HC Deb 18 June 1969 vol 785 cc557-605

The percentage of grant payable by the Minister of Housing and Local Government towards the costs incurred by local authorities in the strengthening of high tower blocks as a result of the Ronan Point disaster shall be increased from 40 per cent. to 60 per cent.—[Mr. Arthur Lewis.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham, North)

I beg to move That the Clause be read a Second time.

I think it will be convenient if we take with this Amendment No. 164, in the Title, line 18, after 'rent', insert: 'to increase the percentage of grant payable to local authorities for the strengthening of high tower blocks'. May I express my thanks to you, Mr. Speaker, for giving me the opportunity of raising the subject, and may I also apologise to hon. Members if I go on for a greater length than has been the case so far, because the Clause and the Amendment affect the whole question of the Ronan Point disaster, which has not been debated during the passage of the Bill. Although the disaster was in May of last year and a special Committee of Inquiry was set up to investigate it, there has never been a debate on any matters dealing with the disaster or the strengthening of tower blocks. The Clause deals with this, but it is of a much more general nature, because it will affect all local authorities which have buildings of this kind.

It will be recalled that at the time of the Ronan Point disaster when, unfortunately, there were a few casualties but, fortunately, not as many as there might have been, everyone was very sympathetic and made understanding comments and expressed sympathy with those who had lost their loved ones. The Committee of Inquiry was set up under Mr. Hugh Griffiths, Q.C., who did an admirable job, with his colleagues. I pay tribute to them.

7.30 p.m.

When the Griffiths Report was published on 6th November, 1968, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government made a statement to the House. I do not suggest that he said that the Government would meet the cost, but, thanks to you, Mr. Speaker, I was able to put a supplementary question to my right hon. Friend, and I asked him whether the Government would meet the cost. I think that the feeling in the House was that he made a sympathetic reply. Hence, all local authorities affected got on with the job of seeing what could be done to strengthen tower blocks in their areas, waiting for settlement day.

In the interim, quite rightly, my right hon. Friend issued a directive, arising from the report, which instructed councils to take action to strengthen tower blocks and so prevent similar disasters to the one at Ronan Point. A number of authorities decided to get on with the job, and they did it expecting the day to come when the cost would be worked out and they would be reimbursed.

On 6th June of this year the Minister told one of the local authority associations that the Government would make an offer of 40 per cent. of the cost, leaving the local authorities saddled with 60 per cent. First, I want to know why the Government made an offer. On what basis have they chosen to contribute 40 per cent., and on what basis have they chosen to saddle the local authorities with 60 per cent.?

Sixty per cent. is a remarkably popular figure with the Government. The Chairmen of the nationalised industries have been given a 60 per cent. pay rise, and now the poor ratepayers of a number of local authorities, including my own, are faced with having to meet 60 per cent. of these costs. This is unfair in' principle, and it is particularly unjust to the Borough of Newham, comprising the old boroughs of East and West Ham. In the war, they were the worst bombed boroughs. They lost over a third of their accommodation of all types and had tremendous post-war housing problems as a result. In addition, they had an enormous slum clearance problem.

Knowing the difficulties and the lack of land in the area, they listened to the advice of various Governments and got on with the job of rehousing their people. Obviously, they would have preferred to build detached and semi-detached houses, but that was physically impossible. They had to build upwards, and they decided to build tower blocks. They were advised by the Ministry about the safety and other precautions which should be taken, and the blocks were built to Ministry standards.

Now the Borough of Newham is to be saddled with a debt of 60 per cent. of the cost, and it will have to pay for the fact that it was the worst bombed borough. That is a great liability to the local authority, in spite of the subsidies. It must be remembered that a local authority represents its inhabitants. It is they who find the money. Even if a local authority borrows, it is the local ratepayers eventually who have to pay.

As a result of the advice of past Governments—and I do not condemn them for it—my council got on with the job. There are tower blocks all over the borough, and a loan debt of £87 million has been incurred. That has to be paid. Interest rates have not gone down, and the council is having to find more money. The result is that the rates go up to pay for it.

Now the Minister has issued a circular. In other circumstances, my choice of words would be considered unparliamentary. I content myself with saying, "Of all the nerve!" My right hon. Friend says that if any council cannot find the money, the Government will grant it loan sanction. What a thundering cheek! He is saying, "If you cannot find the 60 per cent., you can borrow it", ignoring the fact that the local ratepayers will have to find the money eventually.

Many of my constituents were bombed out four, five and six times. On each occasion, they shifted their homes. A number of them have waited 20 years to get a house, and some have not got houses even now. From 1939 to the present day, they have paid high rates. Today, their children are grown up, and they, too, are paying high rents and rates. Now, it appears that the children's children will be saddled with higher rates to pay for this imposition of 60 per cent. of the cost which is to be put on the local authority.

My Clause suggests that, instead of a council having to meet 60 per cent. and the Government 40 per cent., it should be the other way round, with the Government meeting 60 per cent. and the council meeting 40 per cent. I do that quite deliberately, although I feel that the Government morally ought to meet 100 per cent. of the cost. There is a method in my madness. I want to know why the Government have hit upon 60 per cent. and 40 per cent. The Minister may suggest that it is fair, but it could be said to be equally fair the other way round. Instead of the Minister dodging his responsibility and meeting only 40 per cent., I suggest that the Government's proportion should be 60 per cent.

I feel strongly about this. People in my constituency tell me that they have waited 20 years for a house and that they are scared to go into Ronan Point type flats, even after strengthening. A near revolt is going on because residents refuse to move into such flats. In the face of such a situation, it is not only parsimonious on the part of the Minister but shocking and degrading to suggest that a local authority like my own should have to pay for the fact that it has suffered this disaster.

Having attacked the Minister, I propose now to let him off the hook a little. Frankly, I do not think that this is the work of my right hon. Friend. The old nigger is present in the woodpile. It is the Treasury which is refusing to part up with the extra money. But why does not my right hon. Friend stand up to the Treasury? Iam sure that every hon. Member will agree that he should go to the Treasury and say that it ought to meet 100 per cent. of the costs.

I do not want to go through the report on the Ronan Point disaster, but in paragraph 47 on page 65 it is said that the Minister of Housing is responsible for the building regulations and that he ought to have kept the regulations up to date. Local authorities, including my own, built these tower blocks according to his specification. The Ronan Point tragedy occurred. I do not apportion blame. I am not concerned with whether it is the builder's, the achitect's or the Ministry's fault. But let us suppose that a local authority accepts the Ministry's advice, strengthens its tower blocks, and there is another disaster. Let us suppose, further, that it is pointed out that the disaster has occurred because the strengthening has not been sufficient. Will the Minister say that, because the authority has accepted his advice, it will be landed with having to find another astronomical sum?

The new Clause and the Amendment give the Government an opportunity to honour the understanding which I think every hon. Member had and tell the ratepayers of the local authorities concerned that they will not be saddled with yet another increase in rates, which, I am told, may be as much as 1s. in the £.

Mr. Peter Walker

We welcome the Clause proposed so lucidly by the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis), and we will support him in endeavouring to see that it is carried.

I am pleased that he has explained that the reason for using 60 per cent. in his case was to ascertain the justification for the Minister's choice of proportions. I agree with him that very nearly all the cost should be met from central funds.

I want to draw to the attention of hon. Members the real burden that this will be upon a number of local authorities, which tend to be those with the most serious housing problems. It is the housing authority with a great shortage of land and the need for a major redevelopment of property which has been forced, reluctantly, to go in for building tower blocks. Given the choice of semi-detached houses with gardens and high blocks, I know of no local authority which would not choose the former. But certain authorities with particularly bad housing problems and land limitations have been forced to go in for this type of building. They will have to foot an enormous bill.

I remind the House of the protracted history of this disaster and of what I consider to be the Minister's reluctance to come to important conclusions on it. If at the time of the disaster the Minister had quickly said that on a preliminary examination of responsibility the Government would meet only 40 per cent. of the cost the public outcry would have been such that it would have been impossible for the Government to carry the day. Only after a long delay during which interest in the disaster has rather fallen into the background because, fortunately, there has not been a similar disaster are the Government able to announce their decision, in a letter.

The disaster took place on 17th May, 1968. On 24th May there was a meeting of officers at the Ministry and there was discussion about the possibility of excluding gas from tall blocks. No conclusions were reached. On 6th August Mr. Hugh Griffiths, the chairman of the inquiry, sent an advance warning to the Minister. On 12th August there was a meeting of officers at the Ministry and local authorities were told to make an appraisal of all system-built blocks. Local authorities immediately reacted, saying that the financial implications would be enormous, and they sought the Minister's guidance about how they would be met. The Minister said only one thing. He said on 15th August that no cost should fall on the tenants. By the Minister's present proposals, costs will fall on the tenants, and also on tenants in other local authorities concerned. I do not think that even this Government would contemplate putting the cost on the tenants who suffered as a result of the disaster, but there will be a cost on many local authority tenants.

Thereafter the local authorities undertook the task of scrutinising what action needed to be taken. In November, the Minister prepared a draft circular on the measures needed for strengthening. At that stage the Government knew what needed to be done. They had the report on the disaster. There was no reason why at that stage they could not give a clear indication about the distribution of cost that they had in mind. The distribution of cost certainly has not been affected by the magnitude of the Bill. Presumably, the higher the cost, the less burden the right hon. Gentleman would put on the ratepayers. The cost is of gigantic proportions.

On 25th February this year, there was yet another meeting at the Ministry with the local authority officers concerned. They were told that the Ministry still had not come to a decision about who should meet the cost and they were sent back to consider, if they had not already done so, the extent to which contractors and structural engineers were liable. Most of them were able to tell the Minister that there would be no great joy in going down that avenue because they had already explored it. Nothing happened until this month, when the Minister sent a letter to local authorities which he published.

