HC Deb 11 June 1969 vol 784 cc1441-3
18 and 19. Mr. Younger

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland (1) whether the reduction of 1,500 houses in the Scottish housing programme in 1968 and in 1969 is being carried out; and how many families on local authority housing lists he estimates will be affected by this cut;

(2) whether he still expects to reach the official target of 50,000 houses a year in Scotland by 1970.

Dr. Mabon

The decision to reduce the number of approvals planned for 1968 and 1969 was announced on 16th January, 1968, but it has not so far been necessary to reject any proposal which was otherwise acceptable.

The targets set in 1965 envisaged a massive expansion of housing, both public and private. Good progress has been made in both sectors, with new records of starts and completions achieved in 1968, but it is unlikely that 50,000 completions will be reached as early as 1970.

Mr. Younger

Does the Minister of State not recall that in order to obtain votes, he and his hon. Friends made the pledge of achieving 50,000 houses by 1970? Does he not also recall that the Prime Minister reinforced this pledge by stating that no circumstances, however adverse, would deflect him from this aim? Could the hon. Gentleman advise the House what value we can now place on Government pledges?

Dr. Mabon

The hon. Gentleman must know that this Government, unlike the previous Government which adopted no target at all, adopt real targets, not phoney ones. The target consists of two parts, involving both the public and private sectors. In the public sector we have in the four years 1965 to 1968 approved 135,227 houses, which is 3,000 more than we had planned for in 1965. As for the private sector, I would willingly give figures if hon. Gentlemen opposite can bear to be embarrassed by them.

Mr. Tom McMillan

Would my hon. Friend give some indication of how the target has been affected by the change of administration in Glasgow, which will mean a great reduction in the number of new houses built?

Dr. Mabon

So far it has not been significant, though last year was one of the most disappointing years in terms of building in Glasgow, when we were down by nearly 1,000. This year we are behind by nearly 900 starts. This is entirely due to the present administration.

Mr. Galbraith

How much is the shortfall due to too few private houses being built in Glasgow? Why does the Minister not encourage more people to build private houses, ask local authorities to charge rents appropriate to people's earnings, and get mortgages down to a more reasonable level?

Dr. Mabon

The hon. Member has put his finger on the point about the private sector. Despite the fact that last year we built 8,719 houses, the highest figure since 1934; despite the fact that in the last year we have seen starts of 9,918 houses in the private sector, again a high figure, it is nowhere near the 12,000 which the private sector was expecting to build by the calendar year 1970.

Mr. Willis

Is my hon. Friend aware that had hon. Members opposite achieved anything near the rate of building that we have achieved we would, by this time, have housed a further 250,000 people?

Dr. Mabon

This is a friendly and healthy rivalry which both sides should enter into and maintain. Unfortunately, the party opposite were active in this matter for only a few years and then, for a decade they let Scotland slip behind in housing.

Mr. Wylie

Is not one of the problems the shortage of land zoned for residential development? What is the hon. Gentleman doing to ease that problem?

Dr. Mabon

Yes, it is true that in the 13 years very little was done in Scotland, but fortunately, through the efforts of the working party of private builders and the much-derided Land Commission, which hon. Gentlemen opposite wish to destroy, we have tried to seek more land to be zoned for residential occupation. We hope to be successful.

Mr. Younger

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of that reply. I should like to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.