidence and co-operation. It is for their incompetence to do this that we condemn them in the Lobby tonight.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ The Minister of Public Building and Works (Mr. Reginald Prentice)
The first task that I would like to perform is to join those who have congratulated the four maiden speakers who have addressed the House during this debate. I heard some of all four and nearly all of each, and I think that the House would like to congratulate my hon. Friends the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Christopher Price), Stoke-on-Trent, North (Mr. Forrester) and the hon. Members for North Fylde (Mr. Clegg) and Paddington, South (Mr. Scott) on the speeches which they made. All were relatively non-controversial, but were not too 1694 inhibited by tradition in that respect. All showed an intimate knowledge of the housing conditions in their own constituencies, and we all look forward to hearing from them again.
I also want to refer to what he described as being in some ways a maiden speech—namely, the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell). This was an excellent speech, of great courage and humour and it showed that the House has regained a very distinguished back bencher. It is no empty tribute to say that we all look forward very much to hearing further speeches from my right hon. Friend. He said that he was not going to speak on this subject but, as far as I am concerned, he is very welcome to do so at any time. Whatever subjects he chooses we shall look forward to hearing from him frequently.
This has been a curious debate, during which there has been a kind of divorce between the Opposition Front Bench and the rest of the Opposition. The speech in which the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) opened the debate, and the speech to which we have just listened from the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Chichester-Clark), have been polemical speeches; they appear to have been rehearsing for an election campaign without realising that they have fought the campaign and lost it.
So far as the rest of the benches opposite are concerned, they were nearly empty at the beginning of the debate and they are not very full at the moment. [HON. MEMBERS: "What about your benches?"] Perhaps there are not many on this side, but it is the Opposition's censure debate. It has been curiously unlike a censure debate, except for the rather artificial polemics of the opening and closing speeches and the short speech of the hon. Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon), who joined in the polemical spirit. On the whole, I am in sympathy with those who did not make this a polemical occasion.
There ought to be a party debate and, where necessary, a party clash about housing. No one could complain at that, but I think that the right way to approach this at the beginning of a long Parliament is to look at it constructively. If we are to argue about these things 1695 we should argue constructively rather than score party points. This is a subject which we shall all approach with a certain amount of humility. Governments and local authorities of all parties and the industry have collectively failed to solve the housing problem of the nation.
This is essentially a human problem, and here I welcome the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Brentford and Chiswick (Mr. Barnes), who drew attention to cases in his constituency. Every Member and every councillor, certainly a councillor in any of the great conurbations of the country, has housing cases every week at his advice bureau and in his mail which reflect the kind of cases to which my hon. Friend referred. Ever since I became a member of Croydon Council in 1949, and during my years as a Member of Parliament, I have had cases of this kind every week. We need nearly four million homes, and we need them now if we are to give a decent home to every family needing one. It is a problem which is getting more difficult. There is an extra demand of 180,000 homes a year, and we need that number just to stay in the same place before we begin to make progress. Therefore, while we can argue and bandy statistics in order to make party points, this is the kind of occasion when we should address ourselves constructively to the problem and remember that in the final analysis these houses are not going to be built by politicians of either party. They will be built by building trade workers—using "workers" in the widest sense in which my right hon. Friend used it. It is the duty of Government and Parliament to help provide the conditions in which this can go forward in the most constructive way.
The Motion refers to housing and building policies. Naturally, the opening speeches were concerned almost entirely with housing. The speech of the hon. Member for Londonderry and, to some extent, my speech will be on building generally because this is the field of the Ministry of Public Building and Works, though clearly housing is involved. Indeed, about 40 per cent. of new construction in the construction industries is housing. Clearly, the two things are linked. But the division of labour in this debate reflects the division of responsibili- 1696 ties between my right hon. Friend and myself.
Reference has been made by more than one hon. Member to the transfer of some functions from my Ministry to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government which was announced by the Prime Minister two days ago. It is completely logical that there should be within the Ministry of Housing and Local Government those functions which particularly relate to housing as such. There should be within the Ministry of Public Building and Works, and there is, responsibility for the Government's relations with the building industry, with the civil engineering industry, with the building material producers and with the professions related to these industries. I may be pardoned for reminding the House that we are retaining in my Ministry the sponsoring roôle for these people.
