§ 2.52 p.m.
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the first Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.
§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will raise and extend the statutory standards for housebuilding; and whether they will remedy the present unequal bargaining position between the house-buyer and the house-builder.]
JOINT PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY, MINISTRY LAND NATURAL RESOURCES
My Lords, the only statutory standards for house-building are contained in local authorities' building by-laws. These, and the building regulations which will shortly replace them, are concerned only with standards which relate to health and safety. Apart from statutory standards, the Ministry of Housing and Local Government's publication in 1962, Homes for Today and Tomorrow, contained recommendations for improved standards of house design. These were commended to local authorities in the Ministry's Circular No. 13/62. The National House-Builders Registration Council prescribe standards for private houses built under their registration scheme, which also provides for an inspection system and for undertakings by builders to make good defects. But much private house-building is not covered by this scheme.
Her Majesty's Government are anxious to see an improvement in housing standards, and to see purchasers given better protection. My right honourable friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government is consulting representative bodies of the house-building industry, building trade operatives, building 1133 societies, local authorities and other interested organisations about the best means of securing this. He is also in close touch with studies being undertaken by the National House-Builders' Registration Council and by the Building Societies Association directed to the same end. Her Majesty's Government wish to consider the results of these consultations and studies before reaching any conclusions.
My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord very much for his full Answer, and to say how glad I am that a study leading up to legislation is being undertaken by Her Majesty's Government. Will the new legislation cover such matters as complaints which arise about such things as fittings and finishings, and also will there be protection under the new legislation for the buyer of a new house against defects—defects which at present he may not be aware of until he has actually bought the house? May I hope that the new legislation will cover those points?
The Government wish to consider what is going on now by way of consultation and study, as I mentioned in my Answer, before coming to any conclusions as to what, if any, legislation is required. Perhaps it would be of some help to the noble Baroness if I reminded her that the body called the National House-Builders' Registration Council already cover a number of the points she mentioned. I noticed, for instance, that recommendations have been adopted by a number of local authorities recently in relation to matters like a wash basin, second water closet, kitchen fittings, electric sockets, and items of that kind. I respectfully and entirely agree with the noble Baroness on the importance of these things in a new house. I do not think that I can add to that at present, but if she would like to ask me any more specific questions at any time I will gladly do my best to give the answer.
My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that these standards were reduced by the previous Administration as far back as 1953?
This is really a question about the fitness of houses when 1134 built rather than about the size and adequacy of the kitchen and matters of that sort. But I remember that in December, 1963, my noble friend Lord Rhodes, then in another place, proposed there a Motion, which was carried, touching exactly the subject matter which we are now discussing; and there have been three or four other attempts by way of Private Members' Bills, and so on, in another place. It is a matter which has been very much on the public conscience. I am very glad the noble Baroness raised it.
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord whether it is the intention of Her Majesty's Government in any future legislation to enforce the minimum standards with regard to living space and space accommodation as indicated in the Parker Morris Report to which the noble Lord made reference?
Matters of space and accommodation are the subject of the present building by-laws to which I referred; and I am not sure that they remain the same from one local authority to another. There are, however, shortly to be building regulations which are to replace them, and I hope they will satisfy my noble friend on this subject.
But is my noble friend not aware that the town planning committee of the Association of Municipal Corporations made representations to Her Majesty's Government pointing to the inadequacy of present by-laws and suggesting that some element of compulsion should be introduced in order to stop the steady deterioration in living standards—standards which have fallen substantially over the last fifteen years to a point which the Association themselves indicate is likely to be prejudicial to health, and possibly will create future slums?
That is exactly why the present local authority by-laws are being replaced by building regulations. Those building regulations have not yet been finally decided upon, but they are likely to be made this summer, to come into operation next year. I feel certain that the views of the Association of Municipal Corporations on a matter of this sort will carry very great weight with my right honourable friend.