I wish to argue most strongly against the Minister's reasons why he should bear only 40 per cent. of the cost. There were two sides to the local authorities' argument. The first was that the Ministry had pressed local authorities to go in for industrialised building. I hope that the Ministry view today is that industrialised building has a considerable rôle to play in future housing programmes. I hope that the Ronan Point disaster will have no long term adverse effects on industrialised building. Many of the things that the Minister has said on the Ronan Point disaster indicate that he is anxious that that should not happen. Therefore, all the way along, the Government have encouraged local authorities to go in for industrialised building. Secondly, the Government are responsible for the building regulations, and these blocks were built in compliance with them.

7.45 p.m.

The Minister argued against both these points, and I want to read the letter which he sent to local authorities in which he did so. First, on the question of encouraging this type of building, the letter says: The Minister does not accept that the whole burden of financial responsibility is properly attributable to the Housing Ministries. High building is necessary in some areas, but it has not been a feature of Government policy to encourage it for its own sake; in fact the Department's publication' Flats and Houses, 1958; Design and Economy', Circular 40/63 … and the encouragement which the Housing Cost Yardstick gives to building at the minimum heights requisite to the density to be achieved, all reflect the general view expressed in the 1963 circular that 'the most economical scheme for a given density will be that which keeps the proportion of high building to a minimum'". This is the Minister's first argument, and it is an appallingly bad one. He argues that he does not have much responsibility for high building and that it should be kept to a minimum.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

The hon. Gentleman should emphasise that the Minister admitted that it is necessary in some areas.

Mr. Walker

I was about to deal with that point. The Minister argued that the Ministry had not encouraged high building and said that it should be kept to a minimum. But, in his letter, the right hon. Gentleman says that it is necessary in some areas. In places like Salford and parts of London and Nottingham it is necessary. The Minister's first argument, namely, that the responsibility should not be his because the Ministry has not encouraged high building, falls to the ground as a result of the phrase in his own letter to the effect that it is a necessity in some areas. Those areas in which it has unfortunately been a necessity are now to be financially penalised.

The Minister's letter goes on to say: As to the use of industrialised building for this purpose, the Minister accepts that the extended use of industrialised building has been a feature of the policy of both the present administration and its predecessor. But industrialised building is not confined to system-built high blocks". The right hon. Gentleman goes on to quote circulars which suggest that it should be applied to low and medium rise flats. So what? The fact is that the Minister has been in favour of industrialised building; he has pressed it on local authorities. He agrees that it is necessary for some local authorities to build high rise flats. They have built them in accordance with industrial building techniques which he favours and have kept completely to the building regulations.

The right hon. Gentleman goes on to argue against the building regulation argument. He says: … the Minister does not expect that on reflection the associations would wish to press seriously the proposition that the existence of a regulating function must oblige the regulating authority to take financial responsibility for every subsequent occurrence". I agree with that, as would any local authority, because the authorities have to apply the regulations. But when a new building technique is adopted the building regulations which a Government decide to apply to it should be thought out with considerable care.

The report discloses that the building regulations for high rise industrialised building of the Ronan Point type were not adequate and sufficient. These regulations were applied to a new technique, and the fact that the Government failed to produce building regulations which were not sufficient to guarantee these buildings against relatively minor explosions puts a very heavy burden on the Government. I do not blame the Government for it when mistakes of this nature are probably likely. I would not condemn a Government if a mistake of this nature occurred. I am not technically equipped to say how serious a blunder it was in not putting in the right regulations on these points. There is, however, a strong obligation to see that the building regulations are adequate. Therefore, I do not believe that the Minister in his letter countered the two major points made by the local authorities.

The Minister went on in his letter, as the hon. Member for West Ham, North has suggested, to point out the financial arrangements in a most remarkable way. I want to question the Minister about this. First, I consider 40 per cent. to be completely inadequate. The Minister states that if the burden is too tough to carry all in one year, he will give a loan. At what rate will the loan be? Will it be at the current rate of the Public Works Loan Board or at the 4 per cent. rate connected with housing projects? This is an enormous factor, because for certain local authorities which are involved in millions of £s, the difference between 4 per cent. and the 9¾ per cent. now charged by the Board is enormous.

Secondly, how will this be treated by the local authorities in their accounts? Is this a matter to be dealt with in their housing accounts? If so, it will mean that council house tenants bear the burden in higher rents. If it is not to be dealt with in the housing account, how will the Minister lay down that this expenditure is not paid for out of the housing account? This is a vital question If these millions of £s are to be met from the housing account, council tenants alone, and not the ratepayers, will bear the cost. If, however, the burden is to be met outside the housing account—and it concerns primarily housing expenditure—this heavy burden will fall upon ratepayers throughout the country.

I wish to draw attention to the cost that this will entail. I gather that Salford, for example, if it has to meet the bill, will face an enormous burden. Salford puts the cost at about £1 million, including £600,000 for construction. How can the Minister say to a local authority like Salford, which heaven knows has enough problems as an area, that because of the fault in the regulations and because of its misfortune in using a system of building which the Minister encouraged, the council house tenants of Salford now have to find 60 per cent. of £1 million?

London puts the total cost as probably something like £2½ million. It knows that on the blocks already built the cost will be £1,661,000. On some of the blocks under construction, the cost will be £858,000. There are other blocks on which the cost has not yet been assessed, and there is still the possibility of considerable penalties to be paid as a result of contract delays. The Greater London Council and the London boroughs, therefore, have an enormous burden.

In Birmingham, an enormous number of flats is involved. For Nottingham City, the total cost is expected to be about £850,000. Glasgow—and all these are bad housing areas where the pressure is greatest—puts the cost at about £1.4 million, and Edinburgh at £600,000.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

What is the Newham figure?

Mr. Walker

Newham comes within the London figures.

Mr. James Dempsey (Coatbridge and Airdrie)

When the hon. Member quotes Glasgow, will he be good enough to say whether the 60/40 arrangement for England and Wales applies equally to Scotland?

Mr. Walker

Yes, I presume that it does.

Mr. N. R. Wylie (Edinburgh, Pentlands)

Yes, it does.

Mr. Walker

I gather that a letter has gone from the Scottish Office to that effect.

All these areas, whether in Scotland or in England, we recognise to be the areas of the worst housing problems, where there is a need to build high rise flats of this type.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

The hon. Member has referred to the poor areas. I hoped that he would deal with the Minister's letter, which has the audacity to suggest that if the local authority associations are willing and agree to a fairer redistribution and, in effect, accept a loss of part of the money by allocating it to the poorer areas like Newham, my right hon. Friend would agree. Does the hon. Member envisage any local authority saying, "We do not want 40 per cent. We will make do with 5 per cent. if the balance is given over to Newham"?

Mr. Walker

I agree. I regarded that suggestion at the end of the Minister's letter as an expression of his guilt complex. He was desperately struggling for a way of putting upon somebody else the onus of getting fair treatment.

In total, therefore, we have the situation that a small number of local authorities-I do not blame the Government; all Governments wish to encourage industrialised building and recognise that certain areas have to build high flats—suddenly have this vast burden put upon them to the tune of 60 per cent. This is a remarkable failure by the Minister.

The hon. Member for West Ham, North, in trying to find an excuse for the Minister, said that the blame must be that of the Treasury and not the Minister. He almost said that the Minister was a nice chap and could not have done anything like this. But the Minister must bear full responsibility, because he announced and accepted the Treasury decision.

Even from a Treasury point of view, it is an appallingly bad argument that the expenditure should be met in the way they suggest. I can imagine the Treasury saying, "We do not want money spent on certain things because of the state of the economy". Everybody agrees, however, that this money must be spent. If we are not careful, certain local authorities will do the minimum that is necessary. My real fear from the Ministry's meanness on this issue is that the local authorities which have acted the speediest—and London was very good in this way—and those which have taken the most complete precautions against any further disaster—

Mr. Arthur Lewis

Like Newham.

Mr. Walker

—are those which have to foot a much higher bill. The imposition of such an enormous burden on local authorities will start to make one or two of them, where there is a possibility of doing this or that degree of strengthening, say that 60 per cent. of the cost, will probably be all right. That would be a very dangerous position.

I therefore plead with the Minister to listen to the arguments which, I know, he will hear from both sides of the House, to go back to the local authorities and discuss this with them and to come up with a much fairer and better decision.

Mr. Frank Allaun

Ronan Point was a social disaster, but looked at nationally it was not a financial disaster. It is, however, a calamity for a small number of towns. We are pleading, therefore, that the whole nation should share the burden which will otherwise fall on this limited number of afflicted areas.

I should like to know from my right hon. Friend the Minister the estimated total national expenditure. I would not like to make a guess, but I would think that it is infinitesimally small compared with some of the other items which appear in the Treasury expenditure list.

8.0 p.m.

My hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) has made out a powerful case. My local authority is in many ways in a similar position, and my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) will no doubt try to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker. There are on the Salford housing list families who have been waiting for 20 years. Salford, like Newham, was bombed in the war, it has few wealthy people and a legacy from the industrial revolution of shocking housing, much of it a hundred years old.

It is particularly tie areas of poor housing which will be hit financially. Many areas of poor housing have no alternative but to build multi-storey flats because they are so heavily industrialised and built up that no land is available, and must build up to the sky. These are the weakest areas financially, and it is these areas which will be hardest hit.

A cost of £1 million for Salford is a much heavier burden than £2.5 million for the whole of London. The cost per member of the population is much higher. The Conservative council of Salford—and I am not speaking politically—has stated that unless greater compensation is given there will have to be a steep increase in council rents or a steep increase in rates, or both.

Mr. Peter Walker

The hon. Gentleman mentioned London, but I think he has misunderstood the position. Alas, in London the burden falls heavily on some boroughs.

