HC Deb 01 November 1966 vol 735 cc228-31
11. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government what plans he has for speeding up the house building programme as an essential part of the policy of redeployment of labour.

Mr. Mellish

We are pressing on with the housing programme as fast as economic circumstances permit. In particular, the public sector contribution is steadily rising, and the authorities in the principal industrial towns have been given three-year programmes limited only by their capacity to build.

Mr. Hamilton

Is my hon. Friend satisfied that the financial arrangements which the present Government have introduced will have the required effect in this matter? Could he say whether he is satisfied with the rate of acceleration of the provision of industrialised buildings, since the important matter here is getting on with the job as quickly as possible?

Mr. Mellish

My hon. Friend will be glad to know that, in our Housing Subsidies Bill which we shall be introducing soon, we shall provide a special subsidy of £30 a year on top of the ordinary subsidy for houses built as part of a plan for providing houses for industry. He will see that we shall take advantage of all methods of speeding up house-building. On that matter, we also come out pretty well.

Mr. Rippon

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that while the public sector may be holding its own, the private sector is steadily falling? What does he propose to do about that? Does he agree that now there is very little chance of building 400,000 houses even by 1967?

Mr. Mellish

The right hon. and learned Gentleman is very impatient. There is a Question which will be answered in a moment or two which is addressed to my right hon. Friend on that matter.

13. Mr. Murton

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government how many permanent dwellings will be completed in Great Britain in 1966.

20. Mr. Scott

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government what estimate he has made of the number of permanent dwellings likely to be completed in Great Britain in 1966.

45. Mrs. Renée Short

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government how many dwellings are now likely to be completed in 1966.

70. Mr. Channon

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government what estimate he has made of the likelihood of reaching the target of 400,000 houses to be completed in 1966 announced by his predecessor on 1st March, 1966.

Mr. Greenwood

In present economic circumstances prediction is difficult, but I anticipate that the total of completions in 1966 will be approximately the same as in 1965, when a record 382,000 homes were completed.

Mr. Murton

Surely the predecessor of the right hon. Gentleman, now the Lord President of the Council, promised that the Government would reach the target of 400,000 houses this year. Now the right hon. Gentleman has denied it for the second time. Will he also admit that this is a gross failure by the Government?

Mr. Greenwood

No. Indeed, if the hon. Member counts that a gross failure, I do not know how he accounts for the record of his own Government, who never reached the figure which we reached last year and will reach this year.

Mr. Rippon

Will the right hon. Gentleman answer the Question which I put to the Parliamentary Secretary and say what the Government are doing about the serious fall in private house-building? Will he agree that there is very little prospect of building 400,000 houses next year?

Mr. Greenwood

The measures of July inevitably had some effect, but this year we shall be completing about 200,000 in the private sector and 180,000 in the public sector. The right hon. and learned Gentleman will have read with interest today the statement by the Governor of the Bank of England saying that temporary bridging finance will be made available for house purchase. This is one of the measures which I hope will restore confidence in the building industry.

Mrs. Short

Will my right hon. Friend now consider the proposal which his predecessor was not prepared to consider for setting up a national housing authority to release finance to a national housing corporation which could build in any part of the country where the local authority or private enterprise is not willing to do so?

Mr. Greenwood

I would consider any suggestion my hon. Friend made, but I could not at this moment pledge myself to accept the suggestion and make a specific pledge about it.

Mr. Channon

Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that, in view of the very clear assurance given to this House by his predecessor that 400,000 houses will be built this year, the Government's total this year is one which is very disappointing to hon. Members on both sides of the House? Will he today give his forecast—and let it be an accurate forecast—of what he thinks will be built next year?

Mr. Greenwood

I think everyone is disappointed that 400,000 houses probably will not be built this year, but the public as a whole is gratified to know that we shall be on just about the same level as last year.

Mr. McNamara

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, now we have had the Third Reading of the Land Commission Bill, there is a possibility of getting these houses built?

30. Mr. Rossi

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government how many houses were started in the first six months of 1966; and what was the comparative figure for 1965 and for 1964.

Mr. Mellish

I would refer the hon. Member to the appropriate tables in the Monthly Digest of Statistics and in the published Housing Statistics.

Mr. Rossi

Is not the Joint Parliamentary Secretary aware that the figures in those statistics reveal the fact that, if the rate of deceleration in starts, namely, twice fewer houses being started than in the year before, is maintained, half of those being public authority houses, by 1970, instead of reaching 500,000 houses a year, we shall reach nine—I beg the House's pardon.

Hon. Members

Hear, hear.

Mr. Rossi

Nine—period—or nil—in other words, the housing programme will have ground to a standstill.

Mr. Mellish

The hon. Gentleman must not be pessimistic. Figures for starts tell only part of the story. Completions rose to a record level in 1965, and so far this year a similar level has been maintained. Moreover—I should think the hon. Gentleman would be glad of this—public sector completions are over 4 per cent. higher this year than they were last and 12 per cent. higher than they were in 1964.