HL Deb 13 November 1945 vol 137 cc842-74

Debate resumed.

3.45 p.m.


My Lords, I rise in order to support the Motion moved by the most reverend Prelate. Like him, I rise in no spirit of opposition to His Majesty's Government or of discouragement, because, indeed, they are faced with a problem of the greatest difficulty; but I rise in order to elicit, if I may, a little more information from the Government than we have already had, information on which it will be possible for this House and for the country to form some judgment. Housing was put well in the forefront by all the Parties concerned in the last Election. The Government of which I was a member were extremely cautious in the views which they put forward, but they were definite. We did tell the country that during the first two years after the end of the European war, assuming, as we did at that time, that the Japanese war would go on for another twelve months, with the restrictions on labour that the continuance of such a war would have involved, we undertook to finish building 220,000 houses and to have 80,000 in process of building. I share with the present Minister -the dislike of temporary housing, but, much as we disliked it, we came to the conclusion that that was the only possible solution that we could urgently apply, and we said that we would provide 200,000 of those houses. That was a clear and definite programme.

In another place the Lord Privy Seal said that that programme was "just chicken-feed." He said that at a time when he recognized quite well that we had very little labour, as the most reverend Prelate has pointed out, on which to base our plans. We thought that it was the best estimate that we could make. The question which I think the Government may expect us on this side of the House to put to them is, what are they going to produce? A good deal has been said about whether the land will be available. Let me remind your Lordships that land was owned by local authorities before this Government came into power sufficient for 276,000 houses. In June of last year my right honourable friend Mr. Willink obtained from local authorities a statement that they had sites for 102,089 houses ready at that time for the beginning of building operations. That was the position when this Government took over; and the purpose of my rising to-day is to ask them whether they will tell us what the position is now, because time is marching on. The best months of this year for building have already gone, and any delay which we have had during the last three months has indeed been delay the effect of which will extend over many months.

I propose to confine most of my remarks to questions. The most reverend Prelate pointed out that we decided that with the war in Japan going on we could get together a building force by the end of the first year after VE day of 800,000 men. We were careful to point out that that would mean an average over the year of only 500,000. The question which I should like to put to the noble Viscount who is to reply, is whether he will tell us how many men have been demobilized for the building trade, and how many men they expect will be demobilized during the immediate months to come.

In a speech which Lord Nathan made to your Lordships, I think in the last housing debate—I am very sorry that the noble Lord is not in his place; I am afraid that I did not do him the courtesy of letting him know that I was going to mention him to-day, and for that I apologize—he made a very strong appeal that the Government of the day should make a scientific approach to this problem of housing, that they should ascertain how many man-hours were going to be taken by each sort of house that was going to be erected. I want to remind His Majesty's Government that, if they look in their files, they will find that Lord Portal built at Northolt a series of houses, in respect of which he obtained precise information as to the number of man-hours that would be taken for each type. He also had costings made of those houses, and the cost was approximately £900 each.

Let me make this point: that £900 was the cost of a house erected by a carefully selected body of building operatives, perfectly balanced so that there would be no case of any waiting by any of the operatives for the next job. I mention this because I want to ask His Majesty's Government whether in the demobilizing of building labour now they are seeking to get some balance between the various kinds of building operatives who are being released under the scheme B; whether there is some opportunity for selection. I think that I am not being in any way cantankerous if I say that the rate of demobilization at the present time is slow enough to justify us in saying that in view of the slowness of that process His Majesty's Government may be able to have the time requisite to get some selection. Then I want to ask about all these men in the Forces of whom we have heard, restless, discontented and bored as they are, waiting for demobilization. This waiting is a demoralizing process; is it not possible to bring some of those men to this country and also to find engineering or labour units that are prepared to help, with the consent of the trade unions, in the process of preparing sites for building new houses and the erection of temporary houses and, even, in the general building work?

I would further like to put this question to His Majesty's Government, that Government which was largely returned to power as a result of the trade union vote. Have they got the trade unions behind them on this housing question? Have trade unions agreed—and I hope they have—to waive those restrictive practices which they instituted? On that matter let me say this: I think the unions were right to institute the practices at the time because they were faced with great unemployment problems. It was their protection against unemployment and they have all my sympathy in having done what they did then. But there is no danger of unemployment in the building trade now—unless His Majesty's Government are so slow in getting out the plans that unemployment flows from that. There is no danger of unemploy- ment for many years to come. I ask His Majesty's Government have they got the good will of the trade unions to haster on the process of housing? I beg them not to be too careful as to the rates of wages they pay. It is not rates of wages that matter for economical production, ii is output. Anything the Government can do to get increased output will not only be of great service to the people who are waiting for houses, but it will, in fact, result in economical production. Have His Majesty's Government got the support of the trade union movement? Have they any undertaking, or have they made any arrangements, with a view to increasing output per man per hour?

The noble Lord, the Under-Secretary of State for War, in the speech to which I have already referred, spoke with feeling and with great sympathy for the returning soldiers—those men who are coming back and who will be looking for houses when they come. It has been a matter of great credit to the British Army that, in this war, it has been an all-class Army. The returning soldiers do not belong merely to what are called the lower wage-earning classes. They belong to every class in the community. Most sections of the community are suffering from the housing shortage, except in the case of a very few people indeed who are suffering by reason of the fact that they have very large houses which they cannot possibly afford to keep up under the present rate of taxation. Some of those people who are looking for houses want to be municipal tenants. Most of them want houses to rent, and they will pay their rent with equal reluctance or avidity whether they are paying it to a municipality or to a private landlord—that person to whom the most reverend Prelate referred as a "speculative owner." I hope the most reverend Prelate did not use the term "speculative" as one of opprobrium, but merely as a matter of fact.

Some of those men want houses to buy, and I suggest that there is no reason why even the most paternal Government or the most paternal Minister should discourage people from buying houses. I thought I noticed that the other day the Minister of Health said something about gravestones round peoples' necks. Perhaps he meant millstones, but it comes to the same thing, they weigh about the same, He referred to the sort of people who might be going to building societies to buy houses. Well, that is not the business of the Government. If people want to buy houses at high prices, I suggest that the Government already have so much to do that they need not bother about that issue. They can leave the public to spend what little money is left for them to spend when the Government have finished with them in the ways they choose. Do not let us discourage people from owning houses. I lived, for a very short time of my life, I am glad to say, in one of the industrial towns of Lancashire. It was a matter of enormous pride to all those weavers and spinners in that town that they owned their own houses. They felt better for it, and I rather like an England in which each man can own his own house and in which he should be encouraged to own his own house. Therefore, I beg His Majesty's Government in their zeal for protecting the people of this country, not to dissuade them from this, because it seems to me to be a very proper desire.