Mr. Allaun

I agree that this is so. I was using the figure to show that a cost of £1 million for the city of Salford is high in proportion to its population.

In addition to the financial burden, there will be indescribable domestic upheaval. Eleven blocks of flats are affected, and there are about 100 flats in each block. Six blocks are occupied and five are reaching the occupation stage. What is to happen to the 600 families already in occupation? They cannot stay in the flats while they are being made safe. They have to be decanted, to use a horrible phrase, and put somewhere else temporarily. New houses, however, are not available. Because the 500 flats cannot now be used, people involved in slum clearance are sent further back in the queue.

It has been suggested that if families have to be moved out of flats it would be better if they were allowed to stay in their new accommodation and not move back again after the flats have been repaired, since this would mean two removals. These families are mostly working families on a low income. They have gone to considerable expense in fitting up their new homes with, let us say, fitted carpets and curtains. If those families are moved into other accommodation all those things will be wasted. Tremendous human problems are involved which the Government cannot compensate for, but at least those families should not also have to bear the financial burden.

These blocks of flats were built on Government advice. I am not blaming only the Labour Government, but the Conservative Government as well, because industrial building started long before 1964. I blame also the National Building Agency which has a heavy responsibility. Much more stringent regulations should have been made. Sufficient account has not been taken either of high wind velocities.

What contribution will the building firms make—Taylor Woodrow and the other firms, not direct labour firms, but private enterprise? They introduced these new systems; surely they should bear part of the financial burden. They have made large profits. I suggest that some contribution should be made by Taylor Woodrow and other firms before extra dividends are paid to their shareholders.

Mr. Robert Cooke (Bristol, West)

Does not the hon. Gentleman appreciate that if the building firms were to contribute, the contributions would be set against profits and the taxpayer would pay in any case. It would make no difference.

Mr. Allaun

I suggest that the hon. Gentleman puts that point to the managing director of Taylor Woodrow and hears his reply.

Of the £1 million for Salford, the compensation will amount to £400,000, leaving £600,000 to be raised. This will be borrowed, as the Minister said. After interest at market rates over 60 years has been paid on that £600,000 the total figure will be over £3 million. This is not chicken feed. The loan should be obtainable at the 4 per cent. subsidised rate which the Labour Government gives on new council house building. That is about the best thing that the Labour Government have done, and it should apply to loans for this purpose.

Local authorities are now 85 per cent. Conserative controlled and, unless better compensation is forthcoming, many councils—I am not saying all—will use this as an excuse to stop council house building. Even without this excuse, Conservative controlled councils are cutting down council house building. If we give them the excuse that they have to bear this inordinate cost for strengthening tower blocks then council house building in many areas will stop completely.

The Minister has urged local authorities to "avoid delay in remedial work". He is absolutely right. Thousands of families desperately need new flats, and it would be a tragedy if there were delay in putting these flats into a safe condition. In other words, they should be strengthened structurally and, where necessary, there should be a change from gas to electricity. But there is a threat in certain quarters of Salford Council that unless greater compensation is given it will delay remedial work.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

Is my hon. Friend aware that the Minister, in answer to a Question that I put on this point said that he has no power to compel councils to do anything. If the council refuses to take action, he has no saction against them. That surely strengthens the point.

Mr. Allaun

It certainly strengthens the argument for financial inducement to be given to councils. I conclude by pleading with the Minister to grant what is set out in the new Clause, namely, 60 per cent. rather than 40 per cent. relief to stricken authorities as the least that should be offered in the circumstances.

Wing Commander Sir Eric Bullus (Wembley, North)

This is a most important Clause. The hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) is to be congratulated on having put down this new Clause. Not for the first time he has put considerations of justice and equity before what might be considered to be the party line. If we do not get a satisfactory answer, I hope that he will lead us into the Division Lobby.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

The hon. Member has my assurance.

Sir E. Bullus

I do not want to deploy all the arguments which have already been put forward by the hon. Member for West Ham, North and by my hon. Friend on the Front Bench, the Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker). I support all that they have said. This is a most important matter, and I should like to draw attention to the effects of this provision upon my own constituency.

There has been considerable building development on the Chalkhill Estate in the Wembley area, which is now part of the Brent Borough Council. The Minister, for whom I have great regard, has shown great interest in this area, and there has been what I consider to be considerable Government interference in the project. When the Minister determines what rents should be charged and interferes with the the policy of the local council, then he has a great responsibility for the amount of money which should be paid to local authorities.

Some five years ago municipal council housing in Wembley was in balance: it had a differential rent scheme. But when Wembley was merged willy-nilly with Willesden it inherited a great housing deficit. We are short of housing land and we, like many other boroughs, have had to build upwards. As I have said, considerable development is taking place in the Chalkhill area. In the Chalkhill development £408,000 is required for strengthening work in tower blocks. The council will receive from the Government £160,000, which is not enough.

In another development, the Adam Count flats in Sudbury, £5,000 is required. My concern is that if we do not get more than £160,000 it will mean an increase in rates and inevitably an increase in rents. When the Minister will not allow us to put on an economic rent, what are we to do? Many councils are affected by this problem.

I should like the Minister in reply to give us the views of the Association of Municipal Corporations, of which I am a vice president. They feel that 40 per cent. is far too low a figure. What would the global figure be if the contribution from the Government amounted to 100 per cent. for the strengthening of existing flats? Could he also give us the global figure if the contribution were 60 per cent., or if it remains at 40 per cent.?

I know that the Minister has a great interest in this matter, and perhaps it is the Treasury which is the stumbling block. However, I hope that he will stand up to the Treasury and realise that the proposal is far too small and that, if we are to have the necessary safety provision, there must be a larger contribution from Government funds.

8.15 p.m.

Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, West)

This is the first time the House has had an opportunity to discuss all the issues flowing from the Ronan Point disaster. My hon. Friend the Member for West Ham. North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) is to be complimented in putting down the Clause. I wish to apologise for not being in my place during his speech, but I was attending an important meeting, and I am sure that he will understand.

I should like to raise an important moral issue, quite apart from the financial aspect. Following the disaster it was found that these flats were unfortunately below standard. Perhaps these projects were rushed into at too great a pace without enough experimentation having taken place. Experiments are now being conducted on high wind density and have yet to be concluded. After the disaster the Minister decided that a measure of strengthening was essential. There was a Ministry circular to authorities to this effect, but it was not made mandatory on authorities to bring buildings up to a proper standard of safety.

The Minister in various Answers has said that he has no powers of this sort, but I believe that the matter is of such importance that he ought to take such powers. If a figure of only 40 per cent. is to be offered, many local authorities will not proceed to take action. In my area both officials and council members are worried sick about this issue. They are not merely thinking of the financial burden but carry a great moral responsibility for the tenants who reside in these flats. We cannot stand by and hope that another disaster will not occur such as occurred at Ronan Point. These flats should be put right.

The Minister will know from the correspondence which has passed between us and from the meeting which I and my hon. Friends had with him before he made his decision that we have impressed upon him that we feel there should be some directive. If a directive is issued, then there must be a large measure of financial responsibility. The Clause is really very modest indeed. I was shocked at the low percentage of contribution put forward by the Minister. Surely there could be a payment more in line with normal Government grants for major developments in local authorities. Normally the Government contributes 75 per cent. to local authorities, and the local authority itself must find 25 per cent. which gives it a real financial responsibility, but the main burden is carried by the taxpayer.

How can a city such as Salford find £600,000 on either short-term or long-term loan? It will be almost an impossibility to find such a sum on top of the already overriding burden which is now carried by the city. It has been said that the whole problem is related to high density areas and urban and city populations in special selected areas throughout the country.

Mr. Dempsey

Consultant engineers were employed in the construction of these high rise flats, and surely they also have a responsibility. Does my hon. Friend not feel that they should make a contribution from the hefty insurance moneys in which they are involved?

Mr. Orme

I agree with my hon. Friend. I am not saying that responsibility should not be shared round between these consulting engineers, builders and so forth. But in the end they will come back to the argument that their proposals were approved by the Ministry. Therefore, whilst I agree that there is a need to share this responsibility—I was not excluding that—nevertheless, we must return to the central Government as the main factor within this matter.

In Britain there are areas of terribly bad housing—the legacy of the 19th century. With respect, many hon. Members on both sides are not aware, as are those of us who come from and represent such areas, of some of the outstanding housing problems that need to be solved in those areas.

We are talking about selected areas, deprived areas, like Salford where these flats are being built. There are 10 blocks in my constituency—five occupied and five unoccupied. The upset and the cost of transporting the people in the five blocks which have been completed to new homes, even temporarily, will be absolutely colossal. The effect in my hon. Friend's constituency, just across the road as it were, where there are hundreds of houses due for clearance in the Odsall area, will be to delay this work by as much as 12 months or even two years, because the housing available for occupation this year, if the transfer is made, cannot be used. It is not just a financial loss; it is a setback in the house-building programme.

I think that my right hon. Friend ought to take encouragement from the Opposition Front Bench, because it would appear that they have no objection to greater public expenditure on this issue. He has made a special effort concerning deprived areas, for which £25 million has been found. However, he should ask the Treasury for an increased grant for the areas about which I have been speaking. We should tackle this problem quickly. The money should be found, the flats ought to be put right, and we ought not to be debating for the next five, 10, 15 or 20 years whether they are safe and whether we shall have any problems with them.

I do not want to reiterate the very cogent points which have already been made. When my hon. Friend and I discussed the matter with my right hon. Friend I believe that he had a real feeling of social responsibility. I can assure him of our support if he goes for the extra money. I believe that he has a good case. We should not wait until there is a national disaster and everybody wrings his hands and says, "Why was not something done about it?" It might even cost us three times as much if such an occasion arose.