The hon. Member for Londonderry referred, in particular, to the National Building Agency. It is especially logical that the work of that Agency, intimately concerned as it is with the development of system building, should be related to the Ministry which has responsibility for the housing drive. I think that this is a logical transfer, and it is one which I completely support.
§ Mr. Chichester-Clark
If that is the case, why did the Minister of Housing and Local Government, in debate in the House not long ago, say that he was embarrassed by a question about the National Building Agency because it was in dispute between himself and the Minister of Public Building and Works?
§ Mr. Prentice
If I can speak for my right hon. Friend, "in dispute" meant that the future of it was still being discussed. [Laughter.] Hon. Members opposite must not judge the relationships between us on these benches by the kind of relationships which exist on the benches opposite. Our relationships are very friendly, harmonious and co-operative.
I was surprised that the hon. Gentleman referred to the quite unjustified attack against the Agency which appeared, I believe, in two publications suggesting that it was developing its own system of industrialised building and, moreover, that it might use its position as a body issuing certificates of appraisal 1697 on systems to indulge in unfair competition. This is completely incorrect. There is no foundation for it whatever, and it is unfair to the people concerned.
I believe that the rumour arises from the fact that some experimental work has been going on, on a modest scale, between the Agency and the Research and Development Group of my Ministry into component development. This is looking ahead to the future technological developments which are likely to take place and which we hope will take place, and is part of research. It is in no sense the preparation of a separate industrialised building system. On 27th April, when I took the chair at the National Consultative Council for the first time, this question was asked and I gave a complete assurance on the subject which was accepted by the leaders of the industry.
I have referred to the roôle which remains with the Ministry of Public Building and Works. I want to draw attention to something which was true of the Ministry when the right hon. Gentleman was Minister and which is still true since. The Ministry contains within itself, on the one hand, a Research and Development Group of great distinction which has earned the respect of people in the building and civil engineering industries, and, on the other hand, a very considerable building programme of its own. Its research and building operations can be married together, so that we can practise what we preach and can convey the lessons of our own experience to the industry. I should like, if I may say so in parenthesis, to have the building activities of the Ministry rather better known. I do not think we get the credit which we deserve for some of our achievements. Our achievements in the recent past have been very varied in their nature—from the constructive job done in providing buildings for the Forces in Sarawak, to the architecture and planning of the new Post Office Tower, and a great variety of building work in between.
I think that, taking the roôle as the sponsoring Ministry of the industry, I should like to deal with at least three of the main criticisms raised of the Government in this debate. First of all, the criticisms which can be roughly bunched together under the heading, lack of confi- 1698 dence. It has become something of a cliché to say that there is a lack of confidence in the building industry. I think that there is, in a sense, a lack of confidence, and I want to explain what I mean by that, but before I do so I think we have to make a very sharp distinction indeed between a real lack of confidence for real reasons, and the polemical suggestions of hon. Members opposite, who have talked, in this debate as they did in the election, of almost every item of labour policy which they disagreed with, such as our land policy, our leasehold reform policy, our mortgage policy, and tried to suggest that there is a great lack of confidence in the building industry because of those. In so far as there is any truth in this, in so far as these matters have raised doubts in the minds of the builders, hon. Members opposite themselves have a considerable responsibility, because there is no reason why any development of those policies need have affected the production or development of the building industry.
What the leaders of the industry I have met in the last few weeks have said to me, with some justice, I think, is this, "Our industry is particularly vulnerable to stop-go policies of any Government." Therefore, when there is an economic situation such as the danger to the £ last year, and when there are restrictive measures such as the Chancellor had to take in July last year, they say, "Our industry is liable to take a bigger share of the sacrifice than others, and, what is more, we go suffering from that months and even years later, when the economic situation may well have changed and when, indeed, restrictions put on us at an earlier date prevent us from achieving the full measure of growth which is now needed by the economy."
This is something which Governments have to consider very carefully, but I say that with three provisos. The first proviso is that these troubles did not start with the election of the Labour Government. In so far as the building industry has had brakes put upon it, this happened under Conservative Governments on a large number of occasions. Secondly, I think it is fair for us to say that to some extent the industry cannot be expected to contract out of the economic situation. No one can contract out from that. When there is a crisis, when there is a run on 1699 the £, everyone must expect to pay the price of that.