We hear so much about the lower wage-earning classes for whom we are to build houses. I suppose that that means the clerks, the black-coated people and the teachers. It certainly does not mean the old industrial classes, because they are now getting a great deal more. They have ceased to be—and I am glad that they have—a lower wage-earning class. Do we need to attack this problem of houses with that sort of class-consciousness? It seems to me improper for a Government to do that. His Majesty's Government are not the Government of a particular class. They are the Government of the whole of the people in this country, and I appeal to them to approach this housing problem from that point of view. Why do not they bring in everybody who can help to solve the problem? There has been a tendency in the speeches which have been made in another place to say that they will bring in the local authorities to build houses and that it must be a local authority job. My Lords, they are the least experienced in the country. House building in the past has not been primarily the business of the local authority, and, as the most reverend Prelate said, there are thousands of builders in this country, small builders, who are perfectly capable of building good houses, some of them in small towns and in rural areas. They are anxious to build houses, and I beg His Majesty's Government to allow them to do so. Let them get on with the problem by using all sorts of people who can build. The problem is big enough, surely, for them to embrace all who are available.

I want to ask His Majesty's Government what they are going to do on the question of subsidies. What subsidy are they going to pay to municipalities? I hope I may have the attention of the Leader of the House who is going to reply because this is surely a very urgent matter. What subsidy is His Majesty's Government going to give to the municipalities? And I also want to ask this question: Is it equitable that in dispensing the money of the State they should say, "We will only give a subsidy "which comes, of course, to mean a reduction in rent—" if you are a person who is a tenant of a building which is owned by a municipality "? Whose money is it that they are spending? It is the money of the whole community, and I claim that a person who is renting a house built by a builder or by a corporation acting as a private body or by speculative builders, is just as much entitled to a subsidy from Government funds as any municipality. I will go further, and say that the man who says, "I want to build a house of prescribed dimensions, not a mansion, which I will occupy myself and for which I will pay rent," has a right to the subsidy too, always providing that he cannot use that subsidy for a commercial transaction and that he cannot subsequently, having got the subsidy, sell the house at a higher price. In the last Government, we were considering—and I think it was a wise scheme—saying that such a person should have a subsidy on condition that the house remained in his own possession. If subsequently he desired to sell it, he could sell it to the local authority at such a depreciated value figure as was warranted by the number of years it had been built.

If I may summarize what I have said, I will say this. My appeal to the Government is not to confine their subsidies only to those for municipalities, but to let the subsidy go to people who are prepared to build houses for rent and to keep them over a prescribed period for rental, and even to let the small man build his own house. I want to ask another question. I want to ask His Majesty's Government what they are doing to ensure that there will be adequate supplies of building materials at reasonable prices. We can understand that building materials must be flowing in an irregular manner because so many of the people making building materials before the war have had their factories taken over for other purposes. I think I heard one of the noble Lords opposite say, "What would you do?" I will tell you, with great pleasure. The course I venture to recommend to the Government is that they should place orders in large quantities in order to get the most economical and regular production of these building materials, and that they should underwrite the possible loss to the firms. They need not take possession. The trade will take these things over because they will be in demand provided always that they are made to specified standards. By that means we can get cheap production and avoid the possibility of a ramp. I recognize, however much I may object to some forms of control, that price controls in the building industry will prevent these goods made in bulk production from reaching excessive prices. I believe that the amount that the Government will stand at risk in underwriting with the manufacturers, the possible loss from the sale of these goods, will be remarkably small. The ordinary trade channels can be maintained on that system.

Now I want to ask the Government what rate of interest they propose to make possible for housing loans. One of the most distinguished members of His Majesty's Government during the course of the Election thought that it would be an appropriate thing to have a housing loan of 2 per cent. for this country. I should like to know at what rate they propose to supply funds to local authorities, or at which funds will be supplied by local authorities. I feel shocked at these stories to which the most reverend Prelate referred, about the very high prices of tenders. The Leader of the House has every reason to know how easy it is, in a period of shortage, for houses or anything else to get completely out of value; but surely this is where the Government can take action. All of us who have had any experience during the war of buying on scarcity markets know that we have not gone to the markets and said: "Would you gentlemen like to has become taciturn and cautious since he tender? The demand is many times more than the possible supply; will you tender?" That is not a businesslike way of dealing with the problem. I invite His Majesty's Government, with the specifications they already have, to come to a conclusion as to the proper price far a house. I invite them to take the responsibility of securing, through demobilization, that builders shall have balanced labour. Then, having determined the proper price of a house in t city, in a smaller town, and in a rural area, to say: "That is the price at which His Majesty's Government are prepared to allow tenders to be accepted." Let them put down the price; their costings system is quite good enough to enable them to do it. Everyone will then know where he is and I believe, with the proper control of labour, they will be able to get houses built at that price. I appeal to them, in addressing the building trade, to bring everybody in, and to have prices for the building of small numbers c f houses, say, four houses, for the building of fifty houses, and for the building of 200 or 300 houses. I think that" is a practical proposition, one to which the building trade would be prepared to respond, and which would settle, once and for all, the question as to whether there is going to be profiteering in build-Profiteering will find no support on this side of the House.

During the last fortnight, I have travelled many hundreds of miles in this country. As I looked out of the railway train, I tried to see where the house s were that were going up. I was going to say I did not see any, but that is not true. I did, with great excitement, see one small building estate going up—it was in a military barracks. During the course of those travels, I saw a large number of people, men who have been working in dispersed factories and who want to come back to their home towns. I talked to railway porters, to men working on the railway, to clerks, and to shop assistants, and all of them said the same thing. The one urgent question in all their minds is: What are the Government going to do about building? I have come here, in support of the Motion put down by the most reverend Prelate, to ask the same question.

Something strange happens to people hen they get into office. Mr. Bevan has become taciturn and cautious since he came into office. He is making no promises now.


Very sensible.


The Election is over. But the country is very disturbed, and I do not want the country to be disturbed about His Majesty's Government. So many urgent problems are facing the country at the present time that this is not a time for Party politics and the making of political speeches. I hope I have not made a partisan speech to-day, but I do beg His Majesty's Government to take the country into their confidence. We should never have got through with the food scarcity if the country had not known just what was happening so that the people felt that they, too, appreciated the position. I hope the Leader of the House will forgive me for using that illustration, but he, himself, has been good enough to use it in the past. I beg the Government to tell us what they are going to do, because there is no sense in having secrecy about this programme. I ask them to tell us what the targets are, and how they are getting on with the targets; what accomplishments they achieve. In conclusion, I beg His Majesty's Government not to make this a sort of class problem, not to be too concerned with their Socialist principles, but to bring everybody in, all sorts of builders, and to build houses for all sorts of people. I am grateful to the most reverend Prelate for having brought the Motion to your Lordships' House.


