HC Deb 29 January 1970 vol 794 cc1724-99
Mr. Speaker

May I announce that I have selected the Amendment in the names of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister and some of his right hon. Friends.

3.42 p.m.

Mr. Peter Walker (Worcester)

I beg to move, That this House, deploring the fact that the number of houses completed in 1969 fell by 46,922 to 366,793, condemns Her Majesty's Government for failing to fulfil their election promises of 500,000 houses a year by 1970 at lower cost with cheaper mortgages. The housing figures published earlier this week show the biggest drop in housing completions for any year since the war. They also show the biggest drop for the number of houses started, and today there are fewer houses under construction throughout the country than there were when the Labour Government came to power in 1964. This is against the background of a party which probably gained more votes at the last General Election on the question of housing than on any other issue.

The situation of the industry is very serious. Housebuilders have recently said in their report that the industry is passing through a recession as severe as anything since the 'thirties, and a recent survey of builders showed that of the number of firms surveyed 49 considered that they would start more houses in 1970 than in the past year, and 236 firms considered that they would start fewer.

It is against that background that recently a number of meetings have taken place in Whitehall to discuss ways of boosting the industry, and particularly housebuilding. We had the remarkable situation of the Minister of Works, after receiving a letter from the President of the Royal Institute of British Architects, saying how alarmed architects were at the enormous drop in housing orders and schemes that it was working on, calling a meeting of builders. At the end of the meeting the Minister of Works said that he shared somewhat the concern ex- pressed, and that he would report to the Chancellor of the Exchequer the facts about the state of the housing industry.

We must ask the Minister what he has been doing for the last 12 months, for constantly throughout that time representations have been made not only to the Minister of Housing and Local Government, but to the Chancellor himself, pointing out the severity of the decline in the building industry.

I must give the warning that if this decline is allowed to continue for much longer the time that will be needed to bring the industry back to its full volume of potential activity will be very considerable. A number of the smaller firms —many of them old-established—are going bankrupt and out of business. There is also considerable unemployment in the building industry. Men may leave the industry forever, and there will be considerable labour problems in the future.

I should like to begin the debate by suggesting a 10-point programme to the Government by which they can start to remedy the errors and omissions of the last 12 months.

Sir Harmar Nicholls (Peterborough)

Would it not be a good way to start the debate by referring to the fact that there is a remarkable lack of interest in this subject among hon. Gentlemen opposite? Many of them have left the Chamber. The benches opposite are nearly empty.

Mr. Walker

If one reads the election addresses of hon. Gentlemen opposite, one can imagine a certain amount of embarrassment for them when this topic is discussed.

I suggest to the Government that there are 10 positive courses of action which can be taken. First, as regards the application of the credit squeeze, the position in the building industry is now such that it should be taken out of the neutral zone and put into that zone which needs some priority attention from the banks, for unless this is done an increasing number of firms will go out of business.

Second, the import deposit scheme, which has a particularly adverse effect on the prices of imported plywood and timber, should be ended, for it is severely affecting the building industry.

Third, the Government should cease their discrimination against the building industry in respect of the S.E.T. At the moment, the industry has to pay £125 in S.E.T. alone per person employed. We on this side of the House are pledged to abolish the S.E.T., and in our mention of the value added tax we have made it clear we shall see that this does not discriminate against housebuilding as the S.E.T. does.

Fourth, the Government should revise the mortgage option scheme to ensure that there is far more flexibility, and that those who originally entered the scheme can get out of it far quicker than they can under the Government's present proposals.

Fifth, the Government should ensure that the 100 per cent. mortgage scheme is revised so that it does not apply purely to those on low incomes, but also to those on tolerably good incomes, but without capital resources.

Sixth, the Government should bring local authority mortgages back to the level which they inherited when they came to power. When Labour came into power, £179 million a year was provided by the Conservative Government in local authority mortgages. These mortgages were going particularly on older properties, and to assist people in the lower income groups. These figures were slashed by the Labour Government, and, although they have announced that for 12 months beginning in March of next year they will bring the figure up to £100 million, that is still a very long way below the level which they inherited when they came into power.

Seventh, the Government should look at the whole question of housing subsidies and revise them, in negotiations with local authorities, so that the subsidy goes to those in need of help and assistance, and is not disposed of indiscriminately throughout the whole housing sector.

In view of the Government's Amendment, by which they endeavour to give the impression that the Conservative Party is against the public provision of housing, I wish to make our position about council housing perfectly clear. We believe that there is a rôle for the public sector to play, particularly in helping the urgent problem of the homeless, and unlike the Labour Party, we will redefine the whole position of homelessness.

We also believe that there is a considerable need for housing for the elderly, but what we consider to be completely wrong is a system of subsidies whereby a great deal of the money available goes to people in no need of help or assistance at all. Therefore, under our revision of the subsidy system, more help will go to the homeless, to the elderly, and to those in need, and less to those who can well provide a home of their own; and to this extent we shall encourage them to become owners of the houses in which they are now tenants.

Our eighth proposition is that much more should be done to stimulate housing societies and housing associations than has been done under this Government. As a result of the efforts of my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph), they inherited a situation where the housing society movement, a voluntary movement, was enthusiastic and expanding at a fast rate. We have only to read the recently published annual report of the Housing Corporation to recognise how that position has deteriorated. I need only quote the figures of schemes approved over the last three years. In December, 1967, it was 247, in the year ended December, 1968, it was 138. In the first quarter of 1969 it was a miserable 14. The whole housing society movement has been undermined by the Government's policies.

Our ninth proposition is that the Government should immediately scrap the Land Commission and the betterment levy, which have proved to be a handicap to the progress of the building programme, and which have done nothing to bring down land prices, but which have done just the opposite.

Finally, we believe that they should take swift action in seeing that in the major towns and cities an adequate housing advisory service is provided so that people who wish to obtain advice on how to contact a housing association, how to undertake home ownership, or how to present their case to a local authority can obtain impartial, speedy and objective advice.

There are 10 positive stages which if the Government would adopt even at this late stage would start an improving trend in our housing situation. Whatever action is taken by the Government one thing is perfectly clear, and that is that they will go to the electorate at the next General Election having failed in every promise they made on the subject of housing.

To put the matter into its correct context, I do not think that I could do better than to quote the words of the Prime Minister during an election speech at Bradford in 1966, when he said: We need hospitals, we need schools, we need roads, we need new towns and cities, but most of all we need homes. Housing in the New Britain comes first. Who would have thought, listening to that speech, that five years later, this House would be debating a Motion during which we would discover that the number of houses completed last year was less than in the two years before the Prime Minister made that speech?

The Labour Party promised 500,000 houses a year. It said that it would bring down the price of housing and the cost of mortgages. Looking at the history of the 500,000 houses target, we must first of all look at the categoric promise of the Prime Minister that this was not "a promise lightly given, but a firm pledge". It was, he said, a pledge that would be fulfilled no matter what the circumstances, no matter what the difficulties.

When, now, the Minister of Housing, as he repeatedly does, pleads that a credit squeeze and the economic situation are the reasons for the failure to fulfil this promise, he is completely going against the firm pledge of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister did revise his forecast, but only recently.

At the time of devaluation there was no revision of the target. To quote the Prime Minister at the time of devaluation, he turned to this side of the House and he said: We are cutting public expenditure—including the capital outlay on the nationalised industries. There will be cuts in local authority expenditure … But while, in crisis, programme after crisis programme announced by right hon. Gentlemen opposite, local authority housing, school building—and their mini-programme for hospitals—were cut, the housing programme, the school building programme, the hospital building programme, will continue to expand in accordance with the priorities we have laid down."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd November 1967, vol. 754, c. 1341.] At the time of devaluation the Prime Minister was adamant about continuing the target. Then we come to a period later when he was challenged about the figure at Question Time. He was asked by how much the figure would be reduced and he said that it would be reduced by 16,000 in each of the two years. The Prime Minister is last on record with a target for 1970 of 483,000 houses. That is the last we have heard from him, other than speeches in America, on this topic.

As for the Minister of Housing, he reluctantly began to agree that the 500,000 was not possible. When, at the end of 1968, he was able to announce the completion of 418,000 houses—and he obviously made the most of the figure—he was rather surprised that we on this side of the House started a series of debates., pointing out the failure of the Government's housing policy. The interesting thing is that throughout the early months of 1969 the Minister of Housing was completely and utterly complacent about the trend for 1969.

We on this side pointed out that the number of starts in 1968 had dropped by 53,000. The right hon. Gentleman turned to almost every excuse. On one occasion he said that weather in February was not too good for starts. He pointed out that the number of tenders coming in was very encouraging and as late as May, when asked about the 1969 figures, compared with 1968, he concluded his remarks by saying: Overall, I do not expect any dramatic change in 1969 compared with 1968."—[OFFICIAL. REPORT: 6th May, 1969; c. 238, Vol. 783.] As late as May the Minister, in spite of the fact that the whole of the house-building industry, Her Majesty's Opposition and local authorities were all warning the Government of the dramatic drop likely to take place in housing, contented himself with the fact that the housing figures for 1969 would be somewhat similar to those in 1968.

Month by month the figures have become worse and now we know, not only the alarming fact that the housing figures for last year are lower than in 1964 and very much lower than the Government's target, but also we know that we are faced with the fact that in all probability thin year's completions will be lower than 1969.

The Labour Party has estimated next year's figures at 360,000—6,000 lower than this year. If we take the Labour Party figure, as put out by it in a brief, we have a shortfall for the number of houses completed by the end of this year compared with the Government's target of 329,000. These are houses that the homeless and young couples looking for a home could reasonably have anticipated from the Government's election promises. This is the extent of their failure there. Then there is the interesting basis on which they excuse themselves. The most remarkable excuse was made earlier this week in a short debate that took place on the Consolidated Fund Bill. when the Joint Parliamentary Secretary gave as his defence of these appalling figures—to use his own words: In so far as we have fallen short, we have fallen short of the standards which we set ourselves as a Labour Party.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Mr. Reginald Freeson)

Finish it.

Mr. Walker

Certainly. The hon. Gentleman went on: We have not fallen short, nor are we falling short, of the standards supposedly set by the party opposite. I would use different words here, "In so far as we are falling short, we are falling short of the promises we made to the electorate." To fall short, having obtained very large numbers of votes on this subject, is a warning. We must remember this if they make any future promises, we must remember that they are not giving promises. It is like the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. George Brown). His 3 per cent. mortgages were not a promise, they were, he says, a hope. We have these broken promises.

The next defence of the Parliamentary Secretary was that the Tories had not fulfilled their promises about housing. Here he showed a remarkable naivety on the figures. First, he quoted the 300,000 target that we had originally given in 1951. The Prime Minister had something to say about that target. In the 1951 General Election address, when the Tories were promising 300,000 houses, he said: The Tory housing policy is an electoral trick, a cruel deception on those who are waiting for a house. They know they cannot achieve it. But they did achieve it.

The Parliamentary Secretary, in the debate I have mentioned, said: If the hon. Gentleman will check the record, he will find that in only a minority of the years during which his party was in office was that figure achieved or exceeded."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 27th January 1970; c. 1314–5.] He went on to say that in it was four or five of the 13 years. Why not be exact? The housing statistics are published by the Government and, if we exclude 1962, of the 12 remaining years in 10 of them we achieved our target.

Mr. Freeson

The number of years, apart from the General Election year, 1964, was six out of the 12.

Mr. Walker

It is easy for the public to decide which is correct. The housing statistics are published and the hon. Gentleman has made clear what he means, as reported in c. 1316 of the OFFICIAL REPORT. We can leave it for the Press to analyse. When it does so, we expect an appropriate apology.

Mr. Richard Crawshaw (Liverpool, Toxteth)

While not accepting his figures, will the hon. Member say why, on two occasions, hon. Members opposite fell short on the figures? Was it because the housing problem has been solved, or were the Tories leaving it to the housing associations?

Mr. Walker

The great contrast between the two parties is that in 1951 we inherited a housing programme in sharp decline and in 1964 the Labour Party inherited a programme which was on the increase. In 1970, we shall inherit a programme which is sharply in decline.

The Government make the excuse of Ronan Point having an adverse effect on these figures. They cannot have it both ways. In one breath they say that it is Tory local authorities—

Mr. Roy Roebuck (Harrow, East)

Hear, hear.

Mr. Walker

Do not say, "Hear, hear" too readily. We have your election address here.

Mr. Speaker

I did not have one.

Mr. Walker

If I may say so, Mr. Speaker, you ought to be congratulated.

The manner in which the Government have handled Ronan Point certainly has handicapped local authorities in getting on with their housing programmes. Several hon. Members opposite know full well that the delay, dithering and vacillation on the Ronan Point question is a criticism of the Government which is not to their credit. There is no doubt at all that virtually all the fall in the number of houses completed is in the private sector, not the public sector. It is only by keeping the public sector on a tolerably high level that they have sustained any programme at all.

The latest published figures, local authority by local authority, are for September, 1969. If we take the number of council house starts in the 12 months ended September, 1969, we find that the situation is that Socialist-controlled local authorities have dropped back by 16–76 per cent. and the remaining local authorities have dropped by 13 per cent. So on no criteria is there an advance on this aspect. It shows the smug complacency of the Government that when the housing programme is primarily dropping in the private sector they endeavour to try to suggest that it is some Tory local authorities which are undermining their programme.

Mr. Alan Lee Williams (Hornchurch)

May I enlighten the hon. Member with a practical example in respect of the London Borough of Havering, which is primarily controlled by Conservatives? There, the programme is falling. Last year, the council built a dozen houses, although there were 4,000 people on the waiting list.

Mr. Walker

I could choose Socialist-controlled authorities, but looking at the national programme we have this situation.

The second major promise of the Government was on the question of the price of houses. Here again, we can find a multitude of promises. These were in the election manifesto and in most election addresses of hon. Members opposite. The Prime Minister toured the country speaking about the price of houses. The facts are now known. During the years of Conservative Government from 1961 to 1964 the average price of a new house rose by less than £1,500. During the five years of Labour Government it will have risen by more than £1,500. The average price of a new house will have gone up from less than £3,500 to nearly £5,000. That is their record on the price of houses.

If one examines the average price increase one finds a series of Government proposals, selective employment tax, the import surcharge, the import deposits scheme, Bank Rate and the betterment levy, all positive measures which have put up the price of houses. The effect has been both on houses in the public sector and in the private sector. Although there is a subsidy in the long term, during the building period there no subsidy. The steep rise which has taken place in the price of houses has placed many local authorities in a position in which they are faced either with providing houses with a considerable increase on the rates, or, alternatively, of charging rents beyond the means of tenants.

The effect on improvements, which the Government mention in their Amendment, relates to the Housing Act, which both sides of the House tried to improve. If the Minister looks back and compares this with 1964, taking into consideration interest rates on the balance which has to be found by the owner and the increased cost of building repairs, he will find that the situation today is no better titan it was in 1964. The price of houses has dramatically increased.

Finally, we come to the question of mortgage interest rates. The promises were specific and were mentioned in virtually every election address of hon. Members opposite. The facts are clear for all to see. There are two alternatives when mortgage interest rates are raised. One is to extend the period of the mortgage, and the other is to increase the payment. On an 80 per cent. mortgage over a 25-year period, on the average-priced new house in 1964 there was a monthly repayment of £18 6s. If one wishes to buy an average-priced house today on the same basis the mortgage repayment would be £32 a month. So those who decide to pay the extra amount are, as a result of a Labour Government, paying £3 a week more in repayments.

Mrs. Renée Short (Wolverhampton, North-East)

With better wages.