Therefore, I urge my right hon. Friend to accept the Clause. I believe that it is insufficient, particularly for a city like Salford, but perhaps his Ministry will have another look at the whole issue. This matter is of paramount public importance. I can assure my right hon. Friend that I have discussed this matter with people of all points of view in Salford and that there is a great feeling of unease which I suggest should be removed.

Mr. Rossi

I do not envy the Minister, because he has clearly reached a point where he is without a friend in the House. Just as we are united in congratulating and thanking the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) on bringing forward this new Clause, we are also united in our condemnation of the Minister because he has been so intransigent and will not assist local authorities to a greater extent than he has offered. But more than the mere question of the 40–60 per cent., which of itself causes anxiety and worry among the local authorities, what loses the right hon. Gentleman his friends is the way that he has sought to justify these figures and has sought to shuffle off responsibility and, in shuffling off responsibility, suggesting that he is being extremely generous in making an offer of 40 per cent. of the cost in any case. What is also resented is the indication that appears to have been given that these figures are in no way negotiable.

I should like to pursue the question of responsibility. My hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker) has already made reference to the open letter of self-justification and has dealt adequately with the matters contained in it. However, I should like to go back a little further in history.

The hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun) is right when he says that the desire for industrialised building did not start with the present Administration. In, I think, 1962–63, the then Administration began to press upon local authorities the desire to consider using industrialised building systems and methods that did not require so much skilled labour, of which we were in short supply in the building industry at that time, to speed up the housing programme.

I recall full well the discussions that took place then between the Minister and the Association of Municipal Corporations. Study groups were organised and sent off to Scandinavia and to France to be shown the wonders of these systems. After these study groups came back, the Minister requested the A.M.C. to organise regional conferences throughout the country, the object of which was to persuade local authorities to join together in consortia because it was felt that in that way the greatest economic use could be made of industrialised building. That is where the impetus came from. The pressure started from the Minister, or one of his predecessors, suggesting that these systems be adopted.

It is disengenuous to suggest, as has been suggested in the open letter, that in doing this we were not really talking about tall rise buildings, because the real value of industrialised building, the greatest scope for industrialised building, is to be able to build these very tall blocks of flats which cannot be so well and easily built by normal conventional methods. Rightly or wrongly, in the minds of everybody in those days industrialised building and tall block flats went hand in hand. Perhaps it was wrong that it should have been so, but to talk in those days of industrialised building was to talk of high rise blocks of flats. The terms were virtually synonymous. This was the mentality, the thinking that was created.

It did not rest there with the General Election of 1954. Things did not come to a full stop then. The present Administration enthusiastically adopted the policy of its Department to endeavour to persuade local authorities to go in more and more for this type of building. This is made quite plain by the report of Mr. Hugh Griffiths, Q.C.—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harry Gourley)

Order. I hesitate to interrupt the hon. Member, but I do not think that we can embark on a history of traditional building or industrialised building. The Clause suggests an alteration in the percentage increase, and the hon. Member must relate his remarks to that.

Mr. Rossi

Mr. Deputy Speaker, if I have to stand corrected by you, I shall do so, but I thought that I was directing my remarks to the debate that has taken place about the degree of the Government's responsibility for the state of affairs shown by this report, and therefore the percentage which should be paid by the Government consequent upon their degree of responsibility.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I follow the hon. Member's point but I hope that he will not develop his argument for too long. It is all right to make incidental references to the past, but not to develop his argument for too long on that.

Mr. Rossi

I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

The report on Ronan Point, in paragraph 177 at page 51, makes it clear that the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, to quote their own words 'launched a concentrated drive to increase and improve the use of industrialised building methods in house building for the public sector'. In considering this question of responsibility, we have here the evidence of this report that the Ministry launched a concentrated drive to increase the kind of system that we are discussing this evening, and which resulted in the unhappy disaster at Ronan Point.

The Government launched a concentrated drive at a time when—and I again quote from the report, at paragraph 183—they did not have qualified engineering staff to advise them on this particular system. The information was not available, and the Minister could not advise those whom he was trying to persuade to use these systems on their safety or otherwise because the structural engineering staff did not exist within the Ministry to consider these very relevant matters.

We had an entirely foreign system of building. It was foreign in every sense of the word. It was foreign because it was strange and novel to us, and foreign because it was being imported, and being so imported at the behest of the Minister without proper tests being carried out in this country by the very Minister who was trying to persuade local authorities to adopt these methods.

I should have thought that that placed the responsibility full square upon the Minister, and he must live up to it, because, taking the matter one stage further, as the report also says in its recommendations, the Minister is also the person responsible for the building regulations and for seeing that the British standards and codes of practice referred to in the regulations are kept up to date, and that new ones are promulgated as necessary.

It was quite clear at the time that these regulations, these standards, these codes of practice, did not deal with the problems of progressive collapse, and with the effect of high wind on buildings of this kind. We therefore have a triple responsibility. We have the responsibility that it was the Minister who was pressing the local authorities to introduce these methods. We have the responsibility of the Minister having these methods introduced without the qualified staff to advise him on these novel methods which he was asking should be brought into this country. The third responsibility is that he, as the man who sees that the regulations are kept up to date, did not see that they were kept up to date and covered buildings of this kind.

How can he, therefore, seek to shuffle off responsibility in this way? How can he suggest that the local authorities, loyally following his request, his lead, and finding themselves in the cart, should now have to bear the greater financial burden because of his mistakes and because they did what he asked them to do? This is not right, it is not just by any criterio[...] and this is why there is resentment. What people detest more than anything else is injustice, particularly when it is used to try to get out of a financial obligation, as is the case here. I urge the Minister to look at this matter again.

I am principally concerned, of course, like all hon. Members, with my own constituency. Within the London borough of Haringey, of which my constituency is part, we have blocks built on the Larsen-Neilsen system and we must meet this expense. I am also concerned, of course, with the Greater London area generally, with all the boroughs with this problem and with the Greater London Council.

The figures have been given already tonight as to what this will involve for the ratepayers, but what has not been mentioned—although it is well known to the Minister—is that this burden, added to others which he has created in recent months, may lead to a mid-year increase in Greater London Council rates—which is virtually unheard of. I hope that the Minister will not place the G.L.C. in the position of having to increase its rates halfway through its financial year for something which is primarily his responsibility, because the men and women dealing with the housing problems of that great authority over the years have sought to follow the lead given by him, and his predecessors.

We recognise, of course, that the right hon. Gentleman is, to some extent, tied by what the Treasury says that he can do, but, on a previous occasion in Committee, not connected with this matter, I suggested in humility that if he wants to go down in our history as a great Minister of Housing, as I am sure he does, on principles of this kind he must stand up and fight, fight and fight again for his Department and the people for whom he is responsible.

Mr. Albert Booth (Barrow-in-Furness)

I totally disagree with the suggestion of the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Rossi) that my right hon. Friend is seeking to be unjust to avoid a financial obligation. I do not believe that my right hon. Friend is seeking to be unjust. I recognise the financial pressures upon any Administration in the total housing programme. However, on other grounds, I would urge my right hon. Friend to accept the new Clause.

No hon. Member who has served on a local authority can be unaware of the degree to which members of local authorities are influenced by the percentage grants for any of their projects. It is no exaggeration to say that when percentage grants varied more over the range of local services than they do today almost the first question asked in a council committee before a decision was made or a debate started on a project was what the percentage grant involved was. This will obviously influence local authorities in their decision—the measures they should take and the speed with which they should take them—to bring these blocks of flats up to standard and make them safe.

The Minister should consider accepting the Clause because of the possible effect on rents and rates, a matter which is inevitably linked to this issue. Local authorities must decide whether to pass the cost of this increase on to the tenants of the tall flats affected, on to the tenants of tall flats generally or to spread it over the local community as a whole. If my right hon. Friend says that it is a cost which should be spread over the community as a whole, then he must consider whether it should be spread over the community nationally as opposed to the community locally.

It is not the fault of the authorities which chose to go in for building tall blocks of flats that they should be faced with this problem. They decided to build these dwellings in the light of planning considerations affecting the whole country, and particularly in connection with the development of new town centres. It has been vital to good town planning that tall flats should be built in the immediate vicinity of certain town centres, in recognition of the necessity to maintain the population in those areas, and to have these flats occupied quickly. If they are not occupied quickly the whole balance of town planning decisions relating to these town centres will be spoilt, and this is another reason why the Clause should be carefully considered.

It is necessary to re-establish confidence in the safety of the dwellings which require strengthening. If this is not done, one can envisage the attitude of those who are offered tenancies in these flats. Are they to refuse them and, in many cases, stay in deplorable housing conditions because they consider the flats to be unsafe? Are they to wait until new tall flats are built which comply with the latest standards required by the Ministry? Or is the local authority to seek to induce people to occupy them, without the flats being strengthened, by offering lower rents? If the latter course were adopted the result would be deplorable, particularly if it flowed from a decision not to pay higher grants for strengthening these buildings. To ensure that none of these undesirable consequences occurs, I urge the Minister to accept the Clause.

8.45 p.m.

Mr. Hawkins

I do not intend to repeat the excellent arguments which have been adduced by hon. Members on both sides in favour of the Clause. I should be ashamed not to support this moderate—an unusual epithet to apply to the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis), whose many speeches I have listened to with delight—proposal.

I am sure that my constituents, coming from an area of many broader acres, would be behind me if I suggested that this load should be spread over the whole country. It was a Norfolk firm which supplied much of the concrete stress materials that went into these high buildings. The firm was encouraged to go in for this type of production, and it put a great deal of development into it. I want to see this type of building succeed.

From the agricultural point of view, high buildings must be the right course for the whole country. In this small island we cannot afford to give more than is vitally necessary for building purposes on good agricultural land. For these practical reasons, apart from the moral issue with which all citizens will agree, the Clause should be accepted.