Before my noble friend Lord Listowel speaks, it has been suggested to me by the noble Viscount the Leader of the Opposition that it may be convenient to the House if, at an appropriate time to-day, this debate should be adjourned and continued to-morrow after the Motion of the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, and the questions on the Paper. We could then continue this debate, which will be adjourned from to-day.

4.17 p.m.


My Lords, I should like, first, on behalf of the Government, to welcome the opportunity provided by the most reverend Prelate to render an account of our stewardship of housing to your Lordships' House. In the beginning, I wish, if I may, to express my personal thanks to the most reverend Prelate for the notice he gave me, in advance, of the main points he intended to raise this afternoon. For many years he has been the principal protagonist of housing reform on the Episcopal Benches, and some of your Lordships will remember, quite vividly, his frequent interventions in housing debates in the years before the war. In those days, the most reverend Prelate and I were allies in the cause of housing, and I hope that alliance may continue, in spite of my change of location in the House and his in the hierarchy of the Church.

I am afraid I can only give the noble Lord, Lord Woolton, an interim reply. Unfortunately, I did not have advance notice of the questions he intended to raise, but I have already noted them, and referred them to the appropriate Departments. I have also asked my noble friend the Leader of the House to deal with them when this debate is resumed to-morrow, if he speaks, and he has consented to do so. There is, however, one question that I am in a position to answer immediately. I hope the noble Lord will be gratified to know that the Government have taken his advice in the matter of placing orders for building materials. My right honourable friend the Minister of Health said in another place last month, that: We have decided to keep in being the Ministry of Supply, and the Ministry of Supply will be used by me to supply housing materials and components. We shall be placing orders through the Ministry of Supply, and the Royal Ordnance Factories which we are retaining will be used, if necessary, to supplement the output of private industry. The most reverend Prelate has asked, among other questions, whether we have a national housing target. If he means us to say how many temporary and permanent houses we expect to finish by a definite date, our answer must be "No." The fulfilment of a building programme, as I am sure noble Lords will agree, depends on an immense variety of factors, human and material, from the local housing authority to the bricklayer and manufacturer, and each of these is a potential bottle-neck. So many uncertain and incalculable quantities render prediction quite impossible. With the best will and intentions in the world, recent Ministers of Health have already come to grief over their estimates for the output of temporary houses. We mean to profit from their misfortunes, and to give no firm undertakings about the future until we are certain they can be carried out to the letter. We ask to be judged by deeds, not by words. This was also the criterion chosen by the noble Lord, Lord Woolton, when he was responsible for the feeding of the nation and, later, for laying the foundations of our post-war reconstruction scheme on which we are now building. The noble Lord rarely gave a promise; he never broke a promise. People trusted him because they were not disappointed at any time during the war years by false hopes, and they soon realized that he was not asking, as others have done, for popularity on the cheap. May I say, in parenthesis, how glad we are to observe the noble Lord's sustained interest in these social problems which he was handling with so much skill as a distinguished member of the late Caretaker and Coalition Governments?

It is surely sound principle, if we want to preserve the standards of our public life, that no Party or Government should promise more than it can with dead certainty perform. The battleground of politics, as I think your Lordships will agree, is littered with unfulfilled election pledges, and one glittering promise has a curious way of begetting another that outshines it. My right honourable friend, the Minister of Health, is offering, in place of this uncertain future target, a series of detailed progress reports, forming a continuous record of actual building achievement, rendered to Parliament at regular intervals. This will be supplemented, as soon as the local authorities are in a position to get on with the job, by the varying building targets we shall ask them to reach in their respective areas. Many of your Lordships will have attended Thanksgiving for Victory Savings Weeks in different parts of the country, and noble Lords will have noticed how it becomes a matter of civic pride to attain the savings target for the week, and of civil rejoicing when that target is outstripped. There is also a healthy desire to beat the figure set for other towns of a similar size and population. We hope local housing targets will appeal in the same way to local patriotism and arouse a keen spirit of emulation among different public authorities.


I hope the noble Lord will forgive me. I think he is helping us very much. Does he propose then to set local housing targets throughout the country?


Precisely, my Lords. The noble Lord has understood exactly what I have intended to convey.


So we can aggregate them and get the national one?


When the time comes the local target will be fixed in relation to the needs and programmes of each housing authority. There is another and different sense in which it would be true to say that we are aiming at a distant but not, as we believe, unattainable national target. In this sense the word "target" is synonymous with long-term housing policy. Our housing policy differs from the policies of preceding Governments, because it starts from a fresh conception of the responsibility of the State for social welfare. Hitherto the housing functions of the Government an I public authorities have been mainly negative—to enforce sanitary and safety bylaws, to clear the slums, to relieve overcrowding and generally to establish minimum conditions below which the con-science and good sense of the community will not allow even the poorest wage earner to sink. Since the Great War of 1914, the minimum standards have risen steadily and the scope of the housing responsibilities of public bodies has been correspondingly enlarged. But even the White Paper of March, 1945, which lay s down the housing policy of the Coalition Government and makes "a separate dwelling for every family "the first objective to be secured, is, if I may say so without any reflection on the noble Lord opposite, still somewhat under the influence of the old anti-slum anti-congestion mentality.

We maintain that the positive responsibility of the State in the field of housing, as in education or in public health, is to create and maintain optimum conditions of life for all its citizens. The terms of the Motion in the most reverend Prelate's name, which refers to health and happiness, suggest that he shares this view. We regard housing as the social service that will enable the low-paid wage-earners to Share these optimum conditions. The negative policy of the past guarantees that no one shall live below a certain minimum standard. The positive policy of the present day guarantees that, in the long run, no one shall live below a socially acceptable modern standard. I believe that public opinion supports us in claiming that the provision of a modern standard of housing for every family, regardless of its means, has now become just as much a State responsibility as the provision of schools or battleships.

Most of the houses standing to-day are working-class houses built in or before the nineteenth century. They were built in days when labour was described as a commodity, or factor in production, differing from land or raw materials only because it needed shelter to keep it fit for work. And so thee drab Victorian dwellings sprang up wherever industry settled, without regard for architectural merit or planned environment, at a time when sunshine, fresh air, baths, indoor sanitation and gardens were regarded as for ever beyond the reach of the toiling multitude. The long-range problem is therefore to replace existing working-class housing by modern flats or cottages to let, at rents the great majority can afford. The middle and higher income groups had their turn between the wars, and it is only fair that they should now take their place at the end of the housing queue.

