HC Deb 20 June 1967 vol 748 cc1402-3
17. Mr. Gardner

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government if he will introduce legislation to enable local authorities to set up agencies for the exchange and sale of private houses.

Mr. Mellish

My right hon. Friend is at present reviewing the experimental arrangements made last year by seven local authorities, in consultation with the Department for maintaining local registers of houses for sale. I think it would be better to see how far these arrangements could be developed rather than to seek powers for local authorities to act as agents.

Mr. Gardner

Does not my hon. Friend think that as a result of this experiment such a central agency for local authorities could provide a useful service? Is it not about time that there was some competition in this business?

Mr. Mellish

Seven authorities were concerned on this experiment—Salford, Enfield, Wolverhampton, Reading, Southampton, Leicester, and Newcastle-upon-Tyne. We have had a meeting with the town clerks concerned and a full report is being prepared on the activities of the last few months. Only two of these authorities have been going for a year. Let us get some real information before making any decision.

20. Mr. Hilton

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether he will take steps to bring standards of privately-built houses into line with those applying to local authority and co-ownership housing.

Mr. Greenwood

The best way of securing progressive improvement in the standards of private houses is by encouraging builders to register with the National House Builders' Registration Council. With the Government's support, the Council have greatly increased the number of registered builders and is raising the standards to which its members must conform. I think we should see how these arrangements develop before considering the need for more direct intervention by the Government.

Mr. Hilton

Would my right hon. Friend not accept that that does not indicate that these houses were built to Parker Morris standards? As we intend to build 500,000 houses a year within the next few years, this means that half of them will be subject to Parker Morris standards and the half built for private ownership will not, and there is a great danger that the slums of the future will be those houses built for private ownership and purchased at considerable expense?

Mr. Greenwood

I am interested in what my hon. Friend says. Many Parker Morris standards have been included in the new specifications of the National House Builders Registration Council, and we must all try to maintain a balance between the need to raise standards and the need to meet the requirements of house purchasers within costs which they can afford.