Certain parts of the country were encouraged to build high because of their housing problems. I had not known much of London before coming to this place. However, a son of mine was at technical college in London and had "digs" in a peculiar part of London, if I may put it that way. I have seen many of the conditions which people must tolerate in crowded boroughs.

During the war the people of London and other cities had a tremendous burden put on them because they suffered the weight of much enemy bombing. This is appreciated by those who did not live in the cities. I certainly appreciate it. The city dwellers were singled out for that treatment during the war, and now they have been singled out for an experiment which will do the whole country good.

It is an experiment in the true sense of the word because building high does not necessarily result in particularly cheap rents. As this is an experiment which will be good for the whole country, the whole country should share in its cost. I am sure that I shall lose no votes in offering that my constituents should help to share this burden.

In some respects I have the greatest admiration for the Minister of Housing and Local Government. He is a sincere man, although I am not sure that I have the greatest sympathy for him today. He is obviously unhappy about this subject. He has reached a point at which he must stand up and be counted, for we are discussing a subject about which that phrase must apply to every hon. Member. We must decide to tell the Government that this load should be spread over the nation as a whole.

Mr. Wylie

My intervention in this debate will be short, principally for two reasons. First, I think the arguments in favour of this new Clause have been fully canvassed and very ably put forward, no more ably than by the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) who moved its Second Reading, and to whose speech I listened with interest. I am sorry that the Minister of State, Scottish Office, who was present a little time ago, was not present when the hon. Member spoke.

The second reason is that this Bill does not apply to Scotland, but I make no apology for making a short intervention on this subject because an important matter of principle arises. The principle is that if the regulations have in the event proved inadequate, financial responsibility for that inadequacy should rest on the central Government. I do not think anyone could deny that. There is a degree of responsibility which the Minister has recognised because he is prepared to pay 40 per cent. I endorse what my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker) said from the Front Bench. If this suggestion had been put forward at the time of the disaster there would have been an almighty row in the country and this Chamber would have been much more fully occupied than it is at the moment.

The whole issue is what the contribution should be. There is a strong case for the Government accepting the whole responsibility, but the hon. Member for West Ham, North has put forward the very modest suggestion of simply inverting the percentages which the local authority and central Government respectively will bear. The other reason, apart from the question of principle, which induces me to intervene is that this problem is not confined to England and Wales. It applies also to Scotland. It certainly applies in Edinburgh. The Minister of State recognised in earlier legislation—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harry Gourlay)

Order. It would not be in order to debate the Scottish position on this new Clause.

Mr. Wylie

I quite appreciate that, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I merely wished to explain why I feel provoked to intervene in a debate on a Bill applying essentially to England and Wales.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May I seek your guidance? Would it not be in order if the hon. and learned Member pointed out that, with their usual generosity, the Scots would be more than willing to help pay the cost?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

It would not be in order for the hon. and learned Member to pursue the matter so far as it relates to Scotland at all.

Mr. Dempsey

Further to that point of order. I do not know whether you are aware, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the Opposition Front Bench spokesman went to considerable length—and we appreciated it—in giving details of how this matter affected Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I have given my Ruling. There are occasions when incidental references can be made, and the hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker) made such a reference, but to debate the Scottish position would be out of order.

Mr. Robert Cooke

I do not wish to challenge your Ruling at all, Mr. Deputy Speaker—that would be quite improper —but this debate is not directed to a narrow side of the problem. This is the first opportunity, as the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) said, that the House has had to look at this problem as a whole. No doubt the Minister will reply to the debate looking at the problem as it affects the whole of the United Kingdom. I submit to you that it would be in the best interests of the House—and you are protecting the House—if a fairly wide discussion were allowed so that the whole picture could be looked at. I hope my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Wylie) will not find himself in too great difficulty with the Chair.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I remind the hon. Member that the discussion has, in fact, been rather wide. I have given my Ruling; so far as the matter affects Scotland, the Scottish position is dealt with in Scottish legislation. The new Clause does not affect Scotland and, therefore, it would be entirely out of order to debate the Scottish position now.

Mr. Wylie

I hope I made clear in my introductory remarks that I did not intend to develop the position in Scotland, because the Bill does not apply to Scotland. I merely wished to point out that this problem covers the whole country. At Sighthill, in my constituency, they are 400 homes short at the moment because of this problem. That is the kind of repercussion which flows from it. I hope that the Minister will reconsider the matter. Perhaps it will strengthen his hand in negotiations with the Treasury if he knows that he has the Scots behind him as well.

Mr. Clegg

I had not intended to take part in this debate, which has reached an exceptionally high standard, but there are some points I wish to make.

The hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr Frank Allaun) spoke of the possibility of contributions being made from builders, and the hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) suggested that contributions might come from consultant engineers. I should have thought that the local authorities would take legal advice, and, if they were advised that they ought to sue, they should do so, but if they were told that there was no case that would dispose of the matter completely we should have to fall back on money being provided from the centre.

The effects on the housing position in some areas of the country will be very severe. I do not think the Minister, who is a Lancashire Member needs to be told of the situation in Salford. He is well aware of the consequences which flow from this problem. I add my voice to those who say that this is a national rather than a regional or localised problem. In the North we are dealing with areas which suffered all the scars of the Industrial Revolution and some of the scars of war damage. It is an area which we are trying rapidly to rehabilitate. The emphasis in the region at the moment is on making city centres better and bringing people back to them to give them new life, as was rightly said by the hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr Booth).

I am worried about the consequences if the Government persist in their attitude. When experimental measures are pursued, local authorities must have confidence that they will not suffer unduly. If local authorities are to support Government experiments, they must be confident that the Government are behind them. I believe that the Minister is under pressure from the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

In any event, this money will come from either central or local funds. It is not as if the Government or the taxpayers will be saved something by the Government's attitude. It is a case of the Government at the centre allocating what they will give and what local authorities will give; it is a question of balance. I think that the balance is wrong. The acceptance of the Clause would not cost the public one penny more. For these reasons, I support the Clause.

Mr. George Younger (Ayr)

I strongly support the Clause. I hope that the Minister, for whom we all have great respect, realises what a serious position he is in. He is at loggerheads with the whole House on a matter of principle. The Clause deals with the results of a disaster. All of us will agree that it must be the responsibility of the community at large to do what it can to iron out the painful consequences of a national or great disaster.

Both sides of the House have told the Minister in a reasoned argument that it is not acceptable to the House that the results of this disaster should fall largely on those who have already suffered from it. I widen that area to include all those who live in the area of local authorities which have such flats.

The Minister's inflexibility is bad from his own point of view and from the point of view of Parliament. What are we to think of Parliament if, on a matter like this where no party politics are involved, and when the House expresses a unanimous view, the Minister's response is an inflexible insistence to remain in the position which he had adopted at the beginning of the debate.

I beg the Minister, who is a humane and reasonable man, to understand that he must respond to the views which have been expressed on both sides of the House. I hope that he will regard this as being much more than a set piece debate led by people who are directly concerned. The community should share the cost. As the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) so generously said, taxpayers throughout the country, including those in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, would be only too happy to make their small contribution through the tax system to putting this unfortunate problem right. The cost to local authorities of putting these buildings right will have a major effect on future rating, on future housing policy, and on their ability to carry on with the housing drive.

9.0 p.m.

As a result there arises the whole question of the confidence of the public in these buildings. There is also the confidence of the public in standards prescribed by the Minister for buildings. There are many occasions when building regulations prescribed by the Ministry are a severe irritant to us all. We have all known lots of cases where some modification has to be made to a building because of Ministry regulations. Very often it has not appeared to be reasonable on the surface, but we have taken the view that if it has been prescribed by the Ministry it must have been carefully thought out and we must make the best of it.

If we find that on such a vital matter, Ministry regulations have not been adequate and have not produced safe buildings, then it is bad if the Minister shrugs off responsibility for helping, in a major way, local authorities put this right. It is a matter of great importance that he should remember that his reputation for laying down efficient standards is very much at stake.

The hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) made the point about the interest rate. If local authorities have to borrow to make up the balance of the cost which will not be met by the Ministry, and this applies whether or not the new Clause is accepted, the interest rate, in all justice, must be subsidised in exactly the same way as the interest rate is subsidised for the building of the houses in the first place. It would be ridiculous if the cost of repairing the houses has to bear the full interest rate when the original building was subsidised, rightly so, by the central Government. The very least I expect the Minister to be able to say is that the subsidised rate will apply here.

This involves spending a lot of public money, negotiations with the Treasury, and we know how difficult that is. If the Minister takes nothing else on board, everything that has been said must lead him to return to the Treasury and tell it that it is not acceptable to anyone in the House or in the country that the burden of this should fall, as to more than 50 per cent., on the local communities who have to build higher flats. I hope the Minister will take this as being a clear expression of opinion by the House and respond to it in the way I feel he would like to.

Mr. Robert Cooke

I would like to add my few words of sympathy to the Minister for the very difficult position in which he finds himself. What we should try to achieve is not to put the Minister in an entrenched position from which he cannot escape. We do not want to force the issue to the extent that the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) carries this to a Division and the Lobby fodder produced by the Government—who have not heard the debate and perhaps not given it much thought, because if they had they would think differently—defeats the new Clause and what it involves.

I have not consulted my Front Bench and do not know what they want to do if there is a Division. I feel so strongly about this being a House of Commons matter that I think that what we have to achieve is the best solution for the country. Politics have nothing to do with it. If we can get an undertaking from the right hon. Gentleman that he realises that there is a united view in the House on this matter which is that the Bill is not satisfactory at present and that there is some way to go to meeting the objections of the House, that would be a much happier state of affairs than to have this new Clause defeated by the action of the Government Whips. This is not just another matter for the Government Whips to bring in their hordes and vote us down.