It follows from this that the main providers must be the local authorities. We welcome private enterprise in its proper place. We hope that it will make a maximum contribution to economic reconstruction at home. We cannot do without it. But experience between the wars has proved conclusively that the private builder can do little or nothing to help the lower-paid wage earners. During the whole of the last interlude of peace, building costs and interest rates never fell sufficiently to enable private enterprise to supply new houses for the poorer working-class families. Private building enterprise is incapable of meeting demand in terms of need, because it is designed to respond to demand in terms of cash. Such, briefly, is the outline of the long-term housing policy we shall endeavour to carry out with broadening effect over a period of years.

The noble Lord, Lord Woolton, asked for more practical information, and I hope we can satisfy that desideratum, for I will now deal in more detail with what we have already done in the last three months. If the House will bear with me while I quote some figures, I shall be able to present what might be regarded as a prelude to the periodic progress reports to which I have already alluded and which will start in the new year. Tenders for 12,595 permanent additional houses in England and Wales and 9,475 in Scotland have been approved by the appropriate Departments by the end of October as compared—and your Lordships must obviously have a standard of comparison by which to judge—with 731 approvals for England and Wales and 5,784 for Scotland at the end of July.


Do you mind repeating the figures for Scotland?


The figures for Scotland are that there are 9,475 tenders for traditional permanent houses as compared with 5,784 at the end of July. The noble Earl knows far better than I do how different conditions are in Scotland. I am not trying to draw any comparison or even to give the full figures for Scotland. I hope he will accept that this is not out of any disrespect to Scotland, but simply because I have had to make a brief résumé of statistics which I thought might he of the greatest interest to your Lordships. The average price for three-bedroom houses in England and Wales was 20s. 11d. per square foot. That compares with 9s. 4¼d. per square foot in 1939, but the new houses are superior both in accommodation and equipment. It is obvious from those prices that Ministers must do their utmost to keep down the cost of tenders, and for this reason they have been obliged to reject as exorbitant tenders for 1,375 houses in England and Wales and for 82 in Scotland. The figures for completed temporary houses for the same period are 4,964 in England and Wales and 195 in Scotland, as compared with 1,701 and 15 respectively at the end of July. Those figures, if we may draw any conclusions from events over so short a period, indicate that the trickle of new temporary houses is substantially larger than it was three months ago, and that the preparatory stages of permanent housing are well advanced. These modest beginnings will broaden steadily into a wide stream as labour and materials become increasingly plentiful.

I shall say something on the subject of rural housing later, because I know it is a matter in which many of your Lordships are keenly interested. I think it would interest the most reverend Prelate, as a former Chairman of the Rural Housing Sub-Committee of the Central Housing Advisory Committee of the Ministry, to know that the rural housing authorities have already made a flying start with their building programmes. Fourteen per cent. of the rural district councils in England and Wales, as compared with about 12 per cent. of the non-county borough councils and urban district councils, have already had their tenders approved. That shows that those housing authorities, covering a wide area of the countryside, are well forward in the preparation of their schemes as compared with their urban neighbours. Private building has even now a small but useful contribution to add, though we obviously cannot permit large mansions or luxury flats. No licences are being issued for houses costing more than £1,200. By the end of September, 8,658 licences for private builders had been issued by local authorities—a figure which includes the replacement of 1,240 houses destroyed in air attack. I hope this will clear up any misunderstanding there may be about our policy in relation to private building. We are not anxious to cut out the private builder on doctrinal grounds. I think as time goes on it will be evident that he will play a more and more important part.

As I have already explained to your Lordships, our policy is to do our utmost to encourage the building of permanent houses, and for this purpose we are offering local authorities an option between traditional and a variety of non-traditional types. Particulars of eight separate types of prefabricated dwellings have been sent to local authorities, and these include five steel or steel-framed systems and three concrete systems. They have been asked how many steel houses they want to put up, on the assumption that these will cost roughly as much as the traditional type of structure. Their range of choice has been widened still further by the onset of deliveries of timber houses from Sweden. But the preparation and execution of any building programme occupies a considerable stretch of time, and we can only bridge the interval by making the most advantageous use of existing accommodation.

We have put forward three proposals for alleviating immediate hardship. Government Departments have been asked to give up as soon as possible the small houses they requisitioned during the war The number of small houses still requisitioned by the Services and other Government Departments is roughly 14,000, but all the Departments concerned have now prepared programmes for the release of the small houses they now hold. We must also prevent houses or flats from being converted into business premises. For this purpose a Defence Regulation has already been made, and its effect will be to stop such conversions taking place without the consent of the local housing authority. Finally, we are appealing to the consciences of people who own large houses. We hope they will share wish their less fortunate neighbours in the spit it they showed in accepting evacuees during the war. To enable them to offer their spare rooms to deserving tenants, we are removing any legal difficulties that may arise from restrictive covenants or the Rent Restrictions Acts. The last item in this preliminary progress report is our programme of housing legislation, which shows that in the last three months one housing Bill has been introduced (in another place) to control furnished lettings, while two others have reached the preparatory phase that precedes submission to Parliament.

Now a word or two about rural housing. I hope I may be able to dispel some of tae anxiety which has been displayed by your Lordships both this week and in a debate which occurred a week ago. Our policy for the farms and villages is to build hygienic modern cottages for those who live and work there. We want to preserve the picturesque atmosphere of our old countryside, and we welcome improvements provided they do not hamper new building. During the next few months a very large number of building workers will return home from the Services. Unless they get a building job in their own neighbourhood, they will drift elsewhere in search of work, or he-come fully occupied for a long time on local repairs. It is therefore essential that building schemes to which they can attach themselves should be in actual progress when they get back. That is why we have not renewed the subsidy for reconditioning under the Housing (Rural Workers) Acts. We believe that these Acts have done good, and we are in entire agreement with the most reverend Prelate on the point, but we do not believe that they are so perfect they cannot be improved upon. My right honourable friend the Minister of Health is now waiting for the advice of the Rural Housing Sub-Committee of the Central Housing Advisory Committee, to whom he has referred the whole matter. These experts on rural housing will recommend, after examining all the facts, and taking all the evidence, whether labour can be supplied without diversion for reconditioning, and also what improvements can be made on the provisions of the lapsed Acts.

There is one other point in connexion with rural housing with which I should like to deal. The most reverend Prelate mentioned the reference of my right honourable friend the Minister of Health to high buildings in rural areas. I am sure that nobody desires that reference of the Minister of Health's to be misunderstood. It was in fact aballon d'essai, to use diplomatic parlance, intended to stimulate discussion about design, and not a decision on policy, far less a direction to the local authorities.

