asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that in nearly every rural and semi-rural area in the Home Counties the greatest difficulty is experienced by agricultural labourers and others of the lower-paid wage-earners in obtaining cottages at a rent which is within their resources, and that the difficulty has been increased in recent years by the tendency on the part of speculators and others to purchase agricultural cottages of a picturesque character as residences for people of a different class, and also by the demolition of old cottage property under the Housing Acts, without the provision by the local authority of alternative accommodation at the same rent; and if he will circularise all local housing authorities in the Home Counties, calling their urgent attention to this matter?
I am aware of the difficulties referred to by my right hon. and noble Friend. Every opportunity is taken of impressing upon local authorities the need to take the fullest advantage of their powers under the Housing Acts. The number of new houses completed in the area to which he refers under the Act of 1930 is about equivalent to the number of houses demolished, but if my right hon. and noble Friend has any particular district in mind I shall be glad to have inquiries made.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that this position is the subject of much concern to doctors, medical officers of health, clergy, social workers and the like? Increased building has led to no reduction in rents and there are no more houses available.
My hon. and gallant Friend will know that I have taken many steps to impress upon local authorities the necessity of avoiding that wherever possible. I am glad to say that more houses have been dealt with by way of reconstruction during the last few months than we have ever had in a similar period in the history of the country.