HL Deb 27 January 1966 vol 272 cc168-74

3.13 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have taken note of the pamphlet Immigration from the Commonwealth issued by the Lambeth Borough Council last November, which reports at the outset that several years ago the Council had represented to the Minister of Housing that "there is no hope of the Council being able adequately to house either present or future immigrants", and concludes with the statement that "unless massive assistance is forthcoming at national level the problem remains insoluble"; whether they agree that a similar situation exists in many other areas; and whether they foresee the possibility of sufficiently "massive assistance" being provided to all of them.]


My Lords, the London Borough Council of Lambeth, in common with other local authorities in Greater London and other big cities, face difficult housing problems; but Her Majesty's Government do not accept that these are due to the presence of immigrants from the Commonwealth, or that it would be right to give special treatment to immigrants in housing matters. What is needed is a determined attack on the housing shortage, wherever it is found and whatever the factors that create it. Her Majesty's Government have announced a number of measures designed for this purpose, including particularly the approval of larger housing programmes for the local authorities most concerned and the introduction of legislation to increase housing subsidies.


My Lords, may I thank the noble Lord for that, I fear, unduly optimistic Answer? May I ask whether he realises the extent to which any plan or prophecy in respect of these particular social evils must be impaired by the regrettable absence of statistics as to the actual numbers and location of immigrants, and also by the fact that the number of dependants from overseas who may yet join them is wholly unpredictable?


My Lords, as regards the progress so far, the Government have not done so badly. In 1965 382,000 houses were completed, and that is more than in the preceding year and more than in any year under the Tory Administration—in fact, it is a record since the war. Regarding the particular point about immigrants, I agree that full figures are not always available, indeed, the pamphlet to which the noble Lord referred contains what I think is obviously an exaggeration of the number of immigrants. But I do not think that on any showing, this affects the real nature of the problem, which is to get more houses and to deal with immigrants according to need, apart from any question of colour or immigration.


My Lords, did I understand the noble Lord to say that 382,00 houses were built in 1965 as a consequence of the policies of the present Government?


My Lords, it was suggested that the present Government were failing to carry out a proper housing programme. The answer to that is that they are, in fact, carrying out a larger housing programme and completing more houses than in any previous year, including the thirteen years about which we often hear.


My Lords, that seems to be a slightly different matter.


My Lords, would the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, say that the completion of this number of houses was due to the fact that a very large proportion of them had already been begun, and that the houses begun this year are fewer in number?


My Lords, I am afraid that I cannot yet give the number of houses begun this year. All I can say is that we are doing fine up to date, and although I agree that it is a bit early in the year, and that one swallow does not always make a spring, we have started off very nicely. I hope that we shall go on to do even better. We mean to get the numbers up above that figure. As the noble Baroness is well aware, we are aiming at 500,000 houses immediately—when I say "immediately", I mean in a few years and beyond that.


My Lords, would not the Minister agree that when the present Government took over there were more than 400,000 houses already under construction which had been handed to them by the Tory Government?


My Lords, not without notice. Surely one must take the housing programme as something which goes on from Government to Government, and when you get an energetic Government in office the result is that the houses which were only partly completed under a Tory Government get completed, and get completed to a number which at the end of the day is a record for any previous year. There is no getting around that one.


My Lords, surely if the Minister agrees that they take over from Government to Government, they should at least hand the credit to the previous Government who started the houses.


My Lords, when I say that the housing programme continues, I trust that the noble Lord does not expect us to be so politically prejudiced as to pull down all the half-completed houses. All I would say is that we have done remarkably well, and the best proof of it is that a record number of houses have been completed; and we hope to beat the record. If, of course, political issues go wrong, and some other Government comes in, no doubt we shall slip back to the smaller figures of earlier years.


My Lords, is it really doing remarkably well to finish only 380,000 houses out 434,000 under construction the year before?


Until one knows the position about houses partly completed it is impossible, with housing statistics, to say. I do not know whether this figure includes houses which had been projected and not begun; whether it includes houses where the usual services were available and no more, or houses where the building had begun six inches all round the house. It is quite impossible, and the test that has always been accepted and was pressed on us when the Party opposite thought it suited them is the number of completed houses in the year. On that test we have beaten all records, and if the Tory Administrations were so marvellous at beginning houses, surely they might have completed a few more in previous years.


My Lords, if your Lordships will permit me to return to the terms of the original Question, may I ask my noble friend whether he does not agree that there is the strongest possible case for considerable special assistance to boroughs such as Lambeth, quite irrespective of the country of origin of the inhabitants, on the basis of simple human need?


My Lords, certainly there is a case for assisting boroughs; and they have always been assisted. Lambeth is, in fact, not the worst off of the London boroughs, though I agree that it has its difficulties. I have figures here, but I do not think that the House wishes to be troubled with them now.


My Lords, if I may return to the subject of my original Question, may I ask, quite irrespective of which Party deserves credit for the present housing programme, whether the noble Lord, on the strength of what is being done and what he expects to be done, envisages in the foreseeable future the termination of a state of affairs in which tens, or scores, or even hundreds, of thousands of immigrants are living under early Victorian slum conditions?


My Lords, that is what we are trying to do, and I am very relieved to hear from the noble Lord that at this time of the year—and I hope that he will not take this amiss—he and other noble Lords are so much concerned with the proper financing of the housing programme that they are willing to suffer a few extra taxes for the purpose.




ORDER 1965.

3.20 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that the Salmon and Migratory Trout (Prohibition of Drift-Net Fishing) (Extension) Order 1965, a copy of which was laid before this House on December 2, 1965, be approved. This Order is a simple one. It extends for a further year the operation of the Order which at present prohibits fishing for salmon and migratory trout by drift-net in an area of sea off the coast of Scotland. Noble Lords will remember that the Order which was originally made in 1962 was extended for a period of one year, when it expired on February 15, 1965. The effect of the Order now before us is to extend the prohibition for one further year, to February 15, 1967. The Order has no other effect.

Our purpose in making this extension for one year is to give us time to consider fully the Final Report of the Hunter Committee on Salmon and Trout Fisheries, which was published in the summer of last year. Noble Lords who have read this Report will, I think, agree that it would be very difficult, if not wrong, to come to any conclusions about the drift-netting issue separately from decisions on the other recommendations made in the Report. We have been looking at these carefully; but the Government, in the first instance, have asked for the views on the recommendations of all those organisations who have interests in the salmon and trout fisheries. Comments have now been received from many of these organisations, but some have not yet been able to let us have their fully considered views.

In these circumstances, we feel that there is no reasonable alternative to continuing the ban on drift-netting for a further year. We appreciate that the Hunter Committee have, in their Final Report, endorsed the views which they expressed in their Interim Report, that unregulated drift-net fishing for salmon could not be allowed, and that they were unable to suggest any workable system of regulation. But the Committee have also made other far-reaching recommendations touching on all other methods of salmon fishing in the sea. For these reasons, we have introduced this new Order simply to hold the position for a further year. I should like to assure your Lordships that we shall not allow any unnecessary delay in arriving at decisions upon the Report. Meantime, I hope that the House will agree that this Extension Order should be made.

Moved, That the Salmon and Migratory Trout (Prohibition of Drift-Net Fishing) (Extension) Order 1965 be approved.—(Lord Hughes.)


My Lords, in all our rivers and estuaries for a long time methods of catching salmon by nets and the time during which they should be netted have been strictly controlled in the interests of conserving the stock. It was of course the practice, which suddenly began a few years ago, of drift-netting on a large scale in the open seas, which brought a great threat to the survival of the salmon species. We agree that the Government are doing right in extending this Order for another year. It may be that they will then have to reconsider it, not only in relation to the Hunter Report, but also in relation to a possible international agreement, which we are all hoping to get, to protect the future survival of the whole species of salmon in the North Atlantic.


My Lords, may I from the Back Benches, as one who has taken some interest in this matter for a number of years, say that, although we do not always agree with everything the Government say or do, I do not find one word to dispute in what the Minister has said?


My Lords, if I may add one or two words, I think that her Majesty's Government are absolutely right to extend this Order for another year, but I was glad to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, that they are keeping an open mind on the subject and will consider it again in the light of the Hunter Report.

On Question, Motion agreed to.