Mr. Walker

The hon. Lady, quite rightly, refers to wages. There is a relationship between wages and mortgage repayments because building societies will make advances only if the weekly wage is equal to the monthly repayment. In 1964, the mortgage repayment was £18 6s. and the weekly wage, £18 10s. Therefore, in 1964, the average industrial wage-earner could afford to pay the average price for a new house. Today, wages have gone up to £23 10s. a week, but the mortgage repayment has gone up to £32 per month.

There is, of course, the alternative of prolonging the period of the mortgage If the period of the mortgage is prolonged, a person who took up a 20-year mortgage in the month in which Labour came to power and decided, instead of increasing the repayments, to extend the period, he would be in the happy position that after repaying his mortgage for five years under the Labour Government, instead of now having 20 years in which to continue payments as at the start of the mortgage he would have 26 more years in which to pay. So, after five years of a Labour Government, he is six years further behind than was the position when Labour came to power.

On every one of the basic promises made to the electorate the Labour Party has failed. It has been suggested that we on this side, in circumstances of broken promises such as these, should be thinking of the position of the Minister responsible. In fairness to the present Minister of Housing and Local Government, he cannot be accused of being responsible for all that has happened. It was not the Minister of Housing who introduced S.E.T. It was not the Minister of Housing who increased interest rates. It was not the Minister of Housing who made the building industry suffer the longest credit squeeze imposed in history. It obviously was not the Minister of Housing who took housing out of the Cabinet. Therefore, in all of the basic priorities of the Government, housing has lost. The Government gained many votes, particularly among the young and homeless, on their housing promises; on all these they should be judged.

There is no better conclusion, after looking at the housing figures, than to refer to the remarks made in a housing debate in March, 1966, by the present Patronage Secretary, who ended his speech with these words: I want the country to look at the number of houses which we have built, the efforts we have made and are making to ensure that we achieve our realistic target of 500,000 houses by 1970, and our determination to do what is necessary for the people in greatest need. I ask no more than that the country pass its judgment on that."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th March. 1966; Vol. 725. c. 2177.] I ask the same.

4.12 p.m.

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

I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof: congratulates Her Majesty's Government upon the fact that the nation's housing achievement in both the public and private sectors since October. 1964 has been substantially greater than in the previous comparable period; deplores the efforts of Her Majesty's Opposition to dissuade local authorities from continuing to meet the problems of obsolescence and overcrowding; notes with approval Her Majesty's Government's record post-war achievement in the field of slum clearance; and welcomes the Government's policy for the improvement and modernisation of older housing". At a time when, for the first time, more than half of the people in England and Wales are living in houses that they own, when a record number of slum dwellers have been moved into new homes, and when we have had the best five years' building that the builders have known, I certainly do not intend to accept the strictures of the Opposition. Indeed, neither I nor the public will believe the facile promises of what they would do if they were the Government. I believe that Satan rebuking sin would command respect, and even carry conviction, compared with right hon. and hon. Members opposite.

Some of the newspapers have said that the Shadow Cabinet was shocked by the figures. One Midland newspaper said that it took the Shadow Cabinet only a matter of minutes to decide to table a Motion of censure. The same lack of thoughtful consideration characterises many of the actions and speeches of right hon. Gentlemen opposite on housing. If there was a sense of surprise among right hon. and hon. Members opposite, it must have been that the predictions made by the hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker), in November, which I confirmed at the time, were so nearly accurate. They were certainly much more accurate than the potpourri jumble of statistics on housing starts and completions to which he treated us in the debate on the Gracious Speech.

First, let me put on record the figures for the year. Total completions were about 367,000, about 11,000 down on 1968. Public completions were about 185,000, about 3½ per cent. down. Private completions were about 182,000, about 18 per cent. down. Total starts were about 344,000, 13 per cent. down. Public starts were about 177,000, 9 per cent. down. Private starts were 167,000, about 17 per cent. down on 1968.

At the end of December about 432,000 houses were under construction. Although the hon. Member referred to that figure, it is most significant that it is almost exactly the same as the figure at the end of 1964, which right hon. and hon. Members opposite have always held out as evidence of the health of the housing situation when the Conservative Government left office.

Mr. Eric Lubbock (Orpington)

It is not only the number of houses under construction that must be considered. It is also necessary to consider how long it takes between starting and completion—a period which has considerably lengthened over the last five years.

Mr. Greenwood

It varies from time to time. I certainly would not accept a generalisation of that kind without qualification.

Before comparing the figures for the last five years with those for the previous five years, I want to put the figures into context. What the Opposition are doing today is not so much moving a Motion of censure on housing policy as on economic policy, the policy which has enabled Britain to move into the 'seventies with greater confidence and infinitely better prospects than would have been possible without the economic measures that the Government have taken.

Sir Harmar Nicholls

In view of the point the right hon. Gentleman is taking, why is there not a Treasury Minister on the Government Front Bench?

Mr. Greenwood

Because my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Local Government and Regional Planning and I are quite capable of dealing with problems in this field. We shall certainly ensure that the Chancellor knows about it if the hon. Gentleman makes a useful contribution to the debate.

My right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Chancellor have both outlined the very real progress that has been made. The hon. Member for Worcester referred to the Prime Minister's speech in the United States, in which he said: We have increased the proportion of our national product going into export from 19½ per cent. to 22.4 per cent. This has meant al. the rigours of demand management, fiscal and monetary, stringent economies in Government expenditure… I repeat, as I have said in the House before, that without a sound economy a large building programme just would not make sense.

The hon. Gentleman has talked about interest rates. The Opposition constantly say that they would bring down interest rates, but they are much less specific on how they would do it or how they would shield this country from the general high interest rates throughout the world.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer summed it up in the debate on the Gracious Speech when he said: These high interest rates, though certainly not welcome, are not a British phenomenon. They are not a unique price which we are paying for getting our balance of payments right or for some alleged mismanagement in the past. The British Bank Rate is 8 per cent. The United States discount rate is 6 per cent.; the French Bank Rate is 8 per cent.; the Belgian 7½ per cent.; the German 6 per cent.; the Dutch 7 per cent.; the Swedish 8 per cent.: the Danish 9 per cent., and the Canadian 8 per Gent."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd November, 1969; Vol. 790, c. 678.] If one has that general upward trend in interest rates, the extent to which we can protect the building industry must be limited. We can protect local authority house building to some extent by the subsidy, as we have done, and we can cushion the home buyer both through income tax and the option mortgage scheme.

It is instructive, when hon. Gentlemen opposite are apparently blaming the Government for the situation here, to see what has happened in the United States during the last year. I hope that hon. Gentleman opposite will have read—[Interruption.] I can understand that a lot of this is unwelcome to hon. Gentlemen opposite. In its issue of 12th January, Time says: No major industry has ben hit harder than housing by Washington's fight against inflation. By tightening credit … over the pest 12 months starts of new homes and apartments have dropped by 25 per cent. In the Architect's Journal for 7th January, an article is quoted from the New York Times which says: …it is no longer possible to build homes that most Americans can rent or buy … I think that people in this country will be interested to put the situation here in the context of what is happening in other countries—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"]—because they are fighting against inflation and have high interest rates with which to contend.

Mr. John Peyton (Yeovil)

That is all very well, but what the right hon. Gentleman has failed to deal with is the point originally made by the Prime Minister, that this was not a promise but a pledge to be carried out in all circumstances.

Mr. Greenwood

We have had so many housing debates in the last year, and I have replied to that point so often, that I think that it would be tedious repetition for me to answer it again just because the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) has not been here to hear what I have said on previous occasions.

Having put it into its international context, let us look at what has happened in the last five years compared with the previous five years. The average number of houses completed in this country in the last five years is 390,500 a year. Under the previous Conservative Administration, between 1951 and 1964, the average was 295,900, almost 100,000 a year fewer than we have achieved during our period of office.

Now, the question of improvement grants, to which the hon. Gentleman referred. The Conservative average of approvals was just under 64,000 a year compared with our 123,000, about twice the figure which they achieved.

If one takes slum clearance, one of the most vital issues, their annual average was 31,725, whereas ours is 85,570.

It is nonsense for right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on the Conservative benches to complain about our record when their record was so abysmal for so long.

I shall put the housebuilding figures in a rather different way. [Laughter.] All right. I have plenty of time. Let us take the five years of Labour Government and the five years of Conservative Government and let us look at the starts—

Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham, North)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I hope that the Minister has in mind what you said about time when he says that he has plenty of time.

Mr. Speaker

Order. That is interesting, but it is not on a point of order.

Mr. Greenwood

Let us take, first, the question of starts in the public sector. They have gone up by nearly 33 per cent. since this Government took office. In the private sector they have gone up by 4½ per cent. The number of completions in the public sector is more than 40 per cent. up, and in the private sector 14½ per cent. up on what it was in the previous five years.

What hon. Members opposite cannot get away from is that during our period of office five houses have been built for every four in the last five years of their Government. There have been 7 million new houses built since the war, and 2 million of them were built under the present Government. It took hon. Gentlemen opposite 14 years to build 4 million houses. Under Labour, 2 million had been built in five years.

Mr. A. P. Costain (Folkestone and Hythe) rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. The right hon. Gentleman is obviously not giving way.

Mr. Greenwood

I have given way on a number of occasions, and my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) thinks that I should not extend the courtesy which I should otherwise have liked to do.

In the North-West, for example, the position shows a considerable improvement. In the case of starts, the increase has been more than 20 per cent., in the case of completions it has been 28 per cent., and in the case of slum clearance there has been an increase of 35 per cent.

Until recently, the figure for London was very satisfactory, and it was with great regret that on 21st January I read the statement put out by the Greater London Council which, talking of the years between 1969 and 1972, said: … the minimum targets for starting homes during that period range from 7,250 to 6,750 a year. In the next paragraph: In the review the Committee point out that the targets for 1969 to 1972 are lower than those previously set for the period 1969–71 (8,500, 8.750 and 9,000 respectively)". Nobody can do other than regret that the Greater London Council has lowered its sights in this way.

What has happened in the case of the six London boroughs which in 1969 put fewer than 100 dwellings out to tender? Greenwich put out 48; Ealing put out 30; Kingston upon Thames nil; Hammersmith nil; Harrow nil; Waltham Forest nil.

Mr. John Boyd Carpenter (Kingston upon Thames)

The right hon. Gentleman refers to the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames. Is he aware that that authority, over the last few years, has had a conspicuously successful housing record, on which it has been congratulated by his own Department?

Mr. Greenwood

If the right hon. Gentleman believes that the housing problems of the area are solved, I doubt that that view would be shared by many others.

This is, I believe, where right hon. and hon. Members opposite become genuinely confused about the figures. They assume that we are referring to completions in the past, when, in fact, we are looking at what is going into the pipeline at the moment. It is abominable that six London boroughs, despite all the pressure of housing problems in the Metropolis, should have put fewer than 100 houses out to tender this year.

Mr. John Page (Harrow, West)

I did not quite hear what the right hon. Gentleman said, bat I understood him to be repeating the Home Secretary's sick joke of 29th October last, that Harrow had no housing programme and no new houses under construction. The right hon. Gentleman ought at least to show the courtesy of having read some of the letters from the mayor, telling him that he was talking utter tripe.

Mr. Greenwood

I wish that the hon. Gentleman had listened to what I said before taking up the time of the House. I said that Harrow had put no houses out to tender during 1969. In the circumstances, I am not surprised that the Mayor of Harrow declines to come to the Department 10 discuss it.

Mr. Anthony Grant (Harrow, Central) rose

Mr. Greenwood

The House can get a view—

Mr. Grant rose

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harry Gourlay)

Order. If the right hon. Gentleman does not give way, the hon. Gentleman must not persist.

Mr. Greenwood

The House can get a view of the gravity of the situation in London best by realising that, if those local authorities had lived up to their responsibilities, they would have put 4,000 houses out to tender last year between them, together with the extra 2,000 which, I believe, the Greater London Council has failed to do.

There was a noticeable omission from the speech of the hon. Member for Worcester, namely, any reference to the leasehold situation which is of so much irnportance in so many parts of the country.

Recalling the Amendment which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales and I introduced to the Housing Bill last summer, the House will have been glad to see the account by the legal correspondent of the Daily Telegraph saying that Prices at which leaseholders can expect to buy the freeholds of their homes under the Leasehold Reform Act, 1967 are now the lowest since the Act came into force. This follows a Government amendment to the Housing Act last summer. What do we have from the Conservatives? We had a 10-point programme from the hon. Gentleman, which will merit the same consideration as one gave to his article in the supplement to The Guardian about a week ago. We had a speech from the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition at St. Albans on Tuesday night. I was a little saddened to see the Evening Standard comment in its leading article, that Mr. Heath's speech last night was a ragbag of suggestions for social service reform—some seeming confused, to say the least". I have a high regard for the right hon. Gentleman, and I thought that an unfair comment. As I read his speech, I thought that it had an antique charm—antique because he made so many proposals for things which this Government have done or are now doing.

I have here the gay hand-out from the Conservative Central Office. Let us take up two of the points which the right hon. Gentleman made. First: … we shall make sure that voluntary housing associations are given help, both at national and local level, both with finance and with land, to carry on the excellent work they are doing to house the elderly. I take it that the right hon. Gentleman was talking principally about old-style housing associations. Their figures have kept up encouragingly, and I pay tribute to the work of the voluntary housing movement. I praise the housing societies and the National Federation, because they are making a useful and specialised contribution. But I have done more than pay tribute. I have given them a great deal of practical help, help which the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues failed to give when they were responsible.

In the Housing Subsidies Act, 1967, I made the subsidy—which, in any case, is much more generous than the Conservatives ever provided—available to voluntary bodies for the buying of old properties for conversion and improvement. That meant that the price of a house as well as the cost of improvement and conversion ranked for subsidy. I assume that the right hon. Gentleman was not aware of that substantial help when he made his speech at St. Albans the other night.

In the 1969 Act, we raised the limit of the maximum amount upon which the voluntary bodies can in the normal way receive grant. We put it up to £1,250 for each flat provided in conversions of houses of three storeys or more. I have made known in London that I am prepared to exercise my discretion in accepting amounts up to £2,500 instead of £1,250.

I am far from clear, having read the right hon. Gentleman's speech and listened to the hon. Member for Worcester, what further help they think the voluntary housing societies need and what help they undertake to give them should they ever again become the Government.

Next, the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition said: …we shall initiate a major drive to modernise and repair older houses so that the great fund of social capital invested in old houses does not go to waste. This should be done by extending and increasing improvement grants. I thought that one of the most quaintly attractive of the right hon. Gentleman's suggestions, for it is exactly what we have been doing under the Housing Act, 1969, providing a substantial increase in subsidies. Also, we have provided for environmental grant, something which right hon. and hon. Members opposite never did. It compares extremely favourably as a Measure with anything done during their period of office. Their years were not just years which the locust ate; they were years which the woodworm ate, because of their neglect of older property during that time.

I am happy to say that the 1969 Act has given a new impetus to house improvement, and that we have provided a more reasonable financial basis upon which it can take place. The response which we are having from local authorities is encouraging. We have already had 25 general improvement areas designated, which compared favourably with the pathetic results of the half-baked Act which the Conservatives introduced in 1964.

I do not know, from a reading of the right hon. Gentleman's speech at St. Albans, whether he proposes that improvement grants should be increased still further and so add to the vast sums which he proposes to dispense while at the same time saying that a Conservative Government would bring about a reduction in public expenditure.

What of other spokesmen for the party opposite? There was a lamentable speech by the hon. Member for Worcester, which is still on record. I have challenged him on it in the House before, and I have had no repudiation of what he said. I quote it again: I hope that Conservative councils will take great care to resist the temptation to go on building council houses for all sorts of seemingly good purposes … New Conservative housing chairmen have a great tendency to prove to the Socialists that they can build even more council houses than their predecessors …".