Perhaps the building industry, by its nature, is in a particularly vulnerable position from which no one can rescue it. It is one of the facts of its situation. I would make the point that if the industry suffers in this way, that must not be used by the industry as an alibi for its own failures, and there are failures in the building industry as many in it admit themselves.
§ Sir Harmar Nicholls
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned a number of items of criticism and said they were purely figments of the politicians' imagination. Is the right hon. Gentleman saying that his right hon. Friend has received no representations from the building industry—on his advisory committee—about interest rates being raised and that these were interfering with the industry's efficiency?
§ Mr. Prentice
Of course there are representations from the industry on all these occasions. What I was saying was that there is a real difficulty in the nature of the industry, a difficulty which certainly was not solved by hon. Members opposite when they were in power. [HON. MEMBERS: "We built the houses."] If we are to come back to bandying figures about, I would remind hon. Members that they built far fewer houses than we have built. I thought that hon. Members opposite had been severely squashed on that argument, but if they do not want to debate building seriously, then we can come back to the figures. Perhaps the hon. Members who are now intervening have not been in the debate most of the time. Although I gave way to the hon. Member I do not wish to give way again because of the time factor.
I accept, particularly as Minister with responsibility for the industry, that the Government have a duty to try to do everything possible to ensure continuity for this industry. They have a duty to try to ensure conditions in which there can be a steady expansion of production, without the stops and starts which have occurred in the past under Governments of all kinds. This does not mean that the Government must always agree with what the industry tell them, but it means that the Government must have re- 1700 gard to the industry's legitimate interests, and this is particularly so of the Ministry of Public Building and Works.
May I make two brief references to other matters which have been raised in the debate before I turn to the positive work of my own Ministry? The first concerns the vexed question of bricks. I was asked for the April figure. The provisional figure for the end of April shows a stock of 885 million bricks, which is almost exactly the same as the figure for the end of March. May I say straight away that I accept that it is much too large a stock. I have had discussions with the leaders of the industry about it and I realise that they have a great deal of capital tied up in a way which is very serious for them. But I do not accept that it is fair for hon. Members opposite to put the blame, as they have tried to do, on my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West. He urged a higher production, but so did the Conservative Government when they were in power.
If we are to try to exchange party points on this subject, the essential fact to remember is that it is 18 months or more from the time when a brick kiln is started to the time when production is flowing from it. Most of the industry's capacity which is now leading to these high stocks was, therefore, commissioned in 1964 or earlier—and commissioned by the industry taking a hardheaded view of the prospects as they saw them and not because they were exhorted to take this decision by Ministers of the previous Government or by my right hon. Friend.
I believe that previous Ministers, Including my right hon. Friend, and the leaders of the industry were correct to plan that expansion in the light of the information which they had at the time. What they could not have foreseen in 1964 or early 1965 was the effect of the deferment measures in July or other measures of restriction taken by the Government—measures which had to be taken by the Government in view of the very serious economic situation. This is, therefore, part of the price which the country has had to pay for that economic situation, and I shall be happy at any time to debate with hon. Members opposite the question of which side of the House is more responsible for creating it.
1701 May I comment on the Selective Employment Tax. I am well aware of the views of the industry on this tax. As my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Alan Williams) fairly said, in choosing any new tax a Chancellor of the Exchequer is bound to create difficult problems for those who have to pay it. But I ask simply that the House and the building industry should see this in perspective and should recognise three things on the other side of the balance sheet. The first is that the industry will benefit from the removal of the import surcharge in the autumn, with its effect on timber prices. The second is that the industry will benefit because of the rebate paid to manufacturers of building materials, and indeed the rebate paid to industrialised builders whose components are produced from these materials. The third and most important point is that the industry will benefit from the investment grant scheme. Taking all that together, these will be powerful incentives, though perhaps harsh incentives, towards a redeployment of manpower which is badly needed in the industry—not towards a reduction in manpower but towards the more efficient use of it and greater investment in machinery.
