HC Deb 05 May 1970 vol 801 cc184-8
17. Mr. John Wells

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government what is the latest available figure for the number of houses, started, under construction and completed during 1970.

19. Mr. Frank Allaun

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government how many homes were started and finished in the public and private sectors, respectively, in the first three months of 1970 compared with the numbers for the first three months of 1969, 1968 and 1967: and if, in the light of the Budget, he will now consider new measures to increase the numbers of houses started.

Mr. Greenwood

With permission, I will circulate the figures in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

I am confident that the measures announced by me on 18th March and by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Budget statement will greatly benefit the house-building industry.

Mr. Wells

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there has been a marked decline in new housing starts in recent years? Will he take further steps to get the building industry out of its present depression, which looks like continuing for many months?

Mr. Greenwood

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will study the proposals I made on 18th March. Any figure for starts is bound to be disappointing, but this figure is substantially higher than hon. Gentlemen opposite achieved in 1963.

Mr. Allaun

Have the discussions now taken place with the 20 worst offenders among the local authorities cutting their housing programmes? What was the outcome, and will my right hon. Friend now consider taking compulsory measures which are available?

Mr. Greenwood

My hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary and I have completed those discussions. We are now assessing the results, and we hope to draw from them conclusions as to the further steps which can be taken to increase the house-building programme. I am not sure that my hon. Friend's suggestion would have the immediate effect of stimulating house-building, but it is one with which I am very sympathetic.

Mr. Prior

Is it not remarkable, considering all the bravado from the Front Benchħopposite this afternoon, that the Government will build 140,000 fewer houses this year than they promised in their election manifesto?

Mr. Greenwood

This is going over old ground. I expect that the result this

Started Completed
Public Private Total Public Private Total
1st quarter 1967 47,500 59,694 107,194 46,454 42,312 88,766
1st quarter 1968 40,015 50,498 90,513 44,975 52,616 97,591
1st quarter 1969 35,515 35,380 70,895 40,884 42,578 83,462
1st quarter 1970 29,018 29,635 58,653 42,821 37,136 79,957
Under construction Public at 31st March, 1970
Public 232,719
Private 177,981
Total 410,700

18. Mr. Tom Boardman

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government what is his latest estimate of the number of new houses to be started and completed during 1970.

64. Mr. Christopher Ward

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government how many houses he now estimates will be built in 1970.

77. Sir F. Bennett

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government what is his revised estimate now of the number of new dwellings to he built during 1970.

80. Mr. Cordle

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government what estimate he has now made of the number of houses likely to be completed in 1970. year will be very much the same as it was last year, which is much better than in any year under a Tory Government except in 1964.

Mr. Charles Morrison

is not it remarkable that when the Conservatives left office there were 434,000 houses under construction, whereas now there are only 411,000 under construction?

Mr. Greenwood

The only thing which is remarkable about that is that the only successful year in the Conservative period of office was the General Election year of 1964.

Mr. John Lee

Will my right hon. Friend seriously consider the proposal made by my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun), bearing in mind that some local authorities, including Reading Corporation, flatly refuse to start any new houses at all?

Mr. Greenwood

Yes, Sir.

Following are the figures:

Mr. Greenwood

The specific measures which I announced on 18th March coupled with the reductions in Bank Rate and the easing of bank lending will help house building, but the year's performance will depend on how quickly housing authorities, prospective purchasers, and house builders respond.

Mr. Boardman

That reply does not give any estimate of the number of houses which are expected. Surely the Minister has some opinion on that. Will he confirm that the number of houses being built is very substantially less than those built in 1964 under the Conservatives. that there are at least 80,000 fewer starts being made this year—

Mr. John Lee

Tory local authorities.

Mr. Boardman

Yes, and many Tory local authorities have been forced to cut back their housing programme at the specific request of the Minister. How does the Minister reconcile this with the Prime Minister's pledge that a Labour Government would build no fewer than 500,000 houses a year by 1970?

Mr. Greenwood

It is a little early to say what results will be achieved by the proposals announced only six weeks ago. In the meantime, perhaps the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues would like to reflect on why it is that, for example. Thurrock can go ahead with a large house-building programme whereas Kingston-upon-Thames cannot and that Scunthorpe can, while Bradford cannot.

Mr. Simon Mahon

Is my right hon. Friend aware that it is not only the number of houses built that matters but that today more than ever it is the quality of those houses which counts, and that many of us feel we already have too many tower blocks on Merseyside?

Mr. Greenwood

I have a good deal of sympathy with what my hon. Friend has said. What he says about quality is absolutely right. It is no good simply increasing the numbers if that is done at the expense of quality. One of the things the present Government have done is to make Parker Morris standards mandatory since the beginning of last year.

Sir G. Nabarro

Will the right hon. Gentleman refer to the last quarter's figures for starts? At 79,500 starts in the first quarter of this year were the lowest for years past. How does he reconcile that with the record number of bricks lying on the floor—1,100 million?

Mr. Greenwood

The question of starts in the first quarter of the year has been dealt with in answer to a previous Question. I am very happy to repeat that the number started in the first quarter of this year was substantially higher than in the first quarter of 1963.

Mr. John Fraser

Will my right hon. Friend institute a pilot study into some of these problems, particularly at Bexley, which, under the lack of inspiration of Conservative leadership, started no houses at all in 1969, presumably on the basis that everyone is going to live on yachts on the Thames now?

Mr. Greenwood

We are reviewing a number of programmes, or lack of them, of local authorities. I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for pinpointing one authority whose programme, or lack of it, may merit further investigation.