Mr. Peter Walker

I have challenged the right hon. Gentleman before and do so again. Will he read the part in between, in which I stated my belief that they should concentrate on providing council houses for those really in social need?

Mr. Greenwood

I do not mind reading that passage. It will take up a little more time, however, for which I apologise. The hon. Gentleman said in that passage: It has emerged during this conference that there is much under-occupation. It is therefore argued that councils should build a great deal of one-roomed accommodation. That is fine; I do not mind your doing that if when you move people out of the council houses and stop the under-occupation you allow people to come in and buy houses and reduce the council house area somewhere else. I do not see how that passage helps the hon. Gentleman. One cannot avoid the impression that he wants Conservative chairmen of housing committees not to make the efforts which a number of them, to whom all credit is due, are making. I am happy to say that, in some of our cities, the Conservative leadership seems more statesmanlike than we sometimes find it in the House of Commons.

Another Conservative spokesman is the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell). I think that all of us derive a certain amount of satisfaction and fascination from studying the occasions when the Leader of the Opposition disowns the right hon. Gentleman. There is, first, a report in the Sunday Express of a speech made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West last weekend. He told a meeting: You can provide yourselves with cars, food, clothing, television sets and the rest. Is there something peculiarly wrong that you say you cannot provide yourselves with houses? There is something peculiarly wrong—and I will tell you. Your rents have been too low for too long. That has not been repudiated by the Leader of the Opposition. It is a point of view. We all respect the point of view that the right hon. Gentleman holds.

Mrs. Renée Short


Mr. Greenwood

We all respect the genuineness of his views, shall I say?

We are entitled to ask whether the view expressed in that passage is also that of the Conservative Party. I will quote from a speech made by the right hon. Gentleman in addressing the Wolverhampton and District Branch of the Federation of Master Builders on 6th January. He said: What are we waiting for? Why don't we all say: abolish rent control; abolish housing subsidies of every kind; and denationalise the existing stock of municipally-owned houses? Rents would then rise to market levels, like the prices ol the existing stocks of everything else, and the normal forces of price and profit could take over …". Although other speeches by the right hon. Gentleman have been repudiated by the Leader of the Opposition, we are still awaiting a repudiation of that. There are times when, compared with Tory Party spokesmen, Marie Antoinette seems like a radical reformer with great experience of social problems.

This has not, from the point of view of right hon. Members opposite, been a very rewarding debate, but we on this side are grateful to them for enabling us to put on record our own achievements and to look briefly to the future. In the public sector, my colleagues and I have been making special approaches to a number of priority authorities whose future intentions do not seem to match up to the problems of obsolescence and over-crowding that still face them. Some at least, during the course of these discussions, have been able to see the situation in a more encouraging light. In addition, I have asked all local authorities in England to submit their revised slum-clearance programmes to me by the end of this month.

I do not promise a sudden improvement, for public authorities work to a long time scale. But we shall not relax until the decline shown in 1969 has been arrested and reversed. The private sector is much more volatile. Its decline in 1969 was about twice as sharp as the decline in the public sector, but it has shown itself in the past to be capable of picking up as quickly as it has declined. If one were to assess the prospect simply by a study of the trade surveys undertaken by or in conjunction with the Builders and Building Materials Producers' Federation, one might suppose that the prospect for 1970 was not greatly different from the position in 1969.

But I urge a certain amount of caution about the surveys. They are necessarily based on the order book position of the federation's members and this makes them somewhat backward-looking.

Mr. A. P. Costain (Folkestone and Hythe) rose

Mr. Greenwood

I have lately heard from one or two substantial firms of house-builders and from a number of smaller builders that their order books are looking better than for some time, but, of course, it will take some time for such an improvement to work through into the trade surveys.

If, on the other hand, one looks at the general financial indicators, the prospect is more encouraging. The building society movement, to which, once again, I pay tribute, has been predicting an increase to about £1,700 million in gross advances in 1970. My colleagues and I have been able to increase the over all limit of local authority mortgage lending for 1970–71 from £55 million to £100 million. These two figures taken together open up the prospect of an injection of about an extra £200 million a year into the mortgage market. In addition, our option mortgage order, which took effect on 1st January, will reduce the interest burden on a large number of mortgagors of modest means.

I therefore offer the view, not as a matter of precise statistical projection but as of a point of general judgment, that the prospect for the private sector in 1970 is likely to be better than the situation in 1969 rather than worse. This optimistic view seems to be shared by the Council of the Federation of Registered Housebuilders, which, in its annual report, published this month, referred to the developments I have mentioned and said that they led to some improvement in 1969. It is because of our overall strengthening of the economy that I look forward to further developments of our housing policy—a high rate of housebuilding, a speeding-up of slum-clearance and an intensification of our drive to turn old houses into new homes.

4.48 p.m.

Mr. A. P. Costain (Folkestone and Hythe)

The House will have observed that the Minister refused to give way when I rose. It is typical of him. I declare my interest as a builder. The Minister is quite prepared to try to persuade the House that the figures he presented are all right, but when faced with a practical builder he is not prepared to give way and let me explain to the House. I am, therefore, grateful that you have given me the privilege of speaking, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

The right hon. Gentleman referred to houses in the United States and I began to wonder whether, following the Prime Minister's visit, we were going to become another State of the Union. What has that to do with the figures? My attempt to intervene was to remind the House that houses are not built overnight, that they do not grow like mushrooms. Local authority houses take from two to three years to complete. Private enterprise houses, if there is no credit squeeze on and funds are available for mortgages. can be built in half that time.

I invite the House to look at the Government's own housing statistics. In doing so, I ask hon. Members to put a three-year phase on in order to get the figures correct, because no one can deny that a house takes that long to build. So that the House might properly appreciate this factor, I set it down in graph form. I find that, in the first three years of the present Government's term of office, the number of starts rose, together with the number of houses under construction. But I also find that, once we met that watershed, where the fly-wheel of Conservative enterprise was reached, there was a downward trend.

The downward trend is much more serious than the right hon. Gentleman claimed. If one collects all these figures together, one finds that the graph of the number of starts has dropped since 1967, when it was 447,000, to 343,000. Completions have dropped from 413,000 to 366,000. These lines on a graph are parallel. That indicates to anyone familiar with the industry and graphs that housing completions this year cannot possibly be the figure which the right hon. Gentleman has stated.

The figure the right hon. Gentleman quoted is yet another hollow promise. I challenge him—indeed, I bet him—that, if the Government are in power at the end of this year, which heaven forbid, the housing figure will not exceed 320,000, a drop of over 20,000. If any hon. Member disputes that figure, I remind the House that, six years ago, when my party was still in power, I drew attention to the very serious lack of mortgages. I was laughed at at the time, but proved to be correct.

My hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker) set out ten admirable points to show how we could restore the housing situation. I agreed with them all and I wish to emphasise one. This is the very serious effect which the selective employment tax is having on the housebuilding industry. I am sorry that the Minister of Public Building and Works is not here, because his own statistics, in Table 36, show the rise in the prices of new houses. Taking as a base line 100 in 1963, the latest available figure is 152 for 1969—over 50 per cent. increase.

Is there little wonder that it is difficult now to obtain mortgages and that local authorities are not prepared to start housing programmes? This is one of the main reasons for the housing setback. My hon. Friend referred to the fact that a higher salary is now required to buy a house on mortgage in order to meet the repayments. He said that the rise had been from £18 to £32 a week. That is one of the most definite factors in the situation.

The Government have let the country down on the supply and cost of land. If they want to attempt to fulfil their promises it is essential that they introduce legislation immediately to remove S.E.T. The Land Commission has led to a large increase in the price of land. Let the builders build, and they will get on with it.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I would remind the House that this is a short debate and that many hon. Members have indicated a desire to speak. I hope that they will emulate the hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain), and keep their contributions short.

4.57 p.m.

Mr. Roy Roebuck (Harrow, East)

The nation and the House is today mourning the ending of one of the great traditions of our island home—the abolition of the rum tot in the Royal Navy. But there is no need for the House or the country to despair that another tradition, well known to us all, is about to depart.

After listening to some of the speeches from hon. Gentlemen opposite, I am sure that the tradition of the Conservative Party in pouring out hypocrisy by the bucket still stands. Also, having listened to the hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker), who has departed, and the hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain), I feel that Disraeli need not worry, mouldering in his grave, about the fate of that organised hypocrisy which we have on the benches opposite.

Scarcely a month passes without a right hon. Member on the Front Bench opposite putting down a Motion of censure on the Government. On each occasion we find that, as we examine the terms of the Motion and set it against their record while in office, the accusations they make against the Government are baseless. There could not be a better illustration than this Motion. For the party opposite, the traditional party of landlords, to complain about house-building and other housing policies of the Government, is the height of impudence. In putting forward their Motion my only complaint is that the Tories have devalued Ananias. We all know what is the solution to the housing problem of right hon. Gentlemen opposite. We had in 1957 their notorious Housing Act which made Rachman and others of his ilk the patron saints of housing.

Anyone would think from the terms of the Motion, and from what the hon. Member for Worcester said, that the party opposite had a housing policy. Is thi5, true? It is right to say that there are many members of the Conservative Party who do not believe that a nation ought to have a housing policy. The right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell)—I am sorry that he is not in his place—said in addressing the federation of House Builders a few months ago: My proposition is that there ought not to be a housing policy. That is another of his statements which has not yet been repudiated by the Leader of the Opposition, and there is certainly evidence to show that the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West commands far more support in the the Conservative Party than the Leader of the Opposition.

Hon. Members


Mr. Roebuck

It is reasonable to maintain that there are many hon. Members opposite, and certainly a majority of active Conservative Party people outside this House who believe that we ought not to have a housing policy.

My right hon. Friend the Minister and his hon. Friends in the Housing Ministry deserve congratulations for the many things they have done to help to solve the grievous housing problem which they inherited. I start with what they have done about environmental planning. This country is ahead of any other country in Europe, and certainly far ahead of the United States, in environmental planning. This is of considerable importance. It is not only the number of houses built which is significant; it is the nature of the houses and the surroundings in which they are built which is very important.

I turn to the Governments policy of converting old houses into new ones with very generous grants. They have done this for many houses—houses which were fit to live in but which lacked modern amenities, providing people with comfort. I much regret that there are many Conservative Councils which are not playing their part in letting people know of the availability of these grants.

As to owner-occupation we often have that weary old taradiddle from hon. Gentlemen opposite that ours is a party which does not believe in owner-occupation. The statistics prove that this is not so. We have built far more houses for owner-occupation during the period that we have been in power than hon. Gentleman ever built in a comparable period. In addition, my right hon. Friend has made it easier for those people in owner-occupation to remain there through rate rebates. He has also brought into the housing market, as a result of the option mortgage scheme. a large section of the community which formerly could not get in.

The hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe was on to a good point when he referred to the lack of availability of mortgages; but it is absolute nonsense for hon. Gentlemen opposite to seek to divorce the mortgage position in this country, both as regards availability and interest rates, from what is going on in the world around us. We cannot insulate ourselves on this little island from movements elsewhere in the world.

I now have some good news for the hon. Member if he would like to hear it. In this evening's Evening News, page 5, column 1, there is the headline; Mortgage hope for home buyers". The story says: The Building Societies Association had a large cup of cheer to offer would-be home owners today. More money is coming into their members' coffers and less is going out. Gross receipts for 1969, and withdrawals, were the highest recorded for a single year. It goes on to say: Building societies received £701 million in new savings, a new high, and £419 million were withdrawn—the lowest figure since the last quarter of 1968.

Mr. Costain

I am grateful to the hon. Member for that exciting news, but does he appreciate that there are only three-quarters the number of houses that there ought to be?

Mr. Roebuck

I am sorry that my information has not brought an instant and joyful response from the hon. Member. During the whole of his speech he was grumbling about the private builder, and now here is some splended news which ought to have the builders putting up more houses.

Why is this good news? Because it proves that we are now getting over the difficulties left to us by the economic and financial policies of hon. Gentlemen opposite. They left us in a disgraceful mess.

It is not only a question of our having built more houses; they are also better houses, because my right hon. Friend has given considerable encouragement to an organisation of builders which guarantees the quality and standard of houses to the people buying them. I think that some 95 per cent. of all houses built now are built under this scheme. If my right hon. Friend has put shackles on any builders it is the jerry builders, and I am convinced that his action will be warmly applauded not only by my hon. Friends but by many of the young couples who hope to move into these new houses.

I turn now to council houses, about which we have heard a lot of nonsense from the hon. Member for Worcester. When this Government drst took office I recall that my right hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury, then the Parliamentary Secretary at the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, went on a tour of the London boroughs to try, with those qualities for which he is well known of cajolery and bullying, to get them to build far more houses.

To a considerable extent he was successful. He was successful in my borough of Harrow, and he encouraged the council to build far more houses. Since that time there has been an unfortunate change in the control of many councils—not in Harrow, but in Harrow we now have a council with only one Labour Party representative. This bas had a considerable effect on the nature of my borough council's housing policy, and in other parts of the Greater London area where there has been a change of representation, the councils have cut back council house building.

Why is this? Is it some sort of spontaneous action by all these Conservative Councils to cut down their house-building programme? I suggest that it is nothing of the sort; they have received a diktat from the Daleks at Conservative Central Office; and, being Conservative councillors, being men who lack independent minds, they are always prepared to accept the diktats from Central Office.

Sir Douglas Glover (Ormskirk) indicated dissent.

Mr. Roebuck

The hon. Member for Ormskirk challenges me, but we have already heard the words of the hon. Member for Worcester on this. If the hon. Member did not hear them I will repeat them. The hon. Member for Worcester said: I hope that Conservative Councils will take great care to resist the temptation to go building Council houses for all sorts of seemingly good purposes. It, is quite clear that those words have gone home to Conservative councillors throughout the country.

Another reason is that they are all rather worried that in the odd event of a Conservative Party ever being returned to power they will not get their M.B.E.s or O.B.E.s if they disobey the hon. Member for Worcester. We all know that the hon. Member got his M.B.E. for his sterling services to the Young Conservatives organisation. It is a point which Conservative councillors take very seriously indeed.

My right hon. Friend says that some councils have cut down, but I say that this is not the case in Harrow. There they have not just cut down, they have no policy at all to build council houses. Does the hon. Member for Harrow, Central (Mr. Grant) wish to challenge that statement?

Mr. Grant

Yes. I know that the hon. Member wishes to be fair—[Laughter.]—on second thoughts, I am not certain of that. But if he had wished to be fair he would have revealed to the House that, sc far from having no programme at all, the council has 362 houses planned for next year and has told the Ministry about it.

Mr. Roebuck

Sadly, the hon. Gentleman is in error, as usual. I am in a position to reveal that in August, 1968. the council of the London Borough of Harrow resolved—by resolution in the council chamber—not to build any more dwellings; and, more than that, to dispose of the land that it had acquired upon which to build council houses. The hon. Gentleman ought to check his facts before he inflicts such nonsense on the House. Have we some other interruption from the hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. John Page)?

Mr. John Page

It is boring for the rest of the House to have to listen to the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Roebuck) trotting out a lot of inaccurate information. No council land has been sold in the recent past for building other than council building. There has been some land allocated to housing associations.

Mr. Roebuck

I do not propose to pursue the inaccuries of the hon. Gentleman. I will simply conclude—

Mr. John Page


Mr. Roebuck

—by saying that the mayor of Harrow, who rejoices in the name of Alderman Clack—has refused to see my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to discuss Harrow's programme. I believe that the position is the same in Conservative councils throughout the land and I thought it appropriate to bring this matter to the attention of the House.