Although people will say that the investment grants are not as much as the cost of the tax, it should be remembered that, as the amount of machinery increases in the industry, the value of the investment grants will increase. Under the terms of the National Plan, investment in machinery, on figures agreed with the industry, will nearly double between 1964 and 1970 and there will be extra incentives for that.
Although I would like to have spent much more time on this aspect, one gets carried away when answering a great number of points raised during a debate, so I turn to what I consider to be the most important thing to which we can give our attention now. [Interruption.] If hon. Gentlemen opposite are not interested in solving the housing problem, they should say so. We should be looking forward to the needs of this industry in the remaining years of this decade and in the 'seventies. We should take a look at the measures which are needed to increase its productivity, efficiency and output.
1702 I pay tribute to the work that has been done since June of last year under the umbrella of the two Economic Development Committees, one for the building industry and one for the civil engineering industry— "Little Neddies" as they are called—which are beginning to tackle a number of problems collectively in the industry, perhaps some years after they should have been tackled. These committees have a joint chairman, Lord Campbell, and a joint Vice-Chairman, Mr. Bishop. These men, of great distinction and knowledge, are getting down to the tasks ahead of them and are working in close co-operation with the research and development group in my Ministry, to which I have already referred.
I remind the House of some of the big tasks that must be tackled in this way. The most important problems of all—and I agree here with my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West and my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, West—are those concerning manpower. It is in the proper deployment of manpower and the proper treatment of the workers in all respects that the future health of this industry depends most of all. A great deal of work is being done in co-operation with the Ministry of Labour and my Ministry on these matters.
The Construction Industry Training Board is now getting into its stride, and in the year 1965–66, for the first time, the training levies were charged to firms in the industry. Some of them did not like it, but the progressive, forward-looking firms have accepted the fact that for far too long they have been training craftsmen who have been poached away from them by firms which were not doing their share. There must be a great improvement in the quality and quantity of training that is done in the industry, and this applies to industry generally.
Management training is particularly important and, within the Ministry of Public Building and Works, the directorate of building management is promoting a great many ideas, is giving advice and is helping to develop courses in technical colleges and elsewhere. An aspect of management training which is not usually mentioned is the advice which we are giving to clients of the building industry 1703 on the management decisions that they must make. We too often hear about the failure of builders to satisfy their clients. We should hear more about the failure of clients, by their decisions or indecisions, to afford guidance to those who are building for them. To do a little sales talk in this direction, a handbook, entitled "Preparing to Build", is available and I recommend that it be studied by those who must make important building decisions.
Another very important subject is the promotion of industrialised building. I will not dwell on this issue. My right hon. Friend made some important references to it and I will merely add that in the direct building programmes which are being carried out by the Ministry of Public Building and Works, we are doing a great deal of system building, using contractors. This is being done in, for example, housing for the forces at Catterick, Aldershot, Gosport and elsewhere, and in programmes for Post Offices, training centres and many other public buildings.
It is important that the industry makes fast progress in its methods of winter building. The interruption of building by bad weather is another aspect which causes a break in production and my Ministry is doing a great deal of work on this by providing lectures, articles, and broadcasts, and giving advice to builders, and publications on the subject.
Another very important point is the development of standardisation of dimensions and of components. Those who understand the industry well would say that we have suffered in the past from too great a uniformity in the appearance of the finished building combined with all kinds of meaningless variations which add to costs and make building more difficult. Therefore, the kind of standardisation of dimensions and components which will enable building to be more efficient and to progress faster, and which will at the same time give a real chance to the architect, is the kind of progress we must make. I take the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Perry Barr about the relation of this to the process of going metric. On the point he raised about modules in the system building, I am afraid these were decided some time before the decision to go metric was made.
1704 Another very important point relates to the testing of new materials. My right hon. Friend established the new d'Agrement Board which will be of great importance in certifying and testing the reliability and quality of new materials in the industry. By collaboration with the Internationale Union d'Agrement it will be possible to find new scope for exports.
Another very important question is that of building maintenance, which has not been raised very much in the debate. Something over £1,000 million a year is being spent on maintenance costs in building. This absorbs a very great proportion of the skilled labour in the industry. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary has become chairman of a committee which is studying this and also studying the promotion of more efficient systems of maintenance. Another very important point is the improving of contract procedures in order to avoid delay and confusion. Here we have the advice of Sir Harold Banwell's Committee.
