§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Mr. M. Stewart
I beg to move, in page 6, line 35. after "shall" to insert:subject to subsection (2) of this section.
§ The Chairman
I suggest that this Amendment goes with the next one, in page 6, line 44, at end insert:(2) In the case of any approved dwelling where the Minister is satisfied that the cost of building flats is exceptionally high by comparison with the average costs of similar building in England and Wales and that by reason of the shortage of available land or the number of people requiring accommodation in the neighbourhood of that dwelling it is desirable that it should be included in a block of flats of four or more storeys, the Minister may increase the amount payable under the foregoing subsection by one half.
§ Mr. Stewart
Yes, Sir Gordon. It will be convenient to take the two together. They deal not so much with the total amount of subsidy, but with what the gap in subsidy should be for local authorities who solve their problems by building low and for those who solve their problems by building high. At least, that is correct if one puts it in a rough, general form.
I propose, therefore, to direct my argument specifically to the point which the Minister raised in Committee. He said that he did not dispute that building costs had gone up in the last four or five years—indeed, he could not dispute that—but he contended that the gap in cost as between providing accommodation by building high and providing it by building low had not widened and, therefore, we ought not to provide in the Bill for a higher rate of special subsidy for building high than was provided in previous legislation. That is the point to which we have to address ourselves.
Looking through the Reports of the debates in Committee, I find that the Minister set before us the general proposition that the gap between the cost of building low and the cost of building high had not widened, but, interestingly enough, he produced no definite figures to support that contention. His adventure into figures on the matter was to say that the average cost in England and Wales, apart from the London County Council, of building flats of 12 or more storeys was £2,320. He was taking, therefore, for the basis of his argument, 266 very tall blocks of flats of 12 or 15 storeys for which he said the cost was £2,320.
The Minister then went on to argue that on such a block the capitalised value of the high building subsidy was £660. That left a gap of £1,660. To establish his argument, the Minister had to prove, presumably, that one could not build low for as little as £1,660. All he said on that point was that he doubted very much whether local authorities could build a three-storey block at under £1,660. From the way that the Minister led up to the argument, we had all expected that he would produce specific figures of the cost of building high and of building low. The only authenticated figure that the right hon. Gentleman gave us was the average cost over England and Wales, excluding London, of a 12-or 15-storey block of flats. Any comparative figures to set against that were merely the Minister's conjecture.
Suppose we ignore the fact that the Minister did not fully establish his case in Committee. Let us suppose that he had gone as far as to show that generally speaking, over the country as a whole, the gap between the cost of building high and the cost of building low had not widened. That is only half true, but let us suppose that the Minister proved wholly that as a general rule the gap had not widened. It still remains true that although it may not have widened taking an average of the country as a whole, it has certainly widened in certain areas. That is why we now propose an Amendment to increase the value of the high building subsidy not over the country as a whole, but in those areas where the cost of building high has increased more than the average. It would be difficult for the Minister to maintain that that was not a reasonable thing to do.
On that point, some interesting figures were provided by my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Loughlin). He took the figures for Birmingham for blocks of about six storeys in height. In 1956, the cost of building low in Birmingham was £1,450 and of building high, in six-storey blocks or thereabouts, £1,700. That is a gap of £250. Roughly, it cost about 17 per cent. more to build high than to build low in Birmingham in 1956. The corresponding Birmingham figures in 1960 267 were £1,922 for building low and £2,355 for building high, a gap of £433, or not far short of 25 per cent.
There is no doubt, therefore, that in Birmingham the gap between the cost of building high and building low has increased. Yet this Bill, which is supposed to consider particularly the special needs of particular local authorities, makes no provision for an authority in that position. Surely this is a very simple proposition for the Minister to grasp. He has argued that the one thing that could justify an increase of the figures—
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Sir Keith Joseph)
Will the hon. Gentleman explain two things? Are the figures which he is giving for three-bedroomed dwellings in both cases, and do they exclude the cost of land in both cases? Let us be sure that we shall be discussing the same thing.
§ Mr. Stewart
They exclude the cost of land and they are the same type of two-bedroomed dwellings throughout. This is a very simple proposition. The Minister argues that the only ground for increasing the subsidy under this Clause would be if the gap between the cost of building high and building low had widened. If we accept his proposition that it has not widened as a general rule, it can still be demonstrated that it has widened in certain areas, and there is surely a very strong case for amending the Clause to make it permissive, but not mandatory, for the Minister to increase the extra subsidy for building high in areas where the cost of doing so had increased more than the average.
I hope not to overburden the argument with figures, but I think that we can pursue a little further the figures given by the Minister. He gave the figure of £2,320 as the average cost of building to a height of 12 to 15 storeys. He argued that the building high subsidy provided about £600 of that capital cost. We find that in Birmingham, for a block of flats of that height, the cost is not about £2,300 but about £2,600. I am told that in the Borough of Paddington It is similar. I think that in other cities, or parts of great cities, we should find that the cost is similar, that is to say a figure about £300 higher than the figure 268 quoted by the Minister as the average for the country as a whole.
In those areas, it would surely be reasonable that the value of the building high subsidy should not be about £600 but £600 plus an additional £300, plus, in fact, 50 per cent. It was that kind of consideration that led us to suppose, in the Amendment that we are now putting before the Committee, that it should be possible for the Minister to increase the rates of subsidy under this Clause by 50 per cent.
I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to notice how carefully and moderately this proposed new subsection is drafted. It is to apply only in areas where the gap between the cost of building high and building low is exceptional. It is further to apply only in areas which can show that there is no other way of dealing adequately with their housing problem than to build high, and the Minister has to be the judge whether these two tests have been satisfied.
It cannot be suggested that by this now subsection we propose that the Minister should be let in for a large unreckonable liability, or that money should be lavished on authorities which have no particular need of it. We are offering the Minister the chance of putting into the Bill the power to prevent injustice in certain parts of the country where there is a need to build high and there is the special difficulty of cost in doing so. I think that he will find it very difficult, in reason or in justice, to resist the Amendment.
§ Mrs. Eirene White (Flint, East)
I wish very briefly to support the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) with his customary thoroughness and lucidity. I do so partly because I regard it as a paving Amendment to my own Amendment, which is next on the Amendment Paper. While my Amendment has nothing to do directly with finance, it would be difficult to operate it satisfactorily unless sufficient finance were provided for those authorities which are obliged to build high. Therefore, I think that the Minister should pay attention to the arguments put forward by my hon. Friend.
The Government, of course, recognise, and have done previously, that the expense of building high blocks is considerable, and they make some provision 269 for it. All that is suggested in this very reasonable Amendment is that in some cases these expenses are markedly higher than in others, and that in a Bill of this kind there should be flexibility for the Minister, in suitable circumstances, to make an additional payment, which will be necessary if the kind of flats to be put up are to be tolerable dwellings. Unless this extra financial provision is forthcoming when required, the kind of amenities which some of us are most concerned about for these fiats, and the lack of which makes flats intolerably uncivilised, will not be provided for financial reasons.
It seems to me that the terms of the Amendment proposed by my hon. Friend, as he pointed out, leave the Minister a very wide range of discretion. He is not bound to dole out money to all and sundry on some rigid formula. He is able, in the terms of the Amendment, to fit the subsidy very largely to suit the circumstances of an authority. An authority cannot make claim to the subsidy unless it can show that its costs are higher than average, nor can it make claim for additional consideration unless it can show that there is real need for building high. One does not want to get into the situation where one authority says, "I must go higher than my neighbour and have a finer sky-scraper than theirs." It would not, and we would not wish in the least to encourage building high just for the sake of building high.
On the other hand, when it is necessary to build high it is most essential that we should be sure that the authorities concerned have the resources not merely to build high but to build really properly designed, properly equipped, properly constructed dwellings. If they do not have those resources it will be just as easy to have shoddy, shabby buildings in high blocks as it is to have them in houses of one or two storeys.
Therefore, I earnestly hope that the Minister will accept what seems to me to be a very reasonable and necessary Amendment.
§ Dr. Alan Glyn (Clapham)
I have very much sympathy with this Amendment. Often when I have raised with the Minister this question of height and 270 density of building he has been very much in sympathy with me, and I am sure that he appreciates, as we London Members do, that the only possibility of rehousing all those people who have to be rehoused and at the same time providing adequate play space and facilities is by building high. I cannot see how my right hon. Friend can do anything less than accept the Amendment which, as has already been said from the benches opposite, would give him flexibility which he could use so wisely if he thought it necessary to use it to help building high.
One does not have to be an architect to know that to build high, in some cases anyway, requires a very great deal of expenditure. I think that it would not be unreasonable if the Minister were to have power to help such building in those specific instances where he is satisfied that it is necessary to build high in the interests not only of building but of providing adequate play space and facilities. It would be just as well if he were armed with sufficient financial powers to give the local authority just that type of financial encouragement which would induce it to build to the right height to satisfy the needs of the locality.
I hope that my right hon. Friend will think very carefully about this Amendment. It would give him a great advantage in flexibility in encouraging that type of building which we want to see, certainly in and around Central London.
§ Mr. A. Evans
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman is now well aware, having been told so from both sides of the Committee, that this Amendment really commits him to nothing definite. It merely gives him power to grant additional subsidy where the circumstances of a locality require that that additional subsidy should be paid for this type of building. I hope that the Minister will consider the Amendment sympathetically. He need not fear it, because he will not be pledging himself to spend any money a t all; but he will be armed with power to give help where help is required.
I believe that the Minister is thinking about this matter even now. I am sure 271 that he is not here with a closed mind, because in Committee he said:If hon. Members wish to submit any further evidence following this debate, and I invite local authorities and local authority associations to do likewise, I will willingly look at it, because I am anxious to get this matter right."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee D, 4th May, 1961; c. 483.]So we may hope that the Minister has not already decided against the Amendment but has come to the Committee with an open mind and prepared to consider the proposals of my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart).
The Minister rejected an Amendment moved in Committee to increase the subsidy on high buildings because, as my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham said, he produced figures which purported to indicate that the cost of building high was not much greater, if any greater, than the cost of building low. He gave us figures based upon the whole of England and Wales—I think, from official sources; authentic figures which could be relied upon—but apart from the London County Council. He said that the average building cost of building twelve storeys and over in 1960 was £2,300. That was the average cost of building flats over twelve storeys in the whole of England and Wales but not including the area of the London County Council.
To prove the need for my hon. Friend's Amendment I should like to tell the Committee the cost in London. The cost of building high in London—and more and more of these high buildings will have to be built to solve the admittedly acute housing problem in the Metropolitan area—of building flats in twelve storeys, runs out at £1,000 a room. These figures have been given to me today by an official of the London County Council and they can be accepted as correct. The cost is £1,000 a room in buildings over twelve storeys in London as against the Minister's average figure of £2,300 a flat, in the country as a whole.
Therefore it is quite clear that the cost in some areas, certainly in London, is very much above the average. It seems clear on the face of those figures that there is an undoubted case for an additional subsidy in those areas 272 which can satisfy the Minister that their costs are above average. Of course, the local authority concerned must satisfy the Minister that that is so before he would invoke the Amendment which we hope will be made to the Clause.
I would round those figures off by saying that £3,000 for a three-roomed dwelling in the London area does not include the cost of land. The cost of land is really astounding. This is the Minister's responsibility. It is a matter he must be concerned about, although it is not immediately relevant to this Amendment. The cost of land for high buildings in the London area runs out an the average at between £800 and £1,200 per dwelling, which is pretty astounding. So the cost of building a three-roomed flat, at £3,000 plus the cost of the land at an average of £1,000, is a very high cost.
These are average figures. There are, of course, variations. Some sites are more expensive than others, and it is more profitable to build upon a small site than upon a large site, but I think these figures prove indisputably that the cost of building high—and, of course, building high is unavoidable in town centres—is in some areas very much higher than it is in others.
Therefore, I hope that the Minister, remembering the promise he gave us in Committee, that he would be open to consider other evidence, will on this occasion consider this Amendment sympathetically and, if he cannot accept every word of it, will implement in another place the purport of it.
§ Mr. Frank Allaun
Every hon. Member present realises that it costs much more to build high flats than to build houses, but what we are complaining about is that the increase in costs is higher than the Minister concedes and in exceptional cases is very much higher. My hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South-West (Mr. A. Evans) has quoted some remarkable figures for the London area.
§ Sir K. Joseph
I hope that the hon. Member will not waste energy controverting something my right hon. Friend has not said. My right hon. Friend never denied that the cost of building high is considerably more than the cost of building low. What he has been 273 talking about is the gap and he has asserted that the gap is not increasing.
§ Mr. Allaun
Precisely, and I am saying that it is greater than the Minister concedes. My hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South-West quoted figures for London where costs are higher because of the condition of the building industry. In certain areas there are higher costs for geographical reasons.
I should like to quote a case which I know the Minister has encountered. It is the case of building in North Salford where, because there is absolutely no building land, 11-storey blocks of 700 flats had to be built on land which was previously subject to flooding to a depth of three feet. This meant digging foundations to the great depth of 45 feet and because of the danger of flooding recurring it was impossible to build housing accommodation on the ground floor.
The result was that a great deal of space was wasted for housing purposes and therefore the cost of the flats was increased. There was also the need to build playgrounds for the children. All these things added to the cost, and even after taking into account the existing subsidy a very high rent had to be charged to people who were mostly on low wages. They were the people who had previously lived in Hankey Park, described in Walter Greenwood's play "Love on the Dole".
In the case of another block of flats in Salford, slum clearance was involved and there was all the preliminary expense of clearing the old buildings away. The figures which I shall mention to the Committee had all been to competitive tender and therefore there was no question of extravagance. These are figures of actual competititive costs. The cost of two-bedroomed flats in a 15-storey block was £3,254 or, by the time interest was paid at 6 per cent. for sixty years, £12,062. Since then there have been two further increases in loan interest charges. Even with the subsidy under this Bill of £65 15s. per flat, the rent will work out at £3 ls. per week plus rates, which will bring the figure up to £3 10s. 2d.
There may be hon. Members present who do not think that is a great deal of 274 money. I do, because I would remind the Committee that a week ago the engineering unions decided to put in a claim for wage increases. Their basic rate is £8 4s. 2d., or £9 15s. 0d for a skilled man and there are many men on the basic rate. On wages like that, £3 10s. 2d. is an impossible figure for rent.
Some cities will receive the lower subsidy of £8 per dwelling per year. This means that whilst they will receive a higher subsidy for the higher storeys, they will receive a lower subsidy for the ground floor. I can anticipate the Minister's reply, because in Committee, in rejecting a somewhat similar Amendment, the right hon. Gentleman said:I feel that the subsidies for tall blocks of flats should be such as to enable local authorities to opt for them if they need them, but "—and there is always a "but"——I do not know whether I will carry everybody with me in this—I do not think that we should give local authorities an extra encouragement or bribe to build high flats rather than to build houses".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee D, 4th May, 1961; c. 479.]
§ Mr. A. Evans
My hon. Friend will appreciate that the Amendment before us is somewhat different from the one the Minister rejected in Committee, and we hope that he will accept this one.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Allaun
I accept that, but nevertheless I anticipated that the Minister would use the same argument and would say that if he accepted the Amendment it would be an encouragement or a bribe to local authorities to build high flats.
The Minister knows that the local authorities are not building high flats from choice but from necessity. Nearly all our constituents would greatly prefer to live in houses. Therefore, as the Bill stands, they will live in less desirable homes than they want and will pay far more for them. I believe that the Minister should have given way on the broader question, but I certainly think that in the exceptional cases at least and on this limited point he should see his way to accept the Amendment.
§ Mr. B. T. Parkin (Paddington, North)
The Minister has been quoted as asking for further evidence on this subject before he makes up his mind. I hope that he has been seeking it or will seek it in wider fields than purely building 275 estimates and that he will accept that most of the evidence is not yet available because we have not had sufficient experience of this way of life. This is why I want to speak somewhat on the lines of the remarks made by my hon. Friend the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White) when she spoke of this Amendment as a paving Amendment to the next one.
I want to urge flexibility and open-mindedness on the part of the Minister so that he can reserve to himself powers to make changes where he thinks desirable, because this matter surely should not be decided on building costs alone. There is a difference between a tall block of flats in Putney overlooking Richmond Park, with all the amenities that are immediately available, and a similar block of flats perched on the edge of the railway in Paddington with none of those amenities. Surely social costs must be considered.
I have an unhappy recollection, as other hon. Members must have, of the incidents in Notting Hill a few years ago when a handful of young men got into serious trouble. The majority of them did not come from Paddington or Kensington but some of them came from a large block of flats in an accepted council estate. We do not yet know the causes of certain disturbing social consequences, but this way of life has not yet been going on long enough for us to test it. We have not yet seen a generation grow up in these large blocks of flats.
I have been told that Paddington is the most densely populated area in London. Whether that is true or not, I know that in one of the most crowded parts of my constituency there is an entrance to what is now a milk depot and above it there is the name of the gentleman who lived there and who within the memory of those living in the area used to draw milk from cows which grazed in green fields immediately across the road. Thus do things change.
If one looks at the reports from people who count up the chance of rehousing people in London, one can see that there is no hope of it within what an insurance company would call the expectation of life of the present Minister, but the present Minister will probably live to see people living, for a short time at any 276 rate, on the moon. My hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun) talked about the gap. This is not a gap narrowing or widening. It is a chasm, a leap into a new kind of life of which humanity has practically no experience. All sorts of scientific experiments are being made to find out how one can survive in outer space. Where are the careful, methodical studies being made to find how people can live seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year, raising a family on the fourteenth floor of a block of flats? The only evidence we have had up to now is the piece of hard and important work which has been done under the chairmanship of my hon. Friend the Member for Flint, East, which is a most valuable document, and an indication of the similar sort of work and investigation which ought to be done over a wide field.
I expect that the Minister agrees and appreciates that there is this danger that the living space of the working people is being eroded more and more by change of user, and that there will be a temptation to concentrate on higher and higher blocks in smaller and smaller areas for the people who have to do the humbler work in the great cities. It is one of the most serious threats, in many aspects, to our way of life and civilisation. It involves a reassessment of the sort of values which may have to be preached and taught in the cities.
This is why, on this Amendment, I plead for the maximum flexibility to be given to the Minister, so that he can use his judgment in encouraging some authorities to spend more money in putting in even experimental amenities, which they could never, in the ordinary way, expect to get away with in a housing project, so as to cope with some of the problems which seem to be developing for the future. These problems will develop if we do not pay attention now to the danger of creating a new kind of city life, a new kind of slum and a new helotry who are expected to do the work of the cities, and who we do not yet know will show the necessary resilience to survive these conditions.
§ Mr. Parkin
Indeed, yes, and only the anxious looks of my hon. Friends who want to make speeches have deterred me from going on. It is, of course, but what I want to avoid is the situation where we have only a few limited sites where we shall be forced into building some gigantic silo, some vertical battery house for the workers, instead of the only proper comprehensive development, with even mixed user. Why, the Queen of Babylon did better. [Interruption.] Yes, indeed, with roof gardens. Indeed, the ancient civilisations did better than we are doing. The hon. Gentleman should not provoke me any further than that, because the Parliamentary Secretary is itching to get up and say that he has thought of the same thing, too.
§ Sir K. Joseph
I hope that all of us will live long enough to see the continuance of the present trend of local authorities vying with each other in the standards of amenities which they can provide in the high blocks of flats which they build. Of course, my right hon. Friend wants to help those local authorities which want to build high to do so, and in as civilised and humane a way as possible. The hon. Lady the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White) has an Amendment on a particular point that interests her, but I think that hon. Members will be glad to know that my right hon. Friend has hopes of receiving fairly soon the report of the Sub-Committee of the Central Housing Advisory Committee on the standards of housing, including flats, and no doubt that report will have a good deal to say about this subject of amenities.
The hon. Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin) was quite right in saying that we have had as yet fairly limited experience of the cost of design and amenities in high blocks of flats, but the numbers are growing, and I think that we have enough evidence from them to make at least a provisional conclusion for the moment. I hope that the Committee will not expect my right hon. Friend to take into account the costs of individual blocks of flats, because it is the average which he must take into account, and it is the changes in the average which are the most relevant. Individual blocks of flats may cost more or less according to the design and according to the cost of construction, but 278 the hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun) spoke as if the only extravagance might be in building costs, and disposed of it by saying that in a particular case he mentioned there were competitive tenders. I am sure that he will realise that there can also be extravagance in design, and that, indeed, the design can generally account for more extravagance even than the building.
I must also explain to the Committee that my right hon. Friend's statistics, which do not go back all that far, go back sufficiently to be useful, and that in their average they exclude the L.C.C. area. The hon. Member for Islington, South-West (Mr. A. Evans) was quite right in saying that the cost of building in London is, on the whole, higher than in other parts of the country, but so also, on average, is the income available in London. I should also like to exclude from this discussion any uncertainty which might be caused by those hon. Members who included in their figures the cost of the land. Several hon. Members have been scrupulous to exclude the cost of the land, and, as the Committee is aware, land is considered separately when it comes to a subsidy, and there is an expensive site subsidy which takes into account, not only the cost of the land, but the cost of preparing it if there are special foundations. This has to be considered quite separately and taken into account in addition to any high building subsidy which the project may deserve.
The example quoted by the hon. Member for Salford, East of a two-bedroomed flat costing £3,254 was one where the cost included the land. I understand that in that particular case the building cost was £2,400 per flat, and no doubt the project received the expensive site subsidy in addition to the high building subsidy. All hon. Members have recognised that this subsidy is meant to meet part of the cost of the gap between building high and building low, and the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) challenged me to show that this gap is not widening. He quite correctly quoted my right hon. Friend saying during the Committee stage that the average cost outside London in 1960 of flats of twelve storeys and higher was £2,320.
The Committee may like to have some more figures which I do not think have 279 been given on the trend in costs. I have here figures of the average costs, again outside London and again limited to England and Wales, of six to eight storey blocks of flats, of nine to eleven storeys and of twelve storeys and above. I will give the figures if any hon. Member is interested, but I think that the movement between 1958 and 1960 will be what the Committee is mostly interested in.
In the case of six to eight storeys, the average cost per flat increased during those two years by £84. Blocks of six to eight storeys is the height which is the least economic when building high, because we have all the extra burden of expensive foundations and lifts, without taking full advantage of this extra cost that comes only when we build really high. My right hon. Friend has already told the Committee that that is the level which some local authorities may have to use, but that sort of height offers the lowest reward for building high.
In the group of from nine to eleven storeys, between 1958 and 1960, the cost per flat fell by £28, but looking back at the flats built during those two years, we find that they received a higher level of subsidy, amounting to something like £27 10s. per flat per storey increase in height, and yet the actual cost per dwelling declined by £28. If we go higher still, to twelve storeys and above—
§ Mr. MacColl
With regard to the figure of £27 10s. did the hon. Gentleman refer to the capitalised subsidy or to the annual subsidy? The figure which the right hon. Gentleman gave was £27 capitalised per flat per storey.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Sir K. Joseph
I beg the Committee's pardon. Of course £27 capitalised subsidy per flat per storey.
In the case of twelve storeys and above, the cost per dwelling increased by £36. I remind the Committee of what the hon. Member for Paddington, North said. We are still dealing with a relatively small number of twelve-plus storey blocks of flats. As an ex-member of the constructional industry, I hope that as both the design and site elements of the constructional industry improve their techniques and as greater numbers of blocks of flats can be analysed, the trend will continue downwards. However, at the moment for the relatively small 280 number of 12-storey and upwards blocks of flats analysed in the period 1958–60, blocks no doubt initiated before 1958, there was an increase of £36 per dwelling. As the Committee is aware, the capitalised subsidy is £27.
It is beyond doubt that, on average, all over the country the subsidy for high building is bearing an increasing share of the diminishing gap between the cost of building low and the cost of building high. That is extremely valuable, because my right hon. Friend is most anxious that these flats shall incorporate decent living amenities, proper insulation, proper play space and all the sort of amenity which the best design already provides—probably at no higher price, because there are architects who can solve design, cost and functional problems simultaneously and even produce higher quantity and quality of amenities at a lower price than other buildings produced without those amenities.
In a persuasive speech, the hon. Member for Fulham suggested that the Amendment would do nothing more than give my right hon. Friend a discretion, a power, to increase the subsidy should it be necessary. I hope that the Committee is now persuaded that, if anything, the gap is decreasing and that the existing subsidy therefore covers a larger proportion of that gap. If the Amendment were to be accepted—and my right hon. Friend cannot advise the Committee to acceptit—it would only encourage relatively poor or slack design. In architecture there are always new techniques which those architects who are in the van of progress use in order to provide better dwellings at cheaper cost. The last thing my right hon. Friend would want to do would be to say to local authorities that it did not matter and that they need not bother about good design and that, if a building cost a little more, he had a reserve power to increase the subsidy.
The subsidy covers a substantial part of the gap and local authorities should be encouraged to seek good design so as to minimise the cost and maximise amenities, as the most advanced local authorities and advanced architects are already doing. I repeat that the trends are in favour of lower costs for higher building, the trends both of design and 281 techniques which architects and engineers can use, and the trends which builders and civil engineers can use on the site.
We all know that the management revolution has struck the building industry, particularly the firms which concentrate on higher buildings. We all know that the day is long past when the only tower cranes were to be found on the Continent of Europe. Most sites going to high building in this country now have tower cranes and use all sorts of other advanced management techniques as well. For all those reasons the Committee should be satisfied—
§ Mr. Parkin
The Parliamentary Secretary appears to be suggesting that the Minister will not have the strength of will or the expert advice available to detect whether the increased cost is due to bad design or to a bad architect. Be that as it may, will he try to meet my point—that the Minister should be able to use his judgment to grant a subsidy in cases where more amenities were necessary to a block of flats? I thought I gave a fairly simple example of a tall block of flats on the edge of Richmond Park and on the edge of the railway station. Will he deal with that?
§ Sir K. Joseph
I thought that I had explained to the Committee that even now different blocks of flats contained different quantities and qualities of architecture for much the same average price, and that one architect and one authority and one civil engineer got more out of the same amount of money than did others. It is not good enough to say that my right hon. Friend would have the advice and will power only to use a discretionary subsidy where that was thoroughly justified and where there was no bad design. What my right hon. Friend must seek to do from the very moment when a local authority decides on what architect and civil engineer it will employ, is to encourage the best combination of cost, design—that is æsthetic design—and function. Already in the existing local authority block of flats we can see a great range in quality and price and my right hon. Friend must obviously seek to encourage the optimum in all those aspects.
282 For all those reasons, my right hon. Friend cannot advise the Committee to accept the Amendment.
§ Mr. MacColl
When the Parliamentary Secretary achieves that deserved promotion to Ministerial rank to which all his friends are confidently looking forward, it will be appropriate for him to go to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance—were that Department not at present adequately filled—because that argument will commend itself to Conservatives if applied to pensions. The argument would then be that if pensions were cut down old people would be encouraged to be better housewives; that if the amount of money which they had to spend were reduced, they would learn how to spread their money more economically and how to use cheaper cuts of meat and how to live on root vegetables instead of milk and eggs.
That argument was precisely the argument which the hon. Gentleman used about architecture, because what he was saying was that if the subsidy given in respect of flats was cut the architect would be driven by economy to produce better flats. That is manifest nonsense. What would happen would be that amenities would be cut down. I do not want to anticipate a later discussion on that kind of consideration, but it is clear that if the subsidy is cut we will get not better design but shoddier work and more jerry building.
The Parliamentary Secretary has not appreciated what the Amendment is about. He directed his attention to averages and he compared the average costs of houses with the average costs of flats and talked of average gaps. The whole point of our Amendment is to get away from averages and to deal with particular cases.
This matter arose from an argument used by the right hon. Gentleman in Standing Committee when we were dealing with a proposal to increase the subsidy on flats. Our Amendment then had the vocal support, although not the voting support—I mention that for the benefit of the hon. Member for Clapham (Dr. Alan Glyn)—of a large number of influential and knowledgeable supporters of the Government. I think that we got more support on that Amendment than on any other.
283 Dealing with a criticism being made from both sides of the Committee, the right hon. Gentleman said that the danger was that if there were too generous a subsidy for flats it would encourage local authorities to build flats rather than houses in order to save money, with the result that in areas where flats were not necessary local authorities would propose to build flats because the Treasury would give them a greater subsidy and they would thus save money. There were good answers to it, but I will not waste the time of the Committee giving them because we accepted that argument.
We went on to look at the figures he quoted. With engaging frankness the hon. Gentleman admitted that the figures he quoted about the cost of flats excluded the area where one has to build mainly flats, because London has been excluded. In other words, one has an average for England and Wales which is weighted by all the areas in which it is not necessary to build flats, but which excludes the areas of London where flats must be built because one cannot build anything else. As a result one guts a figure of £2,320 as the average for the country.
The Minister went on to make a moving plea, saying, "I want assistance. I am not satisfied that we have the answer. I want to know the facts. I would welcome any help from the Committee, from local authority associations, or from anyone else". My hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Loughlin) immediately produced some figures for Birmingham. Those figures have not been challenged. They were quoted again today by my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart). They showed that not only was it more expensive to build flats in Birmingham, but that the gap was bigger than the average and that it was widening still more. My hon. Friend showed that between 1956 and 1960 the gap in Birmingham had widened from £250 to £433.
These figures are confirmed in every large town in the country. We have had figures for Salford. My hon. Friend the Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin) quoted the figures for his area. My hon. Friend the Member for 284 Islington, South-West (Mr. A. Evans) quoted the figures for the London County Council. All the evidence indicates that what we suspected is correct, that the cost of building flats is much higher in large built-up areas where they have to be built than in the areas where one has some discretion.
Taking the right hon. Gentleman at his word, the Amendment says that in those areas where flats are vitally necessary the Minister should have a discretion to increase the subsidy by as much as a half to meet the extra cost of building those flats. That is the point of the Amendment, and it is based on the argument used by the right hon. Gentleman. What are we to do? We pore over his speeches. We read the inspired words of the right hon. Gentleman, we translate them into an Amendment, and we are then spurned by the Parliamentary Secretary who will not listen to us. The right hon. Gentleman says that he wants information. We have supplied him with that information. I do not know why he cannot get the information from his own sources. Why does he not take steps to discover the facts of the situation?
This is a simple calculation. Flats cost more to build than houses, and flats cost more to build in large towns than in provincial areas. Therefore, to meet the needs—not the academic theoretical needs—of areas where flats must be built, we ought, on the right hon. Gentleman's own hypothesis, to pay a subsidy which represents the capitalised value at 60 years of the difference between those two costs.
It is a simple figure. The figure quoted in the Bill is not the full cost of the difference in London, in Salford, in Birmingham, or in any large town. It is the difference calculated for the average of the country, which is a meaningless figure because it is so heavily weighted with those areas where the building of flats is not necessary. Why will the right hon. Gentleman not take this discretion? If he finds that our arguments are correct, that a larger subsidy is needed to bridge this gap, why will he not take power to bridge that gap? That is all we are asking. We are not asking for an increased subsidy based on some wild and theoretical argument. We have 285 given the calculations upon which the figure is based, and we say that the Minister should take the power and the discretion to provide a subsidy of that amount if it is found to be necessary.
What more can an Opposition do to be reasonable, to be helpful, to be arithmetically accurate, and to put before the Committee all the factors in the situation? What more can we do to meet the Government? Despite our efforts, they are being as obstinate as they have been during the months when we have been discussing the Bill. They are ignoring the facts. They are refusing to provide this flexibility—that was the word used by the hon. Member for Clapham. The hon. Gentleman is right. We need flexibility to meet the varying problems
§ in the difficult areas. Why will the right hon. Gentleman not listen to the views put forward from both sides of the Committee both upstairs and here and accept the Amendment?
§ Mr. Frank Allaun
I want to keep the record straight. When I referred earlier to two-bedroomed flats costing £2,354, the Parliamentary Secretary said that there was a large item in that for land cost. I want to make it clear that the figure of £3 10s. 2d. for rent and rates was fixed after receiving a Government subsidy.
§ Question put, That those words be there inserted:—
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 153, Noes 200.287
|Division No. 223.]||AYES||[7.47 p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Hamilton, William (West Fife)||Prentice, R. E.|
|Ainsley, William||Hannan, William||Probert, Arthur|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Hayman, F. H.||Proctor, W. T.|
|Awbery, Stan||Herbison, Miss Margaret||Pursey, Cmdr. Harry|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Hewitson, Capt. M.||Randall, Harry|
|Bence, Cyril||Hill, J. (Midlothian)||Rankin, John|
|Benson, Sir George||Holman, Percy||Redhead, E. C.|
|Boardman, H.||Holt, Arthur||Rhodes, H.|
|Bowden, Herbert W. (Leics, S. W.)||Houghton, Douglas||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan)||Howell, Charles A. (Perry Barr)||Rogers, G. H. R. (Kensington, N,)|
|Bowies, Frank||Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Ross, William|
|Boyden, James||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Short, Edward|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Brown, Alan (Tottenham)||Janner, Sir Barnett||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)||Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Callaghan, James||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Castle, Mrs. Barbara||Kelley, Richard||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Chapman, Donald||Kenyon, Clifford||Steele, Thomas|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Crosland, Anthony||King, Dr. Horace||Stones, William|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Lawson, George||Strachey, Rt. Hon. John|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Swingler, Stephen|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Sylvester, George|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Lewis, Arthur (west Ham, N.)||Symonds, J. B.|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Logan, David||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Deer, George||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Delargy, Hugh||MacColl, James||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Diamond, John||Mclnnes, James||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Dodds, Norman||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Thorpe, Jeremy|
|Driberg, Tom||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Timmons, John|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. C.||Manuel, A. C.||Tomney, Frank|
|Edwards, Walter (Stepney)||Mapp, Charles||Wade, Donald|
|Evans, Albert||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Finch, Harold||Mason, Roy||Warbey, William|
|Fletcher, Eric||Mitchison, G. R.||Watkins, Tudor|
|Foot, Dingle (Ipswich)||Moody, A. S.||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Morris, John||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Mort, D. L.||Whitlock, William|
|Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. Hugh||Moyle, Arthur||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Galpern, Sir Myer||Mulley, Frederick||Willey, Frederick|
|George, Lady Megan Lloyd (Crmrthn)||Neal, Harold||Williams, Li. (Abertillery)|
|Ginsburg, David||Oliver, G. H.||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham)||Oram, A. E.||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Greenwood, Anthony||Padley, W. E.||Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Grey, Charles||Parker, John||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Parkin, B. T.||Winterbottom, R. E.|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)|
|Grimond, J.||Pentland, Norman||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Popplewell, Ernest||Mr. Ifor Davies and Mr. McCann.|
|Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.)||Gardner, Edward||Page, Graham (Crosby)|
|Allason, James||Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.)||Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)|
|Arbuthnot, John||Goodhew, Victor||Partridge, E.|
|Ashton, Sir Hubert||Gower, Raymond||Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Grant, Rt. Hon. William||Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth|
|Barlow, Sir John||Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R.||Pitt, Miss Edith|
|Barter, John||Green, Alan||Pott, Percivall|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Gresham Cooke, R.||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Bell, Ronald||Gurden, Harold||Prior, J. M. L.|
|Berkeley, Humphry||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Prior-Palmer, Brig, Sir Otho|
|Bevins, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)||Proudfoot, Wilfred|
|Bidgood, John C.||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Pym, Francis|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Quennell, Miss J. M.|
|Bishop, F. P.||Harvie Anderson, Miss||Ramsden, James|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Hastings, Stephen||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin|
|Bourne-Arton, A.||Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Rees, Hugh|
|Box, Donald||Henderson-Stewart, Sir James||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. John||Hicks Beach, Maj. W.||Renton, David|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe)||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Brewis, John||Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)||Robinson, Sir Roland(Blackpool, S.)|
|Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Robson Brown, Sir William|
|Browne, Percy (Torrington)||Hirst, Geoffrey||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)|
|Bryan, Paul||Hocking, Philip N.||Roots, William|
|Buck, Antony||Holland, Philip||Sharples, Richard|
|Bullard, Denys||Hornby, R. P.||Shepherd, William|
|Bullus, Wing Commander Eric||Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Patricia||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'rd & Chiswick)|
|Burden, F. A.||Hughes-Young, Michael||Smithers, Peter|
|Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A. (Saffron Walden)||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Spearman, Sir Alexander|
|Campbell, Sir David (Belfast, S.)||Iremonger, T. L.||Speir, Rupert|
|Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Stanley, Hon Richard|
|Carr, Compton (Barons Court)||Jackson, John||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Carr, Robert (Mitcham)||James, David||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Stodart, J. A.|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Storey, Sir Samuel|
|Chataway, Christopher||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Johnson Smith, Geoffrey||Summers, Sir Spencer (Aylesbury)|
|Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)||Joseph, Sir Keith||Sumner, Donald (Orpington)|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, w.)||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Tapsell, Peter|
|Cleaver, Leonard||Kerans, Cdr. J. S.||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Cole, Norman||Kerby, Capt. Henry||Taylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.)|
|Cooke, Robert||Kerr, Sir Hamilton||Thomas, Peter (Conway)|
|Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Langford-Holt, J.||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Leavey, J. A.||Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin|
|Corfield, F. V.||Leburn, Gilmour||Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)|
|Curran, Charles||Lilley, F. J. P.||Turner, Colin|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Linstead, Sir Hugh||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Litchfield, Capt. John||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir John|
|Dance, James||Longbottom, Charles||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Loveys, Walter H.||Vosper, Rt. Hon. Dennis|
|Deedes, W. F.||Low, Rt. Hon. Sir Toby||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|de Ferranti, Basil||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||McAdden, Stephen||Walder, David|
|Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M.||MacArthur, Ian||Walker, Peter|
|du Cann, Edward||McLaren, Martin||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Duncan, Sir James||McLaughlin, Mrs. Patricia||Whitelaw, William|
|Duthie, Sir William||MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)||Williams, Dudley (Exeter)|
|Eden, John||McMaster, Stanley R.||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Maddan, Martin||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Elliott, R. W. (Nwcstle-upon-Tyne, N.)||Markham, Major Sir Frank||Wise, A. R.|
|Emery, Peter||Marshall, Douglas||Woodhouse, C. M.|
|Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||Mawby, Ray||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Woollam, John|
|Fell, Anthony||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Worsley, Marcus|
|Fisher, Nigel||More, jasper (Ludlow)||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Nabarro, Gerald|
|Forrest, George||Oakshott, Sir Hendrie||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Mr. Peel and Mr. Noble.|
|Freeth, Denzil||Page, John (Harrow, West)|
§ Mrs. White
I beg to move, in page 6, line 44, at the end to insert:(2) In the case of flats for which subsidy is paid as provided in the foregoing subsection, the Minister shall by regulation require the authority to provide adequate play space for children, including those of pre-school age, unless he is satisfied that adequate play facilities are available in a park or other public round adjacent to the flats.288 We have already had a brief introduction to this Amendment in our discussion upon flats. I wish to draw attention to one aspect of the problem, namely, the effect of the conditions upon children, and especially small children. I do not presume to be in any sense an expert on housing or housing policy, and I therefore hesitate to intervene on the 289 complicated questions of subsidies and so forth. But I am very much concerned about education and the welfare of children, and it is from that point of view that I approach the question.
I am well aware that the right hon. Gentleman, in his Ministerial capacity, has no direct responsibility for child welfare; that is a matter for the Ministers of Education and Health, according to the age of the child. But, equally, he has no direct responsibility for the welfare of old people, but since he is responsible for housing he has a certain extremely important responsibility for those categories of the population, in that he has to provide the right conditions in which they are to live.
I took a very keen interest in the question of small children living in high flats when I was approached 12 months ago by representatives of the health visitors. As the Committee knows, they are people who go into homes where there are children of less than five years of age. We were discussing nursery schools—which are not directly relevant to this debate—and the health visitors said, "Mrs. White, we understand that the Minister of Education has put an absolute ban on new nursery schools, except in replacing existing ones. If we are not going to have more nursery schools we are extremely worried about the social provisions which are to be made for young children."
I asked them what evidence they had of difficulties, and they replied that the difficulties were particularly in the high blocks of flats which are now being built, especially in London, without adequate provision for play. I inquired what further evidence they could give me of the need for these facilities, and they replied, "We are not ourselves in a position to give more than our very strong opinions."
Following that, with the generous assistance of the Joseph Rowntree Memorial Trust, I was able, with a small committee, assisted by a very skilled investigator, Mrs. Joan Maizels, to make some inquiries into the matter, and we published a report, which I will arrange to make available to hon. Members if they have not seen it. It was called Two to Five in High Flats". It is 290 issued by the Housing Centre which has been good enough to distribute it for us, although it has no direct responsibility for the report.
If we have family life in these very high blocks of flats, then we have responsibility for seeing that the amenities provided are adequate. A great deal of attention has been paid in recent years, quite rightly, to the needs of the elderly, but nothing like sufficient attention has been paid to the needs of children. It has not been for lack of good advice.
The Minister himself, before he joined the Government, was chairman of a sub-committee of the Central Housing Advisory Committee, which produced a most interesting Report called "Living in Flats". It was published in 1952. There was admirable sentiment in that Report on this very matter of the welfare of children and special provision for play space. The Report said:The provision of one or more playgrounds must be a first call on the available space around flats because it is on children that the inevitable restrictions of flat life press most readily.That is something with which I am sure we are all in complete agreement. The Report went on to say:There is much evidence from tenants themselves that the need most keenly felt by mothers in blocks of flats is 'somewhere safe for children to play'.In a later Report from the Ministry, published in 1958, there was the following sentence:The important thing is to recognise that the beneficial social effects of good housing conditions can be largely cancelled out if there is nowhere immediately near their homes where children find it enjoyable to play.With all that, I am sure that every member of the Committee, and the Minister, is in full agreement. But despite all the good advice—and I could quote many other authorities who have given it in the last few years—and despite all the sentiments expressed by the Minister and his Department, this investigation of ours in London shows that the action which has followed has been quite inadequate.
I do not believe that we shall have satisfactory provision for children unless the Minister himself is prepared to intervene, and that is the point of the Amendment. It asks that… the Minister shall … require the authority …291 which receives a subsidy for the higher blocks of flats… to provide adequate play space for children, including those of pre-school age, unless he is satisfied that adequate play facilities are available in a park or other public ground adjacent to the flats.The right hon. Gentleman may criticise the wording of the Amendment. I did not have the benefit of assistance by the Parliamentary draftsman or even by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) who is so kind to us on these occasions. But if criticism of the wording is all that the Minister has, I will not quarrel with him, but I beg him to accept the principle that he has some responsibility in this matter.
If he encourages local authorities to build these high flats, he must make sure that the principles enunciated in various official reports are carried out in concrete fashion. I recognise that his responsibility is only to provide the surroundings in which play activities and so on can take place, but unless the physical provision is made—preferably at the start, when it will be cheaper anyway, and not by compromise later on—it will be very difficult to go further and to provide the kind of play leadership and other facilities that may be desired.
Where there are very small children, especially of pre-school age, it is vital that this provision should be made in the immediate neighbourhood of the flats. Older children may go further a field, but the small child needs to play very close to his own home. The investigation which we carried out showed conclusively that the smaller children in particular simply do not have, at present, adequate play facilities. For a small child especially, play is not just a matter of amusement, as it may be for an older person. It is an essential part of the social and mental development of the child. It would not be appropriate in this debate to go into the psychology and educational principle behind this, but I am sure that the Committee will accept that, for the personal development of a small child, adequate play is absolutely vital.
Recently, the Home Office issued the Report, "Delinquent Generation", in which it stressed that a very important age in a child's development was at 4 292 and 5 years. It is clear from our experiences in investigating this matter in London that only the minority of mothers of children in these high flats are really able, if they have other family responsibilities, to see that their children have the opportunities that they should have.
It is true that some of their fears about safety are, to a certain extent, subjective. They have not become accustomed themselves to living fifteen, sixteen or twenty storeys above the ground. They are worried about balconies, and to some extent that is a subjective fear. But their main difficulty—providing adequate play facilities for their children—is a very real one, and we have a social obligation to meet it.
I have not tried to say more than that adequate play space should be provided. That leaves the widest discretion to the Minister and his staff. If we are to provide adequate play space we need outdoor play space, and a covered area and also a place for storage of equipment. It is also advisable that persons planning these flats should consult those who have had experience of children's play. One is apt to find certain architects producing what they consider to be an attractive scheme which, architecturally and aesthetically, it may be, but which has nothing to commend it from the point of view of those who know what children want in their play activities.
I have been interested to find that in some of the schemes for flats which look attractive at first glance one finds, on going into the matter further, that, though a scheme may be architecturally and aesthetically attractive, it nowhere includes a place where a small child can play without running off, possibly into a main road. Similarly, there may not be a place for equipment. Small children like big things which they can push and pull and it is essential to have somewhere to store them. I need hardly stress that some lavatory accommodation is vital, as the child cannot get up to his fifteenth floor in time.
All these things may seem trivial, but they are very important for the happiness of the mothers and children living in these high flats, and this matter should be something which the Minister should discuss at the stage when a local authority is submitting its plans. The 293 Minister looks into all kinds of other matters and maintains standards for them. I suggest that the matter of play facilities for children is sufficiently important for him to recognise a responsibility and to have suitable standards. What precisely those standards should be may well await the report of the subcommittee on housing standards which is sitting at present.
I ask the right hon. Gentleman to accept the principle of the Amendment. I feel that we ought to insist that if we are to encourage very high buildings we should make quite sure that we are doing nothing detrimental to the children living in them. I want briefly to deal with one answer which was made to me when I first looked into this matter. It is the answer, "Ah, yes! You need not concern yourself. Our housing policy is that we do not put families with small children into high flats."
I think it true that in some parts of the country there are authorities which have high flats in their housing accommodation, but have sufficient alternative housing to be able to operate a pretty flexible policy. But I have no doubt, particularly in London and some other cities, that there cannot be that degree of moveability among tenants to ensure that as soon as a child arrives the family can be offered alternative accommodation in a ground floor maisonette or house with a garden. From our investigation we found that the number of families with young children living in the highest blocks of flats was nearly the same as the proportion of families with young children in the population as a whole. So that argument for not doing anything cannot be accepted.
One of the great difficulties in this matter is the division of responsibility among different departments of local authorities. The question of play space is partly the responsibility of the education authority and partly that of the parks and open spaces committee. If the space is immediately adjacent to a housing estate it would come under the housing committee. There is this diffusion of authority, and so it is the more difficult to pin responsibility for the provision of play space on any one department or committee. But that the basic physical provision on a housing estate has to be made by the housing authority 294 is incontrovertible, and therefore I contend that the responsibility should be accepted by the Minister. He should agree to take the responsibility for setting standards and for seeing that those standards are complied with.
I commend anyone who is interested in this matter to read the reports issued by the Minister's Department and then, if they live in an area where high flats are being built, to look to see how far the recommendations contained in those reports have or have not been carried out.
§ Mr. Brooke
I am grateful to the hon. Lady the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White) for her speech. This is a subject in which I have been deeply interested for many years. The hon. Lady was good enough to refer to the Report of the sub-committee under my chairmanship entitled Living in Flats which was published about nine years ago. I still have fairly vivid recollections of that Report as I wrote a good deal of it myself.
There is no doubt of the importance of this subject not only in relation to high blocks of flats but also to large housing estates. The whole Committee is indebted to the hon. Lady and to my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) and their colleagues who served on the committee which supervised the production of this Report. I have a copy of the Report before me and I have read it thoroughly. There is a great deal in it which is of interest and of value to us all. The inquiry was, of course, largely confined to London, although some information was obtained from Liverpool and Birmingham. There is no doubt that it is a document which adds to our knowledge. We have not yet the complete answers on any of these matters.
When serving on the sub-committee of the Central Housing Advisory Committee about ten years ago, I was struck by certain discoveries. One was that some authorities seemed to have their eyes much wider open to the needs of children than others. Secondly, a provision which was happily and successfully used in some areas seemed to be little appreciated in others. So one cannot be certain, neither the architect nor anybody else can be certain, that what 295 is being provided by the architest and by the authority will turn out to be just what the children want.
No doubt the hon. Lady the Member for Flint, East will recollect that there was a time when everyone spoke highly of roof playgrounds. Some of the roof playgrounds which I have seen were a great success; others were almost deserted. And so it goes on. But we are learning all the time. I entirely agree with the hon. Lady that the problem takes on new form, now that the five-storey blocks of flats, with which we were so familiar ten years ago, are being largely succeeded by blocks of eight, twelve or twenty storeys.
I certainly accept responsibility in this matter. I am not technically responsible to Parliament for child welfare. But, as the Housing Minister, I regard these matters, for children as for old people, as well within my sphere of interest. I am extremely anxious that we should steadily improve the provisions made by local authorities for the children on their estates, but I do not think that the right way to do that is by regulations, as the Amendment suggests.
Hitherto we have not operated by means of regulations. Were we to make provision for regulations in this respect, the question would arise at once, why should this be singled out, when, as all hon. Members who have served on housing committees will know, there are many other aspects of social life on housing estates and in blocks of flats which require their proper attention. Rather the procedure should be that the Minister should require himself to be satisfied of all relevant matters before he approves a scheme.
I noticed that the specific recommendation on page 25 of the booklet, "Two to Five in High Flats" was:When plans are submitted to the Ministry under Circular No. 48/57 or by similar procedure, considerable notice should be taken of the proposed siting of such playgrounds.…and so forth. I think it a valuable suggestion that that method should be used. It has been in my mind that when I am next sending out a circular to local authorities on this or related matters, I should draw attention to the need for proper provision for children's play.
296 The hon. Lady has mentioned the Report of the sub-committee of the Central Housing Advisory Committee on the design of dwellings. I asked that sub-committee to undertake a thorough study of the design of dwellings because it seemed to me that the Report of the Dudley Committee in 1944, though excellent in its time, had been rendered out of date by social developments; and that now, when we have had fifteen or sixteen years 'of building since the war, it was time to take stock afresh. A very strong group of people was willing to serve on that Sub-Committee. Some of the group are members of the statutory Central Housing Advisory Committee, and some were co-opted. The subcommittee has been at work under the chairmanship of Sir Parker Morris, known to many hon. Members as the distinguished former town clerk of Westminster. He has always had a very keen interest in housing questions, not only as a local government officer, but as an individual citizen.
I understand that that sub-committee will be meeting shortly to complete its report. I do not know what it will say in its report, but I know from the investigations it has been making and the evidence it has been taking that it has given considerable attention to all these problems of play space for children in flats. I shall therefore be very surprised and disappointed if the sub-committee does not come forward with useful recommendations.
The general procedure of these subcommittees of the Central Housing Advisory Committee is that, if the report is endorsed by the Central Committee, it is published and normally commended to local authorities by a circular from the Minister. That was done by the Prime Minister when he was Minister of Housing and Local Government and the Report on Living in Flats was produced. The commendation of that Report, although in some respects it is out of date—not by any means in all respects—still stands and has never been withdrawn.
I am setting great store by the report which I am hoping to receive quite shortly from Sir Parker Morris's Committee. If out of all the experience it has gained, from the visits paid and evidence received, it has distilled valuable recommendations on this whole 297 subject, I shall certainly be very happy to commend them to local authorities and to tell local authorities that when submitting their plans for new housing schemes to me in accordance with that circular I shall expect to be notified by them of the provision they are making for children's play space.
In what I have said I do not mean for a moment to decry the Report of the Committee of which the hon. Lady was chairman. Indeed, I have already paid tribute to its value, but the subcommittee of the Central Housing Advisory Committee will have cast its net wider. It has been at work for a considerable time now. It may well endorse these recommendations. I am not yet in a position to say. I feel sure that its report, when it becomes available, will be of great value to the Minister and, I believe, to local authorities and to people who are interested in housing—of whom fortunately there are thousands now—but who do not hold any official position.
If, therefore, I ask the hon. Lady not to press this Amendment, which would require me to make regulations, it is not that I wish to diminish for a moment the importance of this subject. I simply submit to her that the better way of going about it would be the way which is implicit in the recommendations of the Report of the Committee over which she presided. I believe that in her speech she said that she wanted the Minister's staff to have a word about these matters with the local authorities at the stage when they were submitting plans. I hope that we can do more than that. I hope that we can give the local authorities guidance when I have received the report of Sir Parker Morris's Committee. Then I can use the normal machinery of a circular to indicate to the local authorities that when they send in their plans for high blocks of flats I shall desire to know what provision they intend to make for the children to be able to play.
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for creating this opportunity of a discussion in Parliament on this important subject. She knows my good will towards it. I hope that she will accept that I have spoken in all sincerity about her Amendment.
§ Mrs. White
If you, Sir William, would accept a manuscript Amendment to remove the words "by regulation" from this Amendment, would the Minister be able to accept it?
§ Mr. Brooke
I do not think I could accept that because I do not think it appropriate suddenly to put into the Housing Acts a particular provision of this kind singling out one facet from all the many matters which are important when a Minister is considering plans and lay-outs submitted by a local authority and ignoring all the others. When these housing schemes are submitted we have to look at them from every point of view and decide whether on the site in question the local authority is doing the very best it can to meet a whole variety of requirements.
I am quite sure that the hon. Lady would not suggest that this is the only requirement which matters, although it is one which matters a great deal. For that reason, I do not think we should be wise to write anything into the Bill to this effect, but she can hold me to anything and everything that I have said in my reply to the Amendment.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
I was very hopeful when the Minister started on his reply. I thought that for once we were to find that he would bind himself to something. I know what the trouble is. My hon. Friend the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White) has put into this Amendment two words which at present are separated by two other words which she has suggested might be removed. The Amendment says, "the Minister shall … require."
The Minister said that he would indicate to the authorities that he desired something. The desires of Ministers are not always welcomed by local authorities, who are inclined to think that the desire of the Minister is an attempt to thwart them from their particular purpose. The Minister admits, on what I should broadly call health grounds, that it is desirable for children living in high flats occasionally to be brought down to mother earth and to be allowed to romp about.
I recollect that there was an inquiry by a social worker from Liverpool University into conditions on Tyneside. He suggested that young children were very much like chickens. If chickens are kept on boards 299 or concrete they grow up with very deficient legs because they are not able to scratch on those surfaces. This social worker went so far as to say that when children lived in flats and never got down to mother earth the result sometimes was that they developed rickets. I do not say that I accept that as a complete truth in every case, but there is no doubt that it is essential for young children, as for all young animals, to be able to romp about on grass under proper care and supervision. I had hoped that the Minister would go so far as to say that when a scheme is submitted to him in future, if it does not contain this provision, he will take the strong steps which a determined Minister can take to ensure that this provision shall be made.
In my constituency there are blocks of flats. I do not think we have any as high as twenty storeys yet, but they are getting up to pretty good heights, and when one thinks of young children living even only half-way up those flights of stairs one realises that it is obviously going to be a matter of some difficulty for them to get an adequate amount of reasonable recreation before the time when they want to take part in organised games. Merely to crawl about on the earth and to make contact with their contemporaries is a desirable thing from the point of view of health, and certainly from the point of view of encouraging them to grow into the community life that surrounds them.
The Minister started with such enthusiasm that one would have thought that he was the originator of this idea and that he was glad to see my hon. Friend the Member for Flint, East, in spite of the bad company she keeps, so capable of learning from the instruction that he had given. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to believe that this is a matter of grave concern, and where local authorities do not submit schemes which contain this provision I hope that, in view of what has been said tonight by hon. Members, including himself, he will feel entitled to make it plain that this is an essential requirement for the benefit of the rising generation.
I do not like the words "pre-school age" in my hon. Friend's Amendment. There are plenty of examples in the Education Acts which would enable her 300 to say quite simply "under five years of age". That would deal with that matter. However, as the Minister is not going to accept the Amendment and as the Whips would be put on if my hon. Friend were to attempt to push it through, we need not worry about that. I support the spirit of the Amendment and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will live up to the glorious past that he has had in this matter, in his own eyes, and will find here fruits for repentance for many of the bad things he has done since he lost that early enthusiasm.
§ Mr. Laurence Pavitt (Willesden, West)
I welcome for the first time since half-past three the Minister coming a little way towards us, but, like my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), I am a little concerned that he should follow this through with the utmost vigour by the various methods that he suggested, other than by this Amendment, should my hon. Friend the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White) decide to withdraw it.
I was glad that the right hon. Gentleman gave the commendation which was due to my hon. Friend for bringing this Amendment before the House. Previously we made a plea for the aged, and we failed. This is essentially a plea for the little children. We have not succeeded, but at least we have drawn the Minister a little way towards us, even if he is resting on the trails of glory of his past with the L.C.C.
The Amendment affects particularly people in my constituency. The Minister knows! that we have to build high, and that we have a housing problem of which I keep him fully informed week after week by sending him a barrage of letters. The people for whom we must build are in a strictly pointed scheme which decides allocation. We need one when we have 10,000 on the housing list. A large number of these people have young children and young families, and this Amendment would not only be of value to the children but would provide an amenity for the whole of family life.
I was particularly interested in the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Flint, East about the hazards to mothers living in twelve- and fifteen-storey flats—not only the actual hazards 301 but the feeling of hazard, which is perhaps even more important. The Committee will know that one of the big problems of 1961 is that of stress, the feeling of strain, the burden of trying to cope with the complications and speed of modern life. There is an additional strain on a young mother trying to bring up a family in a block of fiats of this kind, when every time the child, aged from two to five, goes on to the balcony on the thirteenth storey she wonders "Is it all right?" Maternal anxiety is heightened by this constant fear for the safety of youngsters because of real or possible hazards.
The hazards may not in reality be there. The authority which has built the flats may have put in adequate balconies and protection to ensure that a child could not fall. However, I know from my own experience of the fear which mothers can feel on, for instance, the Eiffel Tower or the Monument in London. They have a sense of insecurity, although the insecurity is in their minds rather than in the place itself. That this inner tension should not be added to is important from the point of view of health.
The Parliamentary Secretary has in previous debates today demonstrated a new approach. In our jargon of political argument, we have the economic man and the organisation man. Tonight we have heard a good deal about the average man. It is a fallacy to keep on trying to work to averages. We average this and we average that. What we do not do is something for the average young child. My right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields has shown us quite clearly that the average child wants to be in a situation where he is able to play and romp with his own kind close to nature where there are trees and grass.
§ Mr. Pavitt
At least, we want this unaverage child to have the opportunity of average association with mother earth.
§ Mr. Pavitt
I shall not be drawn by my hon. Friend into a discussion of 302 normality because that, again, in medical terms, is always very difficult to define.
The Minister has responded to the very human plea made by my hon. Friend the Member for Flint, East in a way which I have not seen before in our debates. In previous debates, I have wished that the groundsmen at Lords might give us a little ridge in the middle of the wicket so that some of our bowling might be more effective and make the Minister a little less adamant, obstinate and immovable. However, he did at least move slightly out of his crease.
We hope to see some action. When the report of which we have heard comes out, there must be results. So often the Minister gives us faint promises that something will be done and yet, weeks later, he still has to answer Questions at the Dispatch Box when we ask whether anything has been done or when it will be done. Having in mind particularly the problems of London and Middlesex constituencies, I urge the Minister to do all in his power to meet the spirit of the Amendment.
§ Sir Barnett Janner (Leicester, North-West)
I cannot understand the Minister's refusal to accept the Amendment. If there were no problem, if the matter had not been investigated, and if it were a question of providing for the future and deciding merely that the matter would arise later on, his answer would be adequate. But it is not that. A thorough investigation has been made. Certain recommendations have been made. The Minister agrees with the recommendations but is not prepared to make them mandatory. Why not? What is wrong with such a proposal?
It has been found that in many instances people were entirely satisfied with the accommodation they had in all other respects; in other words, what had been done was satisfactory and in accordance with the requirements of local authorities or of the Minister himself. Nevertheless, many flats have been erected in which provision for children to play has not been provided. There has been neglect somewhere in this respect, there has been misunderstanding, or someone has not done what he ought to have done when the planning took place.
303 The Minister overlooks the fact that, day by day, the position is deteriorating and there is constant pressure to build flats because the cost of land is rising. Consequently, anyone who wants to save will save at the expense of amenities like this if he can possibly do so. The Minister says that if we start making provisions mandatory, we shall never stop. The fact that up to now it has not been regarded as essential to make a thing mandatory, does not necessarily mean that something which should be remedied should not be remedied by a mandatory provision which indicates immediately to those taking advantage of the subsidy that they will no longer be able to do so unless and until they are prepared to provide this very important amenity.
Why is the Minister so timorous about this? My right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) said that he would indicate that he desires that this should come about. That is precisely what the Minister said. He said, "I am not going to demand it because I cannot do so". If it came to a legal argument, he would find himself in a difficulty which could be avoided by making a mandatory provision of this kind. Those of us who are in the law know very well that the word "desirable" can be turned and twisted in all sorts of ways. Far be it from me to suggest that we have done this wrongly, but people are entitled to argue that the word "desirable" has certain implications. People's desires may differ from what is required under a mandatory provision.
Let us not minimise the importance of this matter. It is all very well to talk in terms of sociology. The need for this provision is evident. Children cannot be kept indoors in a large building. Not all people are so wealthy that they can have nurses to take their children to the parks. All that they can do is to find the nearest place where their children can have playing facilities and can be watched and looked after.
There must be a little soul in the provision of housing accommodation. The home must be the sort of home a person would choose if he were free to choose it. People are not free to do that because there is not enough accommoda- 304 tion to go round. The Minister should gladly welcome this Amendment. It is a cushion between him and the local authorities. It may be said that, since there is not sufficient space to accommodate people wanting accommodation, is it not far better to use the space which is available to accommodate more people rather than to use it for this kind of playing facility? These are very important matters. No matter how desirable a thing may be, it may be argued that it is much more desirable to utilise space for another purpose.
This is so essential a proposal that the Minister should accept it, not only because we want it but because he himself states that he wants it. If he wants it, he should ensure that it is done. He cannot ensure that it is done merely by the provision of regulations, which might be altered by a successor, even in his own Government, who, possibly, does not have the same goodness of heart. There are many who would not be as lenient as the right hon. Gentleman. I ask him to concede the Amendment, because it is the only way of dealing with the matter.
I hope that the Minister will reconsider the Amendment. My hon. Friends have said that he has come part of the way to meet us and has then retreated. The very fat volume of proceedings in the Committee on the Bill is largely a record of other occasions on which the Minister came part of the way to meet us and then retreated. It has been our experience throughout the Bill that, however excellent the case put forward from this side, the Minister has said some fair things but has then done virtually nothing to meet the points we have made.
My hon. Friend the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White) is perfectly right in seeking the enforcement of provision for children in high blocks of flats. It is just about a year ago that I had a frantic telephone call from one of my constituents, who was the mother of three children under the age of 5, living in an upper maisonette in a block of flats. It was not one of the high blocks, but it illustrates the problem.
My constituent was afraid to let her children play on the balcony in case they climbed up and fell over. She let them play on the space outside the flats of 305 elderly tenants living on the ground floor. The children, going up and down with their tricycles and all their odds and ends, drove the old people frantic. One of them was an elderly gentleman of determined disposition who threatened the children with all kinds of dire consequences if they did not go away. This developed to such a point that the mothers of the small children and the elderly people down below were completely at loggerheads on the question of the children playing where they naturally played, just outside the elderly persons' flats. It became a matter of such desperation that the housing office had to take emergency action. The important thing is that it resulted in bad relations from the outset between two groups of tenants, the parents of the young children and the elderly persons, which are difficult to overcome once they have been established.
The fact that no provision was made for those small children by the local authority was not due to any lack of good will. When the flats were put up, the local authority thought that because there was a school playground just across the road with playing space, that would be adequate. It was not realised—it was a matter very largely of failure of imagination on the part of those responsible—that the traffic along the road which separated the flats from the playing space would greatly increase and make it impossible for the small children to go over to play. Had there been a requirement by the Minister when the flats were erected, the local authority would have had to provide playing space for the small children. It is essential that there should be a requirement by the Ministry so that this provision is embodied at the very beginning. All kinds of difficulties arise, not only those which I have mentioned, if it is not done when the flats are first built.
The position is greatly exaggerated where there are vary high blocks of flats. I ask the Minister to realise that it is not enough to await a report which he is expecting to receive. I notice that, almost always, he is expecting to receive a report when we bring forward a good point from this side of the Committee. That is not enough. He must assert his responsibility. It is not only for all the reasons which my hon. Friends have 306 put forward that we want this provision; it is because we see that this kind of provision will be the key-note of these high blocks of flats. If high blocks of flats put up by local authorities have this kind of provision, they will begin to be real homes where families can live happily. Without it, they will be, what so many of them have been in the past, rather soul-destroying places in which to live.
One of the saddest things in the world in which we live today, although it is inevitable, is to see gardens, in which children once played, having large blocks of flats built on them. We have somehow, in this inevitable change, to provide adequate playing space for them. We have to provide it for the older children. My hon. Friends have pointed out that often when we read reports in the papers of juvenile delinquents they come from blocks of flats where there is no adequate provision of playing space.
This would be a start for the small children under 5 who cannot play in the parks. The Minister has said that he does not know exactly what to provide at this stage. He is hoping that he will know better a little later. I would point out that it has been my position in recent years to give approval to housing schemes where modifications have had to be made, not once but several times, to meet the requirements of the planning authority for the provision of garages. A scheme has been drawn up for so many garages per group of flats, and as the planning authority's requirement of garages has increased, more garages had to be added to the plan before the scheme could be carried out. We have reached the point where, in many parts of the country, one garage has to be provided for one flat. That is a common experience. As planning authorities have recognised the need for more garages they have increased their requirements of the housing authorities and said, "Put more garages in your plans". As our understanding of the playing needs of children develop, we can increase our requirements for them.
I submit to the Minister that we have enough knowledge at this stage to be able to say to all local authorities putting up high blocks of flats that they must make special playing provision for children under 5 and as we learn more about it we can stretch the requirements 307 to meet the increased needs. We must make a start. Unless the Minister accepts the Amendment, or one similar to it, we shall not have made a start. Whatever he may say about reports that he expects to receive and the advice he expects to have, we must do something here and now. I hope that he will accept the spirit of the Amendment and give his assurance that he will do something effective about the points which have been made to him.
§ Mr. Charles Mapp (Oldham, East)
I want to make three specific points to the Minister about the Amendment. In Committee upstairs we had twenty-two sittings and we went through the Bill very carefully. I cannot remember one major case where the Minister was able to meet the many constructive suggestions that were put to him. In one or two minor instances he did.
Here, however, we are faced with a very thoughtful Amendment. It may want verbal improvement, perhaps, but I want to argue what my hon. Friend the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White) argued when she moved the Amendment. I want the Minister to accept the spirit of the Amendment and write the purport of it into the Bill, for a third reason which I shall come to in a few moments.
First, however, I would point out that we have been talking today as though we were dealing with a Bill which marks a great step forward in housing history. Frankly, it does not. If we want to innovate great new departures involving new policies we have to add up the books. The Minister has told us clearly, having added up the books, that the cost under this Bill, through the redeployment of subsidies, will be in the long run precisely what the cost is now. This Amendment would not cost the Minister any money. I would beg him to have that point in mind if he has in his mind the accountancy problem. Perhaps he would devote his mind and judgment to this and move away a little from the accountancy problem.
My second point is this. In Lancashire and Yorkshire, counties which I know, apart from the major cities, we have not had a great deal of experience of or willingness—I want to be quite candid about that willingness—to go into this question of tall buildings for families. We know that, as, for instance, in Old- 308 ham, there is a restricted amount of land, and there is a responsibility on the local authorities and all those who take an interest in social development in the older towns, including the Members of Parliament for those areas, to try to encourage as far as possible the introduction of this sort of secondary form of housing when we cannot obtain the form of housing we should in the first place have liked.
Here, in the Amendment, there is an insurance which we should like written into the Bill for the sake of the young mothers, in particular, in some of those northern towns who are concerned about measures of adequate safety for themselves and their children. The first time I went into one of the high blocks of flats in London some time ago I was struck first of all by the apprehensive thought that here there was a great danger to children, a danger of falling over the balustrade. I thought of the anxieties I should have felt if my three girls had been living there when they were very much younger.
If the Minister wants to help the older towns which have to face this space problem, he could, I suggest to him, reassure them by writing into his Bill the sentiments of this Amendment.
My last point is this. Housing authorities, and, in particular, the clerks of the authorities, are not over-persuaded by the Minister's circulars. They get hold of the Acts of Parliament. They will get hold of this Bill if and when it becomes an Act. It may be that in a year or two there will be another Housing Bill improving this one. However, they will get hold of the Act, and such a provision as is mentioned in the Amendment is not likely to be applied unless it is specifically written into the Act. Perhaps by an oversight of the officers of the local authority it may not be brought to the full notice of the authority because it was not written into the Measure. I know from my experience of local authority work that the members of local authorities pay full attention to the advice given them by the officers of the local authorities, and I know that if the members of the housing authority ask, "What is in the Act?" about such and such a matter, the officers will inform them what exactly is in it and what must be complied with.
309 If, on the other hand, we accept the Minister's assurance given in good faith—and I have not the slightest doubt that it will be carried out—that a circular will be issued, it may be brought to the notice of an authority at its committee meetings but in a year or two's time, in the midst of all their work, would anyone say that that circular would always be in the minds of members of the authority? I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that there is no intention on this side of the Committee to hamper his work. We are trying to write into the Bill the machinery of his hopes for ensuring a safe family life in these buildings. This is no time to travel hopefully. This is the time to provide the machinery and to write it into the Bill. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will make sure that the Bill carries explicitly in it the assurances that are said to lie behind the Clause.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. A. E. Cooper (Ilford, South)
I had not intended to take part in the debate, but I have listened to the whole of it and, frankly, I think that my right hon. Friend is batting on a very sticky wicket. There have been substantial changes since the war both in housing and in the growth of population. I have not the exact figures, but I believe that in 1939 our population was about 48 million and that the present census will show a population of between 52 million and 53 million.
About a century ago the population was roughly half that figure. It was possible in those days for houses to be built and for people to have gardens in which they could allow their children to play and in which they could bring them up in the way that many of us would like to see them brought up today. As the population increases the country does not get bigger. Obviously it gets smaller, and the concept of housing has changed markedly in the last quarter of a century. We can no longer think in terms of houses with gardens spread over frontages of 30 to 35 feet and with a depth of 120 feet because we cannot afford areas of that size to be given over to one family. We have to think in terms of ten, fifteen or twenty storeys, and maybe in ten or fifteen years' time we shall be building as high as people do in New York.
310 The responsibilities of bringing up our children in safety and giving them a reasonable family life and an area in which to play increases. I do not think my right hon. Friend has indicated today that the Ministry of Housing has any real idea of how to face the problems of the next quarter century. There are many people, regretfully, who think of the Civil Service in this country as being half a century behind the times.
§ Mr. Brooke
If my hon. Friend is going to attack anybody, will he attack me? I am responsible for everything that is done by my Ministry.
§ Mr. Cooper
I am not attacking any individual officer in the Civil Service, but the fact remains that Ministers of the Crown are briefed very substantially from the Civil Service. We must accept the fact that we do not move as fast as we should like to do in many ways. There are many areas, many boroughs, particularly in London itself, where of necessity fiat dwellings of considerable height have to be built, and where there is not within those areas the playing facilities for the children who will be there in their hundreds. I ask my right hon. Friend seriously to consider this problem, not with a view to 1961, but with a view to what is going to happen in 1970 or 1980, when our population may be going up by 5 million or 10 million, and when the area for building will be less and less and we shall have to go higher and higher. This is a very serious problem, and quite frankly I think that the Committee owes a debt to the hon. Lady the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White) who put this Amendment on the Notice Paper.
§ Mr. Parkin
The Minister has not cut a very heroic figure in our discussion. When I reflect back on his early months at the Ministry, on the obstinate courage with which he defended the property owners when he was seeing the Rent Act through, when he defied the whole Opposition and a large number of people on his own side, how he hurled deputations and petitions out of his way without quailing, and emerged as the strong man—when I reflect on all this, I cannot recognise the same figure this evening. We saw a—wee, cow'rin', timorous beastie.311 and what a panic was "in his breastie" when we offered him discretion. The Parliamentary Secretary had to get up and say, "Oh, do not do that crooked architects may take advantage of it". Now, he says, "Please do not make me do this by regulation. I know it is terribly important. I have thought of it for a long time, and I will mention it to them the next time I am writing"
The contrast between the two approaches—when defending property and looking after human beings—shows that these people are approximately true to type as the generations go, by. I am always hoping for a better reply, and I thought that this was an Amendment which the right hon. Gentleman could not resist. Otherwise, I would have gone out into the Library and looked up the Factory Act, because I am perfectly certain that the same argument was put forward in those days by that party explaining how impossible it was to do these things by regulations and keep these children away from machines in factories, but promising to write to someone about it and make some suggestions.
Of course, the right hon. Gentleman cannot complain if we attack him in these terms after the attitude which he has taken up. Of course, the cases are roughly parallel, and this is a social problem which has to be looked at. Hon. Members on this side of the Committee have restrained themselves considerably in the discussion on this Amendment in an admirable desire not to prolong the debate, but consider what has been left unsaid on this subject of the lives of the children, and list the things which this new type of life will take away from the children, even from the children who live in the old-fashioned ruins and slums—certain things we have held to be essential in the self-education of little people.
Learning to taste and feel by putting into their mouths hundreds of things which their mothers never knew, to get healthily dirty and to take terrific risks of getting lost in the dark in the caverns of the garden or round the corner or away in the baker's backyard—all that sort of thing which has been an essential and recognised part of the growing-up process.
We thought how are these things to be replaced, because they must be replaced, 312 and yet when we have only a few tentative proposals put forward by my hon. Friends in this modest Amendment the right hon. Gentleman will not even undertake to give instructions to the local authorities that if they are to ask children to live in these new and strange circumstances there are one or two elementary things which they must do. This is one of them, and he should say, "I shall not authorise the scheme unless you do it".
What else is he capable of refusing in the way of Ministerial responsibility? He rose in a moment of anger and said that he was responsible for what went on in his Ministry. He is, and he will be held responsible if he is not prepared to show the same courage and drive in dealing with human problems as in dealing with the rights of property owners.
§ Mr. Loughlin
It would be discourteous if the Minister or the Parliamentary Secretary did not reply to some of the pleas and some of the arguments so cogently put on this Amendment. Some of the best were those of the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Cooper). He saw the picture in its entirety and appreciated that we were dealing not merely with the flats of the 1960s, but with the whole question of the growth of the nation and the future of its children, many of them likely to be subjected to a form of life completely foreign to children.
It is not enough for the Minister to say that he will write to local authorities pointing out that it is desirable that play areas should be provided. Many if not most local authorities are jealous about meeting the requirements of the community and not many will need prodding. Most are facing this situation in the only way possible—by building high blocks of flats. But it is my experience that local authorities do not want to build blocks of flats except where that is essential, the exception being the L.C.C.
For many local authorities, particularly n the large cities and towns, there is an insoluble problem. They cannot produce sufficient accommodation other than by building high. Many local authorities have had to revise their views about the number of storeys in blocks of flats. Each additional storey, however, constitutes an additional factor which a mother of small children has to face.
313 I do not want to deal with what was or was not good for children, or the tastes which we acquire over the years, but I know that small children should not be cooped up in blocks of flats without some opportunity for freedom of expression. I have heard tenants of flats describe life in flats as hell on earth because of the difficulty of insulating flats against noise and because of the necessity for mothers to keep their children within the four walls of the flats.
Nevertheless, I want flats to be available and for there to be mixed communities in local authority buildings. I do not want to see huge blocks of flats with married couple with no children living in one area, and married couples with three or four children living in another area.
Unless the Minister is prepared to accept responsibility for ensuring that these amenities are available, not only will children be cooped up in these large blocks of flats but we will create nuisances for other people living in them, in addition to creating the stresses and strains which produce broken marriages and produce what to me would be the ultimate misery. One cannot expect a young mother, with perhaps two or three children, who already has to cope with the stresses and strains of living in the world of today, to leave her children on a balcony which perhaps she thinks not high enough to be safe. Through having to worry about the safety of their children, and because of the strain due to constant conflicts between herself and her neighbours, she will not be a happy state of mind to continue reasonably normal relations with her husband when he comes home in the evening.
§ It should not be difficult to make provision for playing areas. It should be a relatively simple job for any architect, but the trouble with most architects is that they think in terms of lines, without thinking of the human beings who will live within those lines. It should be relatively simple, without great additional cost, to make provision for playing space. I shall have something to say about the amount of subsidy involved in relation to the high cost of building flats when we come to the Question "That the Clause stand part of the Bill." It would be relatively simple for the Minister to invoke the provision which we are asking him to accept without involving local authorities in additional costs.
§ It would be most inconsiderate, if not discourteous, if the Minister failed to respond to some of the pleas made by my hon. Friends. I have no hope of him ever accepting any pleas. I do not think that he appreciates kindness. The only thing that he thinks about, and in which he has any confidence, is the number of hon. Members who go into the Division Lobby. If he will not reconsider his decision, he ought out of courtesy to explain why.
§ Mr. MacColl
I do not know what my hon. Friend feels about the way this discussion has gone, but my impression is that the Minister's attitude is not indicative of the depth of feeling in the Committee, as expressed by the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Cooper). My feeling is that this is a matter on which we should show our deep concern by dividing the Committee.
§ Question put, That those words be there inserted:—
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 161, Noes 216.317
|Division No. 224.]||AYES||[9.20 p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Dodds, Norman|
|Ainsley, William||Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Driberg, Tom|
|Albu, Austen||Callaghan, James||Ede, Rt. Hon. C.|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Castle, Mrs, Barbara||Edwards, Walter (Stepney)|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Chapman, Donald||Evans, Albert|
|Awbery, Stan||Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Finch, Harold|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Cronin, John||Fletcher, Eric|
|Bence, Cyril||Crosland, Anthony||Foot, Dingle (Ipswich)|
|Blyton, William||Crossman, R. H. S.||Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)|
|Bowden, Herbert W. (Leics, S. W.)||Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)|
|Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan)||Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Galpern, Sir Myer|
|Bowles, Frank||Davies, Harold (Leek)||George, LadyMeganLloyd (Crmrthn)|
|Boyden, James||Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Ginsburg, David|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Davies, S, O. (Merthyr)||Greenwood, Anthony|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||Deer, George||Grey, Charles|
|Brown, Alan (Tottenham)||Delargy, Hugh||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Manuel, A. C.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Mapp, Charles||Snow, Julian|
|Hamilton, William (West Fife)||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Hayman, F. H.||Mendelson, J. J.||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Herbison, Miss Margaret||Mitchison, G. R.||Steele, Thomas|
|Hill, J. (Midlothian)||Monslow, Walter||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Holman, Percy||Moody, A. S.||Stonehouse, John|
|Houghton, Douglas||Morris, John||Stones, William|
|Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Mort, D. L.||Swain, Thomas|
|Hoy, James H.||Moyle, Arthur||Swingler, Stephen|
|Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Mulley, Frederick||Sylvester, George|
|Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Neal, Harold||Symonds, J. B.|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip (Derby, S.)||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Hunter, A. E.||Oram, A. E.||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Padley, W. E.||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Janner, Sir Barnett||Parker, John||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Jeger, George||Parkin, B. T.||Thomson, G. M. (Dundee, E.)|
|Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)||Pavitt, Laurence||Thornton, Ernest|
|Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)||Thorpe, Jeremy|
|Jones, Rt. Hn. A. Creech(Wakefield)||Peart, Frederick||Timmons, John|
|Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Pentland, Norman||Walnwright, Edwin|
|Jones, Elwyn (West Ham, S.)||Prentice, R. E.||Warbey, William|
|Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)||Watkins, Tudor|
|Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Probert, Arthur||Weitzman, David|
|Kelley, Richard||Pursey, Cmdr. Harry||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Kenyon, Clifford||Randall, Harry||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Key, Rt, Hon. C. W.||Rankin, John||Whitlock, William|
|King, Dr. Horace||Redhead, E. C.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Willey, Frederick|
|Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Robertson, John (Paisley)||Williams, LI. (Abertillery)|
|Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)||Rogers, G. H. R. (Kensington, N.)||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Logan, David||Ross, William||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Loughlin, Charles||Royle, Charles (Salford, West)||Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|McCann, John||Short, Edward||Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)|
|MacColl, James||Silverman, Julius (Aston)||Winterbottom, R. E.|
|McInnes, James||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|McKay, John (Wallsend)||Skeffington, Arthur||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Macpherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)||Mr. Lawson and|
|Mallalieu, J. P. W.(Huddersfield, E.)||Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)||Mr. Charles A. Howeli|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Cooper-Key Sir Neill||Henderson-Stewart, Sir James|
|Aitken, W. T.||Cordeaux Lt.-Col. J. K.||Hiley, Joseph|
|Allason, James||Corfield, F. V.||Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)|
|Ashton, Sir Hubert||Craddock, Sir Beresford||Hirst, Geoffrey|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Currie, G. B. H.||Hocking, Philip N.|
|Barlow, Sir John||Dalkeith, Earl of||Holland, Philip|
|Barter, John||Dance, James||Hornby, R. P.|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Patricia|
|Bell, Ronald||Deedes, W. F.||Hughes-Young, Michael|
|Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)||de Ferranti, Basil||Hutchison, Michael Clark|
|Berkeley, Humphry||Digby, Simon Wingfield||Iremonger, T. L.|
|Bevins, Rt. Hon. Reginald||du Cann, Edward||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)|
|Bidgood, John C.||Duncan, Sir James||Jackson, John|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)|
|Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Elliott, R. W. (Nwcstle-upon-Tyne, N.)||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)|
|Bishop, F. P.||Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Errington, Sir Eric||Johnson Smith, Geoffrey|
|Bourne-Arton, A.||Farr, John||Joseph, Sir Keith|
|Box, Donald||Fell, Anthony||Kerans, Cdr. J. S,|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. John||Finlay, Graeme||Kerby, Capt. Henry|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Fisher, Nigel||Kerr, Sir Hamilton|
|Brewis, John||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Kershaw, Anthony|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter||Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||Lancaster, Col. C. G|
|Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||Freeth, Denzil||Langford-Holt, J.|
|Browne, Percy (Torrington)||Gammans, Lady||Leavey, J. A.|
|Bryan, Paul||Gardner, Edward||Leburn, Gilmour|
|Buck, Antony||Glover, Sir Douglas||Lilley, F. J. P.|
|Bullard, Denys||Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham)||Linstead, Sir Hugh|
|Bullus, Wing Commander Eric||Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.)||Litchfield, Capt. John|
|Burden, F. A.||Goodhew, Victor||Longbottom, Charles|
|Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A. (Saffron walden)||Gower, Raymond||Longden, Gilbert|
|Campbell, Cordon (Moray & Nairn)||Grant, Rt. Hon. William||Loveys, Walter H.|
|Carr, Compton (Barons Court)||Green, Alan||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh|
|Carr, Robert (Mitcham)||Gresham Cooke, R.||McAdden, Stephen|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Gurden, Harold||MacArthur, Ian|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Hall, John (Wycombe)||McLaren, Martin|
|Chataway, Christopher||Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)||McLaughlin, Mrs. Patricia|
|Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)||Harris, Reader (Heston)||MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)|
|Clarke, Brig Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Harrison, Col J. H. (Eye)||McMaster, Stanley R.|
|Cleaver, Leonard||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)|
|Cole, Norman||Harvie Anderson, Miss||Maddan, Martin|
|Cooke, Robert||Hastings, Stephen||Markham, Major Sir Frank|
|Cooper, A. E.||Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Marshall, Douglas|
|Marten, Neil||Renton, David||Thomas, Peter (Conway)|
|Mawby, Ray||Ridley, Hon. Nicholas||Thompson, Richard (Croydon, S.)|
|Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)||Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin|
|Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)||Turner, Colin|
|More, Jasper (Ludlow)||Robson Brown, Sir William||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Nabarro, Gerald||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Nicholson, Sir Godfrey||Roots, William||van Stranbenzee, W. R.|
|Noble, Michael||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Oakshott, Sir Hendrle||Royle, Anthony (Richmond, Surrey)||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Scott-Hopkins, James||Vosper, Rt. Hon. Dennis|
|Orr-Ewing, C. Ian||Sharples, Richard||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Osborne, Cyril (Louth)||Shepherd, William||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)|
|Page, John (Harrow, West)||Skeet, T. H. H.||Walder, David|
|Page, Graham (Crosby)||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'rd & Chiswiok)||Walker, Peter|
|Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)||Smithers, Peter||Wall, Patrick|
|Partridge, E.||Spearman, Sir Alexander||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Peel, John||Speir, Rupert||Whitelaw, William|
|Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth||Stanley, Hon. Richard||Williams, Dudley (Exeter)|
|Pitt, Miss Edith||Stevens, Geoffrey||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Pott, Percivall||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Price, David (Eastleigh)||Stodart, J. A.||Wise, A. R.|
|Prior, J. M. L.||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm||Woodhouse, C. M.|
|Prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho||Storey, Sir Samuel||Woollam, John|
|Proudfoot, Wilfred||Studholme, Sir Henry||Worsley, Marcus|
|Pym, Francis||Summers, Sir Spencer (Aylesbury)||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Quennell, Miss J. M.||Sumner, Donald (Orpington)|
|Ramsden, James||Tapsell, Peter||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)||Mr. Chichester-Clark and|
|Rees, Hugh||Taylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.)||Mr. F. Pearson.|
|Rees-Oavies, w. R.||Temple, John M.|
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Clause stand part of the Bill.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Loughlin
Before we part with this Clause, I think that we should satisfy ourselves completely that the subsidies mentioned in paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) are adequate to deal with the problem with which we are faced. I think it accurate to say that there is on the part of the Minister and his Parliamentary Secretary a recognition that the building of high blocks of flats is something which will occupy the attention of most of the larger local authorities for many years to come. When looking at the proposed subsidies it is necessary to make some comparisons between the relative cost of house building and flat building.
On one occasion during the Committee stage discussions the Minister indicated that this was his approach. The right hon. Gentleman said that many hon. Members had said that building costs had risen since 1956. He went on to say that he had no evidence that the gap between the cost of building high and building low had widened in that time. This is the issue with which we are faced when examining the adequacy or otherwise of the subsidies mentioned in this Clause.
I notice that since the result of the last division was announced the number of hon. Members of the party opposite who are in the Chamber has increased. Apparently they are not con-
§ cerned with the business of this Committee, because, if they were, they would be more attentive and take less notice of the "sub-committee meetings" which appear to be taking place. If hon. Members opposite wish to take part in sub-committee meetings, I think that it would be as well for them to go back and do so in the bar. This is a serious matter for the people they seek to represent. The local authorities which they represent are—
§ Mr. Godfrey Lagden (Hornchurch)
I feel that I should ask the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Loughlin) to exclude from his remarks my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black) who is seated next to me.
§ Mr. Loughlin
Is it possible that the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black) was on the Centre Court.
I return to the point I was making regarding the adequacy or otherwise of these subsidies. That is largely determined by the cost of building which increases as the storeys are added. I do not want to repeat again the facts which I gave to the Minister during the Committee stage proceedings relating to the City of Birmingham. At that time the Minister said that if hon. Members, or local authorities, could give him the requisite information regarding the widening of the gap between the cost of building traditional type houses and high 319 flats, upon which the subsidies were based, he would reconsider the figures contained in this Clause. I gave him chapter and verse about the position as it related to the City of Birmingham. I think that the City of Birmingham is no different from other cities and large towns in the country in relation to the building of high flats.
I am not satisfied that the promise given by the Minister has been carried out. If he makes a promise to consider, or reconsider, his decision in relation to information submitted to him by hon. members or by local authorities, the Minister should at least accept that he was originally wrong in his contention. It may well be that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary, knowing that this discussion was to take place, will have some information to give the Committee about the cost of building high flats and the widening gap between traditional building and the building of high blocks of flats. If he has not got that information he ought to get it from his large staff and give it to the Committee.
It is on the basis of the contention of the Minister that there has been no widening of the gap in this type of building that the subsidies are based. I want to be very careful here because reference was made in discussion of a previous Amendment to this, but I should have thought that on the figures supplied to the Minister the Parliamentary Secretary could give us the information.
§ Sir K. Joseph
I do not want to be discourteous in any way to the hon. Member. He will agree, I hope, that the particular subject he has raised was fairly discussed this afternoon. I rise now to deal with the one point which perhaps has not been mentioned before, the example of Birmingham costs. I am informed that the example the hon. Member gave to the Committee included the price of land. I still maintain the position I explained to the Committee earlier, that the gap between the cost of low building and high building is not in fact increasing, so the subsidy covers a large proportion of that gap.
§ Mr. Loughlin
The hon. Gentleman cannot get away with that. The figures I gave about the particular areas related to traditional houses, to flats of a given 320 height and to higher flats. The whole of the figures either included costs of land or did not include it. It may well prove that the land costs per square yard for traditional houses were greater than the land costs for high-density flats. What does the hon. Gentleman mean when he says that the figures I gave included the cost of land? That does not disprove the validity of the figures.
I should remind him that I gave figures about six- eight- and twelve-storey blocks as well as traditional houses. If it applied to one, it applied to the others. One could assume that the relative costs would be the same. To make the comparison one has to include high blocks of flats on costly land and traditional houses on cheap land. If the hon. Gentleman does not mean that the figures I gave to him contained the relative cost of land for traditional housing biased in favour of high blocks of flats, what is the significance of the point he was making that they included the cost of land?
§ Mr. M. Stewart
I should like to rub that point in. I understood when I referred to these figures earlier that they did not include the cost of land. However, I accept the Parliamentary Secretary's correction. But it does not affect the argument in the least. We are still left with the fact that the gap between the cost of high and low building in Birmingham in 1956 was £250 and in 1960 £433. The land is there on both sides of the equation in both cases. The gap has widened and that is why there ought to be an increase in subsidy.
§ Mr. Loughlin
On a point of order, Mr. Hynd. I have now checked the position as I related it when I quoted information from the Town Clerk's Department in the City of Birmingham. I find that these costs are exclusive of land.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.