What we have here is clear evidence that colleagues of hon. Gentlemen opposite are busily at work in the boroughs seeking to sabotage the housing programme. Then we have hon. Gentlemen opposite coming here and seeking to berate the Government for the housing figures—and of course we must expect much more of this as time goes on.

The party opposite is frantic for power and that is why it behaves in this manner, as though hon. Members opposite are under the influence of some deleterious drug. They will seize any stick available to try to beat this Government. On this occasion, as on so many others, that stick will turn into a boomerang and give hon. Gentlemen opposite a hefty clout about the ear.

5.10 p.m.

Mr. Wallace Lawler (Birmingham, Ladywood)

I shall not seek to comment on the remarks which have been made about the drop in housebuilding or the figures of starts. The public is not so much interested in the exchange of statistics between the various sides of the House, but is looking for constructive proposals to increase home building and to lower costs.

The Minister has said, obviously in defence of the lamentable fall in house-building, that if we produce 370,000 houses a year until 1973 we shall have a surplus of homes. If this is so, it will be a crude kind of surplus, including a large number of hovels long designated as "unfit for human habitation". In my own area there are still a few thousand of this type of hovel, most of which are not scheduled for demolition until after 1974. This is in the City of Birmingham in which, despite Tory control, a record number of dwellings has been completed in the public sector in recent years.

It is important to appreciate that in large cities such as Birmingham the slum clearance programme is dictated, by and large, by the number of new dwellings that one is able to build. On the present dismal figures of construction, with ever-soaring costs and higher and higher interest charges these types of hovels, which nobody would call homes, will remain with us marking the shameful betrayal of the 1964 Socialist election promise that there would be enough houses for many years to come. The Prime Minister won the last election with a firm pledge of 500,000 homes by this year. Equally there was the same kind of carrot held out in regard to assisting the growth of home ownership with lower interest rates. Both have proved to be high pie-crust promises made to be broken.

The worthlessness of the first promise is aptly revealed by the figures which are before us this week. The nonsense of the second promise about low interest rates is illustrated by the countless home owners who struggle to meet a more than doubled interest rate on housing loans, plus the millions who still find themselves outside the scope of home ownership.

There are many very disquieting features about the dismal fall in the provision of new homes, among them the incredible jump in the price of land since the present Government came to power, and the abject failure of the much-boosted and over-costly Land Commission to arrest these savage increases.

Here I would mention a reference to the price of land by a Government spokesman in the housing debate on 15th May, 1969, when the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Wales mentioned land taken from those people who owned their homes in Cardiff and later sold by the Conservative corporation to private developers at enormous places. I wonder if the right hon. Gentleman is aware that land acquired by some of our large local authorities on payments of a few pounds per site—a system that I describe as legalised robbery—or again in the new development areas on most preferential terms is charged by such authorities, authorities under both Socialist and Conservative control, to municipal housing revenue accounts and to non-profit housing associations at the same kind of enormous profit

I can, if required, produce case after case to prove this. It would be helpful to know if the right hon. Gentleman the Minister approves of these kinds of enormous land profits being imposed upon municipal tenants and members of housing associations for the land upon which their homes are built.

Secondly, there is the constant bogy of higher building costs, helped along to the tune of some £125 per dwelling by the iniquitous selective employment tax. The Government have continued to turn a deaf ear to our continued pleas for the removal of a tax which should never have been imposed upon any section of home building and which only adds to already high rents and mortgage repayments.

Since the present Government came to power building costs in the provinces, and certainly in Birmingham, have soared by nearly 34 per cent. This is one of the reasons why the chairman of one large authority said yesterday that this year he will fell obliged to cut back on his corporation's housing target by 1,500 homes. This is a grim outlook for the Minister if he wants to retain even his total of 370,000 for 1970.

Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, there is the shockingly high rate of interest charges. Unless there is a drop in the present high rate, Birmingham, for example, faces a record deficit of £3½ million on its municipal housing account for 1970–71; and this despite the considerable slice of taxpayers' money which the Government hand over to keep part, and I stress part, of the general level of applicable interest charges at 4 per cent.

The Government talk about wanting more homes built in the private and public sectors. Because of the foregoing reasons, the penalty attached to building more homes is higher and higher rents and, in the private sector, higher and higher mortgage payments. With urgency, we need some entirely new avenues of thought and action in housing.

Mr. Greenwood

When we last debated this matter the hon. Gentleman appeared to think that it was right to lower the standards of council house building and apparently to abandon Parker Morris. I asked if this was the policy of the Liberal Party, and he did not seem to know. Does he now know whether it is official Liberal policy?

Mr. Lawler

I am glad the right hon. Gentleman has raised this point. What I said in that debate, and have since made perfectly clear, is that there are certain types of houses where we could lessen a little the existing standards—for example, homes occupied by one person which have two inside toilets.

Mr. Julius Silverman (Birmingham, Aston)

Could the hon. Gentleman give an example anywhere in Britain in which accommodation for one person is being built with two toilets?

Mr. Lawler

I have already replied to the point, and I will continue with what I was saying.

A tremendous total of £620 million per annum is being poured from the Exchequer into the various forms of housing subsidies—£340 million to the public sector, including supplementary benefit payments towards rents, £220 million to owner-occupiers, including supplementary benefit payments of some £20 million, and £65 million in supplementary benefit payments to private tenants.

There is a strong case for an all-party Select Committee to be set up to review the whole of these payments and other relevant factors, and perhaps to consider a new form of distribution with, of course, the priority retention of the necessary assistance to the needy, the aged and the growing number of families who, as revealed to the Chancellor of the Exchequer recently, struggle along either just above or just below the poverty line.

I agree with the hon. Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Winnick) who has previously suggested that housing should be taken out of party politics. I also agree with him that we could do so much more to develop the provision of housing through housing societies and associations.

Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, West)

The hon. Gentleman has just called for a Select Committee on housing. I am inclined to agree with him. But does he recognise that there is in existence an all-party Select Committee called the Select Committee on Estimates which recently investigated housing and on which the Liberal Party refused to serve?

Mr. Lawler

I am quite aware of that. It does not invalidate the point that I shall go on to make, and I would ask the hon. Gentleman to pay attention to what I am going to say. Privately-rented tenancies continue to drop year by year. Between 1967 and 1968 alone, the reduction, taking the combined total of controlled and unfurnished tenancies, was in the region of 230,000. This drop is significant and compares with the total of all new houses built in the public sector during the same year.

My hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) has made it clear that we can expect this heavy drop to continue. The landlord, as compared with the local authority, is unfavourably placed. A new house built by a private landlord would demand more than twice or even thrice the rent which a local authority charges for the same type of house.

I suggest another urgent issue which an all-party Select Committee could consider. Why should not local authorities. working in conjunction with housing societies and associations under the terms of the Housing Bill of 1969, take over a large part of the responsibility for the remaining 4 million privately tenanted dwellings? Furthermore, why should not local authorities who are able to acquire land at preferential cost be helped by Ministerial consent, or if necessary by legislation, to make such land available in suitable proportions to municipal housing revenue accounts, to non-profit-making housing societies and associations, and perhaps even to reputable avenues in the public sector which would undertake not to make a profit on such land, at prices a little over those of acquisition cost. Even in the present state of high building costs, this could help to avoid the present scale of rent rises in the public sector and to scale down the constant rises in the private sector.

In the area I represent we found a way of operating a pilot scheme in a manner approaching this. It was beginning to work very well, until the Tories came to power and promptly stopped it. Yet, in the interim, over 1,000 extra families, most of whom were on the housing register, were housed at lower costs and without any continuing subsidy. Here is yet another important avenue waiting to be explored by the suggested all-party Select Committee.

Excessive dampness, condensation, is yet another matter calling for urgent attention by this as yet non-existent Committee. Millions of tenants in relatively new and costly dwellings would bear testimony to this. An interesting publication I have seen today from I.C.I. says There is no longer a technical problem in eliminating condensation from existing houses". I know from other hon. Members that leading firms in the country share this view. Yet local authorities hold back because of their fear of embracing further capital spending. This policy may well be penny wise and pound foolish. I have seen examples, as I am sure have other Members, where hundreds of pounds have to be spent on dwellings which are only a few years old. This points to how much we need some kind of all-party committee, which I hope the Minister will set up as quickly as possible.

We in the Liberal Party approach with some caution the suggestion of a national housing agency designed to take over both the building and management functions at present operated by local authorities. There might be some advantage if such a national agency confined itself to construction, but not to management. Management must never become too remote from tenants.

We feel that there may well be financial and social benefits to be gained from some similar forms of regional housing agencies where in many cases system-building of the right kind of homes could be deployed more widely, producing a lower level of costs. We shall vote for the Opposition Motion because we believe that much more could and should have been done, even in the face of the admitted financial difficulties, to increase the weight of provision of homes.

5.25 p.m.

Mr. Julius Silverman (Birmingham, Aston)

Although the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Mr. Lawler) read his speech very well, it could not be considered constructive. He was at pains to stress the need for an all-party committee to examine the housing problem. Since such a committee exists, it was odd to hear him reject one of the first suggestions made by that committee, which was the establishment of a national building agency.

Mr. Lawler

The hon. Gentleman should not misrepresent me. I did not reject it, but said that we, the Liberals, would approach such a suggestion with caution.

Mr. Silverman

I suppose that that is a way of sitting on both sides of the fence at the same time.

The hon. Member for Ladywood spoke at length about the large amount of taxpayers' money being paid by way of subsidy for housebuilding purposes. I should have thought that that was to the credit of the Government, for it shows the effort that the Government have made to keep the housebuilding programme at a high level.

I do not have the slightest doubt that even in Birmingham. which has one of the few Tory councils which is doing quite well with its housebuilding programme, council house building would have ground to a halt a long time ago had it not been for the generous subsidies being made available by the Government.

The hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker) said that it was Tory policy —apparently this is to be a plank of the Tory programme—that subsidies should not be given to every council house tenant but that they should be reserved entirely for the needy. If this policy were implemented there would be an increase in the basic rents of all council houses. It would also mean that only those prepared to apply for, and submit to, a means test would receive any concession. I am opposed in principle to such a policy.

The assistance that is given generally to owner-occupiers is far more, in global and in average terms, than that given to council house tenants—and owner-occupiers get it without any form of means test. Indeed, the bigger the house and the larger the mortgage the greater the assistance that is given. I do not see why owner-occupiers, admittedly facing extraordinarily high rates of interest, should receive assistance without a means test while council house tenants should undergo such a test. The rebate scheme is, of course, limited to a certain section of people.

In the council houses built in Birmingham in recent years under the Housing Subsidies Act, rent increases of between £2 and £3 would be faced. Only those prepared to submit to a means test would not have to pay those increases if the policy outlined by the hon. Member for Worcester were implemented. For this reason I could not support such a policy.

When the hon. Member for Ladywood spoke of recasting the financial system as it applies to housing, apparently he was playing with the same sort of idea as that expounded by the hon. Member for Worcester. Is Liberal policy on this the same as Tory policy? Is that the reason why the hon. Gentleman said that he would vote in the same Lobby as the hon. Member for Worcester?

Mr. Lawler

The answer is simple. We believe that this is a matter which should be discussed by an all-party committee. Hence our proposal for the establishment of such a committee.

Mr. Silverman

That is just passing the buck. We still do not know Liberal policy on this issue. Is it the same as Tory policy? Perhaps the Liberals do not have a policy and the hon. Gentleman was merely speaking for himself. Would the hon. Gentleman now answer "Yes" or "No" whether his policy is the same as that of the hon. Member for Worcester?

Mr. Lawler

It is not.

Mr. Silverman

Then what is it?

I agree that interest rates are high, but they are high not only here but in every other country. Interest rates are going crazy and I fear that this is a symptom of the economic madhouse in which we live, and that goes for people throughout the world. We used to call the system capitalism, but now it is the operation of market economics. Until the people of Britain, America, West Germany, France and elsewhere realise that there is no solution to this problem of high interest rates within the terms of the present economic system, the problem will not be ameliorated.

Mr. R. W. Brown (Shoreditch and Finsbury)

Is my hon. Friend aware that under the Tories interest rates were high in this country at a time when they were not so high in other parts of the world, whereas while we have been in power interest rates have been high not only here but everywhere?

Mr. Silverman

In the sort of world in which we live one must pay the going rate if one wishes to borrow. This has nothing to do with Government policy, except in so far as the Government have not changed the economic system. Limited and modest measures, such as control of capital going abroad, have been taken, but whenever the Government have attempted to intervene in the financial system there has been strenuous resistance from hon. Gentlemen opposite. So long as we live in a market and capitalist economy, interest rates will be high. One could discuss this issue at length, but now is not the time to do so.

The housebuilding figures which we have been given do not mean a lot to me—[Interruption.]—because they are global and cover the whole country. Not just in different parts of the country but sometimes in different parts of the same city we have not one housing problem but a variety of them. Until the figures are broken down area by area and a calculation of need made for each area, no precise conclusions can be drawn from the available statistics.

For example, in October an interesting article appeared in The Guardian about Liverpool. It said: The Ministry of Housing and Local Government is seriously concerned about sudden proposals by Liverpool to abandon the whole, or the biggest part, of its overspill programme because of fears of a huge housing surplus in the city. Later it went on: Liverpool has given three main reasons for its change of mind—a vast increase in the number of "re-lets" among existing corporation houses; a drop in the birth rate; and the new trend to rehabilitate older properties. now made easier by the recent Housing Act. The Liverpool Council, which is Tory-controlled, has considerably reduced its housing programme, and this underlines the fact that the housing problem varies from one part of the country to another.

Mr. Reginald Eyre (Birmingham, Hall Green)

The hon. Gentleman has given a fair description of the housing programme in Birmingham. However, he spoke of the possibility of the programme grinding to a halt. What further measures would he urge the Government to take to avoid such a situation arising?

Mr. Silverman

I said that if it had not been for the generous provision made by the Government, the programme would have ground to a halt. Today I would like to see more money coming from the Government to enable Birmingham's existing programme, and the programmes of other areas, to be sustained and enlarged. If my right hon. Friend will make such representations to the Chancellor he will have my support.

But, in addition, many charges must be borne by the City of Birmingham, charges at present borne by municipal tenants and the housing revenue account. For instance, while I pay tribute to Birmingham City Council, whatever its political complexion, for what it has achieved in housebuilding, the cost of this new building should be borne to some extent by the city and not placed on the backs of existing tenants.

The Government have done a great deal on the housing front and, for this reason, I will support them in the Lobby tonight. I am neither satisfied nor complacent with what has been achieved, but I admire the efforts that the Government have made.

5.36 p.m.

Mr. Hugh Rossi (Hornsey)

The Minister put on a brave face as he addressed to House today. He had to, for in his position he could not afford to do anything else. As we listened to him, however, we detected a note of sadness in his voice, and that sadness must be shared by every hon. Member who is in any way concerned about the problem of housing.

The right hon. Gentleman was said because the figures show such a catastrophic drop in housebuilding in the last year. Party political considerations aside, nobody wishes to see that state of affairs persisting. We would welcome a continuing rise in housebuilding and we therefore share the Minister's sadness in having to describe the present situation.

We also detected a feeling of humiliation, and that was not surprising. After all the proud boasts of hon. Gentlemen opposite from the Prime Minister down, about the targets that they would achieve, they must feel humiliated at having to admit, virtually on the eve of a General Election, "We have promised and we have failed you in our promises."

Many quotations have been bandied about, but I will refer to only one. It is the famous pledge—"a pledge" he told us, not "a promise"—which the Prime Minister made in Bradford in March, 1966, when he uttered these proud words: By 1970 … we shall achieve the 500,000 target, and we shall not allow any development, any circumstances, however adverse, to deflect us from that aim. Today, we are told that 366,000 houses were built in 1969 and that the prospects for 1970 are even gloomier.

As is the custom on these occasions, much of the debate has been taken up with party political by-play along the lines of "Anything you can do, I can do better". Statistics have been trotted out by hon. Members on both sides. They have been stood on their heads and made to prove different points. There has been high selectivity in choosing groups of years, and the five years of the present Government have been compared with the last five years of the Conservative Government.

I will not go into the details of those figures, because that is a fruitless exercise. Instead, I advise hon. Members opposite to draw a graph from 1951, when under 200,000 houses a year were being built, to 1964, when 400,000 were being built. Those were the 13 years of Tory misrule, during which hon. Members will see a steadily and strongly increasing graph of housing completions every year from 200,000 to 400,000. One will then see, if one compares that with the years since then, that the target has teetered around the 400,000 mark and has now gone into a dramatic and desperate decline. That is the overall picture. One can be as selective as one likes and can pick out years here and there. However, taking the whole picture, that is what one sees, and there is no escape from it.

I listened carefully to the Minister's speech, and I looked for some hope. We are concerned not so much with playing about with what has happened in the past, but with trying to look to the future to see what we can do about housing. At the end of his long speech, the right hon. Gentleman gave us three factors to show that there was a ray of hope. He told us that mortgage advances will go up next year to £1,700 million and that this is an improvement on the present year. However, he did not say that that would be more than offset by the increase in the price of houses.

Mr. Greenwood

The hon. Gentleman should ask the builders.

Mr. Rossi

No, the pigeon comes home to roost on the benches opposite with regard to reasons for increase in the price of houses. There will be no advantage in the increase in mortgage advances, because it will be offset by higher house prices. With regard to local authority mortgage lending which is important for older houses, the position is equally unsatisfactory.

After cutting back to £33 million, the sum given by way of local authority advances next year will go up to £100 million. However, that is not enough, and it is far less than was given in the past. If the Minister had been more optimistic about that, there would have been more hope for the future.

He asks us to look at the order books of the builders, and, after discarding certain statistics which he says are not very reliable, he selects his own statistics and makes the general vague statement that things may pick up next year. I suggest that he looks at the figures produced by the Royal Institute of British Architects on the level of new commissions for private housing, which are generally regarded as a good pointer towards the future state of the trade. The figures for the third quarter of 1969 show a 17 per cent drop in the value of new commissions. That drop, from a second-quarter total of £519 million to £421 million in the third quarter measured at current prices, is more severe than at any time since 1954, when the R.I.B.A. began its present Series of quarterly statistics.

The importance of that figure is that the commissions which architects are earning today indicate the level of house-building in 18 months' time. That is why the position is so depressing. It is not right for the Minister to direct our attention to order books when there are figures of that kind on record which are flatly contradictory. He misleads the House in doing that. That is the third of the points that he put forward for some kind of hope, but there is no hope there for us.

I should like the Minister to deal with different matters which really affect our housing. Let us take the local authorities first. We have had this Tory council argument trotted out again. However, my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker) has indicated time and again figures which show that, if anything, Labour-controlled councils are worse than Conservative-controlled councils in this matter. As much as hon. Members opposite bluster, the figures are there and have been given them.

The factors which affect local authority building are such matters as the Ronan Point disaster and the niggardly attitude of the Minister in the help needed by the local authorities concerned to get over the financial burden which disasters of that kind have placed upon them. The local authorities responded to the urgent insistence of the Government to go in for industrialised building, tower blocks, and the rest of it. They followed the Minister's building regulations, and they led to a collapse and a subsequent condemnation of these types of buildings.

The Minister then came up with a meagre offer of 40 per cent. of the cost of putting matters right, leaving the bulk of the burden to be borne by the local authorities. How can they undertake that burden and go forward with a continuing rolling programme? They have not the money to do it. Let the Minister help those authorities, and he will see them building more houses.

Another point which local authorities always quarrel about—

Mr. Greenwood

The hon. Gentleman referred to what he called my niggardliness, and he seems to think that the figure is still 40 per cent. Of course, it was increased last week to 50 per cent.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

Thanks to pressure.

Mr. Rossi

How many months did it take the Minister to add that meagre 10 per cent., which is still not enough? The Government should accept 100 per cent. liability, because they have placed local authorities in this position, and the report on the Ronan Point disaster shows that clearly.

The other matter where the Government could help is in the direction of housing subsidies. The Government are helping on anything above 4 per cent., interest rates, but that only operates from the time that properties are let. Often there is a two-year period between the acquisition of the land and development—

Mr. Costain


Mr. Rossi

My hon. Friend says three years—during which time a local authority has to bear the whole of the interest charge on the capital borrowed to buy the land and build the property. Time and again, local authorities say, "It is a burden that we cannot afford. We cannot afford 9½ per cent. Help us, and we will build you more houses. If you do not, we cannot undertake this financial burden." We are getting a shortfall in local authority building, because the Government are not giving help where it is vitally needed.

A third way that the Minister can help local authorities to speed up their programmes is by his procedures regarding the cost yardstick. We get complaint after complaint from local authorities that plans that they have put forward are bogged down in the Department and they cannot get their schemes rolling forward quickly enough. Local authorities have said that time and again.

But, as the Minister rightly said, the basis of the housing problem lies in the economy of this country. We can only build, either in the private or in the public sector, what we can afford to build. Local authorities are no different from private individuals in this regard.

Another way that the Government could help would be to enable local authorities to sell off some of their properties. If they could sell to those tenants who are likely to remain in council houses for the rest of their lives, the local authorities would recoup capital which could be used for building more properties instead of having to borrow again.

Another practical way is to make sure that people who can afford it to pay fair rents for their properties, so that we need subsidise from the ratepayers' and the taxpayers' pockets only those people who really need help. If we could give that kind of economic assistance and make the council housing financially viable, local authorities will be able to build more properties.

This is the way that the Minister should be approaching the matter. I should have liked him to deal with some of these problems in his long speech. Until these problems are dealt with, I cannot see our getting the housing situation straight.

The private sector is also governed by the economic situation. Builders will build only what they can afford to build and what people can afford to buy. If builders cannot afford to build or people cannot afford to buy, houses will not go up. This is why in the last year we have had this catastrophic drop, particularly in the private sector where there are not the ratepayers' or the taxpayers' pockets to give a subsidy to maintain buoyancy in the trade.

The Minister referred to the Annual Report of the Federation of Registered House Builders. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to detect there another ray of hope for the future. But the President of the Federation of Registered House Builders says: The ability of the private housing sector to maintain even its present rate of construction depends on an early relaxation of the credit squeeze and on the availability of mortgage finance. That is our ray of hope. Relax the credit squeeze and we will get more houses. But what hope did the Minister give of a relaxation of the credit squeeze?

We are told that housing ought to be "conducted like a war-time operation"—one of the earlier utterances of the Prime Minister—and that it should take priority over everything. Why cannot the building industry be given some priority in its borrowing facilities? How can the Minister expect private builders to buy land, to pay for materials, to pay the wages of people to use those materials to build houses, if they cannot borrow the money to do it? This is the basis of the whole problem in the private sector. The credit squeeze is acting as a terrible stopper on the housing programme. Moreover, it is driving so many firms, on which the Government depend to construct these houses, into bankruptcy. This is the urgency with which the Government regard the problem.

We have seen mortgages are not easier. They are merely keeping up with the cost of buying a house—and barely doing that.

We are given no hope of relaxation of the credit squeeze or real ease in mortgage finance and so the President of the Federation of Registered House Builders will be disappointed that his members are not going to build more houses. Every conceivable obstacle and obstruction is put in their way. They are burdened with S.E.T., which, incidentally, puts up the price of a house by £125 to start with, and that makes it difficult for them. Many small firms cannot afford to pay for apprentices to attend courses under the Training Board schemes.

I will not recount all the instances of interference with the building industry by the Government. These and the economic situation that the Government have created are responsible for the appalling figures which the Minister has had to try to defend today.

5.56 p.m.

Mr. Arthur Probert (Aberdare)

Time will no: allow me to follow the points made by the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Rossi). I promise to be brief. However, I make no apology for the fact that I shall be specifically referring to the Government's housing programme in Wales. I do so knowing full well that if we were discussing this matter the Opposition would not have dared to put down their Motion.

What are the facts? During the last five years we have achieved a record number of houses in the Principality, and this without reducing standards. Further, in addition to increasing council housing we have maintained a very high degree of privately-owned houses.

I have always been proud of the fact that in South Wales a high degree of owner-occupation has taken place. I am proud that the Government have assisted in maintaining this trend by passing the Leasehold Reform Act, about which we have heard nothing from the Opposition today. It did this despite continued opposition from the party opposite and, incidentally, despite many legal pundits who thought that it was not possible. This Act in itself is worthy of a Labour Government, because it has ended the anxiety and worry of thousands of people not only in Wales, but in England as well.

In 1960, when we were in opposition, only 11,600 houses were completed after nine years of Tory rule. The hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker) referred to the golden period of 1955–60.

Over the previous five years only 59,000 houses were completed—an average of 12,000 houses per year. Hon. Gentlemen opposite do not want statistics. We know the reason. Here are the statistics.

What is the position after five years of Labour Government? Nearly 100,000 houses have been completed in Wales—almost double the figure that the Tories achieved in 1955–60. It is true that in 1964, after 13 years of Tory administration, Wales had the high figure of 19,000 houses. But this was 1964, and I need hardly remind the House of what was happening. There was an election at the end of the year and a deficit of £800 million on balance of payments which rendered this country bankrupt and made it more difficult for the new Government to proceed.

It is true that 1969 has shown a decline in Wales, as elsewhere, from the very high average of 19,000 bourses per year to, I understand, 17,300. But this is significantly higher than the 1963 figure of 14,000 under the Tory Administration after 10 or 12 years.

In the private sector, too, Wales has had a good record in the last five years. Nearly 50,000 houses have been completed in the private sector in Wales compared with a much lesser figure of 40,000 in the last five years of the 13 years of Tory administration. These are some of the records in Wales.

I have referred to standards. In 1965, fewer than 20 per cent. of local authority houses throughout the United Kingdom met the Parker Morris standards. Today, all houses have to be built to those standards.

It is this Government who passed the 1969 Housing Act, with its dramatic new approach to environmental development —we have heard nothing about this from hon. Gentlemen opposite—with its provision of financial help to local authorities, which could perhaps save thousands of houses in the older industrial areas. Equally important, it gave assistance towards improving the amenities in those areas. It is this Act which, for the first time ever, provides grants for the repair of houses, as distinct from, but in conjunction with, improvements, and it is now up to local authorities to understand this Act and to operate it.

It is this Government who have announced that in Wales they are nearly doubling the allocation of mortgages to local authorities from £4½ million to £7½ million, despite the stringency of the economic situation. High interest rates have been in operation, and I know that my hon. Friends from Salford and Birmingham feel strongly about this issue, but this factor has not been mentioned. We cannot isolate ourselves from internationally high rates of interest, but, if high rates are to prevail, some research is necessary by the Government to see how we can isolate housing, which is a social need.

The Motion is yet another example, the second this week, of pure political opportunism. It is this Government who have increased the housing subsidy in my constituency from £30 in 1964 to £70 now—2⅓ times what it was under the Tory Administration. I shudder to think what will happen to housing subsidies if the Conservatives get back into office.

It is this Government who really did something for the security of the tenant, although we heard a lot about it before 1964. It is this Government who finally ended the scandal of the leasehold system, about which the Conservatives resolutely refused to do anything. It is this Government who introduced the 1969 Housing Act, with all its assistance to owner-occupiers, owners, tenants, and local authorities. The Opposition should have tabled, not a Motion of censure, but a Motion of congratulation, that during this time of stringency the Government could achieve and put into operation all the things that I have mentioned.

6.3 p.m.

Mr. Anthony Grant (Harrow, Central)

I am grateful for the opportunity to take part in this debate, and I shall do so briefly, because I know that others wish to speak.

I want to bring the House back from the delightful area of Aberdare. The hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. Probert) was honest enough to confess that there had been a falling off in the number of houses built last year, and decent enough, unlike his Front Bench, not to blame Tory local authorities for the situation in Wales.

I want to come back nearer home, to Harrow. I was inspired to speak by the wild remarks of the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Roebuck), who, I regret. has left the Chamber. He came in armed with a voluminous bundle of papers, and started booming away. I thought that there would be a massive attack on Harrow, but at the end virtually nothing came out, though I should like to deal with the criticisms that he made.

First, the hon. Gentleman alleged that the council had sold land which was earmarked for housing purposes. This is untrue. The only piece of land which Harrow sold was a site designated for office and administrative purposes. The land was purchased before the war, and it was sold for office purposes. It had nothing to do with housing. It was designed entirely for administrative development, and in selling it the council made a substantial profit which went to the benefit of the ratepayers as a whole. That was an example of the hon. Gentleman not doing his homework.

The hon. Gentleman's second complaint was that at some time in 1968 the council passed a resolution to the effect that it would not carry out any more council house building. The true facts are that in 1966, entirely in accordance with the Government's then prices and incomes policy, Harrow Council decided that it had to increase the rents of its council houses. It informed the Minister of this, and heard of no objection from him. Later, the Minister, quite arbitrarily, directed the council not to bring in the increases necessary to balance its accounts.

The effect of that extraordinary decision would have been to put the housing account in deficit within four years, contrary to the law by which it is obliged to maintain a balance, unless a considerably increased burden had been put on the ratepayers. It was in the course of discussing the matter that the council minuted that as a result of this foolish decision by the Minister it would have to consider curtailing severely its future building programme. Happily, that has not happened.

I turn now to the third allegation which has been made, not only by the hon. Member for Harrow, East, but by no less a personage than the Home Secretary. During the debate on the Queen's Speech he said that Harrow had no building programme. This is absolute nonsense. I wrote to the Home Secretary pointing out that he was in error, no doubt due to the heat of the debate, and inviting him to make a personal statement. I am still waiting for an apology.

The facts are that in four years, in sprite of, not because of, the Labour Government, Harrow has succeeded in increasing its stock of houses by 12 per cent. About 450 houses were completed last year, and it has a programme of 362 dwellings planned for the immediate future. Last year, a new housing estate was opened in Harrow. The Minister was invited to the ceremony, but I accept that because of other engagements he could not attend. Had he attended, he would have seen in use, for the first time, a new method for building flats. It was a remarkable example of a local authority using its initiative, and it will provide first-class accommodation for many of my constituents who so desperately need it.

Mr. Freeson

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that we on the Treasury Bench are at a loss to understand this, because we have been trying to meet representatives of the Harrow authority. We are told that it has a programme, and that it has been building houses. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will help us in this. We have been trying to find out the programme for the current year, and for next year. Is the hon. Gentleman aware that not one dwelling was put out to tender in 1969?

Mr. Grant

Even that is incorrect, because in 1969 eight tenders were put out, and nine tender documents were in preparation. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the construction of 123 dwellings is to start shortly at Rayners Lane.

Mr. Freeson


Mr. Grant

Shortly. I shall not commit myself to a date, but I can find out, and when I do I shall let the hon. Gentleman know.

About 362 new dwellings are planned for the immediate future. The Minister is able to discuss this matter with the local authority if he wishes to, but should tell him that the council is waiting for him to withdraw the allegations made by the Ministry that Harrow has no housing programme. When that is done. the council will see him.

I maintain that Harrow has suffered a good deal. It is symbolic of what is going on in the country. Ever since the Tories won control of so many councils the Government and the Minister of Housing have been seeking to blame these councils for the Government's mistakes. I do not intend to let the Government get away with it in respect of Harrow.

6.10 p.m.

Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham, North)

I am very pleased to follow the hon. Member for Harrow, Central (Mr. Grant), because he is the third hon. Member for Harrow who has intervened in this debate. I suggest that they go back to Harrow Town Hall to thrash this matter out.

As always in these housing debates, there has been a lot of propaganda and counter-propaganda, charges and counter charges, and claims about what we did and what they did. I could not care less who has done what, when it was done and how it was done. All I am concerned with is that now, in 1970, some of my constituents have been waiting 20 years for decent houses. I have constituents living in half-way houses. I know of spouses who have been separated and live in separate accommodation. Political propaganda about whether this Government or the other did better does not help me or my constituents.

What we have had is an admission on both sides of a drastic shortfall in house production last year. There have been various explanations. One, which the Minister gave, is that we have balanced our payments, with all the consequent difficulties. He had better not come and tell my constituents who are waiting for houses that this is the reason that they are unlucky. They will say that the best thing is not to achieve high export levels, that they would rather we did not balance our books if that would mean more houses.

During the week, the Parliamentary Secretary said that one reason was Ronan Point. One of the most shocking and disgusting episodes that I have experienced in 25 years in this House is the attitude of the Minister and the Government over Ronan Point. It happened in May, 1968—not just last year. I have here all the HANSARD references. The Minister promised expeditious action and said that he would deal with the matter promptly, fairly and all the rest of it. I have a page here of Questions asked by me every week.

My right hon. Friend said that the authorities concerned would have to meet 60 per cent. of the cost and that he could not increase it. The reason was that he would not stand up against the Treasury. He and the Parliamentary Secretary said that they could do nothing about it. After I had pegged away and got nowhere with the Minister, and had taken it up with the Prime Minister, after the Minister had promised to make a statement to me, he arranged for another hon. Member to put down a sponsored Question. That is the normal practice, but usually the Member who has shown an interest is asked to put down the Question. I mention that only in passing.

Tonight, my right hon. Friend corrected an hon. Member and said that the Government grant will now be not 40 per cent. but 50 per cent. Then why did he say that he could not improve on the original offer? And why 50 per cent., anyway? Why should he impose this burden upon the poorer areas which must build these tower blocks—not because they like or want them, but because they have not the land or resources to do otherwise? This will mean a bill of £.12½million for the Treasury and £12½ million for the local authorities in areas like Newham, where the disaster took place.

This area, which suffered most during the blitz, has never got over that problem. Yet, after this disaster, it is told that, out of local rates or rents, it will have to pay, and that the Treasury will not honour its obligation because the Minister is too weak to stand up against the Treasury. If he had stood up to them in the first place, he might have got more than this 50 per cent.

The Minister and I have had an acrimonious correspondence on this, for which I make no apology. We have had arguments—I will not say near-fights—and heated discussions. I will not support the Government in the Lobby tonight, even with a three-line Whip on, because they have not done enough in this case. When there is a disaster in this country, it is accepted that we all pay, whether it is in Scotland, Wales, or anywhere else. When, unfortunately, it was at Aberfan, we expected the whole nation to meet the cost. Why should the poor, working-class, industrial areas, which are already saddled with debts which they cannot meet, have to pay this bill, which the Minister says will be 50 per cent.? That is an improvement, but it is still 50 per cent. too much.

I do not know whether Tory councils have or have not purposely arranged for a shortfall in production—I am not arguing about that—but my right hon. Friend cannot deny that there has been no lack of industrious building of council houses in Newham. It has one of the best records in the country and always has had. It wants to build houses. Unfortunately, lacking the land, we must still build tower blocks.

Even with the 50 per cent. grant, does the Minister know what will happen? Has he decided on the type of strengthening? No, he has not. He has sent out some suggestions and the councils themselves will have to decide. If they choose the cheaper one, which may not be the best, they will save money, which will be the tendency of a poor authority—although that may not be best for the tenants.

The difficulty is that some tenants do not want to go hack into the tower blocks even after they are strengthened. Does the Minister realise that this means that some people who have been waiting a long time for accommodation are saying, "If Bill Brown, who moved temporarily out of a tower block, is not going back, why should I have to take his place, particularly if I have to pay more rent to pay for the ugly iron girder which has been put around the building to strengthen it?"

None of these things has been discussed; nor has the Minister made a fair and reasonable approach on this issue. Therefore, I hope that there will be a different approach, from the Treasury in the first place and then from the Minister. I agree with the suggestion that we should treat housing as a wartime emergency. My hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Allaun), who has been here all day waiting to speak, rightly said that there are areas where there should be a concentration on house building and that in others it does not matter too much if houses are not built for a little while.

I should like the Minister to initiate a scheme of helping areas which are in urgent need—not only in slum clearance, in which the Government have done an excellent job and to which I pay tribute. We all know of areas which are in urgent need. We should say that the better-off areas should help the backward areas, backward in the sense that they need more help and assistance. Even with the very generous help which the Government have given by way of grants and subsidies many of these poorer local authorilies still cannot afford to go forward with as big housing programmes as they would like because there is such a problem for their local inhabitants.

Let us try to rearrange the whole of housing and pick out the worst areas to see if we can help them to get on with the job of building houses and flats. I ask the Minister to dig his toes in with reference to the cost of repairing Ronan Point. I cannot give him support tonight, for I must protest at what I feel is lack of attention on this issue.

6.21 p.m.

Captain Walter Elliot (Carshalton)

Until the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) spoke it seemed that all hon. Members on the Government benches must have been brain-washed by a brief which had been handed to them. There is no mystery about why we are suffering from a catastrophic fall in housebuilding. This is part of the Government's general economic policy. As the Minister said, it is deliberate policy to cut consumption, and housebuilding is taking its share. The Government want housebuilding to fall and hon. Members opposite will have to swallow that medicine just as they have had to swallow a lot of other unpleasant medicine. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about Tory councils?"] I shall come to that.

To achieve this we have had a prolonged credit squeeze, high interest rates and other Government measures which have put up prices. The Government must accept responsibility for all the frustration and misery which has been engendered. We have heard a great deal about councils deliberately cutting housebuilding. Presumably both Labour-and Conservative-controlled councils have done that. This is absolute rubbish, for they cannot build houses because the Government do not want them to do so.

Mr. Raphael Tuck (Watford) rose

Captain Elliot

I shall not give way.

It may be that the councils could still weather the storm, but in addition to the squeeze the Government imposed another measure. The Minister has taken power to restrict the rents which councils can charge for their houses. He knows that councils have to balance their housing accounts every year and if they cannot do that through rents so they have to do it through the rates. In those circumstances, how can they go on producing houses?

Until there is a deliberate change in Government policy homebuilding will languish. No wonder the Minister of Housing is not in the Cabinet. It would be most embarrassing to the Prime Minister if he were still in it. We shall not get a reversal of the drop in house-building until we have a reversal in Government economic policy, and I cannot see a reversal of Government economic policy coming until we have a change of Government. The sooner that happens, the better.

6.24 p.m.

Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)

This debate opened with a very constructive speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker), in which he put ten points for dealing with the present housing shortage crisis. It was followed by a complacent speech by the Minister, in which he did not deal with those ten points at all. They cannot have come as a surprise to him. They are the sort of things about which everyone has been talking in connection with the housing problem, the sort of things which ought to be done to remedy the present condition.

The Minister could have come off his brief for a moment and dealt with those points. Perhaps the Secretary of State for Local Government and Regional Planning—I always find that rather a mouthful—will do so when he replies to the debate. Perhaps also he will reply to the Motion. The Motion refers to the Election promises by the party now in Government of 500,000 houses a year by 1970 at lower cost with cheaper mortages. Those promises were made by many Labour candidates on many occasions in 1964 and 1966 during the election campaigns of those years.

We need quote only those of the Prime Minister himself to show that those promises were made. There was the one at Stevenage on 16th September, 1964, when he said: We shall cheapen the cost of housing by our interest rate policy. There was the famous one, which has been quoted more than once in this debate, his statement at Bradford on 27th March, 1966, that Starting from last year's total"— It was 1965 to which he referred— of 380,000 houses and flats, we shall go on year by year exceeding this total"— Incidentally, that itself was a broken promise— 'and reaching by 1970 no less than 500,000 new dwellings. This is not a lightly given promise. It is a pledge. It cannot be denied that those promises were made, and I do not think it is denied. They brought hope to many homeless families. Neither can it be denied that the promises have been broken. On numbers the 500,000 target was publicly abandoned by the Government in 1968 and it cannot possibly be achieved even by a change of policy in 1970.

The cost of new houses has increased between 1964 and the present time by three-tenths, so that the normal sort of house, costing £3,500 in 1964, would cost £5,000 now. Mortgage rates have risen from 6 per cent. in October, 1964, to 8½ per cent. officially in 1969–70, but many who seek mortgages will find that some societies charge an even higher rate. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Aston (Mr. Julius Silverman) suggested that this was all outside Government control, a sort of act of God, or an act of the gnomes of Zurich, but in this country we rely on foreign investments, and interest rates depend on confidence, or lack of confidence, which foreign investors have in the Government in office in this country.

The promises were made; the promises were broken. All that we are debating today are the miscellaneous excuses made by the Government for their breach of faith with the electorate. A few strange excuses have been put forward by the Minister. He said that we are only doing as badly as the United States—which is not much comfort to those in West Ham, North.

Mr. Greenwood

I said "were not".

Mr. Page

We were not doing as badly as in the United States.

The right hon. Gentleman then put forward that for the first time more than half the population are living in houses which they own, but has he seen the statement today from the building societies that last year 27,000 fewer new houses were bought, 27,000 fewer than in 1968, and of old houses, 9,000 fewer? Although owner-occupation has been mounting over the past years, this is the trend during 1969 under a Labour Government—a drop in owner-occupation.

Then the Minister pointed to what is happening under the Leasehold Reform Act, as did the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. Probert). Selling a leasehold house to a sitting tenant does not increase the number of houses. Of course, the house can be sold cheaper if it is sold only at the price of the plot on which it is built. If the Government claim that as an achievement in housing, it falls rather short of what the public expect of them.

Then the Minister said that the Government had been encouraging housing associations. I notice that he refrained from mentioning housing societies. The hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Roebuck) read out a paragraph from Yesterday's Evening News about mortgage hopes. The hon. Gentleman failed to read to the House the headline of the adjoining article: Homes chief attacks complacent Minister. The article says: Lord Strathcona, chairman of the committee which liaises with the Government-sponsored Housing Corporation, said today: 'The whole housing society organisation is likely to dry up unless the Government pump in funds to save the situation…I think the public should know that hardly any starts were made in 1969. Unless the Government increases funds for the Housing Corporation, the number of starts in 1970 and 1971 are going to be almost non-existent.' That is the sort of help which the Government have given to housing societies and the housing society movement. The Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer have clamped down on the movement, have stopped it from expanding by refusing funds to the Housing Corporation.

The Minister's fourth excuse was that the Government were concentrating on the great impetus to house improvement, to modernisation and to repairing under the Housing Act, 1969. This Act merely caught up with 1964 in the amount of improvement and standard grants, the value of money having dropped during that period. That money, as was proclaimed on the front of the Housing Bill, is to come out of the general expenditure on new houses in the public sector.

Those were the excuses advanced by the Minister. A most ingenious excuse was advanced by the Joint Parliamentary Secretary, on the Second Reading of the Consolidated Fund Bill.

Mr. Freeson

I thought that made the hon. Gentleman angry.

Mr. Page

It did. It made me very angry that there could be such a Government in office, putting forward such excuses. In future, we are not to call this pledge—this not lightly given promise—a pledge. It is merely a standard set by the Labour Party. The hon. Gentleman said, "In so far as we have fallen short, we have fallen short of the standards set by ourselves".

Mr. Freeson

Yes, not by the Tories.

Mr. Page

We did not set the standards. It was the Labour Party that put them before the country and that sought to win votes on them. The Parliamentary Secretary was implying that it does not matter if a Government do not come up to a self-set standard. Does it not? Of course it does if that was held in front of the people as a promise by which to catch their votes.

The Amendment lists the official excuses. We are told, first, that more houses were built in five years of Labour Government than in the last five years of the previous Conservative Government. I want to examine that claim. The Conservative record from 1952–64 was an average of 327,000 houses a year—well over the 300,000 figure. During the last five years it was an average of 314,000 a year. [Interruption.] I am taking the average for the period. The hon. Gentleman went wrong in the figures he gave in the debate last week and he has had to admit it.

The Minister accused the Conservative Government of not building that many. Does he know that his Leader has complained about our having done so? This is what the Prime Minister has said: The Tory achievement of building well over 300,000 houses per annum was electorally popular and socially desirable, but it placed a great strain on our economic resources. Now does the Minister say that we did not keep our promises?

About 1962 it became evident that the country could spend more resources on house building. The Conservative Government produced their White Paper of 1963 setting out a new 10-year plan. The first results of that 1963 White Paper were seen in 1964—373,576 houses. For the benefit of the hon. Member for Aberdare, the figure for Wales for that year was 19,000, which the Government have improved on by only 1,000 each year since. So the hon. Gentleman cannot claim a very great achievement by the Government in respect of Wales.

This plan was in gear when the Labour Government took office. They drove it rather slowly for the first two years. They quickened a little for the next two years. In 1969, they seem to have broken down altogether. In 1969, there is an 11 per cent. or 12 per cent. drop on the 1968 figure. From the drop in starts and the drop in houses under construction it is obvious that there will be a greater percentage drop in 1970 and not the Minister's forecast of some increase in 1970. It is practically impossible for there to be an increase, in view of the figures of starts which even this month have decreased by 6,000—25 per cent. down on January, 1968.

If this disastrous Government remain in office until the end of 1970, instead of being able to record that after six years of toil and economic strife their election promises have been redeemed, they will have to admit that during those six years the number of new homes built has averaged less than the figure in the year when they took office. That is supposed to be the achievement of this Government in housing—and this after all their grandiose promises.

Now we are asked to approve the Government's slum clearance programme. Between 1955 and 1964, under the plan operated by the Conservative Government, we dealt with over 600,000 slum dwellings and rehoused 1¾ million people. When the White Paper set the new plan in 1963, slum clearance was well under way and the Labour Government had the advantage of taking over a running machine which they have to a great extent let run down ever since. The trouble now is that there are too many cleared sites in the country which it is too expensive to develop in the present economic situation created by this Government.

The further excuse which comes up again and again, not only from the Government Front Bench, but also from the Government back benches, is that Conservative councils have deliberately, and for political reasons, encouraged by the Opposition, cut down house building. The hon. Member for Harrow, East went so far as to say that a directive had been sent out from Conservative Central Office to this effect.

Mr. Roebuck

A diktat.

Mr. Page

The hon. Gentleman said "a directive".

Mr. Roebuck

I said "a diktat".

Mr. Page

I do not mind which it is. It means the same thing, I suppose. I am sufficiently naive to believe in the first instance what is said in the House, so I had inquiries made and I give now from those inquiries a categorical denial that any such diktat has been sent out from Conservative Central Office.

Hon. Members


Mr. Page

Do not ask the hon. Member to withdraw. It will only waste time.

This criticism of local authorities is like taking away a man's braces and, when his trousers fall down round his ankles, jeering at him when he cannot run. The Government have taken away the power of local authorities to carry out this building programme.

The Minister said that our Motion was a Motion of censure on the Government's economic policy. I agree entirely, having in mind, in particular, the way their economic policy affects local authorities. The Parliamentary Secretary said in the debate on the Consolidated Fund Bill that he was personally involved in visiting local authorities to try to persuade them on their housing programmes. I want to know—perhaps the Secretary of State will tell us—what the Parliamentary Secretary has been saying to local authorities. He was invited by his hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Winnick) to say whether he would go any further than persuading. He said that he would deal with that, and later he said: We are investigating possibilities, including that of establishing a public agency to deal with the provision of housing and urban renewal services…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th January, 1970; Vol. 794, c. 1320.] A public agency? Does this mean a second Land Commission? What is it but a nationalised building corporation? Is this second Land Commission to take over property in local authority areas, and is the Parliamentary Secretary bullying local authorities with the threat that a Land Commission Mark II will be put into their districts?

From a debate on this subject now, in the early part of 1970, and the making public of the inescapable forecast one has to make for 1970 in housing, people will realise that the Government have not merely had a failure in housing but they have not learned the lesson from that failure. They are moving into another period of failure, and worse failure, in 1970.

I am sure that from this debate the House has learned that the sooner we start implementing the ten constructive points put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker), the better it will be for the country. The country will have learned from the debate that the time has come for the Government to go before they do any further damage to the housing of the families of our land.

6.45 p.m.

The Secretary of State for Local Government and Regional Planning (Mr. Anthony Crosland)

No one can take part in a housing debate in any mood or spirit of complacency. This afternoon's debate has, perhaps, not been wholly without a tinge of electioneering, but we all know that beneath the rhetoric and the figures which we swap across the Floor lies one of our most urgent and serious social problems. A number of speeches from both sides have described the problem in eloquent terms.

It is because the problem is so serious that the figures for 1969 come as a disappointment to everybody. Having broken the barrier of 400,000 houses for two years in a row, we naturally wanted to do the same or better in 1969.

The first matter to examine is why we had a slow-down in 1969. First, in the public sector some part of the slow-down was undoubtedly due to the high cost of raising money to finance construction. I shall return to that point in a moment. There were other factors, referred to in other speeches. On top of all those factors a number of priority authorities in areas with special problems of obsolescence and overcrowding were seen to be slackening off their efforts more than the Minister thought they should.

The Opposition show two totally contradictory attitudes on this subject. In the debate on the Address, when the Minister of Housing commented on the poor performance of certain Tory authorities, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker) became indignant. He bandied about a mass of Figures to show how well those authorities had done and how they had done better, he claimed, than the Socialist authorities. The same suggestions have been made this afternoon, for example, during the exchanges relating to Harrow.

The hon. Member for Worcester got the point wrong, since his figures were concerned with starts and completions whereas my right hon. Friend the Minister was concerned with the evidence of future intentions of authorities—how many houses they had put or contemplated putting to contract.

It is a serious situation where six London housing authorities all of them with serious housing problems, have put fewer than 100 dwellings out to tender in 1969. Indeed, four of those authorities did not put one dwelling out to tender in 1969. The performance of those authorities hardly seems to reflect the sense of urgency which the hon. Gentleman was this afternoon pressing on the Government. That sort of attitude is an inevitable consequence of the hon. Gentleman's policy. If Tory authorities really had done so well and had done much better, as he claimed, than the Socialist authorities, they must have totally ignored the advice he gave them.

Quotations have been made this afternoon, but they need to be repeated. In a speech in Manchester, in June, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Worcester said: I hope that the Conservative councils will take great care to resist the temptation to go on building council houses for all sorts of seemingly good purposes". In the light of the hon. Gentleman's proud claim that Conservative councils were doing better than Socialist councils this sentence reads particularly oddly: New Conservative housing chairman have a great tendency to prove to the Socialists that they can build even more council houses than their predecessors… In the same speech on the Address, in which he defended the building performance of Tory authorities and compared it favourably with the building performance of Labour authorities, he said: My theme is that the future will not be one in which councils are endeavouring to show that they are building an increasing number of council houses. That is a very odd theme for an hon. Member who is complaining in this debate of the decline in building in 1969.

The fact is that, despite the terms of the Motion, Tory policy for the public sector is to build fewer council houses and moreover to sell off part of the existing stock, which might otherwise be used to house the homeless. It has not been denied by anybody who has taken part in this debate that the major reason for the decline in house building in 1969 —particularly in the private sector, where the decline has been greatest—has been the shortage of credit and high interest rates. What we must ask ourselves is what these factors are due to and whether they could be miraculously reversed by our adopting Tory policy. They are due, first, and the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) slurred over this, to the pull of world interest rates generally.

As my right hon. Friend has already pointed out, a high Bank Rate is not unique to Britain. Almost every other major industrial country has a Bank Rate or a discount rate roughly comparable to our own. I shall not quote the figures, because they have already been quoted. The Opposition totally refuses to face that problem. When I was at the Board of Trade they were constantly urging the Chancellor of the Exchequer and myself to relax control on capital movements, to free foreign investment and to pay tribute, which I have often done with great pleasure, to the invisible earnings of the City of London.

But they cannot at the same time suggest that we can contract out of world capital markets, isolate our own monetary system, and reduce our own Bank Rate unilaterally. The two approaches are totally inconsistent. When I say that they "cannot" suggest that, that is not quite right. What they do in practice is slyly to hint that they will bring down interest rates, but they never explicitly say that that they will do it, because they know very well that, in practice, they could not.

The second reason for the decline in 1969, also referred to in several of the speeches today, has been the need to convert a balance of payments deficit of £800 million into a surplus. This the Government have done. We now have a surplus running at a rate of over £500 million a year. In fact, we have the strongest balance of payments which this country has had for a generation. We have achieved this by switching, as my right hon. Friend said, about 3 per cent. of our national resources, of our gross national product, into exports—and now some more, I am glad to say, into rising manufacturing investment.

Captain Elliot rose

Mr. Crosland

No; I have only about 15 minutes.

But these resources have to come from some other forms of spending, and that is why we have had high interest rates, harsh Budgets and a general squeeze on private spending, including private spending on housing.

There is one way out of this dilemma, the way which the Tory Party took in the one year to which we are always referred, the one good year of 1964. In 1964, there was a sudden large increase, an increase of 25 per cent., in a house building programme which had been stagnant for the previous eight years. The Tories achieved in 1964, though in no other year, a figure of house completions marginally higher than our figure for last year though still lower than the figure for all the other years of Labour Government.

But 1964 had two other characteristics. It was an election year, and it produced a balance of payments deficit of £800 million. In other words, that one Tory housing programme, which has been referred to again and again today, the only programme which even approached the Labour performance, was not only an electioneering programme but it was financed out of a balance of payments deficit. In other words, it was financed by foreign borrowing. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I repeat: it was financed by foreign borrowing. Urgent though the housing problem was in 1964, as it is today, it is not a problem to be solved by reckless irresponsibility of that kind.

Apart from that one single year, when the Tories behaved rather like young Mr. Brody, showering cheques on all and sundry, which the banks refused to cash, the Tory record on housing had been abysmal. Everything that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary said about it the other night is absolutely correct. I have the figures here. The hon. Member for Worcester bandied figures about. If he wants it, his nose must be rubbed in his own Government's record.

After the brief Macmillan spurt in the early 1950s—and even in those years the Tories never achieved a housing programme comparable with what we have achieved in every year of Labour government—the Tory Government markedly lost interest in housing and grew weary of well-doing. During six of their 13 years they built fewer houses than they had built the year before—so they certainly will not be unfamiliar with the problem which they are discussing this evening. They achieved a peak figure of completions in 1954 of 348,000, and not once in the 10 years thereafter, until the election year of 1964, did they achieve as high a figure. In 1963, they built fewer houses than they did 10 years previously. In the light of that record, how they have the audacity to put down this Motion passes comprehension.

The Labour Government's record is incomparably better. As my right hon. Friend said, over 2 million houses have been built since October, 1964, a greater number than in any previous five-year period, and more than 25 per cent. above the number built during the last five years of Tory rule. The increase extends over the public sector and the private sector; it applies to starts as well as completions, and, in addition, there has been a marked improvement, as several hon. Members have said, in the standard and quality of the houses built.

Moreover, the number of houses built is not the only measure of progress. We now make available to local authorities mere generous subsidies than any previously paid. We have introduced more generous grants for improvement, even though the Leader of the Opposition does not seem to have noticed it. We have established an option mortgage scheme, and improved its terms by an Order taking effect at the beginning of this month. It is curious that, with all their professed devotion to home ownership, it never occurred to hon. Members opposite actually to help the lower-paid, would-be home owner in this way.

We have given leaseholders the right to buy the freehold of their houses, which has enabled thousands of people, including a good many in my constituency, to feel much more secure in their own homes. We have given much greater protection to private tenants and have kept council rents to a reasonable level by stopping excessive increases. We are now stepping up again the slum clearance campaign.

Perhaps it is not surprising that hon. Members opposite have had little to say on these matters in the debate, but have confined themselves to gloating over the 1969 figures alone—although, as I said, they would have been happy to settle for the 1969 figure in any of their 13 years of office save, characteristically, the election year 1964.

Despite the achievements, which are considerable, no one on this Front Bench is satisfied with the existing level of activity. We want to see, and we must see, further increases in the rate of new construction, in the rate of improvements, and in the rate of slum clearance. The present position does not satisfy any of my colleagues or myself, and we have noted with care the several suggestions made during the debate for what might be done.

However, while we are not satisfied with our performance and want to improve it, we are only too satisfied to present our performance to the electorate and to contrast it with what the Tories did when in office and what they would be likely to do in the improbable event of their being elected.

It is abundantly plain that the problem will not be solved by a party which built fewer houses in 1963 than in 1953. It will not be solved by a party whose extremists share the view of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) that "there ought not to be a housing policy." It will not be solved by a party whose Leader talks wildly of fair rents for council houses without telling us what sort of increase for most rents this would entail—30 per cent., 50 per cent., 70 per cent.—we have no idea what is meant by the phrase "fair rents".

The problem will not be solved by a party which pledges itself at the same time to do more for housing—a lot of suggestions for more public money on housing have been made today—more for education, more for the Health Service, and defence forces east of Suez —all combined with lower taxation. It will not be solved by a party whose sudden discovery of the virtue of compassion, and whose sudden discovery of the problems of the old and the homeless is received in the country with a mixture of derision and nausea.

I have no hesitation in commending to the House the carefully worded Amendment—

Mr. Victor Goodhew (St. Albans)

Very carefully worded.

Mr. Crosland

—with its wholly accurate account of Labour achievements in this matter, and in asking the House to reject the utterly hypocritical Opposition Motion.

Question put, That the Amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 273, Noes 224.

Division No. 54.] AYES [7.0 p.m.
Abse, Leo Fletcher, Rt. Hn. Sir Eric(Islington,E.) McKay, Mrs. Margaret
Albu, Austen Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston) Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Mackie, John
Alldritt, Walter Foley, 'Maurice Mackintosh, John P.
Allen, Scholefield Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale) Maclennan, Robert
Archer, Peter (R'wley Regis & Tipt'n) Forrester, John McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)
Armstrong, Ernest Fowler, Gerry McNamara, J. Kevin
Ashley, Jack Fraser, John (Norwood) MacPherson, Malcolm
Ashton, Joe (Bassetlaw) Freeson, Reginald Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)
Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.) Galpern, Sir Myer Manuel, Archie
Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham) Gardner, Tony Mapp, Charles
Bacon, Rt. Hn. Alice Garrett, W. E. Marks, Kenneth
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Ginsburg, David Marquand, David
Barnes, Michael Golding, john Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard
Barnett, Joel Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C. Maxwell, Robert
Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton) Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth) Mayhew, Christopher
Bidwell, Sydney Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert
Binns, John Gregory, Arnold Mendelson, John
Bishop, E. S. Grey, Charles (Durham) Mikardo, Ian
Millan, Bruce
Blackburn, F. Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside) Milne, Edward (Blyth)
Blenkinsop, Arthur Griffiths, Wilt (Exchange) Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)
Boardman, H. (Leigh) Guntcr, Rt. Hn. R. J. Molloy, William
Booth, Albert Hamilton, William (Fife, W.) Moonman, Eric
Boston, Terence Hamling, William Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)
Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur Hannan, William Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)
Boyden, James Harper, Joseph Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)
Bradley, Tom Harrison, Waiter (Wakefield) Morris, John (Aberavon)
Bray, Dr. Jeremy Haseidine, Norman Moyle, Roland
Brooks, Edwin Hazell, Bert Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Broughton, Sir Alfred Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis Neal, Harold
Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Bclper) Henig, Stanley Newens, Stan
Brown,Bob(N'c'tle.upon-Tyne,W.) Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret Norwood, Christopher
Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury) Hilton, W. S. Oakes, Gordon
Buchan, Norman Hobden, Dennis Ogden, Eric
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn) Hoolcy, Frank O'Halloran, Michael
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, G.) Horner, John O'Malley, Brian
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Oram, Albert E.
Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.) Orme, Stanley
Cant, R. B. Howell, Denis (Small Heath) Oswald, Thomas
Carmichael, Neil Huckfield, Leslie Padley, Walter
Concannon,J. D. Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey) Page, Derek (King's Lynn)
Conlan, Bernard Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Paget, R. T.
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Hughes, Roy (Newport) Palmer, Arthur
Crawshaw, Richard Hunter, Adam Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles
Cronin, John Hynd, John Parker, John (Dagenham)
Crosland. Rt. Hn. Anthony Irvine, Sir Arthur (Edge Hill) Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)
Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak) Pavitt, Laurence
Dalyell, Tarn Janner, Sir Barnett Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)
Darling, Rt. Hn. George Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred
Davidson, Arthur (Accrington) Jeger, George (Goole) Pentlancl, Norman
Davies, E. Hudson (Conway) Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)
Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford) Jones, Dan (Burnley) Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg.
Davies, Rt. Hn. Harold (Leek) Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W.Ham,S.) Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Price, Thomas (Westhoughton)
Delargy, Hn. John Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West) Price, William (Rugby)
Dell, Edmund Judd, Frank Probert, Arthur
Dewar, Donald Kelley, Richard Pursey, Cmdr. Harry
Diamond, Rt. Hn. John Kenyon, Clifford Randall, Harry
Dickens, James Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham) Rankin, John
Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central) Rees, Merlyn
Dobson, Ray Kerr, Russell (Feltham) Richard, Ivor
Doig peter Lawson, George Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Driberg, Tom Leadbitter, Ted Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy
Dunn, James A. Ledger, Ron Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.)
Dunnett, Jack Lee, John (Reading) Robertson, John (Paisley)
Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter) Lestor, Miss Joan Robinson, Rt.Hn. Kenneth(St.P'c'as)
Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e) Lever, Rt. Hn. Harold (Cheetham) Roebuck, Roy
Eadie, Alex Llpton, Marcus Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)
Edelman, Maurice Lomas, Kenneth Ross, Rt. Hn. William
Edwards, William (Merioneth) Loughlin, Charles Ryan, John
Ellis, John Luard, Evan Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)
English, Michael Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Sheldon, Robert
Ennals, David McBride, Neil Shinwel:, Rt. Hn. E.
Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.) McCann, John Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)
Evans, Fred (Caerphilly) MacColl, James Short, Mrs. Renee(W'hampton,N.E.)
Faulds, Andrew Macdonald, A. H. Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
Fernyhough, E. McElhone, Frank Silverman, Julius
Fitch, Alan (Wigan) McGuire, Michael Skeffingron, Arthur
Small, William Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley) Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)
Snow, Julian Walker, Harold (Doncaster) Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)
Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.) Wallace, George Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
Storehouse, Rt. Hn., John Watkins, David (Consett) Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R. Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor) Willis, Rt. Hn. George
Swain, Thomas Weitzman, David Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Taverne, Dick Wellbeloved, James Winnick, David
Thomas, Rt, Hn. George Wells, William (Walsall, N.) Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.
Thornton, Ernest Whitaker, Ben Woof, Robert
Tinn, James White, Mrs. Eirene
Tornney, Frank Whitlock, William TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Tuck, Raphael Wilkins, W. A. Mr. Ioan L. Evans and
Urwin, T. W. Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.) Mr. James Hamilton.
Varley, Eric G.
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Farr, John McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)
Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian Fisher, Nigel Maddan, Martin
Archer, Jeffrey (Louth) Fortescue, Tim Maginnis, John E.
Astor, John Foster, Sir John Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest
Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n) Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone) Marten, Neil
Awdry, Daniel Fry, Peter Maude, Angus
Baker, Kenneth (Acton) Galbraith, Hn. T. G. Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald
Balniel, Lord Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.) Mawby, Ray
Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony Glover, Sir Douglas Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.
Batsford, Brian Glyn, Sir Richard Mills, Peter (Torrington)
Bell, Ronald Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B. Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos. & Fhm) Goodhew, Victor Miscampbell, Norman
Berry, Hn. Anthony Gower, Raymond Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)
Bessell, Peter Grant, Anthony Monro, Hector
Biffen, John Grant-Ferris, Sir Robert Montgomery, Fergus
Biggs-Davison, John Grimond, Rt. Hn. J. Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)
Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel Gurden, Harold Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm.
Black, Sir Cyril Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Morrison, Charles (Devizes)
Blaker, Peter Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles
Body, Richard Harris, Reader (Heston) Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh
Bossom, Sir Clive Harrison, Brian (Maldon) Neave, Airey
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere Nicholls, Sir Harmar
Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward Harvie Anderson, Miss Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael
Braine, Bernard Hastings, Stephen Nott, John
Brewis, John Hawkins, Paul Onslow, Cranley
Brinton, Sir Tatton Hay, John Orr, Capt. L. P. s.
Bromley-Davcnnort,Lt. -Col. Sir Walter Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel Page, Graham (Crosby)
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward Page, John (Harrow, w.)
Bruce-Gardyne, J. Heseltine, Michael Pardoe, John
Bryan Paul Higgins, Terence L. pike, Miss Mervyn
Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N&M) Hiley, Joseph pink, R Bonner
Bullus, Sir Eric Hill, J. E. B.
Burden, F. A. Hirst, Geoffrey Pounder, Rafton
Campbell, B. (Oldham, w.) Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch
Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn) Holland, Philip Price. David (Eastleigh)
Carlisle, Mark Hooson, Emlyn Pym, Francis
Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert Hordern, Peter Quennell Miss J M
Channon, H. P. G. Howell, David (Guildford) Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter
Chataway, Christopher Hutchison, Michael Clark Rees-Davies, W. R.
Clark, Henry Iremonger, T. L. Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David
Clegg, Waller Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Rhys Williams Sir Brandon
Cooke, Robert Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford) Ridley, Hn. Nicholas
Cooper-Key, Sir Neill Jennings, J. C. (Burton) Ridsdale, Julian
Cordle, John Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grlnstead) Rippon, Rt. Hn, Geoffrey
Corfield, F. V. Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.) Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Costain, A. P. Jopling, Michael Royle, Anthony
Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne) Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith Russell, Sir Ronald
Crouch, David Kaberry, Sir Donald Scott, Nicholas
Crowder, F. P. Kershaw, Anthony Scott-Hopkins, James
Cunningham, Sir Knox Kimball, Marcus Sharpies, Richard
Currie, G. It. H. Kitson, Timothy Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)
Dalkeith, Earl of Knight, Mrs. Jill Silvester, Frederick
Lambton, Viscount
Dance, James Lancaster, Col. C. G. Sinclair, Sir George
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Lane, David Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)
Dean, Paul Langford-Holt, Sir John Smith, John (London & W'minster)
Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford) Lawler, Wallace Speed, Keith
Dodds-Parker, Douglas Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Stalnton, Keith
Doughty, Charles Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral) Stodart, Anthony
Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec Longden, Gilbert Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.
Drayson, G. B. Lubbock, Eric Summers, Sir Spencer
du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward McAdden, Sir Stephen Tapsell, Peter
Eden, Sir John MacArthur, Ian Taylor Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Maclean, Sir Fitzroy Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow,cathcart)
Emery, Peter Macleod, Rt. Hn. lain Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)
Errington, Sir Eric McMaster, Stanley Temple, John M.
Ewing, Mrs. Winifred Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham) Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy
Eyre, Reginald McNalr-Wilson, Michael Tilney, John
Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H. Weatherill, Bernard Worsley, Marcus
van Straubenzee, W. R. Wells, John (Maidstone) Wright, Esmond
Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William Wylie, N. R.
Waddington, David Wiggin, A. W. Younger, Hn. George
Walker, Peter (Worcester) Williams, Donald (Dudley)
Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Wall, Patrick Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard Mr. R. W. Elliott and
Ward, Christopher (Swindon) Woodnutt, Mark Mr. Jasper More.
Ward, Dame Irene

Main Question, as amended, put:—

The House divided: Ayes 273, Noes 222.

Division No. 55.] AYES [7.11 p.m.
Abse, Leo Eadie, Alex Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West)
Albu, Austen Edelman, Maurice Judd, Frank
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Edwards, William (Merioneth) Kelley, Richard
Alldritt, Walter Ellis, John Kenyon, Clifford
Allen. Scholefield English, Michael Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)
Archer, Peter (R'wley Regis & Tipt'n) Ennals, David Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)
Armstrong, Ernest Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.) Kerr, Russell (Feltham)
Ashley, Jack Evans, Fred (Caerphilly) Lawson, George
Ashton, Joe (Bassetlaw) Faulds, Andrew Leadbitter, Ted
Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.) Femyhough, E. Ledger, Ron
Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham) Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Lee, John (Reading)
Bacon, Rt. Hn. Alice Fletcher, Rt. Hn. Sir Eric (lslington,E.) Lestor, Miss Joan
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston) Lever, Rt. Hn. Harold (Cheetham)
Barnes, Michael Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Lipton, Marcus
Barnett, Joel Foley, Maurlce Lomas, Kenneth
Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton) Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale) Loughlin, Charles
Bidwell, Sydney Forrester, John Luard, Evan
Binns, John Fowler, Gerry Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson
Bishop, E. S. Fraser, John (Norwood) McBride, Neil
Blackburn, F. Freeson, Reginald MoCann, John
Blenkinsop, Arthur Galpern, Sir Myer MacColl, James
Boardman, H. (Leigh) Gardner, Tony Macdonald, A. H.
Booth, Albert Garrett, W. E. McElhone, Frank
Boston, Terence Ginsburg, David McGuire, Michael
Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur Golding, John McKay, Mrs. Margaret
Boyden, James Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C. Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)
Bradley, Tom Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth) Mackie, John
Bray, Dr. Jeremy Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony Mackintosh, John P.
Brooks, Edwin Gregory, Arnold Maclennan, Robert
Broughton, Sir Alfred Grey, Charles (Durham) McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)
Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper) Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside) McNamara, J. Kevin
Brown, Bob(N'c'tle-upon.Tyne,W.) Griffiths, Will (Exchange) MacPherson, Malcolm
Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury) Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J. Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)
Buchan, Norman Hamilton, James (Bothwefl) Manuel, Archie
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn) Hamilton, William (Fife, W.) Mapp, Charles
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Hannan, William Marks, Kenneth
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Harper, Joseph Marquand, David
Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard
Cant, R. B. Haseldine, Norman Maxwell, Robert
Carmichael, Neil Hazell, Bert Mayhew, Christopher
Concannon, J. D. Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert
Conlan, Bernard Henig, Stanley Mendelson, John
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret Mikardo, Ian
Crawshaw, Richard Hilton, W. S. Millan, Bruce
Cronin, John Hobden, Dennis Milne, Edward (Blyth)
Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony Hooley, Frank Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)
Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard Horner, John Molloy, William
Dalyell, Tarn Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Moonman, Erie
Darling, Rt. Hn. George Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.) Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)
Davidson, Arthur (Accrington) Howell, Denis (Small Heath) Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)
Davies, E. Hudson (Conway) Huckfteld, Leslie Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Hughes Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey) Morris, John (Aberavon)
Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford) Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Moyle, Roland
Davies, Rt. Hn. Harold (Leek) Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Davies, Ifor (Gowor) Hughes, Roy (Newport) Neal, Harold
Delargy, H. J. Hunter, Adam Newens, Stan
Dell, Edmund Hynd, John Norwood, Christopher
Dewar, Donald Irvine, Sir Arthur (Edge Hill) Oakes, Gordon
Diamond, Rt. Hn. John Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak) Ogden, Eric
Dickens, James Janner, Sir Barnett O'Halloran, Michael
Dobson, Ray Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas O'Malley, Brian
Doig, Peter Jeger, George (Goote) Oram, Albert E.
Driberg, Tom Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Orme, Stanley
Dunn, James A. Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) Oswald, Thomas
Dunnett, Jack Jones, Dan (Burnley) Padley, Walter
Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter) Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W.Ham,S.) Page, Derek (King's Lynn)
Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e) Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Paget, R. T.
Palmer, Arthur Rogers, George (Kensington, N.) Walker, Harold (Doncaater)
Panned, Rt. Hn. Charles Ross, Rt. Hn. William Wallace, George
Parker, John (Dagenham) Ryan, John Watkins, David (Consett)
Parkyn, Brian (Bedford) Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.) Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)
Pavitt, Laurence Sheldon, Robert Weitzman, David
Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd) Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E. Wellbeloved, James
Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney) Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Pentland, Norman Short, Mrs. Renùe(W'hampton,N.E.) Whitaker, Ben
Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.) Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford) White, Mrs. Eirene
Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.) Silverman, Julius Whitlock, William
Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg. Skeffington, Arthur Wilkins, W. A.
Price, Christopher (Perry Barr) Smalt, William Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Price, Thomas (Westhoughton) Snow, Julian Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)
Price, William (Rugby) Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.) Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)
Probert, Arthur Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
Pursey, Cmdr. Harry Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R. Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Randall, Harry Swain, Thomas Willis, Rt. Hn. George
Rankin, John Taverns, Dick Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Rees, Meriyn Thomas, Rt. Hn. George Winnick, David
Richard, Ivor Thornton, Ernest Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.
Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Tinn, James Woof, Robert
Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy Tomney, Frank
Roberts, Gwklym (Bedfordshire, S.) Tuck, Raphael TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Robertson, John (Paisley) Urwin, T. W. Mr. Ioan L. Evans and
Robinson, Rt. Hn. Kenntth (St.P'c'as) Varley, Eric G. Mr. William Hamling.
Roebuck, Roy Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)
Alison, Michael (Barkaton Ash) Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford) Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)
Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian Dodds-Parker, Douglas Jopling, Michael
Archer, Jeffrey (Louth) Doughty, Charles Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith
Astor, John Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec Kaberry, Sir Donald
Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n) Drayson, G. B. Kershaw, Anthony
Awdry, Daniel du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward Kimball, Marcus
Baker, Kenneth (Acton) Eden, Sir John Kitson, Timothy
Balniel, Lord Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Knight, Mrs. Jill
Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony Emery, Peter Lambton, Viscount
Batsford, Brian Errington, Sir Eric
Bell, Ronald Eyre, Reginald Lancaster, Col. C. G.
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Cos. & Fhm) Farr, John Lane, David
Berry, Hn Anthony Fisher, Nigel Langford-Holt, Sir John
Bessell, Pester Fortescue, Tim Lawler, Wallace
Biffen, John Foster, Sir John Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)
Biggs-Davison, John Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone) Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral)
Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel Fry, Peter Longden, Gilbert
Black, Sir Cyril Galbraith, Hn. T. G. Lubbock, Eric
Blaker, Peter Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.) McAdden, Sir Stephen
Body, Richard Glover, Sir Douglas MacArthur, Ian
Bossom, Sir Clive Glyn, Sir Richard Maclean, Sir Fitzroy
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B. Macleod, Rt. Hn. lain
Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward Goodhew, Victor McMaster, Stanley
Braine, Bernard Gower, Raymond Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)
Brewis, John Grant, Anthony McNair-Wilson, Michael
Brinton, Sir Tatton Grant-Ferris, Sir Robert McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)
Bromley-Davenport, Lt. -Col. Sir Walter Grimond, Rt. Hn. J. Maddan, Martin
Brown, Sit Edward (Bath) Gurden, Harold Maginnis, John E.
Bruce-Garlyne, J. Hall-Davis, A. C. F. Marpies, Rt. Hn. Ernest
Bryan, Paul Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Marten, Neil
Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus,N&M) Harris, Reader (Heston) Maude, Angus
Bullus, Sir Eric Harrison, Brian (Maldon) Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald
Burden, F A. Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere Mawby, Ray
Campbell, B. (Oldham, W.) Harvie Anderson, Miss Maxwell-Hystop, R. J.
Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn) Hastings, Stephen Mills, Peter (Torrington)
Carlisle, Mark Hawkins, Paul Milts, Stratton (Belfast, N.)
Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert Hay, John Miscampbell, Norman
Channon, H. P. G. Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)
Chataway, Christopher Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward Monro, Hector
Clark, Henry Heseltine, Michael Montgomery, Fergus
Clegg, Walter Higgins, Terence L. Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)
Cooke, Robert Hiley, Joseph Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm.
Cooper-Key, Sir Neill Hirst, Geoffrey Morrison, Charles (Devizes)
Cordle, John Hogg, Rt Hn Quintin Mott-Railclyffe, Sir Charles
Corfield, F. V. Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh
Costain, A. P. Holland, Philip Neave, Airey
Craddook, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne) Hooson, Emlyn Nicholls, Sir Harmar
Crouch, David Hordern, Peter Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael
Crowder, F. P. Howell, David (Guildford) Nott, John
Cunningham, Sir Knox Hutchison, Michael Clark Onslow, Cranley
Currie, G. B. H. Iremonger, T. L. Orr, Capt. L. P. S.
Dalkeith, Earl of Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Page, Graham (Crosby)
Dance, James Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford) Page, John (Harrow, W.)
d' Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Jennings, J. C. (Burton) Pardoe, John
Dean, Paul Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead) Pearson, Sir Frank (Ctitheroe)
Peyton, John Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby) Walker, Peter (Worcester)
Pike, Miss Mervyn Silvester, Frederick Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek
Pink, R. Bonner Sinclair, Sir George Wall, Patrick
Pounder, Rafton Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington) Ward, Christopher (Swindon)
Powell, Rt. Hn, J. Enoch Smith, John (London & W'minster) Ward, Dame Irene
Price, David (Eastleigh) Speed, Keith Weatherill, Bernard
Pym, Francis Stainton, Keith Wells, John (Maidstone)
Quennell, Miss J. M. Stodart, Anthony Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M. Wiggin, A. W.
Rees-Davies, W. R. Summers, Sir Spencer Williams, Donald (Dudley)
Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David Tapsell, Peter Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne) Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard
Ridley, Hn. Nicholas Taylor, Edward M.(G'gow,Cathcart) Woodnutt, Mark
Ridsdale, Julian Taylor, Frank (Moss Side) Worsley, Marcus
Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey Temple, John M. Wright, Esmond
Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey) Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy Wylie, N. R.
Royle, Anthony Tilney, John Younger, Hn. George
Russell, Sir Ronald Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.
Scott, Nicholas van Straubenzee, W. R. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Scott-Hopkins, James Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John Mr. R. W. Elliott and
Sharples, Richard Waddington, David Mr. Jasper More.

Resolved, That this House congratulates Her Majesty's Government upon the fact that the nation's housing achievement in both the public and private sectors since October 1964 has been substantially greater than in the previous comparable period; deplores the efforts of Her Majesty's Opposition to dissuade local authoriies from continuing to meet the problems of obsolescence and overcrowding; notes with approval Her Majesty's Government's record post-war achievement in the field of slum clearance; and welcomes the Government's policy for the improvement and modernisation of older housing.

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