We are trying to look at this on a national basis. I am fortunate in that I have not had a single worried family come to me in Bristol with fears about high buildings. This is encouraging in a sense, because although it may not be involved as other cities are, there are people in the city living in high buildings perhaps not constructed on the same basis as those which caused us so much distress. Although we have had to draw the Minister's attention to the definite fears of many people, it seems there is not widespread public panic and we must do nothing to bring that about.

I have one or two specific technical questions for the Minister. Were the building regulations specific in dealing with this method of building; did they give the technical details as to how the jointings of various units should be carried out? Was there any possibility that regulations could be carried out but that there would still be room for inaccuracy, or were they so watertight that if they had been carried out according to instructions the building would be satisfactory within existing knowledge? The Minister might elaborate more about his high building policy. It was said that it was not Ministry policy to encourage high building unless it was necessary in certain areas.

Following the trouble over this type of high building, I hope that the Minister will not discourage high building in the future. Once we have it right, surely we should proceed with that type of construction wherever possible.

I did not like what my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester said when he referred to the need for more and more semi-detached houses with gardens. By all means let us have gardens and open spaces, but the idea of the semi-detached sprawl across the countryside is not one that we should entertain in the future. We want a happy balance between low buildings and high ones, but we also want a better use of land than my hon. Friend's words suggest. However, it may be that my hon. Friend merely used the phrase without following it through in detail. Obviously we do not want this sort of sprawl all over the countryside.

I come then to the strengthening techniques. Is the Minister certain that every possible technique has been explored—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The debate has been very wide, but the hon. Gentleman is making it wider still We are discussing a new Clause which proposes to alter the basis of the percentage payment. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will relate his remarks more closely to the Clause.

Mr. Cooke

Mr. Deputy Speaker, I had not dwelt upon the proposed percentage because I did not want to detain the House too long. Possibly the percentage is based on an erroneous idea of cost. It occurs to me to ask whether the Ministry has looked into the pros and cons of the different strengthening techniques which might be available, and whether it is sure that those being employed at present are as economical as they might be. After all, our forefathers built three or four times as strong as they need have done. One has only to look at many of our historic buildings to see that. Ronan Point was not built as strong as it should have been. There must be a happy medium, and I wonder whether present strengthening methods are as economical as they might be. Obviously they were thought out in a moment of desperation when matters had to be put right quickly. It is a question of mathematics. It is not one of seeing a thick steel girder running through a building. A very slender one may be equally satisfactory if it is in the right place.

Still on the subject of strengthening, the Minister must be sure at the end of the day that there will be no similar disaster elsewhere; otherwise local authorities might be encouraged to skimp the job of strengthening. The House needs an assurance on that. If the Minister has not the power to make sure that the strengthening is effective, I am certain that the House will be only too willing to give it to him. The work has to be done properly.

I hope that the theme of the Minister's reply will be that he realises the strong feeling of hon. Members about this matter. The present position is not satisfactory financially. It is to be hoped that he will be prepared to look at it again, and no doubt that means having another go at the Treasury. We expect him to say that he will allow nothing to prevent the strengthening of the buildings or, when matters are put right, the construction in the future of any buildings such as those which have caused danger in the past.

Mr. Esmond Wright (Glasgow, Pollok)

In the course of this debate, every argument has been brought forward except one. I share the unanimous concern which is felt, and I hope that that unanimity will be expressed in the Division Lobbies. The note which has been struck is one of morality, responsibility and principle. However, the point which I want to put to the Minister bears on Scotland, though not in the housing context.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger) referred to a national disaster. Ronan Point could have hit any part of the Kingdom. Some 18 months ago, a similar disaster hit the central belt of Scotland, its major effects being felt in Glasgow. The Government considered it to be a disaster which could not be met by the local authorities concerned, and a grant of something like £5 million was paid to cope with it.

When the Minister replies, I hope that he will explain the logic of his decision. If it was effective and sound 18 months ago for the hurricane disaster in Scotland, it must be equally binding for Ronan Point and any other areas affected by such a disaster. But there is the additional word "responsibility". The industrial building specifications came from the central Government, whereas the disaster which hit Scotland came from whatever it is which controls the elements.

Our local authorities are already overburdened. Glasgow for example, has a deficit of more than £300 million. How can the Minister consider it right to expect them to pay these further sums? I believe that he is acting illogically and without the heart and conscience which, deep down, he has in him. I hope that he will tell us in what way the disaster 18 months ago differs from that at Ronan Point.

9.15 p.m.

The Minister of Housing and Local Government (Mr. Anthony Greenwood)

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Pollok (Mr. Wright) set an admirable example in brevity. I shall not be able wholly to emulate him, but I shall do my best to be brief and relevant.

The House will realise that this debate has not been a happy Parliamentary experience for me, not because I am unhappy about the proportion of the cost which the Government are meeting, but because the story of Ronan Point has been extremely unhappy and tragic. When the statement was made in the House after the report was published, I went out of my way to accept a measure of Governmental responsibility. Perhaps, looking back, it was rather too big a share of responsibilty, but I was anxious at the time to ensure that injustice was not done to individuals, to firms, to professional men or to the officers of the local authorities which had not the opportunity that I had of making the position clear in the House. I wanted to do everything in my power to restore public confidence in tall blocks of flats.

I begin by echoing what my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) said about the Newham Borough Council. I congratulate the council on the responsibility which it has shown throughout this unhappy story, on its refusal to be panicked, and, perhaps above all, on the very great care which it has taken throughout to take the public into its confidence and to explain why things were being done and what their effects would be. It was an admirable example of public participation and good public relations by a local authority.

We must try to keep a sense of proportion in these matters. There has been a tendency this evening to talk about high blocks of flats being, one might surmise, almost entirely in poor overcrowded areas. But if one looks at the list of areas in which there are tall blocks of flats one finds, or example, Sunbury-on-Thames, Crawley, Weybridge, Elstree and Maidenhead, not one of which is either a poor or overcrowded area. At one time there was a tendency for a good deal of high building to take place which was not strictly necessary in terms of desirable density of the area.

The hon. and gallant Member for Wembley, North (Sir E. Bullus) asked what the total cost of strengthening the Ronan Point type of flats was. His speech contrasted very favourably with that of the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Rossi). Having known the hon. and gallant Gentleman for a long time, that is what I would expect of him. The total cost is extremely difficult to estimate. One of our difficulties throughout this last year has been that we have not had any firm estimates from the local authorities about how much will be involved. The best estimate that I can give is £25 or £30 million. Therefore, if we gave the 100 per cent. which the hon. and gallant Gentleman, as Vice-President of the Association of Municipal Corporations, understandably asked for, it would be £25 million, but on the 40 per cent. that we are proposing it would be £10 million met by the Government and £15 million met by the local authorities.

The hon. Member for North Fylde (Mr. Clegg) said that I knew Salford and something of the problems there. That is true. I have paid two official visits to Salford. I was sorry that my hon. Friends representing Salford were not able to be with me on those occasions. Salford is an interesting example in this sphere. Its original estimate of the cost was 1¾ million, which was later reduced to about £1 million. With such a variation in estimates, it is difficult to know exactly how much will be finally involved.

I turn to the question of pushing high-rise buildings. The hon. Member for Hornsey made a great point of this. We put into our letters to the local authority associations a statement of our policy concerning high building because there had been a good deal of misunderstanding about it and because when I met the local authority associations at the end of May or the beginning of June they talked about having been pressurised by the Ministry into building high.

I do not think that that has ever been the policy of either the previous Government or the present Government. Both Administrations have always realised that there were cases where high-rise building was inevitable, but we have said that there must be high-rise building only where it is necessary on density grounds and that generally speaking, for a variety of reasons, both of economy and of sociological reasons, high-rise building was not to be encouraged.

It is interesting that it was Lord Brooke, I think, at the time he was Minister of Housing and Local Government, who emphasised in the publication to which the hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker) has referred the need for avoiding high-rise building where it was not absolutely necessary. We as a Government have consistently pursued that policy.

When people talk about an industrialised building drive, they are absolutely right. We have said that we wanted 40 per cent. of the building in the public sector to be done by industrialised building methods, including rationalised traditional methods. Industrialised building, however, does not necessarily involve high-rise building. At the moment we are getting 40 per cent. of the building in the public sector done by industrialised building methods. I do not think that anyone would suggest that 40 per cent. of the public housing which is going up today consists of high-rise flats.

We have on a number of occasions issued circulars in which we have referred to the fact that industrialised building includes fully rationalised traditional methods and also that it includes work on low-rise building as well. In circular 21/65, for example, we said: The main need now is to create conditions for a rapid development in the use of these methods"— that is industrialised building— for both two and three storey houses and low and medium rise flats. We have not, therefore, pressurised local authorities into building high, although they have freedom of choice, and in some cases it has been necessary for good reasons to build high. That is why we have suggested what, I believe, is a fair share of responsibility for the cost involved.

We have been criticised tonight for proposing to meet 40 per cent. of the cost, and I have been asked how we arrived at that figure. I think that the figure of 100 per cent. is wholly unrealistic. I do not believe that any of the local authority associations seriously expected that 100 per cent. would be forthcoming. I believe that 40 per cent. is a reasonable proportion. The tribunal said that there was a division of responsibility between central and local Government and the builders and others concerned.

The figure of 40 per cent. was decided upon because it corresponds to the subsidy which is paid to local authority building. The average subsidy this year is running at about 39 per cent. When the representative rate of interest for 1969 is fixed, which will probably be in July, the proportion paid by the Exchequer will be just over 40 per cent. That means that we are proposing to pay as a contribution to the post-Ronan Point work the same proportion as the State is paying for the original buildings. The proportion of the contribution for Ronan Point under the new rate of subsidy is much higher than the proportion which would have been contributed under the original subsidy.