The most reverend Prelate also asked for information about the type of house and housing estate envisaged in our programme. The main differences between our policy and that of the Governments between the wars in respect of the type and quality of houses which we mean to build, is that we are insisting on higher standards of comfort and amenity than they provided. We want our flats and cottages to be less cramped, and we are therefore accepting 900 square. feet as a bare minimum of floor space for the ordinary three-bedroom cottage. We want, above all, to ease the burden of the housewife. We have had from the Design of Dwellings Sub-Committee of the Central Housing Advisory Committee, under the Chairmanship of the noble Earl, Lord Dudley, some helpful suggestions for better internal equipment to save time and labour in the home. The housewife's workshop is her kitchen, and this improved equipment will lighten her main tasks of cooking the meals and doing the family washing.

What we want to avoid on new estates is the class or income segregation which has characterized so much development in the past. Here again we are in the heartiest agreement with the words of the most reverend Prelate. The strength of the nation lies in its unity. We want that unity preserved and emphasized by making every residential area as nearly as possible a cross-section of the whole community—young and old, rich and poor, professional and artisan. This will depend very much on the skill and sense of responsibility with which these estates are managed by their owners. We are grateful for the recent Report of the Housing Management Sub-Committee of the Central Housing Advisory Committee, under the Chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Burleigh. The Minister of Health forwarded last month to the local authorities copies of this Report, asking them to consider its recommendations quickly. The Report laid special emphasis on two points: first, that the primary consideration in selecting tenants should be the relative need of the applicant for a house, and not either his occupation or his length of residence in the district; secondly, that need can be found in all classes and that a broad view should be taken of social antecedents. Since the noble Lord is in his place, I should like to say that the Minister of Health very much regrets that pressure of other duties has obliged the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Burleigh, to resign his position. The Ministry are extremely grateful to him for all the valuable work which he has done.

Now let me say a few words about the subsidy question. The most reverend Prelate has asked for information about our plans for a subsidy for the building programme of local authorities. I can give him some up-to-date information which will, I hope, satisfy him that we are moving fairly rapidly. Hitherto the complete uncertainty about building costs over any period of time has prevented us from even attempting to arrive at a precise figure; but we hope that this difficulty can now be overcome, and representatives of the Ministry of Health will shortly be meeting the associations of local authorities to discuss the terms and conditions of the new subsidies. Meanwhile, the local authorities are not holding back their programmes until the subsidy or subsidies have been fixed, because they realize that their effect when finally agreed and accepted by Parliament will be retrospective.

The most reverend Prelate has complained that the local authorities are obliged to deal with too large a number of Government Departments; but, if I am interpreting him rightly, and if he was referring to the selection of sites, I wonder whether his complaint is altogether justified. Local authorities need deal with two Ministries only to obtain approval for their housing sites. I hope that the most reverend Prelate will correct me if I have misunderstood him.


Sites and building.


That opens a wider question. Let me deal first with sites, and then I think I shall have something to say which may relieve some of his anxieties on the other issue. On the question of sites, the local authorities need obtain the approval for the disposition of their houses only of the Ministry of Health and of the Ministry of Town and Country Planning, and the latter have to consult any other Departments which may be involved. My right honourable friend the Minister of Health is fully aware of the difficulties caused to local authorities by any unnecessary complexity or delay. He is anxious to reduce the number of separate agencies with which local authorities have to correspond to a minimum, and to simplify and speed up the preparatory procedure as much as he can; and he is at this moment giving his mind to the question.

Let me say these few words in conclusion, because there are many noble Lords whose advice the Government will be most anxious to receive, and who have already indicated their intention to take part in the debate. This housing programme which we have presented is the biggest effort of social reform which we have yet undertaken, and probably the most difficult. It is an attempt in practice to harness the energies of a great industry and its many tributaries to social conscience in place of private gain. That is the fascination and the risk. This problem would not arise in the United States of America, where good homes can be built by unfettered private enterprise, or in Russia, where the same thing can be done by a rigid system of State control; but we in the United Kingdom have to bring private and public agencies into partnership in a common enterprise to help their fellow-countrymen. This will demand a strong conviction shared by all concerned, whatever their capacity, however humble or exalted it may be, that it is at any rate worth trying to make a success of a fine experiment which, if it does succeed, will add immeasurably 10 e reputation of the country and to the happiness of the common man.

4.50 p.m.


My Lords, we are most grateful to the most reverend Prelate for having inaugurated this discussion, and for having given us a forceful and well-considered speech. We are grateful, too, to my noble friend Lord Woolton for the many and pertinent questions which he has put to the Government. We have all reason to lie grateful to the noble Viscount the Leader of the House for allowing us to continue this discussion tomorrow, because that Will enable the noble Viscount, who I understand is going to bring the debate to a close, to answer some of those questions regarding which the noble Earl said that it would put him into a difficulty to reply to them at such short notice. That, of course, we quite understand; but there are one or two questions which he did answer in a way that left us, on this side of the House, I think, somewhat astonished.

For instance, he refused to let us knew what is the target at which the Government are at present aiming. if my recollection serves me rightly, that is very much contrary to what Mr. Ernest Bevin said in his Election speeches, I am immediately following the noble Earl, and I hive nothing but my memory to rely on, but I have the impression that Mr. Bevin certainly fixed targets for the Labour Party to aim at if they were returned to power. Instead of being given information on this we are kept in the dark as regards the Government's targets. But we are informed that local authorities are being given targets, which we hope they will be able to reach. I would like to know, and I am sure that my noble friend Lord Woolton would also like to know, when these local targets will be fixed, or if they have already been fixed. If they have already been fixed, will they be published; or will they be published when they are fixed? I think it is most necessary that we should know what these targets are. There should not be any secrecy about the targets with which local authorities are being furnished.

Then there was another statement—not perhaps such an important one—by the noble Earl to the effect that it was hoped to get variations of the types of houses on the building sites and in the building estates. I should like very much to know what it is hoped to do if municipalities are going to build houses only for the lower income-earning group. It seems to me that we shall have more of those long and rather ugly lines of local authority houses to which we have been much too much accustomed in the past. I am not going to say anything about the speeches which we have already heard, except to supplement a statement of Lord Woolton, to the effect that in travelling all over this country he has only seen one new house in a state of completion. I think that that was in a military barracks. can go further than he did. In my opinion workers are being used to build houses or edifices which really are not in the first priority. I can state that from my own personal knowledge. Not so very long ago—I think it was about a year ago—the Admiralty bought a certain number of acres belonging to myself near the village of Dalmeny. They have now proceeded to set a very large number of people to work on this land and they are building an enormous edifice which, I believe, is to be used for the purpose of a warehouse. I am not quite sure what is the full purpose for which those people are there. I have not asked. All I know is that I see them there. I think that everybody is agreed that they should really be engaged in the building of houses for the people and not in building a warehouse for the Admiralty.

