§ 27. Mr. Clinton Davis
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what plans he has for the establishment of a new strategic housing authority for the whole of London, consequent upon the recommendations of the Layfield Report: and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Rippon
As I have said in my statement upon the publication of this 405 report, the Government will wish to consider this proposal over the longer term. However, the upheaval involved, coming so soon after the 1963 reorganisation of London government, might mean that any benefit in the long run would be at the cost of short-term loss of effectiveness.
§ Mr. Clinton Davis
Will the right hon. and learned Gentlemen indicate whether or not he is in favour of outer London boroughs being required to make land available to deal with the stress areas of inner London, such as Hackney? Is he aware that we cannot hope to solve the problems of housing in areas such as this unless we get help from what have hitherto been extremely selfish Tory outer London boroughs?
§ Mr. Rippon
All London boroughs have committed themselves to voluntary co-operation, and I hope that that will continue. I hope that the work of the London Action Group will also be beneficial. As I have explained to the hon. Member previously, local authorities have certain statutory powers to make compulsory purchase orders to acquire land outside their own area. Some of these may from time to time come before me. I shall have to judge them on their merits.
§ Mr. Jessel
Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that we already have a regional housing authority in the form of the Greater London Council, which has recently increased its annual number of lettings from 22,000 to 24,000? Will he remember the very sound advice of the 12th century philosopher, John the Scot, who said, "Do not multiply entities beyond necessity"?
§ Mr. Crosland
Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that few people will think much of the GLC as a strategic housing authority? Is he also aware that no changes of machinery will produce more houses in London as long as the construction industry is incapable of building them? I am sure that the right hon. and learned Gentleman knows that the National Federation of Building Trades Employers has been writing to the chairmen of London housing committees which have a desperate housing shortage saying that nearly all the leading 406 contracting organisations have been forced to adopt a policy of opting out of public authority work, particularly housing, in the London area. In the light of that fact, how does the Secretary of State propose to get more houses built in London?
§ Mr. Rippon
I agree with what the right hon. Gentleman has said about changes of structure. In themselves, they achieve nothing. But the right hon. Gentleman is less than fair, both to the GLC—which has made very considerable progress on housing in the last few years —and to the construction industry. We ought also to recognise that the other London boroughs which have housing responsibilities have also been making a constructive effort. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will lend his support to what they are trying to do to improve the situation further.