Mr. Peter Walker

Is the right hon. Gentleman saying that he has chosen the coincidence of the housing subsidy rate and has not taken into consideration the proportion of the blame and the adverse effects on some local authorities? Is he saying that he just picked the figure of 40 per cent.?

Mr. Greenwood

It is only fair that, having as a Government and as a country made a contribution to the capital cost of these buildings of a certain percentage, we should pay approximately the same proportion of the cost of rectifying what is wrong with the buildings. That is the decision which the Government took, and I think that it is a fair division.

We have suggested that, if the local authority associations wish, we would be prepared to discuss with them arrangements for a flat rate for all authorities and an extra rate for some, but we do not believe that we should go ahead with that unless it is the general wish of the local authorities.

There is room for discussion between the associations and ourselves about the items of expenditure which should be eligible for help. We would like to include carpets, the costs of removal and other incidental but essential expenses of that nature.

The hon. Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Robert Cooke) asked about building regulations. He was going a little wide of the rather limited new Clause, but it is not without interest that Ronan Point was built under the old bye-laws of the West Ham Borough and not under the building regulations. Since then building regulations have been centralised. We are working on a new set of building regulations which will be published this year. In the meantime, we have given guidance to local authorities on the standard of safety to which they should work. Distinguished structural engineers are always prepared to advise local authorities to make sure that the work they are doing is adequate and, at the same time, the most economic to meet the needs of the building with which they are concerned.

I cannot concede the point that the 40 per cent. should be increased. I think it is a fair and reasonable proportion of the cost, and I must ask my hon. Friends to vote against the new Clause.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. We cannot have three interventions at the same time. The right hon. Gentleman will decide who intervenes before he sits down.

Mr. Peter Walker

Will the right hon. Gentleman answer the question about the interest rate on loans?

Mr. Greenwood

Yes. The local authority would pay the normal interest rate that it pays on its loans. That is proper, because otherwise there would be a subsidy in addition to the 40 per cent. contribution.

Mr. Alick Buchanan-Smith (North Angus and Mearns)

I do not think that anyone in the House, particularly those who have been here throughout the debate, will be satisfied or convinced by the Minister's arguments. He put his arguments quietly, but he did so only because there was not very great strength behind them.

The outstanding feature of the debate has been the strength of feeling about the special nature of the problem which we are discussing. We are not discussing how to increase the rate of house building, or the rate of house improvement; we are discussing a special problem which is based on a disaster which took place more than a year ago, and we are taking this out of the context of our normal type of housing debate. The way in which the Minister has couched his remarks suggests that he has entirely failed to understand or to realise the special nature of the problem which we are discussing.

It gives me great pleasure to wind up the discussion on the Clause from this side of the House. I know that I speak with the strength of feeling which has characterised our speeches, not on a political basis, but on the basis of united views which are strongly held on both sides of the House, regardless of party, in strongly deploring the way in which the Government have dealt with this matter.

9.30 p.m.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker) has said, how much greater the strength of feeling might have been had we known when the Ronan Point disaster was still fresh in our minds how little the Government would offer to put right structural defects in the buildings. Concern about this matter is felt throughout the whole country, not only in England and Wales, not only in towns with high rise flats, but in Scotland, too.

I am glad to have the opportunity of speaking this evening since this is the first real opportunity we have had to debate what the Government are offering. I know that I speak for my hon. Friends from Scotland in saying that we are glad to take part in this debate because we are concerned that if the principle of the Clause is rejected local authorities in Scotland will be put in a difficulty in their negotiations with the Government.

The size of the problem in Scotland and the strength of feeling there will be realised when one remembers that the Minister of State, Scottish Office, in answer to a Question last week, said that in Scotland there were 170 blocks of flats, 12,000 units affecting 18 local authorities, with this particular problem. We in Scotland also have a concentration of this problem in particular areas. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Pollok (Mr. Wright) mentioned that the problem in his area amounted to a figure of £1.4 million, and there the problem is greatest of all.

In asking that the Government contribution should be increased from 40 to 60 per cent., we are in no way asking that expenditure should be increased beyond what is required. The hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) made a strong point about the job which must be carried out for the safety and security of these block of flats. We are not even asking for additional or extra expenditure, for, if sufficient help is not forthcoming the local authorities perhaps will hold back in carrying this work forward, work which it is vitally necessary should be carried out as quickly as possible.

The basic question to be faced is who is to bear the cost, and there is then the question of responsibility. I was impressed by the logical argument, although the Minister did not appear to have been impressed by it, of my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey (Mr. Rossi) as to where lay the real responsibility. Let us remember that the local authorities, the consulting engineers employed by them, and the building firms involved worked to specifications in accordance with building regulations approved by the Government. It is quite clear to us where the responsibility really lies.

Mr. Dempsey

Is the hon. Gentleman not aware that in Scotland it is the National Building Agency, rather than the Minister, that lays down the building rules for the construction of these buildings? Surely it has some financial responsibility in the matter.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

With respect, at the end of the day it is the Minister who vets these building regulations, it is the local authority which draws up the specifications, and the building firms have to comply with the specifications that they are given. It is clear where the responsibility lies.

Therefore, we come back to the question about how the actual expense is to be shared. We believe that the responsibility should be shared nationally rather than borne locally. The incidence of high flats, as was said by the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis), is not necessarily the choice of the local authority concerned. Often it is the chance of its geographical location, the chance of what land is available, and the chance of the history of housing over previous generations which determines whether they are forced to go in for high rise housing. This underlines the fact that this is not just the responsibility of the individual local authority. It may not be the local authority's choice. In many cases local authorities have been forced into doing this. For that reason, the financial responsibility should be borne much wider—and, of course, it should be done through the Government.

The Minister completely failed to answer the question put to him quite bluntly by my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester out of what account is this cost to be borne by the local authority? This is important. Even if we accept that the local authority will have to bear a fairly high proportion of the cost, from where will it come? Will it come from the housing account? If so, as has been said by many hon. Members, the tenants will suffer. Yet this happens at a time when the Ministry of Housing and Local Government and the Secretary of State for Scotland are sending round circulars instructing local authorities to try to reduce the deficit on their housing accounts. Therefore, on the one hand, they put this higher burden on the local authorities, which they cannot avoid in the interests of the safety and security of their tenants, and, on the other hand, they tell them to try to reduce the deficit on their housing accounts. By bearing such a small share of the expenditure of putting right the structural faults in high rise housing, the Minister is being unfair to the tenants and ratepayers of the local authorities concerned.

I should like to refer to the analogy of my hon. Friend the Member for Pollak. We do not look at this question just within the context of ordinary housing problems. This is an issue of a special nature. When we had the storm damage in Scotland 18 months ago the Government treated it as a national disaster. For heaven's sake, let us be thankful in this instance that we have not had a bigger national disaster. Surely, money is much better spent preventing a bigger national disaster happening than waiting to spend the money after it has happened. The Government have entirely failed to understand this point. They met a large proportion of the expenditure that was made necessary by the hurricane damage in Scotland, but in this case they are bearing a very small proportion indeed.

I do not believe that anyone in this House, and certainly nobody outside in the local authority areas most concerned, will be in any way convinced by the arguments put forward by the Minister this evening.

Concerning interest rates, for example, the local authorities are blithely told that they will have to borrow at 9¾ per cent. to bear their share. Is this to be borne by the tenants and the ratepayers? This is the burden which the Government are throwing on to the people of this country. The right hon. Gentleman relates this percentage of Government help that is to be given to the level of the housing subsidies. I think that that indicates what little importance he lays on this problem and how little he understands it.

I believe that the right hon. Gentleman has failed utterly to understatnd the scale of the problem. He says that what he is doing is fair. I am utterly appalled at the way in which the right hon. Gentleman has tried to play down this whole matter and not treat it with the seriousness that it deserves. I give the hon. Member for West Ham, North my support, and I am sure that I pledge the support of my right hon. and hon. Friends for the Clause. We shall carry our support into the Division Lobby to show how unfairly and meanly we think the Minister has behaved.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

I feel very sad this evening because of what I regard as a deplorable reply from the Minister. I also feel very bitter indeed. I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend for having been here and listened to the whole debate, as most of us have. If my right hon. Friend, having listened to the debate, had said that he realised that not one hon. Member on either side had said one word on behalf of the Government, or the Treasury, or in support of himself, and therefore he would consider this again, that would have been one thing. I do not know why my right hon. Friend is smiling. Not one hon. Member had one good word to say—

Mr. Greenwood

I was not smiling at my hon. Friend.

Mr. Lewis

It is not a smiling matter. We are debating a serious issue. My right hon. Friend is still smiling. I hope that he will not go to my constituency and smile at the poor devils there. This was a tragedy. The Treasury is the nigger in the woodpile.

The Minister has not said that he will reconsider this. He has said that what he has done is very fair. Is it very fair? How can he think of saddling the poorest of the poor—because in the main these are people from slum areas—with this extra burden? The people who have been rehoused in these tower blocks have suffered tragedy enough by losing their loved ones, and now the Minister comes along and says, "I shall give 40 per cent. towards the cost and they must find 60 per cent." These are the people who will have to find the 60 per cent. I am not concerned whether the money comes out of the housing revenue account or out of the rates or rents, or from a mixture of the two. It is the local inhabitants who will pay.

In answer to a question which I asked, my right hon. Friend said … it would be quite wrong for undue expense to fall upon individuals affected by this occurrence"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th November 1968 Vol. 772, col. 907.] Is not this an unfair burden? Is it not falling on the individuals affected by this disaster? My right hon. Friend is wrong to try to lump this in with a 40 per cent. housing subsidy.