Surely when there are all these empty aerodromes that one hears of all over the country, the Admiralty might use one of them to warehouse some of their material and allow the workmen who are now building for them to build houses for the people. I put that to the noble Viscount the Leader of the House, with the suggestion that there might perhaps be some closer communication between that part of the Government which is concerned with housing and the Services. It is, I believe, common knowledge that the Services—I think that even Lord Nathan will not disagree with me about this—always try to get whatever they can and give up as little as they can. That is all I wish to say on that subject.

I would now like to say a few words concerning housing in Scotland. I asked the noble Earl just now if he would repeat some figures and he hurriedly disclaimed any knowledge of the situation in Scotland. I am afraid that that lack of knowledge extends to all the other members of the Front Bench at the present time in this House. My noble friend Lord Westwood is an exception to that, but not even Lord Westwood is able to be in two places at once.


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Earl for a moment as I think I may be able to say something to help him? I have a whole sheaf of statistics about Scotland which I shall be very glad indeed to show him at the end of this debate.


I think the noble Earl misunderstood me. I do not want any statistics. I have some statistics which he gave me, and on reading them I thought that they reflected quite creditably on the last Government. I do not particularly want any more because I do not care for statistics—I prefer performances. What I was going to suggest is that it is rather a pity that when we have a debate as important as this is to Scotland as well as to England, there should not be someone here to speak who is an expert in the different laws and customs that we have in Scotland. I am quite sure that members both of the House of Lords and of another place must be tired of hearing that we have customs and laws in Scotland altogether different from those which you have in England, but I can, at any rate, assure your Lordships that you are not half as tired of hearing this statement as we are of having to make it. We have in Scotland entirely different laws and customs from those in England, and it is very largely due—as I will show a little later—to those different laws and customs that housing in Scotland is in such a very much worse state than is housing in England.

In the regrettable absence of Mr. Westwood, whose many friends hope he will soon be back at St. Andrew's House, housing in Scotland has been taken over by Mr. George Buchanan. I read with great care the speech which he made in another place. He started by saying that he is accustomed to giving hard knocks and that he would make no complaint at receiving them. I think that if he makes more speeches of the kind which he made on that occasion he will receive them. It was largely an electioneering speech which I think he must have used a good many times previously in Glasgow. He also makes a statement which is fundamentally untrue, and it seems to me it is almost incredible that he did not know it was without any basis of fact. I have brought it here because I did not wish to quote him wrongly. I think when I read this out to your Lordships that you will agree with me that it is not the kind of thing that any responsible Minister should say without being absolutely certain of his facts. He says—he is talking of housing in Scotland I found when I took office, that under the control of a noble Lord, certain well-equipped, beautiful specimens of men were occupying houses. I do not want to say what their nationality was— He at once says, however, that they were Polish soldiers, and he goes on: The problem had been neglected by my predecessor.… Eventually they went and he had other people put in those houses. That is the sort of statement which can only be put in for Party political purposes, or one might say, class against the masses. You will notice the emphasis placed by Mr. Buchanan as against a noble Lord.

That statement is without foundation of any kind. The Poles were in these houses. Far from my wanting to keep them there, I entered a protest and took it to the highest possible quarter to see if these Poles could be turned out. But at that time we were in a state of war. Quite rightly, the Services had a priority over building and the Army insisted on keeping them there. I was simply unable to get them moved. The records are in St. Andrew's House, and it is perfectly easy for him to find out that I made every effort to remove those Poles. I really think that this statement is of a sort of soap-box style which is more suited to Hyde Park than to the Houses of Parliament. Such a statement should not be made by responsible members of His Majesty's Government on a matter like this which, as a former Prime Minister sail, should be treated entirely like a military enterprise. We want to get away from Party politics, and we want to get on with more housing as quickly as we can. In Scotland it seems to me that the effort to build houses has been very largely allowed to be undertaken only by public enterprise and not by private enterprise. In the last Government we were going to announce the fact that we were going to make grants in respect of small private houses built for sale or letting and these grants were going to be up to £100, subject to a maximum from the Exchequer of £150. These grants were really for purposes of assisting the purchaser or tenant of the house by contributing to the present high cost of building rather than helping the private builder or the speculative builder. The moment this Governrment came in that was at once stopped an I the idea was firmly put an end to.

Let me mention for one moment the rural housing repairs repeal. The noble Earl has given lengthy, but I do not think they are convincing, reasons why this subsidy should be repealed. This is a subsidy which was used far more in Scotland than it was in England by reason of our different methods of farming. Our farmhouses are spread out at great distances. More than 60 per cent. of the cottages which were rehabilitated by these grants were in Scotland. The noble Lord talks of other measures for increasing the cottages in villages. That is no good to us in Scotland because the noble Earl is probably unaware, and possibly the whole of the Front Bench opposite is unaware, that in Scotland the farmhouses are not in villages. They are situated round the steadings of the farm. It would obviously be impossible for cottages to be built six or seven miles away from the farm. At any rate in Scotland these cottages are round the farm, and this subsidy was of the utmost assistance to farmers in keeping their farm labourers happy and contented and properly housed.

Let me point out that the farmers in Scotland have to fight the elements far more than they have to in this country. They want to keep the farmhands near at hand and properly housed. They had been accustomed to this subsidy, and for the last six years they have not been allowed to do anything for these cottages. They have been looking forward for six years to having some help in putting these cottages right. I think that Mr. Greenwood said in another place that this subsidy was to be finished and that something else was to take its place. I felt very unhappy last week when I thought that what was to take its place was the skyscraper. We have heard a lot about the Tennessee Valley being brought to the Highlands. I am glad to hear that this was only a suggestion and that it will not be carried into effect.

At this late hour I do not want to take up your Lordships' time much longer, but I want to tell you exactly why housing in Scotland is so very much worse than it is in England. It is because private enterprise is stifled in Scotland, and it has been stifled for many years. I am not blaming the former stifling of private enterprise on any Government. It does not rest with any Government; it comes from the time of the union. It comes from the old laws of rating. I do not want to go too deeply into the question, but perhaps your Lordships may not all be aware of the fact that rating in Scotland is quite different from what it is in England. Roughly speaking, the rates are paid by the owner and not by the tenant; in England they are paid by the tenant. Therefore it is impossible for the speculative builder, and there again I take it from the—


It is from the report of the Committee on the Rent Restrictions Acts.