I could go on with a dozen of these points, but one more which I should like to make concerns a new announcement. We are concerned with the development of computers in the building industry. They are already being used by some firms in connection with research, design and management problems. This is something we want to encourage, and I shall appoint a Committee under Mr. R. T. Walters Deputy Director-General of Research and Development in the Ministry, to study the present position and advise on the promotion of further advance. I will close on this
§ Mr. Prentice
I am answering the questions. I want to say something about the future of the industry, which is far more than the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham did in a much longer speech. If he wants to play this in a controversial way, all right. This, after all, was supposed to be a censure debate, although it has rather flopped from that point of view on the benches opposite.
Every one of the progressive, the forward-looking steps to which I have referred in the last 10 minutes has either been started under the Labour Government or was started in the last couple of 1705 years in the death-bed repentance period of hon. Members opposite. Most other industrial countries started them years earlier. If they had been started years earlier in this country the industry would have been enabled to make a much bigger and faster contribution to our housing needs and the other needs of our people. Therefore, it is an impertinence for hon. and right hon. Members opposite to put
§ down this so-called censure Motion tonight. It will be received with contempt by those who understand the building industry outside, and the rejection of it by this House will be applauded by the majority of public opinion.
§ Question put: —
§ The House divided: Ayes 230, Noes 327.1709
|Division No. 13.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Farr, John||Loveys, W. H.|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||McAdden, Sir Stephen|
|Astor, John||Fortescue, Tim||MacArthur, Ian|
|Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n)||Foster, Sir John||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy|
|Awdry, Daniel||Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone)||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain|
|Baker, W. H. K.||Galbraith, Hn. T. G.||McMaster, Stanley|
|Balniel, Lord||Gibson-Watt, David||Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)|
|Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Giles, Rear-Adm. Morgan||Maddan, Martin|
|Batsford, Brian||Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)||Maginnis, John E.|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Glover, Sir Douglas||Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest|
|Bell, Ronald||Glyn, Sir Richard||Marten, Neil|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay)||Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.||Mathew, Robert|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos. & Fhm)||Goodhart, Philip||Maude, Angus|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Goodhew, Victor||Mawby, Ray|
|Biffen, John||Gower, Raymond||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Grant, Anthony||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.|
|Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel||Gresham Cooke, R.||Mills, Peter (Torrington)|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Grieve, Percy||Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)|
|Blaker, Peter||Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||Miscampbell, Norman|
|Body, R.||Gurden, Harold||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)|
|Bossom, Sir Clive||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Monro, Hector|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. J.||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||More, Jasper|
|Braine, Bernard||Hamilton, Marquess of (Fermanagh)||Morgan, W. G. (Denbigh)|
|Brewis, John||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)|
|Brinton, Sir Tatton||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt. Col. Sir Walter||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Murton, Oscar|
|Bruce-Gardyne, J.||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere||Nabarro, Sir Gerald|
|Bryan, Paul||Hawkins, Paul||Neave, Airey|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N&M)||Hay, John||Nicholls, Sir Harmer|
|Bullus, Sir Eric||Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel||Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael|
|Burden, F. A.||Heseltine, Michael||Nott, John|
|Campbell, Gordon||Higgins, Terence L.||Onslow, Cranley|
|Carlisle, Mark||Hiley, Joseph||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.|
|Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert||Hill, J. E. B.||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Hirst, Geoffrey||Osborn, John (Hallam)|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Hobson, Rt. Hn. Sir John||Page, Graham (Crosby)|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin||Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)|
|Clark, Henry||Holland, Philip||Peel, John|
|Clegg, Walter||Hordern, Peter||Percival, Ian|
|Cooke, Robert||Hornby, Richard||Peyton, John|
|Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Howell, David (Guildford)||Pike, Miss Mervyn|
|Cordle, John||Hunt, John||Pink, R. Bonner|
|Corfield, F. V.||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Pounder, Rafton|
|Costain, A. P.||Iremonger, T. L.||Powell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Crawley, Aidan||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Prior, J. M. L.|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Sir Oliver||Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)||Quennell, Miss J. M.|
|Crouch, David||Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James|
|Crowder, F. P.||Jopling, Michael||Rawlinson, Rt. Hon. Sir Peter|
|Cunningham, Sir Knox||Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David|
|Dance, James||Kerby, Capt. Henry||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Kershaw, Anthony||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Dean, Paul (Somerset, N.)||Kimball, Marcus||Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey|
|Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford)||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)||Robson Brown, Sir William|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||Kitson, Timothy||Roots, William|
|Dodds-Parker, Douglas||Knight, Mrs. Jill||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Doughty, Charles||Lambton, Viscount||Royle, Anthony|
|Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Drayson, G. B.||Langford-Holt, Sir John||St. John-Stevas, Norman|
|du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Sandys, Rt. Hn. D.|
|Eden, Sir John||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Scott, Nicholas|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)||Sharples, Richard|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral)||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)|
|Eyre, Reginald||Longden, Gilbert||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Smith, John||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Stainton, Keith||Tilney, John||Whitelaw, William|
|Stodart, Anthony||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M. (Ripon)||van Straubenzee, W. R.||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Summers, Sir Spencer||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Talbot, John E.||Vickers, Dame Joan||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Tapsell, Peter||Walker, Peter (Worcester)||Worsley, Marcus|
|Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek||Younger, Hn. George|
|Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow, Cathcart)||Walters, Denis|
|Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)||Ward, Dame Irene||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Teeling, Sir William||Weatherill, Bernard||Mr. Pym and Mr. R. W. Elliott|
|Temple, John M.||Webster, David|
|Abse, Leo||Dempsey, James||Howie, W.|
|Albu, Austen||Dewar, D. C.||Hoy, James|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Diamond, Rt. Hn. John||Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)|
|Alldritt, Walter||Dickens, James||Hughes, Emrys (Ayrshire, S.)|
|Alien, Scholefield||Dobson, Ray||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)|
|Anderson, Donald||Doig, Peter||Hughes, Roy (Newport)|
|Archer, Peter||Donnelly, Desmond||Hunter, Adam|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Dunn, James A.||Hynd, John|
|Ashley, Jack||Dunnett, Jack||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)||Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)||Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)|
|Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)||Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e)||Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak)|
|Bacon, Rt. Hn. Alice||Eadie, Alex||Janner, Sir Barnett|
|Bagier, Gordan A. T.||Edelman, Maurice||Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas|
|Barnes, Michael||Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Jeger, Mrs. Lena (H'b'n & St. P'cras, S)|
|Barnett, Joel||Edwards, William (Merioneth)||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)|
|Baxter, William||Ellis, John||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hn. F. J.||English, Michael||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)|
|Bence, Cyril||Ennals, David||Jones, Dan (Burnley)|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Ensor, David||Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn(W. Ham, S.)|
|Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton)||Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.)||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)|
|Bessell, Peter||Evans, Ioan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley)||Judd, Frank|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Faulds, Andrew||Kelley, Richard|
|Binns, John||Fernyhough, E.||Kenyon, Clifford|
|Bishop, E. S.||Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)|
|Blackburn, F.||Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Kerr, Russell (Feltham)|
|Boardman, H.||Floud, Bernard||Leadbitter, Ted|
|Booth, Albert||Foley, Maurice||Ledger, Ron|
|Boston, Terence||Foot, Sir Dingle (Ipswch)||Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)|
|Bowden, Rt. Hn. Herbert||Ford, Ben||Lee, John (Reading)|
|Boyden, James||Forrester, John||Lestor, Miss Joan|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Fowler, Gerry||Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Fraser, John (Norwood)|
|Brooks, Edwin||Fraser, Rt. Hn. Tom (Hamilton)||Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Galpern, Sir Myer||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)|
|Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Gardner, A. J.||Lipton, Marcus|
|Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.)||Garrett, W. E.||Lomas, Kenneth|
|Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Garrow, Alex||Loughlin, Charles|
|Buchan, Norman||Ginsburg, David||Luard, Evan|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn, P. C.||Lubbock, Eric|
|Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)||Gourlay, Harry||Lyon, Alexander W. (York)|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Gray, Dr. Hugh||Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony||McBride, Neil|