The Minister said this evening that ratepayers or council tenants, or both, will be saddled with a debt of between £15 million and £18 million, and that they can borrow this money. My council already has an outstanding loan charge of £87 million. How can my right hon. Friend suggest that his is a fair approach? The Minister made no mention of the difficult areas. He referred to Sunbury and Teddington, but not to those areas which are really affected. I am disgusted with the Minister. This was a national disaster and the Government accepted it as such. Having waited twelve months, they have run away from it. I am not running away from it. I will vote against the Government on this. I will stand proudly anywhere in the country and say that I am disgusted with the answer which we have been given this evening.

9.45 p.m.

Sir D. Glover


Mr. Speaker

Order. This is the seventh of 43 debates which we will have tonight. I hope that we can come to a decision soon.

Sir D. Glover

I accept your instructions, Mr. Speaker, that this is the seventh of 43 debates, but it is a debate which the House should carry to its conclusion. This is not just a simple Clause in a Housing Bill. The hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) should be congratulated on his new Clause. The Minister's reply was one of the most dreadful and unsatisfactory replies which the House has heard in a long time. What astonishes me about the House is how Governments—I include Tory Governments—can be so mean. A disaster of this sort appeals to the sympathy of the whole country, yet the Government suddenly decide something which receives hardly any sympathy in the House.

I hate attacking the Minister, because I like him as much as any member of the Cabinet, but the real answer is that, although he is a very charming person, he is also a very weak person, and he has not fought this battle in the Cabinet and won. Knowing his humanity, I am sure that he told the Cabinet originally, "We must be generous over this problem". Then the Chancellor and the Chief Secretary probably said, "We do not have the money in this stringent financial situation; you had better settle for this much," upon which, I suppose, the right hon. Gentleman said. "All right, if I keep my job, I will settle for 40 per cent."

It is appalling that we should deal with this problem in this way. If these buildings have been built contrary to Government advice, I would expect the local authorities to take complete responsibility for any cost, but they were built with very little knowledge and because they were a new development, their specifications were pretty well laid down by the Government of the day. Now, fortuitously, and through great tragedy to many families, it has been discovered that there is a fault in the construction. The nation should pray that Ronan Point will be the only tragedy of this kind. We could, months ago, have been debating the collapse of not one building but fifty, because the fault at Ronan Point was basic in these high rise buildings.

That disaster would have wrung the withers of every person in the country. If that had happened, there would have been no argument. The nation would have said that it had to be put right and would have paid the cost through taxation. But it was only one building and the Government are saying, "We know that these buildings must be put right, but there has been no tragedy in Glasgow or Salford". But the reason that that building collapsed was that the instructions and the specifications were wrong. We did not know it at the time and there is no criticism on the builder, architect, local authority or anybody else. It was, one might say, an act of God.

As a result of this occurrence the Government said that these high rise buildings must be put right to their specifications. Why, in these circumstances, should we try to link the cost, this mythical figure for subsidy purposes, to some sort of building project? What relationship, in commonsense and humanity, is involved in such an equation? It is nothing but a sort of abracadabra worked out in the Ministry, with somebody finally saying, "This might get through Parliament without too much of a row".

We had a tragedy and that led to a problem having to be solved. I accept that local authorities must incur expenditure as a result of their activities. If we are to have responsible local government, local authorities must bear responsibilities and be careful with their spending. However, to say that 40 per cent. is the right amount for the Government to pay in this instance is scandalously inadequate. Indeed, it is so inadequate that if the right hon. Gentleman had the courage of his convictions he would not—I say this because I am sure that he was defeated in the Cabinet—be trying to justify himself in this matter but would have resigned in disgust at the Cabinet's decision.

We are dealing with a human problem involving justice following an occurrence which nobody could foretell. The debate has crossed party boundaries. This has nothing to do with party ideologies. I

hope, therefore, that hon. Members will vote according to their consciences and not according to party labels.

Question put, That the Clause be read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 131, Noes 164.

Division No. 274.] AYES [9.59 p.m.
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Grant-Ferris, Sir Robert Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Grieve, Percy Nott, John
Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n) Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Onslow, Cranley
Awdry, Daniel Hastings, Stephen Osborn, John (Hallam)
Baker, W. H. K. (Banff) Hawkins, Paul Page, Graham (Crosby)
Barter, Rt. Hn. Anthony Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel Page, John (Harrow, W.)
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Heseltine, Michael Pardoe, John
Bell, Ronald Higgins, Terence L. Percival, Ian
Biffen, John Hill, J. E. B. Pike, Miss Mervyn
Black, Sir Cyril Holland, Philip Pink, R. Bonner
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S. W.) Hooson, Emlyn Pounder, Rafton
Braine, Bernard Hordern, Peter Pym, Francis
Brewis, John Hornby, Richard Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James
Brinton, Sir Tatton Hunt, John Rees-Davies, W. R.
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Hutchison, Michael Clark Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N & M) Iremonger, T. L. Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Bullus, Sir Eric Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Russell, Sir Ronald
Burden, F. A. Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford) Speed, Keith
Campbell, B. (Oldham, W.) Jennings, J. C. (Burton) Stainton, Keith
Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn) Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.) Steel, David (Roxburgh)
Carlisle, Mark Jopling, Michael Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.
Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Clegg, Walter Kaberry, Sir Donald Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)
Cooke, Robert King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.) Temple, John M.
Corfield, F. V. Knight, Mrs. Jill Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Costain, A. P. Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry Tilney, John
Crouch, David Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.) Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.
Cunningham, Sir Knox Lubbock, Eric van Straubenzee, W. R.
Currie, G. B. H. MacArthur, Ian Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John
Davidson, James (Aberdeenshire, W.) Mackenzie, Alasdair (Ross & Crom'ty) Waddington, David
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry McMaster, Stanley Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)
Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford) McNair-Wilson, Michael Walker, Peter (Worcester)
Dodds-Parker, Douglas Maddan, Martin Wells, John (Maidstone)
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Maude, Angus Wiggin, A. W.
Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.) Mawby, Bay Williams, Donald (Dudley)
Errington, Sir Eric Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Eyre, Reginald Mills, Peter (Torrington) Winstanley, Dr. M. P.
Farr, John Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.) Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Montgomery, Fergus Wright, Esmond
Fortescue, Tim More, Jasper Wylie, N. R.
Foster, Sir John Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh) Younger, Hn. George
Gibson-Watt, David Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm.
Glover, Sir Douglas Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Cower, Raymond Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Mr. Hector Monro and
Grant, Anthony Nabarro, Sir Gerald Mr. Bernard Weatherill.
Abse, Leo Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) English, Michael
Anderson, Donald Cant, R. B. Ensor, David
Archer, Peter Concannon, J. D. Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)
Ashton, Joe (Bassetlaw) Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Evans, Ioan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley)
Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.) Crawshaw, Richard Fernyhough, E.
Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham) Dalyell, Tam Fletcher, Rt. Hn. Sir Eric (Islington, E.)
Bacon, Rt. Hn. Alice Davidson, Arthur (Accrington) Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)
Barnett, Joel Davies, Rt. Hn. Harold (Leek) Ford, Ben
Bishop, E. S. Davies, Ifor (Gower) Forrester, John
Blackburn, F. Delargy, Hugh Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)
Blenkinsop, Arthur Dell, Edmund Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony
Boardman, H. (Leigh) Dewar, Donald Gregory, Arnold
Boyden, James Diamond, Rt. Hn. John Grey, Charles (Durham)
Bradley, Tom Dickens, James Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)
Bray, Dr. Jeremy Doig, Peter Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)
Brooks, Edwin Dunn, James A. Griffiths, Will (Exchange)
Broughton, Sir Alfred Dunnett, Jack Hamilton, James (Bothwell)
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e) Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)
Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.) Edwards, William (Merioneth) Hannan, William
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn) Ellis, John Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)
Haseldine, Norman MacPherson, Malcolm Probert, Arthur
Hazell, Bert Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.) Rankin, John
Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret Mahon, Simon (Bootle) Rees, Merlyn
Hooley, Frank Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Horner, John Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.) Ross, Rt. Hn. William
Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E) Manuel, Archie Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)
Hoy, Rt. Hn. James Mapp, Charles Sheldon, Robert
Huckfield, Leslie Marks, Kenneth Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)
Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey) Marquand, David Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)
Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy Skeffington, Arthur
Hughes, Roy (Newport) Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert Slater, Joseph
Hynd, John Millan, Bruce Snow, Julian
Miller, Dr. M. S. Spriggs, Leslie
Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh) Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test) Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)
Janner, Sir Barnett Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)
Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Symonds, J. B.
Jones, Dan (Burnley) Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Taverne, Dick
Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Neal, Harold Tinn, James
Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West) Newens, Stan Urwin, T. W.
Judd, Frank Norwood, Christopher Varley, Eric G.
Kelley, Richard Ogden, Eric Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)
Kenyon, Clifford O'Malley, Brian Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Lawson, George Orbach, Maurice Wallace, George
Leadbitter, Ted Oswald, Thomas Watkins, David (Consett)
Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton) Owen, Will (Morpeth) Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Lever, Rt. Hn. Harold (Cheetham) Palmer, Arthur Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Loughlin, Charles Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)
Lyon, Alexander W. (York) Park, Trevor Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Parker, John (Dagenham) Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
McCann, John Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd) Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.
McColl, James Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred Woof, Robert
Macdonald, A. H. Pentland, Norman
McGuire, Michael Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
McKay, Mrs. Margaret Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.) Mr. Ernest Armstrong and
Mackintosh, John P. Price, Thomas (Westhoughton) Mr. Joseph Harper.
McNamara, J. Kevin Price, William (Rugby)

It being after Ten o'clock, further consideration of the Bill, as amended, stood adjourned.

Ordered, That the Proceedings on the Housing Bill may be entered upon and proceeded with at this day's Sitting at any hour, though opposed.—[Mr. Greenwood.]

Bill, as amended (in the Standing Committee), further considered.

Forward to