I gathered that. I am talking of the speculative, builder and the builder with every right to speculate. He sees a certain number of acres and he will build a certain number of houses. In England you build those houses and they will gradually be filled. But while the houses are empty he will not have to pay rates because the ratepayer is the tenant, and there is no tenant. In Scotland, if a man builds a house in the hope of letting, the moment it is built he is responsible for the rates. Therefore a man might build 200 houses and have only 30 to 40 of them inhabited and he would have to pay the rates on the other 160. That makes speculative building in that sense quite impossible. Equally, supposing you build a house in a place where the rates go up by leaps and bounds. You have built that house, let that house at a certain rate to bring in a certain income, and you find you have to maintain that house for a tenant and get no income yourself. That can easily happen in a place like Glasgow.

This was realized by my predecessor, Mr. Tom Johnston, who initiated a Committee under the Chairmanship of Lord Sorn. This Committee produced a report which was a very interesting and complicated one. If the Government had not been changed, I was going to bring in a Rating Bill for Scotland which would have been more equitable, and would have helped private enterprise and been of service to the country. But the moment the present Government came in, we were informed that nothing was going to be done to ameliorate, or alter, the method of rating in this country. I submit that so long as the rating in Scotland remains as it is at the present time, so long will the houses in Scotland fall far behind the number they should reach, and far behind what it is in England.

Mr. Aneurin Bevan, in another place, made a statement which I believe was loudly cheered. He said: If you wanted land for an airfield during the war, you did not have protracted negotiations with the landlord. We are going to have no protracted negotiations with the landlord for getting houses. It is a form of control we are going to remove. He went on in that vein, amid great applause. So far as I can make out there is nothing in the contention that it is the wicked landlord who stops the building of houses in this country. I do not think anybody can stand up and say it. is the landlord who is stopping building, either by asking for more money or for anything else. I will quote from Mr. Tom Johnston's speech, which he made in another place on March 15 of last year. This speech was not controverted by any member of the House, and he is a man who knows more about housing than almost anybody in the country. He said that in his part of the country the average price of land for housing was about £200 per acre. Mr. Johnston went on to say: Two hundred pounds per acre—ten houses to the acre—means Lao per house, and the current Public Works Loan Board rate is 3¼ per cent. Sixty years' annuity at 3¼ per cent. is L3 16s., giving a cost per house of 15s. 2d. Per annum, or, including interest, 3½d. per week. So this great diatribe against the landlord is represented by 3½d. a week. I do not think it is worthy of any Minister to try to make out that housing is being stopped by such a paltry sum as that. I only hope that the present Government will do more than just give lip-service to the idea that this is going to be as universal and as national as a military operation. I hope they will have listened to the very earnest words of the most reverend Prelate this afternoon.

5.14 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Earl who replied for the Government dealt with many of the points raised by the most reverend Prelate and the noble Lord, Lord Woolton, but he did not succeed in answering them. It must be admitted that his conciliatory tone was a reasonable reply to the request of the most reverend Prelate to regard this debate, not as a Party question but as one to bring relief to the urgent anxiety of the country as a whole on this matter. That is the spirit in which I think every speaker will approach the subject. There is no doubt that the noble Lord, Lord Woolton, put in simple language what the position in the country is—that there is great anxiety because houses are not springing up. There is no doubt, too, that among the many difficulties in the past has been the confusion between the various Ministries. The noble Earl tried to give the assurance that in this case there are only two Ministries. That is some support to the assurances given by the Lord Privy Seal whose eloquent speeches in the past, in denunciation of the slowness and tardiness of the Coalition Government on housing questions, certainly had much sympathy from me. To-day, he has given support to the noble Earl to simplify this matter, but it does not convince the country that that is truly the situation. Of course, it may simplify things a little that there are only two Ministries to be dealt with, but, in point of fact, obstruction can come from many others, and delay from other quarters.

I approach this question on the basis—to use the noble Earl's own words—that we want all forms of building, both traditional and non-conventional. We want private enterprise, we want local authority enterprise, and every other method that can be applied. In many debates that have taken place in this House in the past, with regard to housing, it has been emphasized that there is an anxiety that conventional practice will not produce the houses required. The figures given by the noble Earl to-day do not allay the anxiety felt or the admitted disquiet as to whether the labour force in being, or in prospect in the measurably near future, is anything like sufficient to satisfy the minimum requirements regarding the shortages of houses in the country as a whole and to remove the misery, unhappiness and appointment of demobilized men over their possible accommodation.

In the past we have heard it argued that conventional practice needs supplementing by non-conventional methods. That means the industrialized side of building, employment in the factory, and that has fallen under two heads, the short-life house and the long-life house. The short-life house policy certainly received the very vehement disapproval of the present Minister of Health, but, nevertheless, he recently issued a White Paper on the temporary housing programme, in which he showed that the average increase in the cost of the various types of houses ordered was in the neighbourhood of £268. That shows a very large increase above what was budgeted for.

The noble Lord, Lord Woolton, disclosed a very convincing possible policy, but it was based, in the main, as I understood it, on the theory of collective purchase and low cost through volume production. Low cost cannot possibly he achieved in any conventional way; it can only be achieved by volume production. I think the noble Earl said that there are only 4,000 temporary houses at present occupied in England. We have been on that temporary housing proposal—far good or bad—for a very long time. I have seen it widely stated that the factory production of the houses is very much in excess of what is going on to the sites currently. It suggests, therefore, that the programme is this as in many other things, instead of going on in orderly alignment, is going on by echelon. You have the production of shells but you have not the sites, and if you have the sites you have not available the other supplies which the makers of the shells have to depend upon the Government to produce. Permit me to revert for a moment to the cost of these short-life houses. This reported increase seems to be unfair to the builders of those houses, in that it did not give any of the information with regard to other services which the Ministry must provide. There is the aspect also of site work, of foundations, roads and so on.

The next point I want to deal with is a digression for the moment on the question of terminology. I appeal to the noble Earl to impress upon the Minister of Health that there is a great deal of confusion in the country about what really is meant by "the factory-made house." He himself used the word "permanent" house. Some others use the term "conventional type of building" Certainly the term "prefabricated" has been applied to short-life houses and long-life houses. There is confusion in the minds of many who think that a prefabricated house must necessarily be a short-life house, when he himself has given us the information that the Government have adopted at least five types of steel framed, long-life, non-conventional constructions. I would appeal to him to recommend to the Ministry of Health that they should adopt the terminology "factory made house," and not "prefabricated." I am dealing particularly with what I call the shell, although the Government, in their White Paper, prefer the term "hull." Whatever it may be, it is the outside construction of the house. As regards the long-life non-conventional type of house, there is here the question of the word "permanent." To me personally "permanent" suggests—I do not know what the dictionary says but I hope some noble Lord will correct me if necessary—very long duration; that is to say, centuries. It suggests something like the pyramids. Are not permanent houses the very reason why we have all these slums? If those houses had been built to be less permanent, we would not have the rows of dwellings which the noble Earl, Lord Rosebery, has referred to as desecrating the countryside.

May I come back to the question of these long-life non-conventional houses? The Ministry of Health has just "passed the buck" to the local authorities. If it is to be a low-cost job it must be volume production, and it cannot be volume production on a small programme. As everybody knows, industrial programmes, to be of low cost and mass-produced, must be planned on a long-term scale What has the Minister done? He has sent a circular out to the local authorities and has asked them to reply by December 15, stating how many houses they want and of what particular type, as though it were a mail order business and they were to be chosen from a catalogue. In that he has not helped the local authorities, because they are not given any guide in the circular as to what is the cost of the house. The noble Earl has said that it is expected that the non-conventional type will not exceed the cost of the long-life house. I appeal to him to remember that, be it short life or long life, the cost of the house must depend upon the volume of production, and the manufacturer cannot give volume unless he has a long programme of production.

I would revert to the appeal made by the most reverend Prelate, which was reiterated by Lord Woolton and not answered by the noble Earl, as to what is the real target of production. The noble Earl has suggested that it was going to be the aggregate of what the local authorities say they are going to produce. How can a local authority know what it is going to do when it does not know whether the non-conventional or the conventional type is the dearer or the cheaper, nor what sort of a delivery it can get on the mail order business which is suggested and which must be provided by large-scale purchase by the Government?

5.28 p.m.


My Lords, I refuse to refer to "this late hour" when we meet at half past two, so I am not going to apologize. I wish to refer to something which the most reverend Prelate called the greatest domestic problem which faces this country. It is a matter of the most vital importance, and it was well realized by members of the Government at least a short time ago. The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, said that they believe in deeds and not promises. I just want to quote you two things. One was a statement made by Mr. Ernest Bevin in June, 1945. It was as follows: If returned to power, I would tackle housing just as I would tackle the supply of aeroplanes and shells for war. I would make housing a national emergency. Mr. Bevin was returned to power. Then Mr. Aneurin Bevan said this: Labour is convinced that the job of providing houses should be tackled on a national scale, like the nation went about the task of making Spitfires. What I want to do to-day is to call upon the Government to implement those declarations. They are not doing it at present. Lord Woolton referred to a change of opinion when a man held office in one of the Ministries. I think there has been a very big change since Mr. Bevin and Mr. Bevan made those remarks.

The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, who spoke just now for the Government, frankly did not convince me in. the least, and I am afraid that he will not convince the ex-Service man who comes back and is looking for a house. That man will not be in the least bit impressed with the fact that the Government are increasing the necessary floor space to 900 sq. ft., instead of 800 sq. ft. or whatever it was before. What he wants is a roof and a house—somewhere to live, and not ideals of that kind. The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, with great pride, gave us a lot of figures (which I did not take down and which I am not going to quote) about houses which had been built in the last three months. But no target was indicated, and a man coming back from the Forces who has not got one of these houses that have been built in the last few months is given no hope of getting one in the future. Of ourse the labour position is the big question. We know that. The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, tried to comfort us to a certain extent on that point. He said labour was coming back from the Forces very shortly, and that when it came a certain amount of it would be diverted, guided or directed in some way into the building of houses. We have been hearing that for quite a long time, and I think we shall probably go on hearing it. Is that the way to face a national emergency? Is that the way the Spitfires were turned out? On the subsidy question, the noble Earl again said he thought he could be rather comforting. He said they were moving very rapidly and he hoped that after consultation with the local authorities some announcement might be made in the future. That is not the way to face a national emergency.


My Lords, I apologize to the noble Lord for interrupting him. I am quite certain he does not want to misrepresent me. I said the associations of the local authorities were about to be consulted by the Ministry in order to determine, in discussion, the teams and conditions of the new subsidies. TT at is actually going to happen in a very short space of time. I did not say that they might be consulted.


My Lords, I was riot quoting the noble Earl directly, for I did not take down what he said. I am sure that that will not be of great comfort: to the man who is looking for house. He is not going to get one great way. On the question of the number of Ministries, we were comforted by the statement that the Minister was well aware of the difficulty and that he was applying his mind to the question. Then the noble Earl referred (I am not quoting exactly) to the great experiment that was being conducted in bringing private enterprise and Government effort into cc-operation. He said it was one of the bite great experiments that had ever been made. That is what won the war, the bringing together of private enterprise and national effort. It has been clone for six years and it is the method that we want to produce these houses. If this is a national emergency, then let us use national methods. Surely it ought to be possible for Messrs. Bevin and Bevan, after their promises, to deal rather inure strongly with the supply of labour, to take a stronger line than just saying, "We hope that some people are coming out shortly." I do not want to get on to the question of demobilization, because that is coming up later this week, but I do say that this is no way in which to deal with a national emergency.

On the question of the experienced priviate builder, I rather gathered from the noble Earl that the Government were not averse from allowing him to take his plate and that he would be required. I ten your Lordships, as I told the noble Lord, Lord Woolton, when he was in office that unless you make full use of the experience of the private builder you will not get the houses. He knows his job; he has done it for years. He is really the only person who can recruit, organize and look after labour. He is the man who has got sites ready, in many cass with roads, sewers and all that kind of thing made. He is ready to go ahead straight away. On the question of houses to let, I am going to cross swords with the most reverend Prelate. It is not true to say that the private builder only builds houses to sell. I am going to quote the figures of houses to let built by private builders from 1938 to the middle of 1939. During that time private enterprise built 163,000 houses to let, at no cost to the taxayer or the ratepayer, and in the same period local authorities built 194,000 at a very big cost to the ratepayer and the taxpayer. I do not believe the story that private enterprise is incapable of building houses to-day. It is ready and willing to do it.


My Lords, I did say that according to the 1937 Report of the Rent Restrictions Committee, one-twelfth of the total they built was for letting.


I quite agree with the most reverend Prelate. I was not quarrelling with him; I was rather quarrelling with some of the statements which have been spread by some of the Socialists who are now in office. We realize the difficulties with which the Government are faced. What is worrying so many people and causing such a dangerous position to arise in this country at the moment is the fact that we do not think the Government are facing up to those difficulties. The Government have said that we are faced with a national emergency and that they are going to use every means of dealing with it. The Government may be doing that behind the scenes and hiding it away. There is, however, a quotation to the effect that justice must not merely be done but must appear to be done. I ask for more vigorous efforts on the part of the Government to meet these difficulties and to let the public know what is being done. If the Government treat this as a national emergency and adopt drastic measures they will have the whole country behind them. If they do not do that, they will not.


My Lords, I beg to move that the debate be now adjourned.

Moved, That the debate be now adjourned.—(The Lord Bishop of Sheffield.)

On Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly.