§ 7.13 p.m.
§ The Minister of Housing and Local Government (Mr. Duncan Sandys)
I beg to moveThat the Draft Housing Subsidies Order, 1956, a copy of which was laid before this House on 1st November, in the last Session of Parliament, be approved.This Order abolishes, with one exception, the general needs subsidy for houses and flats. The Order will apply to dwellings other than those in respect of which tenders were accepted by councils or submitted to the Minister before 2nd November. The exception is one-bedroom dwellings. For these, we are preserving the general needs subsidy of £10 for houses and higher rates for flats. We have decided to make this exception because, in the light of the inquiry which I made recently into the provision of houses for old people, we think it desirable to encourage local authorities to build more houses for elderly and single persons.
I wish to emphasise that this Order affects only the housing subsidy for general needs. It does not touch any of the other subsidies provided under the Housing Acts for various special purposes. For example, it does not affect the special subsidy of £22 for slum clearance, nor does it affect the subsidy of £24 for houses in new towns and over-spill schemes. Likewise, we are maintaining the special subsidy for dwellings built on expensive sites. The various subsidies payable for agricultural cottages also remain unaffected. Similarly, the Order does not touch the special subsidy for houses built on sites where there is mining subsidence, or the special subsidies for houses built with more expensive materials in order to preserve the character of the neighbourhood. In particular, I wish to emphasise that the tights of councils to claim an additional subsidy under Section 5 of the Housing Subsidies Act, 1956, are fully preserved.
At this stage, I should perhaps explain why, in respect of certain houses, the general needs subsidy, instead of being completely abolished, has been reduced to the nominal amount of Is. The reason is a technical and legal one. It is that certain of the special subsidies are payable only as additions to a basic subsidy. 698 If the basic subsidy were abolished altogether, these additional subsidies would cease to be payable. We have, therefore, provided for the payment of a nominal general needs subsidy of 1s. where this is necessary to keep these rights alive.
In accordance with Section 2 of the Housing Subsidies Act, I consulted the local authority associations. A year having passed since the introduction of the new subsidy structure, I thought it appropriate to review the whole position with the local authority associations. I went through with them each of the housing subsidies one by one, and sought their views as to whether any changes should be made. This Order was framed in the light of that consultation and, with the single exception of the reduction in the general needs subsidy, the Order conforms with the views expressed to me by the local authority associations.
§ Mr. Sandys
I said that with the single exception of the reduction in the general needs subsidy, the conclusions reached by the Government conform with the views expressed by the local authority associations.
This is, of course, not a new decision. The Government's intention to abolish the general needs subsidy completely at an early date was made absolutely clear to the House a year ago. When announcing the Housing Subsidies Bill on 27th October, 1955, I used these words:… we have come to the conclusion that the subsidy on future houses built for general needs should be abolished altogether. In order not to make the transition too abrupt, we propose, for a year or so, to pay a much reduced annual subsidy of £10 per house."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th October, 1955; Vol. 545. c. 377–8.]In the light of the experience of this past year, we have come to the conclusion that this transitional subsidy of £10 a year can now be brought to an end without causing any undue embarrassment to local authorities.
Anxieties expressed during the passage of the Housing Subsidies Bill have, as I 699 expected, proved to be largely unfounded. The hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Lindgren), during the course of the debates on the Housing Subsidies Bill said:… the Bill means the end of local authority building in urban areas.andits effects in the rural areas will be catastrophic.
§ Mr. G. Lindgren (Wellingborough)
Surely the right hon. Gentleman would agree that general need building has never been lower since 1946 than it is at present?
§ Mr. Sandys
I am going to deal with the question of the rate of building. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Wellingborough said that the Bill would mean the end of local authority building in urban areas. I am not asking the hon. Gentleman to revise his speech of a year ago; I am reading what HANSARD records. He said that… while the Bill means the end of local authority building in urban areas, its effects in the rural areas will be catastrophic."— [OFFICIAL REPORT. 17th November, 1955; Vol. 546, c. 824.]The hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) said:The Bill is the first step towards killing council housing."—[OFFICIAI REPORT, 21st November, 1955; Vol. 546, c. 1164.]
§ Mr. Sandys
Hon. Members say "Hear, hear." All I can say is that the facts up to date do not bear out these contentions.
Everyone who has any knowledge of housing statistics will, I think, agree that the earliest and most up-to-date indication of local authority housing plans and intentions is provided by the number of tenders approved. In the first ten months of this year tenders for 92,000 council houses have been approved.
§ Mr. Sandys
I am coming to the question of slum clearance. I am explaining to the House the situation as regards the general volume of local authority council house building. I am saying that in the first ten months of this year tenders for 92,000 council houses have been approved. This compares with tenders for 95,000—a difference of only 3,000 —approved in the first ten months of 1955, that is to say before local authorities knew anything about the cut in the housing subsidies. Those figures are very significant.
There are many people who think that we are building too many houses; but, for the purpose of this debate and the arguments which will be advanced this evening, I think that the fact that the number of tenders approved in the first ten months of this year is almost the same as the number of tenders approved in the first ten months of last year, before the announcement of the cut in the housing subsidies, refutes any contention made by hon. Members opposite that the effect upon house building by local authorities has been catastrophic or has resulted in the end of council house building.
§ Mr. Charles A. Howell (Birmingham, Perry Barr)
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. He quotes figures for ten months. Will he tell us what the figure was for the early part of his ten months and for the later part of those ten months, and for how many of these houses the work had been tacitly agreed by the local authorities before approval had been sought?
§ Mr. Herbert Butler (Hackney, Central)
Before the right hon. Gentleman replies. I wonder whether he will allow me to put this question to him. Is it not a fact that, before we get to the tendering stage, the acquisition of the land has to be gone into? These matters are in hand, possibly, for two years before they get to the stage when tenders are let, so that the negotiations were entered into long before the Minister declared his intention about the subsidies.
§ Mr. Sandys
One may take all sorts of other figures further back, but I have taken the most forward-looking figures about housing which are available, those relating to tenders. The reason I have taken a period of ten months is this. We are now in early December, and the latest figures available for this year are for the first ten months. I have taken the comparable figure for last year. Another reason for taking ten months is that, since the announcement was made in October last year, I thought it would be interesting to take figures for the ten months before that announcement was made, and, therefore, before local authority house building plans could be affected by the cut in the housing subsidy.
§ Mr. J. A. Sparks (Acton)
If the right hon. Gentleman could give us the figures for this time next year, we should really be able to see something.
§ Mr. Sandys
Perhaps we shall have a further debate on this subject next year, and I have no doubt the hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks) will not miss the opportunity of expressing his views.
These figures which I have quoted show conclusively that the changes made in the subsidy rates a year ago have certainly not had the catastrophic effect predicted by the hon. Member for Wellingborough. There has, of course—and here I come to the point raised a few moments ago—been a major switch in house building away from building for general needs and towards the provision of houses for slum clearance. [An HON. MEMBER: "There you are."] I The hon. Member says, "There you are". But that is what we want; that was one of the main intentions of the House when it approved the new structure of housing subsidies a year ago, and approved the maintenance of the £22 subsidy for slum clearance and the reduction of the general need subsidy. The object was to give a special stimulus and priority to house building for slum clearance, because we felt that had become the urgent need.
§ Mr. Sandys
Will the hon. Gentleman just let me finish? During recent years many of these people in the slums had 702 been by-passed, not through the fault of this or any previous Government, but because in the years immediately after the war a roof over anybody's head, however poor the roof, was regarded as better than no roof, and until an advance in house building generally had been made, it was not right to pull any house down. We felt that, after the large and rapid strides which had been made in house building, particularly in the last few years, the time had come when greater priority and emphasis might rightly be given to the clearance of the slums, and the replacement of those wretched dwellings by something more reasonable and decent for these people to live in.
§ Mr. Shurmer
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. Whilst I am sorry to keep boasting in this House, I must say that Birmingham has one of the greatest slum clearance schemes in the country. Nevertheless, Birmingham still has 65,000 people on its register for general needs. What is going to happen to those people? Who will build houses for them? As regards the 92,000 houses tendered for, to which the Minister has referred, evidently many of those in Birmingham will be for slum clearance. What is to happen to the ordinary applicant on the list
§ Mr. Mitchison
Might I ask one question? Is the Minister satisfied with the progress up to date of what he calls his slum clearance campaign?
§ Mr. Sandys
I think that things are going pretty well. The slum clearance drive is steadily gathering momentum. In 1955 local authorities submitted to me slum clearance schemes covering rather more than 20,000 houses. The schemes submitted this year will cover more than double that number.
§ Mr. Sandys
if the hon. Member wishes to interrupt, perhaps he would stand up; but I am not going to give 703 way to him anyway. I do not think that we want a debate on slum clearance, but I consider that the Government and all the local authorities concerned can be exceedingly well pleased with the progress which is being made. The Government set themselves a target of rehousing people from the slums at the rate of 200,000 a year. Judging from the way things are going, I do not think it will be very long before we reach that target.
I am quite sure that the abolition of the remaining £10 subsidy for general needs is not going to deter local authorities from building houses which are needed in their areas. As I have pointed out already, the rights of local authorities to claim an additional subsidy under Section 5 of the Housing Subsidies Act have been fully preserved. Under that Section the Minister is empowered to pay a subsidy of up to £30 for a house and up to £40 for a flat where he is satisfied—these are broadly the conditions—first, that there is an urgent need in the district for more council houses and, second, that the council could not provide these houses without levying unreasonably heavy rates or charging unreasonably high rents.
§ Mr. Sandys
The basis of that is Section 5 of the 1956 Act.
As I said during the passage of the Housing Subsidies Bill—and I draw attention to these words—this Section ensures thatno local authority shall be prevented through financial difficulty from providing the houses which are urgently needed for its people."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd February. 1956; Vol. 548, c. 1102.]I believe that to be an absolutely fair statement of the safeguard which is provided, and was intended to be provided, by Section 5 of the Housing Subsidies Act. I personally feel that very few local authorities will find it necessary to claim this additional subsidy but where they do, I can assure the House that their needs will be most carefully considered.
In the light of these explanations and assurances, I trust that the House will be willing to approve this draft Order.
§ 7.37 p.m.
§ Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)
May I deal first with one or two points put by the right hon. Gentleman? The Minister gave us the figures of tenders, and my hon. Friend rightly pointed out that those are not the material figures because tenders represent quite an advanced stage, not perhaps in the formal plans of the local authorities, but in their actual plans. The right hon. Gentleman has been asking local authorities about their projects. He informed the House on 4th and 11th December that he had not yet received sufficient answers to replies to a Question on that matter. One of my complaints about the right hon. Gentleman is that he insists on eliminating, for all practical purposes, the general need subsidy at a time when he is still ignorant, or at any rate cannot answer a Question, about the projects of local authorities. I repeat that complaint which I made to him on the last occasion when he expressed his inability to answer a Question on the matter.
Let us get clear what is the attitude of local authorities on this matter. They all object strongly to what is the substance of this Order, the virtual abolition—I agree not quite complete—of the general need subsidy. Let us have no bones about it. I have had a letter from one of them, the Urban District Councils Association, who put their objections to it on two scores.
Now we are not to have a debate about the progress of slum clearance, and I shall not express to the right hon. Gentleman the criticism I have often made before about his so-called campaign—that in fact the only result of it is that the local authorities are doing rather less slum clearance than they proposed anyhow to do.
Whether that is right or wrong, the point is that the right hon. Gentleman himself is satisfied with the progress of his slum clearance campaign, and since one of the main reasons he gave for the reduction of the general need subsidy was to ensure the progress of the slum clearance campaign, and he has already got it to his own satisfaction, why does he need a further reduction? This point was put with some considerable force by the Urban District Councils Association in a letter which that association sent 705 to me and to other hon. Members. That is why I asked the Minister if he was satisfied. The right hon. Gentlemen knew as well as I did that I would not accept his satisfaction in lieu of performance, but that is an entirely different matter.
I shall not repeat the general objections that were made to the removal of the general need subsidy when this proposal was first announced and first debated. What astonished me about what the right hon. Gentleman had to say was that, in the light of the experience of the last year, he proposed to continue with the proposal he made on 27th October, 1955. I suggest to him that a good deal has happened in the last year.
Before I come to that, let me take one or two small points. One-bedroom houses are now going to preserve the subsidy. I am extremely glad to hear it, but I would remind the right hon. Gentleman, who is charging some of us with inconsistency, I thought without much ground, of what he himself said in relation to the one-bedroom house on 25th January, 1956. He was opposing an Amendment which would have enabled the continuation of the general need subsidy in the case of homes specially built for old people. As he observed quite rightly, that is exactly what these are. This is what he said:Were the Amendment adopted, it would undoubtedly tend to encourage local authorities to increase the proportion of houses built for old people at the expense of houses built for persons with families. Such further emphasis in the direction of one-bedroom houses would not he desirable, and, therefore, while I have just as much sympathy with the needs of the elderly people as have other hon. Members who have spoken in this debate, I do not think that it would be right to accept this Amendment."—[OFFICIAL, REPORT, 25th January, 1956; 548, cc. 284 and 285.]What is the conclusion I draw from that? I welcome the repentance of the right hon. Gentleman. We were perfectly right at the time in urging this, and now at last the right hon. Gentleman, who on that occasion spoke with insufficient information, has made further inquiries and has realised how right we were. I suggest that if he made some further inquiries about the projects of housing authorities, we should again get a repentance based on fuller knowledge.
§ Mr. Sandys
The hon. and learned Gentleman should remind the House that the Amendment which I was opposing on 706 that occasion was one of a series that collectively covered every aspect of housing.
§ Mr. Sandys
Therefore, I think it should be looked at in the manner in which the Opposition dealt with that series of Amendments.
§ Mr. Mitchison
I am always willing to look at the right hon. Gentleman's statements, or misstatements, in the context in which they are made, but that is what he said, and he bore it out by opposing the Clause and we divided on it, and the right hon. Gentleman walked into the Lobby. There is always a "context" about walking into the Lobby, but I did not expect him to do anything else. He should not be so ungrateful when I am welcoming his repentance on one point and urging that he should extend it a little on another. That is all. It is a friendly attitude, and he need not complain about it.
There were other points we took as objections, and I will remind the right hon. Gentleman of what they were. They were cases of overcrowding, they were cases of tuberculosis, and they were cases, amongst others, of special agricultural subsidies. Our objection to the whole of the treatment of subsidies is this. No doubt it distinguishes between house and house, but it does not distinguish between the way in which one house and another is occupied. It is highly illogical to maintain the housing subsidies simply on the condition of houses and to refuse to maintain them in cases of overcrowding and serious illness of an infectious character, such as tuberculosis is.
It is not only illogical, but, if I may with courtesy say it to the right hon. Gentleman, it illustrates a singularly inhuman point of view. He can see the houses but apparently he cannot realise the nature of the occupation and the character of the human needs of the people living inside them. I congratulate him on having got just far enough to see the special need of the aged, but I wish he had gone a little further and been able to see the special need of the overcrowded, the tuberculosis cases and the rest.
I now turn to what has happened during this year. Let us look first at the 707 financial side. The reduction of £10 in housing subsidies means a reduction on each house equivalent to roughly 4s. a week. We all know the argument about spreading the bitter potion or whatever one calls it. We all know the famous argument about averages. I will not trespass on the limits in respect of Parliamentary language to tell the right hon. Gentleman what I think of that kind of argument. However, the £10 loss in housing subsidy means 4s. a week in respect of the house to be found somewhere, either out of the rent or out of the rates.
Meanwhile, since last year there has been another factor. The Public Works Loan Board rate for council long-term borrowing last year was 5 per cent., and the open market rate was much the same. Glasgow and Liverpool were the first two county boroughs to borrow after the statement at the end of October. 1955. They both borrowed at 4¾ per cent. Allowing for a small discount, underwriting and the rest, it comes very near the Public Works Loan Board rate, as it should do. The present position is that the Public Works Loan Board rate is 54 per cent., and there has been a corresponding rise in the borrowing rates for local authorities varying from the London County Council to Bootle.
What difference does that make? In the case of a £1,600 house, simple arithmetic, without any averages or any spreading, will show the right hon. Gentleman that a rise of ¾per cent. means a rise of £12 a year. The net result is that local authorities at present, from the point of view of building houses, are having to pay £12 a year more and they are also having £10 a year taken from them. If the right hon. Gentleman had left them with the £10 general needs subsidy, they would still, as a result of the financial policy of the Government, merely be a couple of pounds a year worse off than they were previously. If the right hon. Gentleman takes it away, he is merely piling on the agony.
I ask the right hon. Gentleman again to reflect upon that matter, upon the fact that the maintenance of the subsidy would not have compensated local authorities for that one single factor, the rise in the cost of borrowing in relation to what I think is a fair average for a house. We 708 welcome the right hon. Gentleman's repentance, but it was a repentance because his inquiry about old folk led him to a different conclusion and be recognised the facts. That is well and good.
When he made his statement on 27th October, 1955, did he or did he not expect that there was going to be a continuing rise in the rate of interest for local authorities? Did he or did he not expect that when he came to take a further £10 away, as he then proposed to do, it would he on top of a rise amounting to about £12 a year on the borrowing cost? 1 think the right hon. Gentleman's answer will be, "Well, I did not know." I do not see how he could have known. He certainly did not say anything about it. Surely he should recognise that there at any rate something rather unexpected has happened.
What about the Government's adventures in Suez and their consequences? Does the right hon. Gentleman really think that house building in this country, the activities of local authorities and the rest, are not going to suffer from the economic consequences from that unfortunate venture? We are not discussing them at length now. I need not rub in the fact that we have just been talking about petrol rationing. I need not remind the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends of all the nasty things, mostly untrue, that his party said about rationing, controls and the rest at the last General Election. Here we are faced with an emergency brought about by the Government's own actions, and the consequence is that all that has become applicable the wrong way round.
It is very unfortunate for the right hon. Gentleman, and I appreciate the serious difficulty into which a matter of this kind puts him, but ought he not to take it into account when he is considering what the local authorities have got to do? They have got to pay more for petrol, they will face wage claims as a result of this sort of thing, and they may have to deal with local trouble, perhaps unemployment in their areas. Is this the right moment to carry out the threat which, in ignorance of all this, the right hon. Gentleman made a year or more ago?
Let me take a third thing which has changed during the year? Twelve months 709 ago the right hon. Gentleman was carrying out a review of rent control legislation. I am certain that in such a large field as that the right hon. Gentleman will not repeat the mistake he made about the old folk and the one-bedroomed houses. I am sure that he would not at that time have come to a hasty conclusion about dealing with rent control. He was only reviewing the matter. It was not until he faced the embattled Tories at Llandudno this October that he came out with the horrible truth that he was going to abolish rent control altogether. Later he brought into the House the Bill which was the first step in that direction.
I am not going to debate that Bill. I am merely going to say one or two perfectly obvious things about it, which I believe the right hon. Gentleman himself would be prepared to acknowledge. It really is going to cause a comprehensive upset in all privately-owned houses. The rents of the smallest of them will be roughly doubled. The rather larger ones, above £40 in London, will be decontrolled. The right hon. Gentleman knows just as well as I do that a stream of letters is coming in from people who have voted Conservative all their lives, or say that they have done so, but now cannot vote for the Government any longer on that account.
Why is this? It is because these people are going to lose the security of the houses which they have previously had, and they run the risk of being turned out by landlords who hope to make a profit out of using the houses in some other way. I am not for the moment discussing the merits of the matter. Those are the obvious consequences of the Bill. Let us be realists; the Government have a majority, and they are going to get that kind of effect out of the Bill.
What will happen then? The people who have been turned out of the small houses because they cannot any longer pay the rent, and the people who have been turned out of the larger houses because they are decontrolled and the landlords hope to make a little more money out of them, will wonder where to go. The housing lists of local authorities, already large enough in most parts of the country, will be supplemented by people asking for council houses and sorely needing them because they have been turned out of their present accommodation as 710 a result of the Government's rent legislation and have nowhere else to go.
That is a new development, if ever there was one, and to choose this moment to reduce the housing subsidy, and, therefore, further to limit—I will not go beyond that—the building operations of local authorities, is surely a lack of foresight which, I am inclined to say, is inconsistent with anything that 1 had ever expected from the right hon. Gentleman. He does not look the sort of man who would be deliberately cruel, nor do hon. Members opposite look as though they would be deliberately cruel; but they do perpetrate with the most alarming consistency a particularly kind of folly which always seems to have the result that one class of people, in this case the private landlords, do a great deal better and another much larger class of people, the ordinary people, the people who get a weekly pay packet and live in a small house and the rest of it, become worse off. That is a very curious resemblance of the varying follies of the right hon. Gentleman and hon. Members opposite. This is a case in point.
§ Mr. Frederic Harris (Croydon, North-West)
Would the hon. and learned Member also say that the Socialist Government were being cruel when they built only two houses where the present Government are building three?
§ Mr. Mitchison
We are not talking about house building at the moment; but I will answer that. The Government do not build houses. They are built by builders either for local authorities or for private owners. What is happening at the moment is that local authorities are building fewer and fewer and private owners building rather more. The hon. Member will find that that is happening if he looks at the figures. This is like all those other pieces of folly.
The people who can afford to get a house built for them are, curiously enough, doing quite well. It is those who cannot afford to get a house built for them who have to go to councils for their houses and who fill the housing lists of local authorities all over the place and who come to hon. Members' "surgeries" in sheer desperation, knowing that it is not our business but that of the local authority. They are the people who suffer from all this.
711 When this proposed change was announced on 27th October, 1955, it was greeted with a few comments and criticisms. Indeed, I made some myself. They were very strongly worded. They shocked the right hon. Gentleman who did not know what I was talking about. I hope that since then he has learned a little more. The right hon. Gentleman said:It has always been clear that it was the intention of Parliament that the subsidy"—That is, the housing subsidy—should not go to persons for whom it was not needed—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"]—and that the relief should be given only to those who need it and only for so long as they do need it."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th October, 1955; Vol. 545, c. 380.]That was the Tory philosophical reason for the right hon. Gentleman's action and proposal in connection with housing subsidies.
Another thing has happened, this time quite recently. The farmers have been getting very discontented. There have been real doubts about their loyalty to the Conservative Party.
§ Mr. Mitchison
I am so glad that the hon. Member helped me; exactly, not now. It was in order to pacify them that the Minister of Agriculture made a statement about subsidies the other day. One has to realise what this is about. These are subsidies for assisting the provision of permanent fixed equipment on farms. I will take a specific instance which will at once appeal to hon. Members, the building of pigsties.
Let us see what will happen with the subsidy for building pigsties. The Minister of Agriculture said:…as part of these comprehensive arrangements, the Government will introduce a major new scheme of grants for assisting the provision of permanent fixed equipment on farms and the making of long-term improvements to land. The details are being worked out…The grants will be at the rate of 33⅓ per cent.,"—we do not get that on a house—and the additional cost to the Exchequer may amount to about £50 million over a 10-year period.That is £5 million a year. I remind the House that the right hon. Gentleman expected local authorities to build 80,000 712 houses a year to meet general needs, and £10 on 80,000 houses is still less than £1 million a year. This farming subsidy is for £5 million a year. The Minister of Agriculture went on:The Government hope that this new provision…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th November. 1956; Vol. 561, c. 229.]Various questions were asked. My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-East (Mr. Coldrick) asked the Minister of Agriculture:Having regard to the constant criticism of members of the Government about granting subsidies to consumers who do not need them,"—I suppose that includes people who live in houses—will the Minister, when granting subsidies to farmers, differentiate between those who need them and those who do not?Here is the answer in relation to pigsties:The important objective which we must keep before us is to ensure that the payment of these subsidies results in increased efficiency in the industry, in the interests of the whole nation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th November, 1956; Vol. 561, c. 232–3.]I do not know whether "blah" is a Parliamentary term, and I should hesitate to use it. All I need say for the moment is that the right hon. Gentleman did not answer the question and did not have the faintest intention of dealing with subsidies for building pigsties according to the means of the person who received them.
What a startling contrast. The Government provide subsidies to the Duke of Omnium to build new pigsties while at the same time they confine housing subsidies merely to those who need them and choose this moment to eliminate the general needs subsidy. I have never heard of more flagrant vote-catching of a more obvious and somewhat disreputable character in my life than the difference between the two cases.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Mr. J. Enoch Powell)
He would sit in another place.
§ Mr. Mitchison
The hon. Member points out that he would sit in another 713 place. The Duke of Omnium is a fictitious character who spends a lot of time in this House as Planty Pal. If the hon. Member will consult his Trollope, he will find that that is so. During that period he certainly voted.
I sum up; at the moment there are still our objections to reducing the housing subsidy, and I have taken care not to repeat them at length. Secondly, there have been very substantial changes during the year—changes which the right hon. Gentleman could not have anticipated and which have made things far harder for local authorities from whom these subsidies are to be taken away.
To put them shortly, those changes consist, first, of a sharp and considerable rise in the rate of interest for borrowing, which is actually bigger than the sum with which we are dealing here; secondly. the economic crisis resulting from the Government's action in Suez; thirdly, the fact that the Rent Bill has been introduced and it has become clear since the Gracious Speech of 6th November—and not previously—that it is going to produce throughout the country, and particularly in the large towns, a complete dislocation of the housing position and undoubtedly a large increase in the number of people who will, on general grounds, need council houses, and, lastly, the very remarkable statement of the Minister of Agriculture, which appears to indicate that the philosophy of the right hon. Gentleman in confining subsidies to those who need them does not apply to landowners in connection with pigs and pigsties.
Before I sit down, I want to take up one small and quite separate point, simply because I have been asked to—and I hope that the Minister will take note of it. It is a small objection to the removal of the general needs subsidy, and it arises out of his slum clearance campaign. In some parts of the North of England, if a house is marked for demolition and demolished and the occupant moves out into the only accommodation available at the moment, which happens, in a mining district, to belong to the National Coal Board—and if he goes there only temporarily because the local authority cannot deal with him—it seems very unfair that when the local authority deals with him finally it is deprived of the slum clearance subsidy 714 because there has been a short interval during which he occupied a National Coal Board house.
That is quite a minor point, but I commend it to the right hon. Gentleman's attention—not necessarily for answer today but at some time or other in the future. I suggest that my right hon. and hon. Friends will find no difficulty whatever in opposing the Order.
§ 8.3 p.m.
§ Mr. C. N. Thornton-Kemsley (North Angus and Mearns)
I want to support the Order which is before the House and to endorse what my right hon. Friend has said about it. In the present economic condition of the country I believe that it is wrong to continue to subsidise houses for general needs. I had not expected to speak in this debate. I came in in order to hear what my right hon. Friend had to say, and I thought that so many of my hon. Friends would want to speak that I should not be required to do so. That being so, I have not fortified myself in any way with the kind of statistics which I should have liked to amass if I had known beforehand that I was going to speak.
I had always understood, when the general needs subsidy for houses was reduced from £22 1s. 0d. to £10 a year for 60 years, that if the amount of that reduction had been spread over all the local authority houses it would have required about 2d. a week in rent, on the average, to recoup that amount to the local authorities. I do not know what the equivalent figure would be now that the £10 subsidy for general needs is being withdrawn, but I imagine that it would not be very high if it were spread over all the local authority houses in the country.
But the fact that many local authorities—although not all, by any means—still have waiting lists of people who want to go into houses built for general needs, and that those houses will cost local authorities more, both because of the withdrawal of the subsidy and because of the increased cost of borrowing, which was referred to by the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison), means that they are probably going to be forced by the very economic circumstances in which we find ourselves to go in more and more for differential rent schemes.
715 I believe that that is a good thing, and I am not at all averse to any kind of pressure which will lead local authorities generally to adopt schemes of rent rebates—to pool houses, both pre-war and post-war; to decide a fair standard rent for different types of houses, and charge that rent unless tenants, giving particulars of their individual incomes, can make out a case for securing those houses at less than the fair economic rent.
§ Mr. H. Butler
Would the hon. Member apply that argument to the pigsties to which my hon. and learned Friend referred?
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley
If the hon. Member will wait for what I am going to say he will hear about pigsties very shortly. I shall not forget them.
I was referring to rent rebate schemes. From the inquiries which I have made and from the experience which I have had it seems to me that those schemes are working well wherever they have been tried.
§ Mr. C. W. Gibson (Clapham) indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley
The hon. Member for Clapham (Mr. Gibson) shakes his head. They may not work well in the London County Council area, but in many other areas where the controlling authorities do not represent the party for which I speak, but very often the party for which the hon. Member would speak if he were going to speak this evening—as I suspect he is—they work very well.
I appreciate that this is not a debate upon those schemes, and I am merely saying that I do not complain if the effect of what we are doing tonight is to force more and more local authorities in England and Wales to take up such schemes. I say "in England and Wales" because the Order does not apply to Scotland, and it might be wondered why I, representing a Scottish constituency, should have the temerity to speak in a debate dealing with the position in England and Wales. I do so because I have been careful to see that none of my hon. Friends wish to speak, and also to point out that what England does in this respect is very often followed by Scotland. I am very conscious of the fact that the 716 Gracious Speech indicated that legislation is to be brought before the House shortly to deal with the position about housing subsidies in Scotland. I have no doubt that when that legislation is being framed due regard will be paid to the kind of considerations which my right hon. Friend has placed before the House tonight.
§ Mr. Mitchison
Does the presence of the hon. Gentleman mean, there being no hon. Member representing an English constituency to support the Government in this matter, that they have had to rely for support on a hon. Member representing a Scottish constituency, and whose constituency will not be affected?
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley
I have little doubt that I shall not be a lone voice crying in the wilderness, but that others will speak. It so happens that I have been fortunate enough to achieve the honour of speaking upon this, an English occasion.
§ Mr. Harris
As hon. Members opposite have had a three-line Whip on this matter does not my hon. Friend think it surprising that there are so few of them present in the Chamber—[HON. MEMBERS: "Twice as many as on the hon. Member's side."]—to take an interest in this very important issue.
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley
I do not propose to go into that kind of arithmetic, which would seem to be somewhat inaccurate, but it may serve as an approximation.
One thing of which the House has to take note is that the withdrawal of the subsidy for general needs will inevitably increase the financial inducement to local authorities to build houses for slum clearance, because the Order is designed largely for that purpose. My right hon. Friend has said that that is one of the intentions. Of course it is. Because the Government which I support has been so successful in building houses throughout the length and breadth of the land, they are now able to go on with a great drive to clear the slums.
The hon. and learned Member for Kettering asked my right 717 hon. Friend whether he was satisfied with the progress of the slum clearance scheme. The House must have been glad to hear my right hon. Friend reply that the figures indicated that the drive, which started so well, is gathering momentum with every month that passes. Of course, there has been only one other slum clearance drive in the history of this country. It so happens that last night I was reading a book writen by a former colleague of many of us in this House, entitled, "Let Candles be Brought In". It was written by one who was the Parliamentary Secretary to Sir Edward Hilton Young at the time when the great drive in the early and middle 1930s to clear the slums of England and Wales was planned and started.
I hope and believe that my right hon. Friend and his Parliamentary Secretary, who are so thorough about these matters and think so hard about and examine every aspect of them, have studied the history of that great drive. I am sure that there are many hon. Members in this House who had some responsibility during the war for some aspects of the planning of military operations. They will know that when a military operation has been planned, the planners afterwards sit down and write the history of it so that if that kind of operation has to take place again, there is a complete record of everything that was done.
The same is true of many ceremonial occasions. I dare say that it is within the knowledge of hon. Members of this House that after every Coronation, and other big ceremonies, someone who has had to play a part in the planning of the details—not only the procession, but the reception of foreign potentates, the hospitality and the timing, which is such an important pant of those events—collects together all the information, upon which a book is written so that on future occasions pitfalls may be avoided and the precedents established may be followed.
I believe that my right hon. Friend has looked to see what was done during the great slum clearance drive of the middle 1930s. I believe that, because in so many ways we are now following the example of those days. It started with a local authority survey, as was laid down in the Housing Repairs and Rents Acts both for England and Wales and for Scotland. It was buttressed by the subsidy for replacement houses, which we have now. Even the target was much the same over the 718 first five years of the drive not, of course, exactly the same, but very much the same.
There are but two factors which are different. The first is that in those days, the cost of building, by and large, was falling. Although we hope that is happening now, it is not happening very quickly. But in the early 1930s it was falling, so that then houses built without subsidy could be let at rents which were broadly comparable with those of subsidised houses built a few years before.
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley
The hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks) dissents. If he has anything to say, I will gladly give way. These are facts which I am carrying in my head.
§ Mr. Sparks
I thought that the hon. Gentleman was telling us that houses could be built today by local authorities without subsidy at the same cost as with the subsidy.
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley
I said no such thing. I was comparing the drive for clearing the slums during the inter-war years with the present drive. I said that there were two differences. I said that in the early 1930s the cost of house building was falling, so that in the early 1930s houses could be built to let, without subsidies, at rents comparable with houses built a few years earlier with a subsidy.
There was another difference which struck me forcibly when I was reading the book to which I have referred. In those days it was possible to build a three-bedroom house for £320. I am sure that my right hon. Friend would be only too delighted if he could do that at the present time.
§ Mr. Sparks
Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us how we can get back to that desirable epoch in the history of housing costs? Can he tell us how we can bring down costs to that level today?
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley
The hon. Member for Acton knows as well as I that in a long period when we have had a continuous and steady rise in costs, we cannot expect to get back to anything like the price of £320 for a three-bedroom house. What we can do is to try to steady the inflationary rise in costs, and that the Government which I support are doing in every way possible.
719 The hon. Member for Hackney, Central (Mr. H. Butler) asked me to refer to pigsties, and I wish now to turn to the matter of agricultural policy which was raised by the hon. and learned Member for Kettering. He knows as well as I do that the 33⅓ per cent. grant recently announced by the Government is to maintain the fixed equipment of our farms; not only to maintain that equipment, but to modernise the farms and bring some of the old-fashioned farms into a modern and efficient state as producing units. It would not be irrelevant, since he has raised the matter, to ask whether he does not think that is a good thing to do. If he does not, he will find himself at variance with many of his colleagues. If he does, I hope that he will say so. I shall quote what he said in my agricultural constituency, and it will be quoted in many agricultural constituencies.
§ Mr. Mitchison
That is a very kind invitation. The hon. Gentleman is making a speech about housing and housing subsidies. Why is it right to bring agricultural equipment and buildings up to date and to leave houses out of date? Why does one merit the subsidy irrespective of need and the other does not?
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley
I accept that challenge because it is relevant and germaine to this question. The great task which faced this Government in 1951 was to make up the acute shortage of houses with which we were faced when we came into power. In spite of the derision from hon. Members opposite, whose Government had failed in their boast to build 200,000 houses a year, we achieved our target of building 300,000 houses per year. We have now built more than l½ million houses. Now we can switch to the clearance of the slums. It is right to concentrate housing subsidies where the need is greatest.
Undoubtedly, the need is to encourage local authorities by every means in our power, particularly by the financial incentive, to undertake with energy and with realism the building of houses to replace the houses of those who live in conditions of which none of us can be proud and of which every hon. Member has seen examples. They are quite horrible and undignified. We must do all 720 we can to rehouse those people in decent conditions. The Government are right to do it by a financial incentive to local authorities to rehouse the people from the slums.
§ 8.23 p.m.
§ Mr. C. W. Gibson (Clapham)
I do not propose to follow the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Thorn ton-Kemsley) because I could not quite connect some of his remarks with the Motion before the House. In any case, I am much more interested in human beings than in pigs.
This Order is already having an effect on housing output, and therefore we ought to make it clear to the country that the optimistic remarks of the Minister were not warranted. I noticed that he referred to tenders which had been approved this year, but of course they will not get built this year, and some of them will not be built next year. What matters is the number of houses under construction. Figures show that that number is going down. I will quote figures in order to satisfy the House that we should reject the Motion on the ground that the Order will drive the figure still lower.
In the last Ministry of Housing and Local Government returns, up to the end of September, figures are given of house building for a number of years. I will quote one or two of them for local authorities who are practically the only people who have provided and will provide houses to let for the ordinary wage earner. In 1953, local authorities produced 202,891 houses; in 1954 that number had dropped to 199,642, and in 1955 it had dropped still further to 162,525. It is going down this year, because for the first nine months the houses built by local authorities were just over 101,000.
It would be absurd for the Minister to suggest that cutting the subsidy, in addition to imposing penal interest rates, has not had something to do with the already tremendous cut in the number of houses produced by local authorities.
§ Mr. Gibson
The position will get worse. Is the Minister aware that one local authority in London is finding so difficult the building of houses to let at 721 rents which anybody in the borough can pay—it is not the London County Council—that it is considering the building of houses next year out of the rates, thus avoiding the payment of interest rates on capital altogether? It hopes to be able to spread over the enormous interest cost which it has already incurred.
That means that that local authority will be reduced to building 100 houses instead of 700, 800 or 1,000. That is all it is planning for. Other local authorities have stopped building. Many Tory housing authorities stopped building months ago. When an enthusiastic local authority with an enormous housing problem on its hands in a place like London is compelled to build out of rates because of financial stringency, the Minister is completely at fault if he thinks he can cut the subsidy without influencing the output of houses.
The total number of houses built is dropping, in spite of the increase in the number built by private enterprise. The total number of houses built in 1953 was 308,000. That is the marvellous 300,000 building programme which the Tory conference instructed the then Minister of Housing to build and about which he made flowery speeches. He only did it once. In 1954 the figure was 283,326, and in the first nine months of 1956 it is down to 196,002.
§ Mr. Powell
The hon. Member will appreciate that he is quoting figures for England and Wales, whereas the 300,000 houses target was always a Great Britain target.
§ Mr. Gibson
Whether it is for England or Wales or not does not matter from the point of view of my argument. What I am trying to show is that the number of houses which are being built is going down.
§ Mr. Gibson
All right; 30,000 houses in Scotland will not help London very much. The Parliamentary Secretary, on the Second Reading of the Rent Bill, admitted that places like London ought to be given special consideration as special conditions prevail there. It is in London and other large towns where the 722 boot is beginning to pinch severely in general housing. The figures show that there is a continual fall in the number of houses completed, and also a continual fall in the number under construction. That is inevitable.
Anyone who knows anything about the building trade would expect nothing else. One cannot turn building off and on like water in a tap. It begins to peter out gradually. As one stops issuing orders houses under construction gradually become completed. Those of us connected with the building industry had this experience after the First World War. Unfortunately, it is now petering out rather rapidly and nothing the Government have done is stopping that. Completely to abolish the subsidy will make things even worse.
I should not have thought of raising this question if the Minister had not tried to give the impression that everything in the garden was lovely, that we were getting lots of tenders and going to have a vast mass of houses in the next twelve months. We shall get nothing of the sort, but we shall have a steadily reducing number of houses, in spite of the fact that hundreds of thousands of families on urgent waiting lists—many for health reasons—will never get a house. Even the L.C.C. with its enormous resources has had to tell its 160,000 people on the waiting list that only a few can he rehoused in the next three years.
§ Mr. F. Harris
Would not the hon. Member agree that in London, Greater London, and near London much of the house building is going down because the towns themselves—as in the case of Croydon—are already so much developed that building must automatically go down as the years go on?
§ Mr. Gibson
The Minister was trying to give the impression that that was not happening, that tenders were piling in and we would not have a reduction in building.
§ Mr. Gibson
We are not going to have 300,000 built under slum clearance nor any other way. From what evidence one has so far the total number of houses built, even with slum clearance, will not 723 come anywhere near 300,000. Incidentally—in reply to the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns—even between the wars the slum clearance campaigns were inspired and pushed through by the Wheatley Act, which set the programme going so vigorously. We were able in the 'thirties to pull down a large number of slums and build a large number of houses, but the Tories have no right to claim credit for that.
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley
The hon. Member should not say that the Wheatley Act inspired and pushed through the slum clearance campaign. That is absolute rubbish, and the hon. Member knows it. The Wheatley Act was the means by which certain subsidies were given, but the drive was inspired and pushed through by the National Government and the Wheatley Act had nothing to do with that.
§ Mr. Gibson
I am not sure under which Act we were operating, but the Greenwood Act and the Wheatley Act set the thing going and kept it going for a number of years. Even then we did not solve the slum clearance problem, and we still have a tremendous problem.
The situation in large towns is getting so difficult financially that housing authorities, with every will in the world to build, are finding it so hard to meet the cost that some have stopped building. Others—I can give the name of the borough if the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns wants it—are considering building at the cost of the local rates. I suggest that with that situation, instead of abolishing the subsidy, the Minister should have come to the House with an Order to reinstate the full subsidy and to give those local authorities a little more encouragement.
As I understand the objection to subsidies—apart from the nonsense that so many people talk about some having to pay for others' houses—it is that the country cannot afford it. I have seen that many times in the Beaverbrook Press; they are flogging it almost every day of the week. Today I looked up the Report on National Income and Expenditure. In 1955 the national product, as the Report calls it, totalled over £16,780 million. Out of that we spent on housing subsidies 724 £79 million. Can anybody suggest that a country which can produce that amount of wealth in one year is in difficulties in finding £79 million for housing subsidies to meet a need, which everybody agrees exists, not only for slum clearance but in the chronic housing cases, such as overcrowding, with which we are not dealing tonight?
§ Mr. Powell
Has the hon. Member the figure for what was spent on house building in the year? That is the relevant figure for comparison.
§ Mr. Gibson
The relevant figure for tonight's discussion is the figure for subsidies. It is the subsidy that we are abolishing. Last year we spent £79 million on housing subsidies, £21 million of which was paid by local authorities and did not come out of State funds at all. It is particularly mean that a country which can raise in one year a total wealth of £16,000 million wants to cut a subsidy which in proportion is miserable. That is what the Order does. It is particularly mean when the result is that local authorities who build the houses which are so bady needed are gradually coming down the scale in their production of houses because they cannot meet the financial burden imposed by the abolition of subsidies and the enormous increase in rates. I hope the House will reject the Order, if only on that ground.
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley
The hon. Member has quoted from the Blue Book on National Income and Expenditure. There is a very relevant figure which he has not quoted. He attaches blame to the Government for abolishing the subsidy, but there is a way in which the difficulty could be overcome—a slight raising of rents. Does he understand from his reading of the Blue Book that the amount spent on rent, water charges and rates out of personal incomes is about £850 million a year, although we are spending more than that on alcoholic drinks, sweets and tobacco?
§ Mr. Gibson
I am sorry that I gave way to the hon. Member, because his intervention had nothing to do with the Order before the House. It is true that we spend more on drink than on rent, and I am one of the few hon. Members who protest about it every time I have the opportunity. But that is not the 725 point. We are engaged tonight in considering an Order which will abolish subsidies on general housing. It is to that that we are strongly objecting.
The Parliamentary Secretary has more than once claimed that in 12 months we shall reach a state of balance between supply and demand in houses in this country. What absolute nonsense. Nobody w ho has any practical experience of administering a housing department could possibly say that. The fact is that nobody outside the House who is connected with the industry believes it.
I want to quote from the editorial of the Municipal Journal of 23rd November:The Government clearly believe that by the end of next year houses of this kind will be so abundant that conditions favourable to the creation of a free market will result. We are not so confident. We believe there will be a substantial shortage of these houses.Everybody with any knowledge knows there is bound to be a substantial shortage which will be made worse by Orders abolishing housing subsidies. I ask the House to reject the Order in the interest of giving some encouragement to our local housing authorities to go on building.
§ 8.40 p.m.
§ Mr. James MacColl (Widnes)
I am sure that we are happy to be present on this occasion to hear the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Thornton-Kemsley) making his contribution to this debate. Having no constituency interest, and running no risk of losing votes, he has very obligingly allowed himself to be put up as a stooge to put the back-bench view of the party opposite. No one else dare defend this Order.
We know why the hon. Gentleman has taken up his cross and acted in this way. He has been in a spot of bother—he has not been behaving as well as he should in Committee, and he is working his passage by doing a little buttering up of the Minister. In the present rather difficult situation in which the party opposite rinds itself, I would not blame him for that. I should be the last person to blame anyone for indulging in a little reinsurance of that sort.
What I thought so interesting was the revelation of his social philosophy. He was dealing with the point of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering 726 (Mr. Mitchison) about spending £5 million a year on pigsty subsidies, while refusing to give any subsidy to overcrowded people. He said the two matters are quite different. Pigsties are part of the equipment of the farming industry, and the efficiency of that equipment must be preserved and improved. What are pigsties for? So far as I know, they are places in which to breed pigs. What are houses for—places in which to breed people.
By what kind of social philosophy can it be right to spend £5 million a year on breeding pigs in good, hygenic conditions, with the best of modern conditions, good plumbing and through ventilation—which, no doubt, make a good fat pig—and yet, at the same time, not accept the essential need to spend some public money on producing houses at prices which people can afford, in order that young couples can leave the houses of their in-laws and start a family in a place of their own? That is precisely the type of person who is being hit. It is not those in slum clearance areas, but those without homes, who are on the waiting list but cannot get a place of their own. It is those people whom the Tory Party put behind the pigs. I hope that the country will bear that in mind.
As has been said, it is interesting to know why the Minister has taken this decision now. Why is it being taken now? It is certainly not because the Government know what the housing position is. As my hon. and learned Friend has mentioned, we have been putting down Questions to try to find out what local authorities are deciding about building for general need. We have been turned aside every time by the Minister, who says that he has not yet got the information. Why did the right hon. Gentleman not wait until he had the information to give to the House in the form of a White Paper, so that we could measure the position? If by the Housing Subsidies Act it was right to have a £10 subsidy, what has since happened to alter the situation? It certainly has not been a fall in the rate of interest or a fall in building prices.
What has happened to alter the situation? I think there are two major factors. When my hon. and learned Friend accused the Minister of not showing 727 sufficient foresight, I thought that he was being too charitable to him. I think that the Minister is showing far too much foresight. He has two facts to bear in mind. The first is, that when the figures do come out they will show that almost all local authorities are abandoning building for general needs, so he has to get this Measure through before the weight of evidence is against him.
§ Mr. Powell
The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that, in so far as the 92,000 houses, in tenders approved this year, are not for general needs, they are for slum clearance, which makes nonsense of the claim that slum clearance is not going ahead.
§ Mr. MacColl
But it has not been suggested that slum clearance is not going ahead. What has been suggested is that building for general needs is being abandoned. The hon. Gentleman, who was indicted a little earlier today for being too academic, should bear in mind the period between deciding to build houses and getting the tender approved by the Minister.
The answer is that practically all the tenders now approved by the Minister relate to cases where the original decisions were taken before the Housing Subsidies Act was passed, and not abandoned, because the authorities were committed to them. The test is what decisions local authorities are taking with the knowledge of the subsidy position? That is what we do not yet know. That is what the Minister has not waited for. Why has he not waited for it?
I will give another good reason connected with what has been happening upstairs: it is because the Government are committed to a free market in houses and, therefore, two things are essential in order to maintain rents. One is to have no alternative municipally provided houses available in competition with the old private landlord houses, and the second is to have a large number of people rushing around looking for houses. Then the Government can work the Rent Bill and get people to offer the rents which the hon. Gentleman and his right hon. Friend have promised their supporters and contributors among the landlords.
728 Take the case that my hon. Friend the Member for Clapham (Mr. Gibson) quoted—the case of the London County Council, where people have been told that if they are not in class A and in the very top level, with the highest number of points for houses, their chance of being housed on the London authority estates is negligible. The only thing which those people can do is to go out into the private market and bid up rents for decontrolled houses which are to be nicely available for them when the Rent Bill goes through.
I suggest to the House that this is far from innocent wandering on to uncharted ground. This is a devilish plan, if I may use the phrase, to force up the demand for houses in order that landlords can scoop higher rents, and a deliberate attempt to cut down municipal general house building in order that there shall not be available for the ordinary people local authority houses. The only local authority houses which will be available are those for slum clearance, where there is no private profit to be made out of them.
We do not know what is happening; but I want to quote some opinions of local authorities. I do not intend to give the names of the local authorities, although I have them here, because I have not their permission, and I do not think that it would be fair to do so. These are opinions in response to questions asked by the National Housing and Town Planning Council as to what their attitude was towards the abolition of the subsidy. Four of those local authorities have virtually no pre-war houses available with which to pool rents and, therefore, the whole of the Conservative argument about pooling rents goes by the board, because they have no houses to pool. Those are authorities in areas of rapid post-war development, where there is no pool of old houses. That is one type of case.
There are several other cases where the increased rents will be so high that the authorities will be unable in some cases to let the houses to the people on their waiting lists. There are eleven authorities, some in Wales, some in the Black country, some in Lancashire and some in the London area. One quotes a figure in the region of 47s. a week as being the rent for general housing needs and, therefore, it will not be possible in many cases to let them to people earning, say, £8 a week.
§ Mr. MacColl
I would gladly give them, but I think that it would be unfair to do so without permission.
There are five authorities which say that they want to have the single-room subsidy available for the larger flats, because old people sometimes want to have a child to stay with them or want to have someone to move in who will be able to tend for them. These authorities, who believe in building sympathetically and imaginatively for the needs of old people, say, "Why cannot we get a subsidy in the case of two-bedroom houses for old people? Why must there he only the one-room house?"
One authority says that it has a large number of overcrowded and insanitary properties, which are not sufficiently insanitary to be declared uninhabitable, but where there is an urgent need to rehouse families for the sake of the children in those properties, and whom the authority is unable to rehouse because it cannot get the subsidy.
Another authority suggests that the Order ought to be postponed so that more time will be available to enable the authority to plan its future programme in the light of this crippling blow. After all, an authority has to plan ahead. Yet the Minister produces these knock-out blows with no notice at all, and completely dislocates the planning system of the authorities.
A rural authority says that it has in its district a large number of low wage-earners and young married couples whom it cannot house. There are thirty authorities who complain bitterly that this extra burden should be placed upon them when interest rates are increased out of all proportion. Another authority in Lancashire says that it is absolute nonsense to talk about people buying houses in its area because they have not the money to pay the deposits, and they cannot pay the contemporary interest rates to the building societies.
One authority says that it has had a special problem of finding accommodation for workers in the coal mining industry who have had to have priority in the national interest, and that therefore the authority has not been able to do so much 730 general building hitherto, but that now it is being caught just as much as some suburban and residential areas which have no problem of that sort to meet. This authority has done its duty, and now it is to be handicapped and prevented from building houses.
Yet another authority has quoted figures relating to an enormous increase in rents. It says that the changeover of the subsidy is going to make a difference of 4s. 11d. a week on the rents.
Those are practical examples, given in response to the question "How is this going to hit you?" If the Government feel any obligation at all to the local authorities, if they take any intertest at all in the local authorities' problems, they should have the courage to consult the local authorities and obtain their reactions. There is nothing more deplorable than the sneering way in which the Minister of Housing and Local Government made a joke of the fact that he had consulted the local authority associations and that they had agreed with everything that he had said except with the reduction of the subsidy. In other words, he has had a complete refusal from the local authorities to accept these proposals, and he thinks that is very funny. That is his attitude to the local authority associations.
§ 8.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Kenneth Thompson (Liverpool, Walton)
I had not intended to intervene in this debate, and I apologise for having heard only a little of it, but the little that I have heard makes it perfectly clear that a good deal needs to be said to enlighten some of those who have contributed to the debate during the last half hour.
I agree that a very strong social case can be made out for subsidising the rents of certain people in certain circumstances. I have always held that view; I have not departed from it, and I do not depart from it now. Indeed, we do that very thing, in many ways, for reasons which are different but which boil down to the same result. We take the problem family away from the overcrowded slum building or the insanitary property in which they live. If one of the children is in trouble, or if the mother is incapable of looking after the family, a local authority, often aided by State funds, takes them under its wing and 731 sees that the best possible attention is given to that family.
It may well be that the right way to handle a specific case or a number of cases is to arrange that the rate burden that has to be met by the income of the family shall be relieved, in whole or in part or in total, by some subvention either from State funds or local authority rate funds. I see nothing wrong in that. Indeed, I entirely approve the principle that where there is that kind of need it should be met by some machinery which is created for that purpose.
I do not take my stand in support of this Order on the simple ground that no one should ever give a subsidy towards the rent of the house of someone else. The whole basis of the arguments to which I have listened during the time I have been either in the inside gallery or in the House this afternoon seems to raise—
§ Mr. Thompson
I was hidden from the view of the hon. and gallant Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton), and, fortunately, he was hidden from mine.
The whole burden of the argument seems to rest on a misapprehension, on the assumption that all the subsidy payments for which local authorities have qualified over the last thirty or more years of building subsidised houses are coming to an end. That is just not true. The fact of the matter is that the vast number of council and corporation dwellings which exist in the country today and which have been built under one or other of the schemes of subsidised building will continue to qualify for and attract the subsidy payment operative under the Act under which those houses or flats were built.
Local authorities will receive into their rate funds very large sums of money in many cases—that is certainly so in the case of my own city—each year to enable them to juggle about with their rents just as they think fit. Having referred to my own city and used the expression "juggle about" with their rents, I must say that that is just what my authority decided to do not very long ago; it juggled about with the rents, for reasons 732 which seemed good to those in charge of affairs at the present time. The point is that very large sums of money will continue to be paid year by year into the housing accounts of local authorities.
If there are cases of real hardship, then a local authority can decide for itself how it will use its own funds and subsidy payments to relieve them. There are hon. Gentlemen opposite who have on many occasions, in my own experience, given lip service, at any rate, to a belief in the virility of British local government. Here is an occasion on which local democracy really can exercise its talents and make decisions for itself.
I see no reason why, in the exercise of their freedom to do this, local authorities should not only provide for their communities the houses which are needed but should be able to finance them and run them year by year on a basis appropriate to their own needs and circumstances. It may well be that, in order to do it properly or to the satisfaction of their own communities, they may have to provide a rate subvention. I personally am not opposed to that. I do not know what views my right hon. Friend has on the matter. If there is that kind of social need which must be met, then, in Heaven's name, let us meet it either by that means or by using an authority's global rent account together with the subsidy payments to the best advantage.
It does not lie in the mouths of hon. Gentlemen opposite to criticise either this part of our housing policy or any other part. The simple truth is that there are more houses being provided today for people to live in and more bases for the homes of British families being made available than ever the party opposite managed to provide. [Interruption.] Of course, it is not difficult for hon. Members to find excuses and apologies for their failures; none of us are bad at that. But the simple truth of the matter is that the houses have been and are being provided.
There is this to remember—and no one who lives in a great city can survey the social needs of the community which he serves or seeks to serve without being aware of it—that some of our great towns and cities have seen their centres dying, falling into disrepair and disuse, while we have been building great estates 733 miles out in the country on the peripheries of our cities.
For the first time since the war something really progressive and dynamic is being done to remove the canker at the heart of our great cities, particularly in my own city.
§ Mr. Thompson
Since the hon. Lady imagines, or likes to fancy she imagines, that there is some challenge in this, she now has an opportunity of using her great influence in the city to see that the challenge is taken up and that the centre of the city is rebuilt.
§ Mr. Thompson
It will be done under legislation provided by the present Conservative Government under my right hon. Friend.
Whatever may be the views and niceties about putting on or taking off £10 or £20 a year of subsidy for this or that kind of house, if the result is that we bring the people out of houses that are 100 to 150 years old and put them into houses with baths, hot water, a little fresh air and decent amenities, then our housing policy will have been justified. On those grounds, I support my right hon. Friend in what he is doing today.
§ 9.3 p.m.
§ Mr. J. A. Sparks (Acton)
I do not know the source upon which the hon. Member for Walton (Mr. K. Thompson) bases the assumptions which he made in his speech, one of which was that more houses were being provided today than ever before. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] That was certainly the impression he gave hon. Members on this side of the House. Evidently the hon. Gentleman has not looked recently at the Housing Return for England and Wales up to 30th September, 1956, which shows the opposite tendency to that which the hon. Gentleman has been indicating to the House.
The figures in that return indicate quite clearly that in 1953, for instance, local authorities completed the construction of 202,000 dwellings, that in 1955 the number fell to 162,000, and that in 1956, taking the figures already available for 734 nine months of the year and averaging them over the whole of the year, the number of completions will have fallen to 135,000. That means that since 1953 the number of houses completed by local authorities will have fallen somewhere in the region of 67,000.
§ Mr. K. Thompson
I apologise for interrupting the hon. Gentleman, and I delayed doing so until I saw the purpose of his argument. I said nothing about that at all. What I said was that under the Administration of this Government more houses have been built than were built under the Administration of the party opposite—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—and I do not apologise for it.
§ Mr. Sparks
If the hon. Gentleman tots up the figures of the Labour Government's record and compares them with the record of his hon. and right hon. Friends opposite, I do not think he will find that there is much difference between the two. It is quite true that for about a year, and possibly a little longer, the total of completions of both private enterprise and local authority building in the country, including Scotland, did top the 300,000 mark. Since then it has been gradually falling. The Minister said just now that at the end of this year there will be more than 300,000 dwellings completed in England, Wales and Scotland, including local authority and private enterprise building. If I were a betting man I would be prepared to put my shirt on a bet with him about that.
§ Mr. Sparks
I do not know what the right hon. Gentleman means by "about". With all respect, I do not think he qualified the remark when it was made originally, but I should doubt very much whether it reaches that limit, because the figures in the Housing Returns already prove that the number of completions in England and Wales by private enterprise, local authority and other agencies in 1954 was 308,000. Averaging the completions during the first nine months of this year over the whole twelve months, the number of completions from all sources will fall to 735 261,000 from 308,000. I should point out here that the average for the last quarter will be much higher than the figure will actually be, because the last quarter usually contains the lowest figures, but I have given the Minister the benefit of the doubt there. If we add to that figure approximately 24,000 houses to be completed in Scotland, we get a figure of about 285,000 dwellings to be completed from all sources in the present year.
Our case against the right hon. Gentleman is not based merely on the figures for this year in comparison with the highest period. The effect of his policy has not yet been felt by local authorities, and the Minister continues to ignore the fact that local authorities have been rushing forward their schemes for his approval in order to get the benefit of the subsidy, knowing that it was to come off. Of course they knew it was coming off. The right hon. Gentleman is laughing. He knows that he has been trying to pull wool over our eyes all the evening.
We can only more accurately judge the effect of his policy by the figures we shall get next year and the year after. Those who will be living at that time will find that the figures will have fallen substantially, because the effect of his policy will not be felt until next year and the year after. My hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Lindgren) was correct in saying that the policy of the Government will bring local authority housing for general needs to a halt. But he did not say "within six months of the passing of the Act." These policies take some time to work out throughout the country and throughout local authority associations. We feel that the proposals to abandon subsidies for general need is unfair to a very large section of the community.
We have no disagreement with the Minister on the slum clearance programme of his policy. We all want to get rid of the slums as quickly as we can, but that will take quite a time to do. At the same time the Minister must not run away with the idea that if a person is not housed in a slum he is fairly comfortably off for housing accommodation because that is not so.
736 Since 1945 about 500,000 people have been moved from slums into new dwellings. The problem now, especially in many parts of London and other cities and towns, is not necessarily a slum problem. I understand that the slum problem in London is likely to be completely eradicated in five or seven years' time unless the effect of the rise in interest rates on housing loans slows progress down, which will probably be the case.
The problem in many areas now is one of overcrowding. We all get letters on this subject. A typical case is that of a man, his wife and two or three children living in one room or two rooms. Another is that of old people living in two rooms and at the same time accommodating a son and his family or a daughter and her family who have been thrown out of their own accommodation because they cannot afford to pay sufficient rent or because the landlord wants to get rid of them.
Many of the people living in overcrowded conditions suffer from very serious diseases, such as tuberculosis. Many children have to live and sleep in the same room as adults suffering from tuberculosis and like diseases. Such people are not in slums, but they are not far from being in slum conditions.
Our complaint is that the right hon. Gentleman is putting a stop to the rehousing of people living in overcrowded conditions. We think that is wrong and unjust. We oppose the Order because it will make the plight of people in overcrowded conditions far more desperate than it is. It will aggravate illness and bring despair and despondency to decent people. This is a very small-minded thing for the Government to do.
§ Mr. Sparks
That is true, and I am afraid they always have been. The country could well afford to continue the subsidies at the old rate and thus help local authorities which have overcrowding problems although, technically, no slum problems. Local authorities will be deprived of the benefit of the subsidy, and they will also have to face the higher interest rates on housing loans, which the right hon. Gentleman seems to put completely out of his mind.
737 These two factors together will make far worse the plight of people on housing lists who live in areas which are overcrowded but which are not technically slums. Such people come to us and beg us to do something to help them. We should all like to do something, but we know what a hopeless task it is. It all depends upon the local authorities. It is all very well for the right hon. Gentleman to say that the number of dwellings being built by private enterprise is increasing. The number of houses being built by local authorities to let nearly equals the number of private enterprise houses built not for let, but for sale.
People who live in overcrowded conditions, bottled up in one or two rooms, cannot afford to buy at present prices. There was a time when they could consider such a proposition, but because the Government have raised the rate of interest on housing loans, and the interest on building society loans has increased from 4 per cent. to 6 per cent. while the building societies will advance only 80 per cent. of the valuation as against 90 per cent., and in many cases only on new dwellings, people can not now afford to buy a house which they might have been able to afford a few years ago. It is possible that even private enterprise building will reach a saturation point where it will be found difficult to sell houses, except to people with pots of money.
I hope that the House will reject the Order which is unjust. It will cause a great deal of unnecessary suffering to people in overcrowded conditions who look to local authorities and this House to find a solution to those problems, a solution which they are not likely to find for a long time to come.
§ 9.16 p.m.
§ Mr. G. Lindgren (Wellingborough)
I am sure that my hon. and right hon. Friends will agree that at times the proceedings of the House should the televised. I wonder what the country would have thought had it seen the benches opposite completely empty during the time we have been discussing this very human topic, the housing of the people. We had an intervention from the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Thornton-Kemsley)—a Scot on an English matter; not that we object, but 738 I sometimes wonder what would happen if some of us intervened on Scottish matters. He was called in because no English Member opposite dared to speak. Then attention was called to the fact by my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl), and so the hon. Member for Walton (Mr. K. Thompson) was called in, after not having listened to the debate. He got up not knowing what he was to say and sat down not knowing what he had said, and he has now left the Chamber again.
The Minister does not treat the House very seriously, as is shown by the facts which he attempts to give us. Hon. and right hon. Members opposite really ought to think of their treatment of ordinary men and women to whom a decent house is the first essential of civilised life. I want to refer to the topic with which my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes effectively dealt. I do not know whether the Minister expects to have headlines in the papers tomorrow to say that local authorities agree with his action. Every local authority association in the country disapproves of this and of the previous Measure.
The right hon. Gentleman is a Minister with a record of having caused at least one local authority association to take an action which in my long local government experience—and I have been associated with local government for thirty years—has never happened before. The Urban District Councils' Association called a special conference of all urban district councils. The vast majority of those councils are controlled by Tory and not Labour majorities and yet that conference passed a resolution condemning the Minister and his action and asking him to receive a deputation. The Minister refused to meet a deputation. He talks about local authority associations agreeing with what is in the Bill. Why does he try to mislead the country and hon. Members?
The hon. Member for Walton talked about the vitality of local government. Under the Labour Government, local government was local government, and for those engaged in it it was paradise. The hon. and gallant Member for Buckingham (Sir F. Markham) smiles. I do not think that he will smile in a moment. Under Tory Governments, for members of local authorities and local 739 government officials local government has been a nightmare. Hon. Members opposite seem to forget that in the early years after the war—1945, 1946 and 1947 —the Labour Government were pulling this country round after six years of total war, starting from scratch and having to deal with bomb damage.
During the whole of that period, the rates of interest remained static at 2½ per cent. and 3 per cent. During the whole of that period housing subsidies remained static—£16 10s. from the central Government and £5 10s. from local rates, making a total of £22. That is stability. That is a situation in which local authorities can plan their work and can get it done.
What has happened under this Government? On 12 occasions since 1952 rates of interest have changed. In 1952, subsidies went up, because at that time the Tories had a small majority and they dare not face the country at a General Election with increased rents. The Minister of Housing and Local Government at that time—he is now the Chancellor of the Exchequer—contributed to the downfall of his right hon. Friend who was then the Chancellor by increasing the subsidies to £26 14s. from the centre and £8 18s. from local rate funds, making a total of £35 12s.
Those subsidies were changed again in 1955. They were reduced to £22 1s. and £7 7s. respectively, making a total of £29 8s. They were changed again in 1956, to £10 and they have been changed again now, to nil. Those changes have meant that local authorities have scarcely known where they were from day to day. I do not know whether the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary, during the period in which they have been at the Ministry, have yet learned anything about local government. From their statements here it sometimes appears that they have not, but I do not think that they are quite so daft as that. They must have learned something.
Surely they know that housing is a matter of programming. Before a local authority can begin to build houses it has to set up a committee to decide to purchase the land; it then has to go to the Minister for compulsory purchase orders; it has then to purchase the land and appoint an architect for the layout and the housing scheme; it then appoints committees to decide whether the plans 740 should be accepted; the project then has to go to tender and the council has to consult the Minister when it has got the tenders in—and it can then start the work.
From the conception of the plan to the commencement of the work takes at least two years. Under the Tory Government local authorities never know where they are. They have thought that they could produce houses for £X per week, but by the time they have got the land interest charges have risen, as have costs; by the time they have appointed the architect, costs have risen again. At every stage, costs have gone up, and local authorities have never known where they are.
As was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks) the Minister completely ignored the effect of interest. Since this Government came to power every council house built for general need costs 18s. per week more in interest charges alone. Interest of I per cent. on money means 6s. a week on the rates and a 3 per cent. increase in the price of money means 18s. a week on the rates. The subsidy has been reduced from its maximum point of £35 12s. to nothing, which is a loss of 13s. 6d. per week. If the Minister considers that that is an unfair statement and that the subsidy of £35 12s. was increased to meet the first ¾ per cent. increase in interest charges imposed by his right hon. Friend the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, we will take the subsidy figure of £22 per annum as it was during the lifetime of the Labour Government, and that represents a figure of 8s. a week. It means that 26s. a week has been added to the rent by this Government on every local authority house which is built. Had I the time I could go on to deal with whether it is the same type of house.
This Minister, who talks glibly when referring to the livelihood and standard of living of ordinary people referred to about 9d. a week on the rent. We did not hear anything about 9d. a week tonight. The Minister chided me because I mentioned it in the debate and quoted Wellingborough as an example. Does the Minister know that the rents of council houses in the Wellingborough urban district have gone up from 15s. to £1, and that that sort of thing is happening all over the country? Because of the 741 actions of this Government, interest charges have gone up; there has been a reduction of subsidy, and a withdrawal of rate fund subsidy.
We are now in the position of having two types of constituents attending our constituency surgeries. I sometimes think that right hon. Gentlemen opposite have given up meeting their constituents. At one time we were interviewing constituents who needed a house. Now we meet constituents who ask us to persuade the local authority to get them a cheaper house, because they cannot afford to pay the rent of the one they are in. Last week I had a pathetic case, and I saw the Clerk of the Wellingborough Urban District Council. I thought it one of those cases in which the council would do what it could if it knew all the facts. The clerk said to me, "If we could do something, we would, but we have so many widows and aged persons whom we have to shift round from the more expensive houses to the less expensive ones. It is often the case now that many of these people cannot afford the rents of 1922, 1923 and 1924 houses, because we have had to increase them in order to keep down the price of the others."
I am not so generous as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison). I think the hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite are evil. They deliberately do this. They wanted to make it more difficult for ordinary men and women to have a decent home. That is what they set out to do. They do not mind if ordinary men and women have to "double up" and live in rooms. They hate to see a decent working-class boy and girl get married and start off with a house of their own. They want them to do what their parents and grandparents did—get a room or a couple of rooms, and build up their furniture bit by bit, while all the time they are living in someone else's house.
Local authorities cannot meet the need, although the Minister talks about tenders coming in. Never since 1946 were fewer houses in contemplation by local authorities. Local authorities are not going forward with their schemes because tenants would not be able to afford the rents for them. We are now providing council houses at rents of 38s., 42s. and 45s. per week. Have not Government supporters had examples of reservists 742 being called to the Colours saying that they cannot afford to pay their rent, and asking, "What about some special grant?" Even when they have had the special hardship grant they have not been able to deal with the matter.
The housing lists of local authorities are still as high as ever. I have mentioned Wellingborough Urban District Council. No one is considered for putting on the consideration list of that council until he has been on the ordinary waiting list for two years. Government supporters must have the same experience in this respect as most of us on this side of the House. In my constituency, a person on the housing list can reasonably expect to be housed within six years.
§ Mr. Lindgren
Yes, it is very good fortune, but it will not be six years now.
The Wellingborough Urban and Rural District Councils are not building houses for general needs. The Minister has said "Ah, but I am undertaking slum clearance". Is he? I do not claim to be a mathematician, but if our figures are correct they are quite striking. The programme was for dealing with 375,000 slums in five years. That means 75,000 slums a year. According to the Minister's own returns, only 16,751 slums have been closed in the first six months of this year. Let us be generous and say that in the next six months there will be the same figure. That makes 33,000 in the first twelve months, or fewer than 50 per cent. of the programme.
The Minister seeks to justify it as a great achievement, saying that it is really remarkable that, having got down the housing subsidies he can get 50 per cent. of the slum clearance that he programmed to do when he was also building for general needs. Although the Minister has done away with general needs building he is now only dealing with 50 per cent. of the slum clearance programme that he would have dealt with under the programme in addition to general needs building. I am not very impressed with those figures.
The hon. Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. F. Harris) interjected when my hon. Friend the Member for Clapham (Mr. Gibson) was speaking to say that in his own constituency land had all been 743 taken up and so the local authority could not build. The Labour Government forestalled that by providing the New Towns Act, 1946. We also prepared the Town Development Act which was finally brought in by the next Government in 1952.
Even in the new towns, housing contracts are slowing down. Will the Parliamentary Secretary tell me how many contracts have been let in Welwyn Garden City in the last twelve months? Houses are still being built, but it takes two years for a contract to run through. The houses required are not being built. Existing contracts are running out and new ones have not been let. If that is happening in Welwyn Garden City I am willing to gamble that it is happening in other towns as well. It is happening there not because of subsidies, which have been kept level, but because of the rates of interest and rising housing costs.
If we turn to the expanding towns, we find that the position is the same. Because the Town Development Act was on the stocks the Labour Government negotiated with the Borough of Swindon and the Urban District of Bletchley about London's overspill population. Those are the only two schemes going forward under the Town Development Act, 1952. The Minister has not put any other scheme before the House. The Bletchley and Swindon schemes are the result of the Labour Government. It is true that in my constituency come interest is being shown by Wellingborough and another is proposed at Letchworth, but what has happened to schemes which were under way a few months ago? They have gone out because the local authorities cannot face the increased rates of interest.
§ Mr. Lindgren
I am not worried about the contractors. They have had a good time up to now. I am concerned with the people who would be living in these houses which ought to be built. Perhaps the contractors will think of the Labour Government and the good times made for them, and the difficulties which they are having now under the Tory Government. Perhaps they will reduce their contributions to the Tory Party funds at the next General Election.
744 I admire a person who is frank and says what he thinks. I would rather the Minister said exactly what he means. What he intends is to lower the standard of life of the mass of people of this country. They are getting too much money in their pockets, he says. If he puts up their rents they will have less to spend on food, clothing and other amenities. That is what he set out to do, and he is achieving it to a minor extent, but in each of these debates I have warned him that all he will really do is to antagonise those of us associated with the trade union movement. That will have repercussions in wage claims and other ways.
Let the right hon. Gentleman take warning. I think he had a letter from the Trades Union Congress yesterday or today with reference to the Rent Bill. That Bill is an attack on the same type of person. Let him withdraw that Bill; let him show the way by withdrawing this Order tonight. If that is not done I am certain that my right hon. and hon. Friends will go into the Division Lobby against this monstrous piece of legislation, which is aimed at reducing the living standards of ordinary men and women.
§ 9.39 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Mr. J. Enoch Powell)
The hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Lindgren) certainly over-eggs the pudding. I do not think many people, even those whose political persuasion is not that of hon. Members on this side of the House, would find very credible the motives of unrelieved malevolence which he attributes to the Government and to my right hon. Friend.
Before I come to the major arguments on this Order, it might be convenient if I deal with the few points of detail relating to it which were raised in the debate. The hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) referred to a case in which a family were moved from a slum house and rehoused in a National Coal Board house pending being rehoused in a local authority house. He asked me whether in that case the local authority would lose the slum clearance subsidy on the new house provided. The answer is that they will not 745 and that a circular covering this point is in course of issue to local authorities.
§ Mr. William Ainsley (Durham, North-West)
I have a letter from a local authority on the subject. The provision of certain houses has been approved by the Minister under slum clearance provisions, but because in the meanwhile one of the tenants has moved into a National Coal Board house the Ministry state that the local authority will not get a subsidy on the house being provided in that case.
§ Mr. Powell
I will gladly look at that case, and I should be obliged if the hon. Member would send it to me, but the position is that which I have just stated, and that is being made clear to local authorities.
The hon. and learned Member also queried whether it was right to make the special exception in favour of dwellings for old people in the form of a subsidy attached to a particular size of dwelling rather than to a particular kind of occupant.
§ Mr. Mitchison indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Powell
If the hon. Member did not criticise it, it is nevertheless a point worth making.
In the case of a subsidy like this, which is to be payable in respect of a house for 60 years, it would be quite impracticable to ensure that a particular sort of occupant was always in that house and to tie the hands of a local authority in that way. I think it will be agreed that this impulse towards providing an even higher proportion of dwellings particularly suitable for elderly persons is best imparted by retaining the general needs subsidy for the one-bedroomed house.
§ Mr. Mitchison
I only welcome the Minister's complete change of attitude. I hope he will repent further.
§ Mr. Powell
A number of hon. Members who have spoken in the debate have treated the decision to bring forward this Order as if it were a completely new decision which had been sprung on the House and the country. The hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl), for example, said that the change had been made without any notice. The Order merely implements the decision to abolish the general needs subsidy which was announced by my right 746 hon. Friend as long ago as 27th October, 1955. His words were:we have come to the conclusion that the subsidy on future houses, built for general needs, should be abolished altogether. In order not to make the transition too abrupt, we propose, for a year or so, to pay a much reduced annual subsidy of £10 per house."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th October, 1955; Vol. 545. c. 378.]
§ Mr. Powell
That has happened. There is no question of this being an additional cut in the subsidies or an additional subsidy change of which notice was not given. It is the second and remaining stage in carrying out a decision which was clearly and definitely announced on 27th October, 1955.
The hon. and learned Member also criticised my right hon. Friend for having on that occasion and on many occasions since stated thatit was the intention of Parliament that the subsidy should not go to persons for whom it was not needed and that the relief should be given only to those who need it, and only for so long as they do need it."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th October, 1955; Vol. 545. c. 380.]We had quite a long hunt on a false scent which the hon. and learned Member laid down by seeking to draw a distinction between that principle and the payment of an agricultural subsidy on pigsties. Let us get it quite clear that this notion of subsidies to be applied according to need and only when there is need, is one which is fully accepted and has been maintained for decades by the party opposite. In their own publications, they provide—and I have commended it to the House on previous occasions—a useful anthology of their views on this matter.
§ Mr. Powell
In order not to weary the House, I will, if I may, quote only one or two statements. There was that of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), who said to the Labour Party Annual Conference in 1950:There is no justification for arguing that subsidies should be increased in respect of 747 post-war housing rents. But there is a case, nobody has ever denied it, for adjusting the position to individual families and individual houses.One can go right through the housing policy of the party opposite—[Interruption.] If hon. Members wish, I will quote another—
§ Mr. Lindgren
Can the Parliamentary Secretary let the House know how it can be done now? The Government have withdrawn the national subsidy and the rate subsidy, so the houses are on an economic rent, and there is an end of it.
§ Mr. Powell
The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that the rate subsidy is not withdrawn but is now discretionary. He also knows perfectly well that local authorities are free to apply as they think best—and preferably, I would say, in accordance with the principles which are shared by both sides of this House—the very large pool of subsidies which is payable annually. Therefore, there is really no difference of opinion about this matter, that subsidies ought to be used in such a way that they go to the families which need them most.
A good deal has been said in the course of this debate about the effect of the increased interest rates—
§ Mr. Powell
If the hon. and learned Gentleman wants me to deal with that, I would like to ask him if it is his view that agricultural subsidies should be paid on a means test.
§ Mr. Mitchison
My view most certainly is that if housing subsidies are to be given only to those who need it, better protection should not be given to the builders of pigsties.
§ Mr. Powell
At any rate we have it established that the party opposite and the Government are in agreement that housing subsidies should be applied in accordance with need, and applied to the families that need them most.
A good deal has been said in this debate about the effect of the increased interest rates over the last twelve months, and the increased outgoings, in consequence, in respect of houses which are now being built, or which will be built 748 in the immediate future. That, of course, resolves itself into the main argument that the general needs subsidy should not now be abolished and, indeed, into the still wider argument that the general needs subsidy should be increased. So one is really dealing with the argument about interest rates when one deals with the general issue of the amount and the abolition of the subsidy itself.
§ Mr. Lindgren
Can the hon. Gentleman say why his right hon. Friend's predecessor increased the subsidy from £22 to £35 12s. in 1952, when interest rates went up by only¾ per cent.?
§ Mr. Powell
Part of the answer to that is that there had been a very big increase in building costs during the period of office of the party opposite which had not been allowed for in the housing subsidies payable during those years.
The main argument which has been put against this Order is that, taken in combination with the effect of the increased interest rates, it will not enable local authorities to go on building for general needs. That has been the major contention advanced from the benches opposite against this Order. I agree that this proposition cannot be tested by examining the number of houses being completed in the current year, because, of course, those were in tenders approved before the beginning of November, 1955. It is relevant, however, to look at the intentions of local authorities as they were formulated after knowledge not only of the Housing Subsidies Act of this year but also of this further step which, as I have explained, was then clearly forecast by my right hon. Friend.
The returns which local authorities have made, and a large majority of those returns are now available, show, as I informed the House in the debate on the Address on 7th November, thatlocal authorities as a whole were envisaging the submission of no fewer tenders this year than were approved in the previous financial year 1955–56."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th Nov., 1956; Vol. 560, c. 170.]So, with all the facts in front of them, with knowledge of the 1956 Act, and with knowledge of this intended Order, local authorities are still proposing to submit tenders for approval at a rate at least, not less than that at which they were being approved in the previous financial year.
§ Mr. Sparks
We should have some light shed on these figures, because I think that the Minister's right hon. Friend did say that up to the first ten months of this year 92,000 houses had been approved in tender. If we average that for the year, I think that it works out to about 110,000 houses approved in tender. Does not that prove our point that the Government have sanctioned the building of only 110,000 houses in twelve months, which is the lowest figure for five years?
§ Mr. Powell
The first point to get clear is that neither the reduction of the subsidy to f10 nor the certain knowledge that before the end of this financial year, to put it at the outside, it would be abolished—
§ Mr. Powell
I should have thought that "a year or so" from October, 1955, would not justify the local authorities working on the assumption that they would be available after April, 1957—this knowledge has not prevented local authorities from deciding to ask for approval of tenders in this financial year.
This is supported by the fact which my right hon. Friend quoted that the number of tenders actually approved in the first ten months of this year, that is tenders which were deliberately accepted in the knowledge of the effect of the reduction to £10, is virtually the same as the number which was approved in the corresponding previous ten months when there was no knowledge of the reduction of the general needs subsidy.
§ Mr. David Griffiths (Rather Valley)
While we cannot contradict the hon. Gentleman that the number of tenders is similar to what it was last year, will he give us the number of houses that were tendered for.
§ Mr. Powell
My right hon. Friend has quoted the number of houses in tenders approved in both cases. The point is that there is no appreciable result discernible from the reduction of the general needs 750 subsidy or from the declared intention to abolish it.
We have been told repeatedly throughout this debate that local authorities, up and down the country, because of the reduction and now the abolition of the general needs subsidy, are ceasing to build houses for general needs, although there is still an urgent need for houses in their areas. That has been the contention which has been advanced time after time.
There is a Section in the Housing Subsidies Act, 1956, which lays down that where there is urgent need for more housing accommodation to be provided by the local authority and where, without special aid provision of that extra accommodation would either result in the imposition of an unreasonably heavy rate burden or would necessitate the charging of unreasonably high rents, a local authority can apply to my right hon. Friend for large additional subsidies. They have to show that there is an urgent need for additional accommodation to be provided by them, and they have to show that they cannot do that under the current subsidies without either increasing the rates unduly or charging unduly high rents. Out of over 1,400 housing authorities in England and Wales, ten local authorities have so far even suggested that they might come within that category. In the face of that fact, it is absurd to argue that local authorities up and down the country, without even making an application to my right hon. Friend, are deciding to abandon building for general needs because they cannot do so for financial reasons.
Is not the answer very simple? At the end of it, it rests with the discretion of the Minister, and they know the Minister.
§ Mr. Powell
Is the hon. and learned Gentleman asking the House to believe that a local authority with an urgent housing need, which can show that it cannot meet it under existing subsidy conditions because of an unreasonably heavy rate burden or unreasonably high rents, does not even come forward and make a case to my right hon. Friend? That is patently absurd.
There is a tremendous amount of confusion of thought on the part of those 751 who think that the existence of a requirement for more houses to meet general needs, the needs often—I agree with the hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks)—of people living in very overcrowded conditions, is the same thing as the necessity for a continued increase in the annual subsidy payments pro rata with every house so provided. In other words, it is a confusion between the need to build houses and the need further to subsidise rents.
I do not know whether hon. Members will have noticed—and it is very relevant—the results of a survey which was recently made by the city of Leeds. The Leeds Corporation has records of about 1,400 overcrowded houses, and it examined the cases of 77 families who were at the top of the list for priority treatment. An examination of those 77 casesshowed that one-third had a household income of more than £1,000 a year, and that half of the cases had household incomes of more than £750 a year. This was on their own admission, after all tax deductions had been made. Only three had net incomes of less than £10 a week.In the very worst case, of people living in the very worst conditions,the recorded income which was going into that house … after deduction of tax was £1,600 a year.In the face of the facts which I have put before the House, both of the rate at which local authorities are still inviting tenders for the building of houses and of the applications for special treatment under Section 5 of the Housing Subsidies Act of this year, it is ludicrous to argue that the reduction and the abolition of the general needs subsidy will prevent local authorities from building houses that are required for general needs.
Of course, more of the houses in total which local authorities build will go to the rehousing of persons from the slums. That is the intention. That was the intention of the shift of emphasis. That was the intention of leaving a differential subsidy attached to houses built for replacement of slum dwellings. But hon. Members opposite cannot have it both ways. They cannot say, "Local authorities are still tendering at the same rate but those houses are going to slum clearance," and at the same time argue that the slum clearance campaign is not getting into its stride.
752 The hon. Member for Wellingborough, when we were considering the Housing Subsidies Bill on Third Reading at the beginning of this year, ventured upon a prophecy. He said:The number of slum dwellers who will be rehoused next year and under this Bill will be far fewer than the number rehoused under the Acts each year since 1945–46.… The actual number of people rehoused and the actual number of houses built will be much fewer.… This Bill is not giving them"—That is to say, the local authorities—any encouragement for slum clearance at all." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th February, 1956; Vol. 548, c. 2385–6]
§ Mr. Powell
A refutation of that statement, that slum clearance is going to decline after the enactment of the 1956 Housing Subsidies Act, is provided by the statistics of this campaign which is now starting, which show—if hon. Members will look at Tables VI and VII in the last Quarterly Return—that in every single stage of slum clearance work there is an acceleration quarter by quarter.
§ Mr. Powell
May I just finish this? In that stage which most clearly indicates what will be the rate of work over the coming twelve months, namely the submission of clearance areas to my right hon. Friend, the rate this year, as my right hon. Friend has told the House tonight, is double the rate last year; and that acceleration is going on quarter by quarter.
§ Mr. Lindgren
The hon. Gentleman really is playing with figures. What I stated in Committee is a fact, according to his own returns. He will not complete 33,000 this year, which is less than half of the 75,000 programmed.
§ Mr. Powell
The hon. Gentleman should not stumble from one disproved prophecy to another which will be disproved in one or two months' time. He was wrong about what would be the consequences of the 1956 Act. Tonight he has been favouring us with further prophecies of what will be the consequences of this Order. He will be wrong there again.
§ Mr. Lindgren
Really. if the Parliamentary Secretary is professing to deal with the facts, he should deal with them. My statement was correct, and the Parliamentary Secretary's statement now 753 is about as correct as the Minister's statement about a 9d.-a-week increase.
§ Mr. Powell
All this can be looked at in a cool frame of mind; all these assertions can be looked at calmly and coldly in HANSARD tomorrow morning. What HANSARD attributed to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Wellingborough as his view of the 1956 Act was that not only would the Bill not give the local authorities any encouragement for slum clearance at all, but the actual number of people rehoused and the number of houses built would be much fewer as a result of the Bill. In fact, there are much more, every quarter which goes by, in every single phase of slum clearance work.
My hon. Friend the Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. ThorntonKemsley) referred in his speech earlier in
§ this debate to the only previous slum clearance campaign which this country has known. My hon. Friend reminded the House that that slum clearance campaign was launched by a similar concentration of incentive and effort in the form of the Measure brought in by the present Lord Kennet in 1933. I believe—and now I am going to make a prophecy myself too—that when people come to look back upon the slum clearance campaign which in the next five or ten years will root out the vast majority of slums in this country, they will see the decision announced by my right hon. Friend on 27th October, 1955, and which this Order implements, as the decisive event in the launching of that campaign.
§ Question put:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 275, Noes, 241.
|Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.)||Noble, Comdr. A. H, P.||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Lindsay, Martin (Solihull)||Nugent, G. R. H.||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)|
|Linstead, Sir H. N.||Oakshott, H. D.||Steward, Sir William (W'Iwich, W.)|
|Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)||O'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)||Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Longden, Gilbert||Ormsby-Core, Hon. W. D.||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Low, Rt. Hon. A. R. W.||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Storey, S.|
|Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Lucas, P. B. (Brentford & Chiswick)||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Weston-S-Mare)||Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)|
|Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Page, R. G.||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|McCallum, Major Sir Duncan||Pannell, N. A. (Kirkdale)||Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)|
|Macdonald, Sir Peter||Peyton, J. W. W.||Teeling, W.|
|Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Temple, J. M.|
|McKibbin, A. J.||Pilkington, Capt. R. A.||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Mackie, J. H. (Calloway)||Pitman, I, J.||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|McLaughlin, Mrs. P.||Pitt, Miss E. M.||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Maclean, Fitzroy (Lancaster)||Pott, H. P.||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. P.|
|McLean, Neil (Inverness)||Powell, J. Enoch||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.|
|Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.)||Price, David (Eastleigh)||Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)|
|MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)||Profumo, J. D.||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Ramsden, J. E.||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Maddan, Martin||Rawlinson, Peter||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.|
|Maitland, Cdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)||Redmayne, M.||Vickers, Miss J. H.|
|Maitland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark)||Remnant, Hon. p.||Vosper, D. F.|
|Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.||Renton, D. L. M.||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Markham, Major Sir Frank||Ridsdale, J. E.||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (S. M'lebone)|
|Marlowe, A. A. H.||Rippon, A. G. F.||Walker-Smith, D. C.|
|Marples, A. E.||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)||Wall, Major Patrick|
|Marshall, Douglas||Roper, Sir Harold||Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)|
|Mathew, R.||Russell, R. S.||Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)|
|Maude, Angus||Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.||Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold|
|Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.||Schofield, Lt.-Col. W.||Whitelaw, W.S.I. (Penrith & Border)|
|Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R.||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Molson, Rt. Hon. Hugh||Sharples, R. C.||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Monckton, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter||Shepherd, William||Wills, G. (Bridgwater)|
|Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Nabarro, G. D. N.||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Nairn, D. L. S.||Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood)||Woollam, John Victor|
|Neave, Airey||Soames, Capt. C.|
|Nicholls, Harmar||Spearman, Sir Alexander||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)||Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir p. (Kens'gt'n, S.)||Mr. Richard Thompson and|
|Nicolson, N. (B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'ch)||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard||Mr. Bryan.|
|Ainsley, J. W.||Coldrick, W.||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)|
|Albu, A. H.||Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead)||Griffiths, William (Exchange)|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Collins, V. J. (Shoreditch &Finsbury)||Hale, Leslie|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Hamilton, W. W.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Cove, W. C.||Hannan, W.|
|Anderson, Frank||Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Harrison, J. (Nottingham, N.)|
|Awbery, S. S.||Cronin, J. D.||Hastings, S.|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Cullen, Mrs. A.||Hayman, F. H.|
|Baird, J.||Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Heeley, Denis|
|Balfour, A.||Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Herbison, Miss M.|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||Hewitson, Capt. M.|
|Bence, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.)||Davies, Harold (Leek)||Hobson. C. R.|
|Benn, Hn. Wedgwood (Bristol, S.E.)||Deer, G.||Holman, P.|
|Benson, G.||de Freitas, Geoffrey||Holmes, Horaoe|
|Beswick, F.||Delargy, H. J.||Houghton, Douglas|
|Blackburn, F.||Dodds, N. N.||Howell, Charles (Perry Barr)|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Donnelly, D. L.||Howell, Denis (All Saints)|
|Blyton, W. R.||Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwch)||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)|
|Boardman, H.||Dye, S.||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Edelman, M.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)|
|Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S.W.)||Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Hunter, A. E.|
|Bowles, F. G.||Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Hynd, H. (Accrington)|
|Boyd, T. C.||Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.)||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)|
|Brockway, A. F.||Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Irving, S. (Dartford)|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Fernyhough, E.||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Fienburgh, W.||Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Finch, H. J.||Jeger, Mrs. Lena (Holbn & St. Pncs, S.)|
|Burke, W. A.||Fletcher, Erie||Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Forman, J. C.||Johnson, James (Rugby)|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Jones, Rt. Hon. A. Creech(Wakefield)|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.||Jones, Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)|
|Callaghan, L. J.||Gibson, C. W.||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)|
|Carmichael, J.||Gooch, E. G.||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Cordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)|
|Champion, A. J.||Greenwood, Anthony||Kenyon, C.|
|Chapman, W. D.||Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Grey, C. F.||King, Dr. H. M.|
|Clunie, J.||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Lawson, G. M.|
|Ledger, R. J.||Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Palmer, A. M. P.||Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)|
|Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)||Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)|
|Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)||Pargiter, G. A.||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Lindgren, G. S.||Parker, J.||Swingler, S. T.|
|Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.||Parkin, B. T.||Sylvester, C. O.|
|Logan, D. G.||Paton, John||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Peart, T. F.||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|MacColl, J. E.||Pentland, N.||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|McGhee, H. G.||Plummer, Sir Leslie||Thomas, lorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|McInnes, J.||Popplewell, E.||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|McKay, John (Wallsend)||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)||Thornton, E.|
|McLeavy, Frank||Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)||Timmons, J.|
|MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)||Probert, A. R.||Tomney, F.|
|MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Proctor, W. T.||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|Marion, Simon||Pryde, D. J.||Usborne, H. C.|
|Mainwaring, W. H.||Pursey, Cmdr. H.||Viant, S. P.|
|Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfd, E.)||Randall, H. E.||Warbey, W. N.|
|Mann, Mrs. Jean||Rankin, John||Watkins, T. E.|
|Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Redhead, E. C.||Weitzman, D.|
|Mason, Roy||Reeves, J.||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Mayhew, C. P.||Reid, William||West, D. G.|
|Mellish, R. J.||Rhodes, H.||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Messer, Sir F.||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||White, Henry (Derbyshire, N. E.)|
|Mikardo, Ian||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Wigg, George|
|Mitchison, G. R.||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)||Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.|
|Monslow, W.||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Moody, A. S.||Ross, William||Williams, David (Neath)|
|Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)||Royle, C.||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'tillery)|
|Mort, D. L.||Short, E. W.||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)|
|Moss, R.||Shurmer, P. L. E.||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Moyle, A.||Silverman, Julius (Aston)||Williams, W. T. (Barons Court)|
|Mulley, F. W.||Skeffington, A. M.||Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Neal, Harold (Bolsover)||Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke, N.)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. (Derby, S.)||Slater, J. (Sedgefield)||Winterbottom, Richard|
|Oliver, G. H.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Oram, A. E.||Sorensen, R. W.||Woof, R. E.|
|Orbach, M.||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank||Yates, V. (Ladywood)|
|Oswald, T.||Sparks, J. A.||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|Owen, W. J.||Steele, T.||Zilliacus, K.|
|Padley, W. E.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Paget, R. T.||Stones, W. (Consett)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Mr. Pearson and Mr. Simmons.|