|Cant, R. B.||Gregory, Arnold||McCann, John|
|Carmichael, Neil||Grey, Charles||MacColl, James|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||MacDermot, Niall|
|Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly)||Macdonald, A. H.|
|Chapman, Donald||Griffiths, Will (Exchange)||McGuire, Michael|
|Coe, Denis||Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J.||McKay, Mrs. Margaret|
|Coleman, Donald||Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)||Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)|
|Concannon, J. D.||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Mackie, John|
|Conlan, Bernard||Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)||Mackintosh, John P.|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Hamling, William||Maclennan, Robert|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Hannan, William||MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles)|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Harper, Joseph||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)|
|Cronin, John||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||McNamara, Kevin|
|Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Hart, Mrs. Judith||MacPherson, Malcolm|
|Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard||Haseldine, Norman||Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Hattersley, Roy||Mahon, Simon (Bootle)|
|Dalyell, Tam||Hazell, Bert||Mallalieu, J.P.W. (Huddersfield, E.)|
|Davidson, Arthur (Accrington)||Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis||Manuel, Archie|
|Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)||Heffer, Eric S.||Mapp, Charles|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Henig, Stanley||Marquand, David|
|Davies, Ednyfed Hudson (Conway)||Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret||Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Hobden, Dennis (Brighton, K'town)||Mason, Roy|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Maxwell, Robert|
|Davies, Robert (Cambridge)||Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough)||Mayhew, Christopher|
|Delargy, Hugh||Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.)||Mellish, Robert|
|Dell, Edmund||Howell, David (Guildford)||Mendelson, J. J.|
|Mikardo, Ian||Price, Thomas (Weathoughton)||Swain, Thomas|
|Millan, Bruce||Price, William (Rugby)||Symonds, J. B.|
|Miller, Dr. M. S.||Pursey, Cmdr. Harry||Taverne, Dick|
|Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)||Rankin, John||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Moonman, Eric||Redhead, Edward||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)||Rees, Merlyn||Thorpe, Jeremy|
|Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Reynolds, G. W.||Tinn, James|
|Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Rhodes, Geoffrey||Tomney, Frank|
|Morris, John (Aberavon)||Richard, Ivor||Urwin, T. W.|
|Moyle, Roland||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Varley, Eric G.|
|Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)|
|Murray, Albert||Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.)||Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)|
|Newens, Stan||Robertson, John (Paisley)||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Robinson, Rt. Hn. Kenneth (St. P'c'as)||Wadace, George|
|Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip (Derby, S.)||Robinson, W. O. J. (Walth'stow, E.)||Watkins, David (Consett)|
|Norwood, Christopher||Rodgers, William (Stockton)||Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)|
|Oakes, Gordon||Roebuck, Roy||Weitzman, David|
|Ogden, Eric||Rogers, George||Wellbeloved, James|
|O' Maliey, Brian||Rose, Paul||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Oram, Albert E.||Ross, Rt. Hn. William||Whitaker, Ben|
|Orbach, Maurice||Rowlands, Christopher (Meriden)||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Orme, Stanley||Rowlands, E. (Cardiff, N.)||Wigg, Rt. Hn. George|
|Oswald, Thomas||Ryan, John||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Owen, Will (Morpeth)||Sheldon, Robert||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)|
|Page, Derek (King's Lynn)||Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E.||Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)|
|Paget, R. T.||Shore, Peter (Stepney)||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Palmer, Arthur||Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)||Willis, George (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles||Short, Mrs. Ren—e (W'hampton, N. E.)||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Pardoe, J.||Silkin, John (Deptford)||Winnick, David|
|Park, Trevor||Silkin, S. C. (Dulwich)||Winstanley, Dr. M. P.|
|Parker, John (Dagenham)||Silverman, Juius (Aston)||Winterbottom, R. E.|
|Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)||Skeffington, Arthur||Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.|
|Pavitt, Launtnce||Slater, Joseph||Woof, Robert|
|Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)||Small, William||Wyatt, Woodrow|
|Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred||Snow, Julian||Yates, Victor|
|Pentland, Norman||Spriggs, Leslie||Zilliacus, K.|
|Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)||Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)|
|Perry, Georgu H. (Nottingham, S.)||Stonehouse, John||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Prentice, Rt. Hn. R. E.||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.||Mr. Law on and Mr. Whitlock.|
|Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)||Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley|