On a point of Order. I think that the House is aware that we are about to discuss the Housing (Temporary Accommodation) Bill, one of the most important Bills, apart from the war, that has come before this House. It is not too much to say that, on temporary housing, which is absolutely vital to the post-war years——
I hesitate to question anything that comes from you, Sir, but many hon. Members would like guidance on the point whether an hon. Member can move to adjourn the Debate.
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
It is a comfort to me to know that there is, at any rate, time left, before the rising of the House, for me to complete the few observations I have to make. It was as long ago as January, 1943, that a Subcommittee of the Central Housing Advisory Committee, of which the hon. Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin) is Chairman, advised my predecessor that for a number of reasons, with which the House is familiar, there would be a serious shortage of family accommodation at the end of the war, and that, whatever might be done, there would be a period before the provision of permanent housing could meet even the most urgent part of the housing demand.
The Government reached the same conclusion, and the House will recall the reply which was given by my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister to the Noble Lady the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Viscountess Davidson) on 19th July, when he stated that the Government had reviewed the potential building capacity of the country and had come to the conclusion that it would not be possible, for some years, to build enough permanent houses to meet the urgent demands for separate homes. It was this review that led to my own statement on the Second Reading of the recent Housing Bill that, in the view of the Government, the maximum number of permanent houses that could be built or building by the end of the second year after the end of the war in Europe was 300,000. That figure is based upon an estimate that at the end of this part of the war the labour force for building of all kinds will be between 350,000 and 380,000, as against the prewar strength of about 1,000,000, and that its restoration during the first two years can be only gradual. I do not think my estimate has been challenged in any informed quarter as being timid or pessimistic.
Many are in the Forces and many are not in the industry who would otherwise have joined it, but that is a question to be put to other Ministers rather than to myself. Normally I welcome interruptions, but if interruptions which should be addressed to other Ministers are addressed to me, I shall never be able to cover in a reasonable time the important points I have to cover.
Day by day, particularly while the present form of attack continues, the problem that we see ahead of us grows in scale. Nothing could have been more clear during the Debates on the recent Housing Bill, than that this House is insistent that the question of housing should be handled with imagination and with special energy. The Bill, the Second Reading of which I move to-day, gives an opportunity for full discussion of a vital element in the Government's programme. It is the opportunity which was promised by my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister, when he stated that the Government had approved the model of an emergency factory-made house and were planning for full-scale production as soon as the necessary industrial capacity can be released from the war effort. I would stress that this project is large: it is novel; it gives rise to a number of questions in which I feel sure the House is interested.
Perhaps, as I shall be dealing to-day with matters concerning not only the Health Departments, but also the Department of my Noble Friend the Minister of Works, I should remind the House of our respective spheres. A Question was asked with regard to this only a few days ago. This is the position. While the primary responsibility for housing policy continues to rest with my Department, and while the Ministry of Health, so far as concerns England and Wales, will be the single channel of communication between the Government and the local housing authorities, my Noble Friend's Department is the central Government authority on design, specifications, materials and building technique. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works hopes to intervene at a later stage to-day.
My right hon. and learned Friend has referred to two Ministers, and possibly three. He has made no reference to labour supply. Which Department is to be responsible for supplying the building labour? Apparently not the Ministry of Health and not the Ministry of Works. Is it the Ministry of Labour, and will the Minister of Labour also make a speech?
I think the House will find that the points I raise to-day, apart from the size of the building industry, will be quite sufficient to occupy the time we have at our disposal. It would be impossible, in dealing with this Bill, to go into the whole question of distribution of labour during those two years. It being our objective to provide in the shortest possible time the maximum number of separate homes for families, and it being agreed that this objective could not be achieved by permanent housing, immediate questions of policy arose, and it was clear that there were a number of conditions which should be fulfilled.
In the first place, we felt that the part to be played by any temporary accommodation was the filling of a temporary gap until the building industry could make good the accumulation of shortage due to enemy action and the cessation of building. We felt that it was of the first importance that this project should not delay the building of permanent houses, and, consequently, that it should make the minimum demand upon the building industry. That consideration pointed to a type of building capable of production away from the site—a type of building, so far as possible, factory-made. I shall be describing the model in a moment or two, but on this particular point I am advised by my Noble Friend the Minister of Works that whereas it is usually reckoned that it takes 100,000 building operatives to build 100,000 houses in a year, the building labour required for 100,000 of these bungalows is not more than 8,000 to 10,000. From now on, accepting the suggestion made by my hon. Friend the Member for Farnham (Mr. G. Nicholson), I propose, to use the term "bungalow," which seems to be both convenient and accurate.
The second object which we feel clearly needs to be attained in a programme of this kind is speed. We must have a scheme to meet urgent needs as quickly as possible, and that points to standardisation. We shall be making a start in time of war, and production must depend on the scale of productive capacity and the time at which it can be made available; but we have reason to think that something of the order of 100,000 of these bungalows can be produced within one year of going into production.
The third question is one of rather more complexity but we felt it to be of importance that the emergency provision should consist of structures which were definitely intended not to stand for more than a limited period and that their design should comply with that intention. One can achieve economy of labour, economy of material and economy of time if one accepts some reduction in our normal standards, primarily our standard of total size. It is a fact—and a comforting fact in considering this proposal—that a large proportion of those who are in urgent need immediately after the war will be young couples married during the war, or indeed, after it, and the concurrent building of the permanent houses —the 300,000 permanent houses—will go towards meeting the needs of those with larger families. That is the broad plan. But I should like to make it clear to what extent these bungalows can be properly described as below the normal standard. The word "sub-standard" has been used and it is only right that I should make clear as far as I can what is meant by "sub-standard." Obviously, the bungalow is sub-standard in external appearance. This can be mitigated by a judicious variation of colour, and, in course of time, by climbing plants. But in its structure and design, the bungalow is sub-standard in two respects only. The first is this: the normal minimum height of rooms under most building by-laws is eight feet—the height of the rooms in the bungalow is seven feet six inches. But on this point the House can feel absolutely assured that the ventilation is so arranged that there is no ground for any anxiety whatever on any question of health with regard to the height of seven feet six inches, and it results in an economy of material.
No, not unless you have very long legs. In the second place the actual area of the bungalow, if one excludes the detached outdoor shed, is 616 square feet, as compared with the range of 800 to 900 square feet which we contemplate for the normal permanent family house, but one has to remember that there is no staircase, and that there are two bedrooms instead of three. Both the living-room and the two bedrooms are very close in size, taken room by room, to the sizes which will be recommended for the permanent houses and which are recommended by the Dudley Committee. The accommodation of the bungalow consists of a living room, kitchen, two bedrooms, bathroom, separate w.c. and a detached outdoor shed. Very many hon. Members saw the prototype and the improved model, but I think it would be convenient—and I have arranged this—that plans and a description of the model should be made available in the Library; and they will make clear the improvements on the prototype that were made in the later model. I have given the House the only points in which it is right to describe the bungalow as a sub-standard structure. In many respects, particularly the fittings, one has a standard which, I hope, all permanent house-construction will imitate and emulate; and there is this particular point, that the plan transfers to the category of landlord's fixtures many fittings which are normally tenant's fixtures, which I am told are worth approximately £100.
What about the technical and scientific side? On this my Noble Friend the Minister—and I would like to say that I think we owe a very great deal to my Noble Friend's energy in this matter—has obtained for himself a wealth of advice. He has used the full resources of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, particularly the Building Research Station and its former Director, Dr. Stradling. He has even consulted the Medical Research Council. The materials and method of construction have been very carefully considered. Heat and cold, condensation, noise, liability to wear and tear, cost of upkeep—all these matters have been considered and we intend to produce a simple manual for tenants which will be of assistance in a house with so many novel features and will help them in management and upkeep. It really may turn out to be true that just because we have been planning a structure which is sub-standard, this bungalow has had more attention in matters of detail than any other house or bungalow has ever had before. It is probably more scientifically correct than any house has ever been. I only hope that it will be correspondingly comfortable. There is one particular worth mentioning. Designing a house like this is not altogether unlike designing accommodation in a ship, where you are going to put people into much less space than they sometimes like to occupy. You have to make the very best use of all the space you have, and so, in a bungalow of this character, you must give them good and handy fittings. That is why very special attention has been given to cupboard space, as hon. Members will have noticed, and to a kitchen unit which has been widely admired, with its refrigerator for the storage of food. There is another point which I do not think has been mentioned before, and that is, that a house made of these materials is bad for radio reception. That has been taken account of and an aerial which will provide for that difficulty will be supplied with the house.
So much for the description. Let me pass to the means proposed for production. This Bill is brought before the House at the earliest possible moment and I hope that the House will take the opportunity of discussing it and helping the Government with their suggestions in the time that is available to-day. But these are not hasty proposals. It was in the early months of this year that the Government came to the conclusion that temporary houses of some kind would be necessary. My noble Friend had been working on the house at an even earlier date and he and his Department have continued to work upon the plan ever since. What was the basis for the type of house selected? I would like to make it clear that there is no question of concentrating on one form of construction for the whole of this emergency period. What was necessary, in the first place, was to find an industry, or a section of industry, capable of large-scale production—and it is very large-scale production—at the earliest date and able to rely on an adequate supply of the materials needed for the job. The pressed steel industry was the industry selected because of its vast experience in wartime production. It has accumulated great facilities and the view was taken that it fulfilled the necessary conditions better than any other. It is in relation to the resources of that industry, therefore, that the bungalow has been designed. There will be at least five firms—there may well be more—which will take part in the production of this bungalow.
Two of these firms, Messrs. Briggs Motor Bodies and the Pressed Steel Company, will provide the bulk of the carcases and the partitions. Then there will be a number of contractors for the fittings, the kitchen unit, and the built-in cupboards. Among the main contractors for these items will be Messrs. Fisher and Ludlow, Ltd., Messrs. Sankey-Sheldon, and Messrs. Rubery Owen. All the concerns which I have mentioned are at present taking part in war production for the Supply Ministries, and I am told that they maintain a most accurate system of costs.
Are we to understand that the whole thing is cut and dried, that there is to be no open tender, and no precaution has been taken to see whether these firms are connected with each other or not?
No, Sir. It is perfectly clear that the whole thing is not cut and dried. I was indicating to the House the proposals of my Noble Friend the Minister of Works, and the reasons which have guided him in making the proposals that firms with experience in connection with the carcase or hull, and in connection with the fittings, should be entrusted with this work.
I am sure the House will give my Noble Friend, and the Government as a whole, the credit for having one objective only, that is, that having selected the model of a temporary house, they should get it produced as quickly and as well as possible.
That will certainly be so, not only in regard to this form of construction but with regard to other forms which I have already indicated will be included if the plan develops.
That is a technical question which I am sure the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works will answer. I really cannot tell the House whether there are to be groups of firms. What I wanted to tell the House was this, that these firms are all doing work at present for the Government on an accurate basis of costing, and that this work will be treated as a similar operation.
This is the first design, and the possibility of adding to it is being examined. Provided that the necessary production conditions can be secured, further types will be added. At this very moment alternative materials for the hull are being considered, and I am advised that they are now likely to be capable of manufacture at a price no higher than the prototype which hon. Members have seen. But if such an alternative is approved, there will have to be an alternative design, though still making use of the standard fittings, which for the sake of speed and economy will, of course, be mass-produced.
The House will realise that there are limits to the material available for this project. For instance, all the timber we can get will be required for our programme of permanent houses—or so we believe —and my Noble Friend has taken particular care in connection with this bungalow project not to make use of materials which will be required for the permanent houses. This I regard as a very important point. Surely, if we can find an alternative method of production not making use of those materials, then we are clearly right to use it.
Before I leave the description of the bungalow, I think I might truly say that my Noble Friend, in full consultation with myself, has taken very careful note of the suggestions that emerged from the exhibition of the model. I do not know whether there is any precedent for a model house of this kind, or of any kind, being seen by no less than 30,000 people. They included many Members of this House, representatives of the local authorities, and great numbers of men and women from the Services, as well as numbers of housewives. In my view the modifications resulted in a great improvement. I need not detail them to-day, because they will be obvious when the model is examined. But it was, of course, not possible to embody all the suggestions. If my Noble Friend were to try to do that, he might be in the position in which Mr. Henry Ford once found himself, when he tried to embody every suggestion he received in a model car— no one could get into the car and it would not go. The main suggestions, however, were remarkably unanimous and they have been embodied in the new model. May I pass now from the bungalow itself to the administrative arrangements?
My hon. Friend the Member for Mossley (Mr. A. Hopkinson) suggests that no alternative design is likely to be approved. I know of no reason why that should be the case. The whole programme will depend on what alternative designs are available. What is essential is that arrangements should be made to bring out the maximum number of houses at the earliest date and I cannot say, before any alternative design has been approved, when any change will be made.
I am afraid I do not know what the position is with regard to that. I have not heard that point raised before. But if there are firms capable of mass-production who are too short of staff, it may be possible for them to have such assistance. With regard to the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Frome (Mrs. Tate), if no alternative is found, or if it is decided to make a very substantial number, as is our present intention, of the type which Members have already seen, sufficient material must be allocated to the best producers of these houses. I cannot go further than that.
However, I was anxious to pass on to what is more my own immediate concern —administrative arrangements in connection with the production and distribution of these bungalows. I think it is clear that the arrangements for production, including transport to the site and erection, must be undertaken by the Government, if only because of the need to organise the production in relation to the production of war material. It is for that reason that in Clause 1 of the Bill the Government are to acquire and own the houses and that Clause 7 enables the necessary money to be raised for this purpose. But, as Members will have seen in the Explanatory Memorandum, the purpose and design of the Bill is to assist housing authorities in meeting the immediate shortage of housing accommodation, and that shortage will be greatest in the heavily blitzed areas. The general scheme is that bungalows will be put up on sites chosen, acquired and developed, with the necessary roads and services, by the local authorities. To the utmost possible extent the whole scheme will be treated as part of the housing operations of the local authorities. There will be different and novel methods of providing and paying for the houses, and there will have to be novel and different arrangements as between the Ministry of Health, the Department of Health for Scotland and the local authorities.
Clause 3 of the Bill deals with the question of the terms on which the structures may be made available, and the House will appreciate that these terms need to be worked out in consultation with the local authorities. The broad basis of the arrangements proposed is that terms will be agreed between the Health Departments and the housing authorities, under which the housing authorities will be responsible for the letting, management and repair of the bungalows, and will pay the Health Departments a fixed sum per annum while the bungalows stand. What the amount of that payment will be must, of course, be determined by conclusions which will be reached in due course as to the proper level of rent and also upon the financial basis of the partnership between the central Government and the local authorities.
We are told that these houses are to last for a limited term of ten years. Will it not be necessary for a certificate to be issued with each house, giving the date at which it was opened and the date at which it must close, so that it can be made illegal for rents to be drawn from them after that time?
I doubt whether there is any need for such a certificate. A simple method of recording when the house is erected would, I think, suffice. I was about to say that I have had a preliminary discussion with representatives of the local authorities, and that these discussions are continuing. Until they have gone further it would be quite inexpedient for me to make any specific statement as to the arrangements. They would not be laid down in the Bill in any event; they would be dealt with in accordance with Clause 3, if that meets with the approval of Parliament, but I ought to give a general indication of the lines which we shall follow. This scheme, in the Government's view, should be assimilated as nearly as possible to the ordinary housing operations of local authorities, and Clause 4 provides for that. Local authorities have a statutory responsibility for housing, but since 1919 they have been aided in the discharge of these responsibilities by Exchequer assistance, the amount of which has varied from time to time. Before the war, in England and Wales it was substantially on the basis of £2 from the Exchequer for every £1 from the rates, and we think that that principle of partnership should be maintained, although we realise fully that this short-term provision must result in a heavier loss on each house during its life and that a much greater proportion of this loss must, quite clearly, be borne by the Government. We feel that the arrangements should be flexible, but we intend that they should be such as to secure in general that the charge per bungalow per annum on the local authority will be no greater than is ordinarily incurred by them in their housing operations. The point has emerged in my first discussion with the local authorities that in certain areas, I think particularly in London, many of the bungalows may have to be erected on sites where the cost of land is exceptionally high in relation to the cost of the house and the rent obtainable.
I think we ought to avoid putting these houses on exceptionally expensive land so far as we can, not only because of the financial consequences but because I am most anxious that a proper redevelopment of these closely built areas should not be hampered by small packets of bungalows, if I may so describe them. But where it is unavoidable, we wish to protect the local authority against any undue charges and we propose to provide that if the unavoidable annual loss of any individual local authority, under this Bill, exceeds the equivalent of the statutory contributions payable by them under the housing legislation in farce from time to time, two-thirds of any additional deficit should be made up by the Exchequer. In estimating the annual loss, charges on unremunerative expenditure on cost of acquisition and development of the site will be taken into account.
Is it proposed that local authorities should fix the rents of these bungalows? If so, does that mean that there will be different rents in different parts of the country for exactly the same kind of house?
It is proposed that local authorities should fix the rents, as they always do in respect of their housing operations. It may well be, as we all know is the case, that the location of the house in the country will have an effect on its value, on what people are prepared to pay for it. The amount the local authority will charge for the house will depend, among other things, on the figure which they have agreed to pay to the Exchequer year by year in respect of the house and the amount they are prepared to put on the general rates and so forth.
The result which I wish to achieve, reasonably to limit the charge on local authorities, is secured in almost all cases by the Bill and by the Financial Resolution as drafted. But in some areas it might be the case, where almost all the bungalows had to go on exceptionally expensive land, that there might be no payment due to the Exchequer but rather a payment from the Exchequer to the local authority. For that reason we are not proposing to take the Financial Resolution to-day. I think a small Amendment to the Bill and an addition to the Financial Resolution will be desirable to meet this possible contingency.
Unfortunately, or fortunately for him, my Noble Friend is in another place. As far as the Financial Resolution is concerned, my hon. Friend has stressed, and perhaps clarified, the point that I was making. As drawn, the Resolution provides only for expenditure by the Minister of Works. Our objective with regard to finance as between the Government and local authorities might necessitate expenditure by the Minister of Health, and that is why we are not taking the Financial Resolution to-day.
On the question of cost, my Noble Friend estimates that will be of the order of £600 a bungalow, including transport and erection. This figure includes an addition of some £50 to the original estimate, to provide for improvements made since the prototype was exhibited. These improvements include the extra height of six inches, the outdoor hsed, the front door and the loggia. Breaking up the £600, £100 will be for the services, erection and transport, £100 for the kitchen unit and cupboards, £400 for the carcase, roof, ceiling, and partitions, lining material, doors, insulation paint and the remainder of the fittings. The cost of prefabrication is at present, of course, an estimate. It can be nothing else, but I am advised that the estimate is a fair and safe one. Of course, the steel will be at a controlled price, and the manufacture will be on a "cost plus" basis.
I have not agreed to pay any, and I do not suppose it has yet been fixed. Mine is not a Production Department. I do not even know the range of percentage allowed in a cost plus contract.
There will be ample opportunity to examine that. Very different opinions have been expressed.
I was asked a question about the life of these houses. The financial arrangements are being made on the basis that the average life of the house will be 10 years. It will probably vary from district to district. It will be determined in accordance with the housing situation in each district as building develops and I shall work in close consultation with the local authorities. On the question of removal, we shall have regard to one matter only—both the local authorities and my Department—the housing conditions in the particular district. As to the rent, my broad idea is that these bungalows should be let on terms about equal to the rents charged for local authority houses. It is a smaller house than the ordinary municipal house but it will contain a number of items which are normally tenant's fixtures, giving rise to expense for the tenant. I am sure our administration would be made more difficult if there were any substantial difference between the rent the tenant will have to pay when he moves into a permanent house and what he was paying before in the bungalow.
Gas cooker, electric cooker, and cupboards. There is another feature of the Bill to which I should like to call attention. It bears on its face the fact that it deals with a short-term programme. That is the reason why the powers are limited to providing structures which can be supplied by 1st October, 1947, the date up to which the subsidy for general needs is to run under the Housing (Temporary Provisions) Bill. That date gives ample time for Parliament and the Government to consider what further action should be taken. With regard to removal, Clause 2 provides for the public control which has always been a feature of this scheme. The bungalows are to be removed as soon as conditions permit.
The hon. Member's interventions are always pleasant but I cannot think that that was constructive. If, after 10 years have elapsed, the houses are better than any others that are available, surely he would prefer them to remain. If, on the other hand, permanent houses are available to such an extent that these can be spared, surely the local authorities and the Secretary of State for Scotland will decide to remove them.
That is a different point and does not arise on the Bill.
The final question with which I want to deal, a peculiarly complex and difficult one, is that of the land. If these arrangements are to be effective there is no doubt that the preparatory arrangements by the local authorities must be going on concurrently with the production of the bungalows. It would be disastrous if delivery of the bungalows could not be taken when they were ready and if they were left on the hands of the manufacturers. As soon as the Secretary of State for Scotland and I have concluded our discussions with the local authorities, action must be taken to secure the necessary sites, whether they are sites eventually to be used for permanent houses or sites which will be used only for these bungalows. At the moment local authorities in Great Britain own sites for something over 250,000 houses. These were acquired with a view to building permanent houses. More sites will be needed, and it is a matter of special urgency to get early entry on sites in order that plans and layouts may be prepared.
I do not think we ought to expect that these additional sites will be prepared, the lay-outs approved and their development carried through with roads and sewers in less than six months. Consequently, it is especially necessary that the work of preparing the lay-outs should in case of need proceed at the same time as the negotiations for the acquisition of the land. That is the explanation of the provision in Clause 5 of the Bill that the local authority should be given power to enter on land at the earliest possible stage, so that they may find out whether it is suitable for their purpose, survey it, take levels and matters of that kind. I regard the acquisition and preparation of land for these houses as an absolutely vital preliminary to the success of the project and we cannot afford any possibility of a hold-up.
If Parliament approves this Bill, we intend to use its provisions at the earliest possible date to meet a need as urgent, in the civil sphere, as any we have ever had to face. The scheme is one which will, I believe, double the provision of new homes in the two years to which I have several times referred, but there is a great deal to be done before the stage of production. I am told that the manufacture of jigs and tools will take six months. I believe that the acquisition and preparation of land will probably take over six months. I commend the Bill to the favourable consideration of the House, and hope that the Debate will encourage both the Departments concerned and the local authorities to go ahead with determination.
Before we proceed to the consideration of this Bill, may I ask for guidance on a matter that occupied the attention of the House before the Minister moved the Second Reading, namely, whether it is the intention of the Leader of the House to get the Second Reading to-day. At Question time the Leader of the House said that he would consider the matter, and see how we got on a little later in the day's proceedings. We have now reached a fairly late hour. I submit that this is a matter of far-reaching consequence in the housing of the people, and the fact that the Government are not taking the Financial Resolution to-day is a, clear indication that the financial commitments cannot be entered into immediately on the passing of the Bill. From the Minister's speech it has become apparent that the House will not be in possession of the costs and commitments which this Measure involves. We are all deeply concerned that we should not start this far-reaching policy of the housing of the people with any sense of muddle in our minds, and nothing would be worse than for the Government to carry the Second Reading of this Bill by a forced sitting or a forced process.
I think the House is conscious of the importance of the matter that we are discussing now, and certainly the Government would not wish to force through the Second Reading of a Bill of this kind against the judgment of the House. Indeed, I think there are few matters affecting the future of our people which have more significance than the subject we are discussing to-day. Therefore, I put to the House this method for our procedure: I do not suggest that we should try to get the Second Reading today. I suggest that we should continue the discussion to give Members a chance to express their views, and that then my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works and Buildings should have an opportunity to speak on behalf of the Government from the point of view of his Department. Then, when we reassemble, we might resume the discussion of the Second Reading, if I may borrow a sacred phrase from my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, "as soon as may be."
I think that that statement will meet with the general approval of the House. We should use every available hour to consider this matter. While I feel that we shall be serving a right purpose by levelling strong and clear criticism when we consider it necessary, nevertheless, in a matter of this kind, we ought to carry the responsibility of levelling constructive criticism and not just destructive criticism. When we take into consideration the conditions in which we live to-day, and the circumstances in which we must commence this housing policy, every Member of the House should recognise that the Ministers who are handling the matter have a very formidable task. While that is the case, the House ought to carry a large responsibility to see that this great problem of housing is tackled in a thorough manner. From the Debate on the previous Measure which the Minister of Health submitted, and from the experience he has just had in introducing this Bill, he must be fully aware that his colleagues in the House, representing, I believe, general opinion throughout the country, approach this problem from a critical angle because they are determined that the housing of the people must be done thoroughly and satisfactorily.
I want to make the position of myself and Members on this side perfectly plain. I am confident that in this respect we are no different from Members in other parts of the House. We do not favour makeshifts in housing. If, after surveying the whole problem, we could have expressed our dissatisfaction or disquiet by voting against this Bill, we should have done so. We recognise, however, that the problem will be so grave in its initial stages that whatever plans or efforts any Government might make in this respect, the stresses and strains that will have to be confronted immediately the war with Germany is over will take on an entirely new character to that which we are confronting at this moment. Therefore, it is not the intention of this party to vote against the Second Reading of this Bill. In making that statement I want the Minister thoroughly to grasp that it in no way modifies our criticism and that we propose to offer constructive comment to which we trust the Government will give serious consideration.
First let us try to measure the problem which we have to confront. For five years there has been complete cessation of the normal rate of house building in this country, and of house maintenance. That situation is not peculiar to housing but runs all through the economic and physical life of the community. The problem of housing has been terrifically aggravated as a result of enemy action. We are unable to deal with the figures in this Debate, but general knowledge will confirm that the problem has been increased to appalling dimensions. Overcrowding already exists to a grievous extent throughout the country, and it will become more severe in the industrial areas, where we shall have to house and accommodate the population.
I quite agree and I do not wish in any way to minimise that fact. I am merely emphasising different aspects of the problem and no one should draw from my remarks any suggestion of minimising the gravity of the existing situation. We have to grapple with a total problem of housing. When we are considering the stresses and strains, it is legitimate to emphasise that they fall more severely on some communities than on others. The irritation and feeling expressed at the beginning of the Debate and while the Minister was speaking reflect a general feeling that we are not satisfied with the preparations made by the Government. There is a general desire that housing should be tackled with the same vigour, determination, thoroughness and imagination as we tackled the production of planes, guns, tanks and munitions of war.
Let me come to the problem of the temporary house. The first point is that which emerged very clearly from the Minister's statement. Admitting the need for temporary housing, what has been the reason for concentration and publicity on one type of temporary house? One recognises the desirability that the steel industry should make its contribution, but it emerges clearly, and has appeared already to be the case in the Press, that the Minister of Works, I take it in collaboration with the Minister of Health, has apparently given all his attention by getting expert advice, and going into the question of materials, to what is now known as the Portal steel house or bungalow. The Minister of Health was subjected to questions and interruptions on whether there were alternative plans and materials for other kinds of temporary house, but he was obviously not in a position to give the same amount of information with regard to alternative types as he was to the Portal bungalow. That demonstrated definitely that an undue weight of influence or desire existed in the Department to concentrate upon one type of temporary building.
This is a subject for considerable examination. The only point that the Minister was able to advance firmly, as being a distinct asset to the Portal bungalow, was in regard to the interior fittings and equipment. I observe in the Press also that the publicity campaign has emphasised the internal fittings and equipment of the Portal house. My view is that that is selling what I might almost describe as a poor structure, upon its internal fittings, which are not peculiar to this temporary house. They could be fitted into other houses. I do not pose as an expert, but I certainly have taken the trouble to gather a considerable amount of technical, expert evidence and opinion on this subject and I can claim to be capable, from experience, of assessing whether expert or technical advice is sound or not. I was satisfied from the evidence that I have examined that the interior fittings that had been made so much of in the Portal bungalow are not organically connected with it, and can be adapted and inserted into other types of house or building equally well.
May I be allowed to make this point clear? That is exactly the intention. The types we are considering are being considered on the basis that they would include these fittings.
That, at least, has proved that my contention was right, and brings me to the next point that if that was the case, this House would have been better satisfied if the right hon. and learned Gentleman had been able to come here to tell us that more than one type of temporary house was being considered into which these fittings could be inserted. It appears to me very regrettable that the Government, in confronting a problem of this urgency, should have concentrated on one design and type of house. I should have thought a better plan would have been for the Government to establish a standard for the temporary house and then have thrown the matter open to the ingenuity and industry of as many industries as possible, with facility to tender for a certain standard of Government temporary house. My view is that if the Govern- ment had come here with that sort of suggestion, there would have been a much healthier Parliamentary situation.
I come to the structure of the Portal bungalow. The plan is of rectangular design. When we consider the siting of a rectangular bungalow, the provision of roads, the amount of land that it will occupy, and the various services, it again becomes apparent that the matter is not satisfactory from this aspect. I would remind hon. Members that when questions were put to the Minister on this aspect of the problem he had no estimate or idea of the cost that would be incurred by local authorities in planning, and providing sites for, the Portal bungalow. It is quite clear that a rectangular shaped design of this kind adds to the cost of services of that character, and further, when we come to the end of this particular temporary design, and local authorities then have to consider replacing with a permanent type of house on that rectagular site, the service arrangements will not necessarily fit in. I have been advised that the cost of these site services can be increased as much as £75 over and above the normal cost of siting the long narrow type of house as compared with these. I think Parliament is entitled, before we pass this Bill and tie ourselves to any measures of this description, either on the Second Reading or Committee stages, to be thoroughly satisfied on points of this description.
May I pass to the general financial problem involved? The figure given us so far is £150,000,000, which will represent the cost to the Treasury. It is quite clear now that until the negotiations with the local authorities are settled we may not be able to come to a definite figure, but I think it would be the desire of the Members of this House that local authorities should not be saddled with expenditure, certainly not unnecessary expenditure, in dealing with temporary property of this description. With regard to the impact of this initial financial expenditure on the whole housing programme, I understand it is the view of the Ministry of Health that, ultimately, we shall want between 3,000,000 and 4,000,000 houses in the next 10 or 12 years, to put it in round figures, which is going to represent an enormous capital expenditure. One anxiety I feel with regard to this preliminary expenditure of £50,000,000 is that the bulk of it appears to be what I might term duplicating costs, doubling labour costs, doubling material costs for a site that will eventually house only one family.
This is the point with which I am most concerned. I fully appreciate, and here recognise and approve, the Government's policy of licensing these houses, to make them public property so that they are controllable by State policy, and having complete control by a Government Department so that they cannot be interfered with if the desire is to remove them. Whilst we have that safeguard, it is interesting to see the dilemma into which it puts Parliament, and in particular individuals on this side of the House, who place considerable importance on the public ownership of property. We have always had a standard in this country whereby property owned by the State and by the local authorities and public bodies set the standard in quality, design, durability and amenity. Public ownership of property should set a high standard, and we have generally followed that policy hitherto in this country.
I very much regret that at the commencement of the greatest house-building policy this country has ever had to commence, the State is leading the way in establishing a sub-standard house—if you like, deteriorating the quality. I am particularly anxious that, as this policy works out, there shall not grow up in the public mind an attitude of pointing the finger of scorn at the State house, as representing something inferior, something to be the subject of music-hall sneers and jeers, as against property that might be put up through initiative or capital effort in other directions. That is a very serious dilemma. We must have public ownership; we must have public control to see that these properties do not go on, years after they have exhausted their temporary usefulness. But I think there is a particularly grave responsibility on Members of the Government and of this House to see that every safeguard is inserted to wipe away this sub-standard house from the housing of the community, as quickly as possible.
With regard to the problem of the steel house, I want to deal with prices because I am not at all satisfied, until we have further evidence, that the cost of the Portal bungalow has reached its lowest level. The Minister estimates £100 for service charges; that is not the service of local siting and establishment, that is for transport and other services which the Ministry of Works will have to undertake. There are £100 for the kitchen and other equipment and £400 for the structure or shell, mainly for the provision of steel and doors and equipment of that kind. I am informed that the steel tonnage required for one of these bungalows will be in the neighbourhood of five tons. Is that correct, roughly?
I under-estimated rather than over-estimated. That is what I was anxious to do. I am informed that, on present controlled steel prices, the cost of the five tons of steel of the Portal bungalow is £113 15s., that is before the steel sheets go to Briggs and the Oxford Pressed Steel Corporation for pressing and shaping. When this process is gone through, as far as I can see from the working-out of these estimates, it is likely, eventually, to reach a contract price of £177, or to work out at about £35 10s. a ton.
That led me to examine the movement of steel prices in this country during the war, and to look a little into the history of this problem. Before the war we had some difficulty in the steel industry, owing to two companies putting in two large American strip mills. There were innovations and improvements in the steel industry in this country, and these new American strip mills enabled these particular firms to produce this sheet steel at much below the Federation prices. We are all familiar with the difficulty that developed, which ended in Sir William Firth—I do not think that was the only difficulty, it was one aspect of the difficulty at the time —resigning or being removed, and the Bank of England nominees taking charge of one of these companies. I have observed that since then the prices of the products of these concerns have moved steadily forward, until they now conform to the Federation monopoly and control prices.
I think the House ought to look at these figures. Taking 1930 as representing a price of 100, in 1939 iron and steel prices had increased to 128, and now in 1944 they have moved to 183.4. In other words, iron and steel prices have nearly doubled during that period. For this standard steel sheet that will be required for the Portal bungalow, the price in 1939 at the outbreak of the war was £14 15s. a ton. The price is now £22 15s. a ton. I want to know from the Government spokesmen whether this strip steel is being bought at £22 15s. a ton. I cannot vouch for the next figure that I am going to use, because I have not had time to check it, but I am informed that you can buy this strip steel off the same mills in America at £13 a ton. We all know that labour costs are not lower in America than they are here. Quite apart from that, we are facing a position in which the Government are going to place orders for strip steel at the rate of 1,250,000 tons a year. The output of one of these mills when they were first installed, strangely enough, was 1,250,000 tons a year—I understand that there have been improvements since then. Obviously, the contract that we are going to place will enable one of these mills to run at full, or almost full, capacity. We ought to be satisfied very definitely before we agree to a price of £22 15s. a ton for these steel plates. I cannot say whether the Government have accepted that price or not, but I understand that there is a good deal of evidence to support the belief that they have.
I want to conclude my remarks now, although there are various other matters with which I should like to deal. I want to make this appeal to the Government, and to Members of this House. We have had four years of a Coalition Government, in which we have seen political unity for prosecuting the war. In this Parliament, which has had a rather longer life than we should constitutionally look forward to, I can remember two very definite occasions when the House of Commons has exerted its influence over the Executive with, I think, very beneficial results. Before the war, in September, 1939, when the honour of this country was at stake over Poland, Parliament asserted its authority over the Executive very definitely, and safeguarded that honour. Despite all the sacrifice and suffering that this country and the world have passed through, I do not think that a single Member who took part in that decision would feel that he made a mistake. I believe that, ultimately, the gains to the world will show that the House of Commons was at one of its best standards of conduct in that memorable week-end. Again, when we passed through our first serious disasters in Norway, the Members of the House of Commons, irrespective of party, dealt with that position, and the present Prime Minister emerged as a result. Again that called forth unexampled responses from the people of this country, when they flocked to the Home Guard and into the munition plants and the Services. It is difficult to visualise any people in the world who, over a period of four years, have put forth such sustained and continuous effort, without grumbling and without any upheaval, but, in my view, it will be a great mistake to expect that that is going to continue. There will come a time, and I believe very shortly, when the great mass of the people of these islands will demand from this Parliament a return for what they have done. I can conceive of nothing in respect of which the demand will be more severe than it will be in respect of the housing of the people. I beg this Parliament, before this Coalition dissolves, to give a final reward for the grand effort of the British people.
Before this Bill passes, I sincerely trust, we shall put into these Debates a clear indication of the fact that we do not favour a patchwork policy in regard to the housing of the people. We may not actually vote against a proposal that will provide shelter for people without shelter. They will be so desperate that they will take anything that will house them. But, for heaven's sake, let us settle down, without wasting another week, or another month, to mobilise to the full the whole resources of the building industry, with all its manifestations, with all its variety, and to bring in other industries that can make a contribution. Let us have steel, by all means, but do not limit it to steel. Do not let us have any monopoly interests exerting their influence on the housing of the people. If the Government will take that kind of firm, but imaginative, approach to the housing of the people, they will have the backing of the House of Commons; but if they muddle this problem, I think they will get a very severe reprimand from all parts of the House.
I would like to ask the hon. Member a question, and I beg him to believe that I am not asking it frivolously. I understood him to say that one of his objections to the Portal bungalow was that it was rectangular. I do not understand his point. Most houses are rectangular.
I wish to welcome the Bill, albeit with rather a guarded welcome, and then to make one or two small criticisms, particularly with regard to its effect on public opinion outside this House. Obviously, the Minister of Health is facing the greatest opportunity that has ever presented itself to do a real job of housing and home-making in this country, and I believe that he can do it if only he gets off on the right foot. It is obvious that recent events in Southern England must upset the calculations as to the total number of houses that will be required after the war, but we know that, besides the houses necessary for the replacement of bombed dwellings, there must be many tens of thousands of people who are looking forward to leaving slum and semi-slum conditions at a not too distant date, and that there must be many more tens of thousands, particularly of young people in the Services, who are looking forward to settling down in homes of their own for the first time. Therefore, I welcome this Bill as an attempt to bridge the gap between the position now and the final rehousing of the whole nation.
The Portal house has come in for a great deal of comment, some of it being flowery, some of it adverse and even unfair, and some of it, certainly, constructive and therefore helpful, but after all, you cannot appeal to everybody. Some people call it the "Portal Palace"; others, with no disrespect for my hon. Friend, call it the "Hicks Hut," and then we are told that we are definitely to call it a bungalow. The Minister of Health did say something about sub-standard bungalows, which I do not think was a good name for his house, but, be that as it may, I think there is a real psychological and important issue here. If 250,000 of this type, or a similar type, of house are going to be built, then 500,000 adults, at least, are going to be directly affected by them for a certain number of years, and a large number of other people, living in a great many local authority districts, are going to be affected indirectly.
I think it is most unfortunate, if we should let these 500,000 or so unspecified persons start off with any grudge, or with any idea that they are going into houses that are third-rate or that they are being fobbed off with something that is not worth while. Therefore, if the temporary policy of this Bill is going to be a success, I think we have got to have a lot more publicity of the right type—not propaganda, but publicity of explanation, education and explanation. I think we can do that in three ways. First, by setting up specimen houses in as many centres as possible, but that is of limited application. It takes a very long time for comparatively small parties to get through one of the houses. I think it is also possible on the lines which I suggested to the Parliamentary Secretary a few weeks ago, when I proposed that a cinema film could be prepared, with a good commentary, which could be shown at cinemas all over the country, and which would show family life going on in these houses, so that people would know what they were going into. Thirdly, it may be possible to make reasonably large scale models which could be taken from town to town and shown to local housing authorities and the general public.
I believe that we should do something like that, and that, if we did, people would be prepared to make reasonable criticism, and we should get a great volume of useful suggestions, but we should also get rid of what I can only term the type of niggardly criticism that we have had up to the present. As an example of that, I would remind hon. Members of the questionnaire sent round a few months ago by some women's organisation. I remember only two of the questions. The first was, "How do you prevent baby falling into the sitting-room fire in a Portal house?" The obvious answer to that is that it depends on how fond you are of baby, but after all you can buy a fireguard for that just as for any other house. The second question was, "Where, in the Portal house, does father clean his boots?" There the answer, surely, knowing father, is "Just where he wants to," or, alternatively, "It all depends on mother."
Seriously, if the general public are brought to understand more about the houses, and they are told that there are going to be definite safeguards, they will accept them for what they are—not perfection, but a reasonable answer to a very difficult problem. There are just two other matters with which I would like to deal. I hope, when the time comes for the allocation of these houses, that the Government will not be unmindful of the claims of the countryside and the villages, not merely for agricultural workers' dwellings, but for those workers engaged in ancillary trades which we hope are going to play their part in rural development after the war. There will be a great many men coming out of the Forces as skilled mechanics who can find good work in agriculture and the ancillary industries if only accommodation is provided for them in the villages quickly enough.
Lastly, I would like the Minister of Health and his colleagues to examine an alternative form of some temporary house which may already have been considered and turned down. When a site has been prepared and the services laid on, it might be possible to build, first the ground floor of the house—a small three or four roomed house—and top it off with a temporary steel roof similar to that used in the Portal bungalow. Then in three, four or five, or even 10, years' time, but certainly no longer than 10, when the material and labour position allows, and the demands of the increased family call for it, the temporary roof could be discarded and the house built up to the next storey with a permanent roof. All that could be done without wasting any of the original labour or the site or interfering in any way at all with the drains and main services. I am told that that is quite a practicable proposition and I close by asking the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary to look into it.
I think it is apparent that there is very real anxiety in all parts of the House about this Bill. I think most of us feel that, many though the objections are to temporary houses, they are a necessary expedient to tide us over the emergency. The real anxiety is how long the emergency is going to last. Unfortunately, as we saw last time, temporary houses have an unfortunate habit of becoming permanent, and, as hon. Members know, there are many houses standing. to-day, still inhabited, which are the temporary houses of the last war—over 20 years ago.
Clause 2 of this Bill gives the Minister power to remove these temporary houses, and here are the operative words:
when there is no longer any need for them
or, in the words of the Leader of the House, as used to-day, "as soon as may be." What is that likely to be? The Minister said something about 10 years, and that period of time has been generally accepted. What is the position likely to be at that time? The Minister has told us that, in order to provide every family with a house, that is, apart from slum clearance and overcrowding, it will be necessary to build 1,000,000 new houses. That is the immediate need. The Government are going to build somewhere round 300,000 in the first two years after the war. After that, it is hoped that the rate of building will be accelerated as the labour and materials position becomes easier. Then there will be a resumption of slum clearance and of the amelioration of overcrowding, and this will be going on side by side with the building of these additional homes. In order to meet all these demands the Government contemplate a housing programme, on the Minister's calculations, of between 3,000,000 and 4,000,000 in the first 10 or 12 years after the war. That means double the rate of building in the period between the two wars when 4,000,000 houses were built in 20 years. There we have the problem. It is an immense task in the difficult situation which will have to be met after the war. I do not think it is insuperable if materials and labour are properly organised.
What is likely to happen to these temporary houses in face of the enormous building programme that has to be achieved? Is it not really likely that local authorities, with all their manifold responsibilities and duties, will extend the life of these houses? Of course they will. Is it not also more than likely that the Minister of the day, whoever he may be, will have to acquiesce in the life of these houses being extended? That is certain, and why not? The houses are there. They provide accommodation and shelter, and have very good kitchen gadgets and labour saving devices. They are dry. They are not unfit houses which can be condemned even after 10 years. Is there any guarantee that in 10, 15 or 20 years' time these houses will not come to be regarded as permanent houses? That seems to be the real danger, as the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) said earlier in the Debate. Assuming that that is the case and we have to make up our minds to the fact that these houses will become permanent, is it not, therefore, absolutely vital that we should see to it that the standard of these houses is going to be very much higher than that of the Portal house? I regard the Portal house as definitely sub-standard.
I was a member of the Dudley Committee, which issued its report only a few weeks ago, and I would like to say a little on that. Although improvements have been made in the Portal house—and in this matter the Government have shown initiative, resource and imagination—notwithstanding the improvements which have been made, it has very grave defects. First of all, it is too small—six hundred and sixteen square feet against the 900 square feet which the Dudley Committee regard as a minimum. There is another very important point, particularly important in a steel house, and that is the height of the rooms. Another improvement has been made in that respect. It is now to be 7 feet 6 inches as against the 8 feet recommended by the Dudley Committee. The Dudley Committee was urged to reduce the height of rooms, but, after carefully considering the whole of the factors, definitely came to the conclusion that it would militate against health if the height of the rooms were lowered below the 8 feet. That I regard as very important. There are only two bedrooms in the Portal house. We are told that the houses are only meant for small families. There is no guarantee that families will remain small. In fact it is hoped they will not.
It is the policy of the Government to encourage larger families, and yet here they are proposing to build, in great numbers, a house with only two bedrooms. What is to happen? Are the families, as they increase, to be turned out and given other accommodation? Is there to be a sort of general post every time there is an addition to the family, or are the people to be allowed to remain in these houses and create new slums and overcrowded conditions? I am very glad to hear that the Minister is considering at the moment more than one design, and that he is not completely tied.
The dilution of labour as between the two Ministries rather complicates matters. Here is another example of it. I understand new designs are to be considered. I hope that among them designs for larger houses, for the family house, not neglecting the present design which might be used by old age pensioners and others. There is another question I want to ask the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works. I understand that there is a new Weir house. I am told that it is an admirable house, that it is larger than the Portal house and has very good accommodation, and I am informed the cost of it is very much greater. It is a permanent house. It has the advantage at any rate of not being a semipermanent house. I believe the difficulty there is a shortage of materials. I find it very difficult to understand what that means and shall be glad if the Parliamentary Secretary can tell us what particular material is in short supply and makes it difficult to provide such a house.
We come in this Bill, as we come in all housing Bills, to the question of land and the matter of planning or lack of planning in Government housing, which becomes more and more apparent as each proposal comes out in what I would call the instalment system. The sub-Committee on temporary construction which reported the other day says:
It is therefore clear that in general the temporary scheme will necessitate the acquisition by local authorities of large areas of land for housing purposes and an early decision on the main lines of future planning policy, combined with more expeditious powers for acquiring land for housing, becomes more than ever necessary.
That is the view of a Committee which has been studying this matter for some time. In the Explanatory Memorandum to the Bill we are told that local authorities
will find suitable sites on land belonging to them or to be purchased by them under the Housing Acts.
The Minister referred to land local authorities had already purchased. That land is
presumably land which has been earmarked for new building and there is some plan attached to it. Is it suggested that the land should be used for temporary housing? That surely is going to add to the general confusion. It is going to hold up the programme of the building of permanent homes. I cannot see how it can fail to do so. The real danger here is that the best sites are likely to be taken up by the temporary housing. That is a very serious matter. There is one other question I would like to ask the Minister and it is this: whether he will consider giving additional power to local authorities to requisition land in certain circumstances for the building of these houses for this purpose? It is a point that I would like him to consider.
I would ask the Minister to see to it that the countryside gets a fair share of these houses. As is well known in the House, there is a very real shortage of accommodation in the rural areas which will not and cannot be met by the very limited provision of new housing. After all, I think we are agreed in this House that we do not want to make the mistake of seeing young people, in the first few years after the war, drifting once again into the towns for lack of accommodation in the countryside. I beg the Government, therefore, to see that the countryside is not neglected. In view of all these serious factors, I hope that before the resumption of this Debate the Government will reconsider many of these factors in connection with this Measure for temporary housing.
If time permitted, I would be very pleased to traverse the admirable speech of the hon. Lady the Member for Anglesey (Miss Lloyd-George) and in doing so I should make appreciative references to many of the helpful suggestions and constructive proposals she has submitted to the House. There are, however, just two to which I may permit myself to refer. First, I think she has done a great service in reminding the House that the word "temporary" is purely relative. Although the particular houses contemplated under the provisions of this Bill will be earmarked as temporary, it is extremely likely that they may endure for many many years. I have painful recollections of causing to be erected on behalf of a Government Department during the last war a number of houses in Scotland, which were intended to be of the most temporary possible character; they were intended to endure for 12 months but, unfortunately, they remained there for well over 20 years. I think the House should bear that in mind.
The hon. Lady referred to the superficial area of these bungalows, which was laid down by the Dudley Committee as 900 square feet. I have not read that report, but it confirms the conclusions reached by a Government Committee upon which I served about 25 years ago, when we laid down the same figure and it was accepted by the Government as the irreducible minimum. Now, here is a proposal to crowd the whole domestic activities of a household into 600 superficial feet. I myself have caused to be designed many houses, including many domestic offices. In the last two or three years I have done many domestic duties in domestic offices considerably larger than those which I had previously designed. Therefore, I speak from practical and painful experience when I say it is a criminal shame——
I wholly accept the rebuke and I apologise. I think it is a criminal shame to cause members of working-class households to do the whole of their domestic drudgery in such confined space as is provided in these temporary houses.
I feel quite sure that the House will have felt, as I felt, a considerable measure of relief at the announcement on behalf of the Government that the Debate on the Second Reading of this Bill will not conclude to-day. Having heard the lucid explanation given by the Minister of Health, and having listened to some of the revelations he made during that explanation, I sincerely hope that the Bill will never receive a Second Reading unless it is substantially qualified. The object of the Bill, for the rapid provision of houses, is admirable. Whether or not it is necessary, in order to secure the necessary houses in the requisite time, to have temporary houses and sub-standard houses is an entirely different question. I do not propose further to criticise the details of the prototype or model house, which it is proposed to provide in such vast numbers under the provisions of this Bill, but I would like to comment on the somewhat disconcerting revelations of the Minister of Health in regard to the arrangements that have been carried a very long way in regard to the provision of these houses.
It astonished me, and I think it astonished the House, to find that the Minister of Works had divided the units of his house into five inner parts, and that he carried his negotiations with those who were to provide these particular five units in vast numbers a very long way, before this Bill came before the House. The Minister of Health proceeded to give us actual names of the contractors to whom enormous orders were to be placed for these particular units, and I was gravely astonished to find that such a thing could be possible. When the Minister appreciated the feeling of the House in regard to those revelations, he attempted to relieve the tension of mind of hon. Members by saying, "Ah, yes, but these orders are to be placed with Government contractors." Their appetite grows with eating, and having already created an enormous appetite we propose now to feed that voracious appetite with peace-time production. I do not think that brought very much measure of relief to the minds of most of us; it certainly brought none to me. Then he proceeded to say, "Ah, yes, there will be a costing clause." No one knows better than the Minister of Health, with his vast knowledge of contract matters, that the costing clause means extremely little. What means an enormous lot are the conditions of contract. If those conditions are made very favourable indeed to the contractor, all that the operation of the costing clause would do would be to reveal the fact that the very remunerative result of the contract with which it was concerned had been duly and properly fulfilled. That does not carry the slightest measure of relief to my mind, and I hope we shall hear some more satisfactory information as to what is being done in regard to placing these contracts for these enormous sums of money before this Bill is approved. Having spent a very large part of my life to raising the standards of the houses of the people both in England and Scotland——
I have been going in the right direction anyway, in regard to construction, accommodation and design. I cannot claim that I have any very great feeling of enthusiasm for a retrograde Measure of this kind. The particular type of house which we are to expect has now been reasonably well defined. It is to be temporary and substandard. I do not suppose that even the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works would claim that there is any particular or special virtue in temporary character or in sub-standard quality. The only possible justification for these temporary and sub-standard houses would be that standard houses could not be provided with the same economy of labour and within a reasonable period of time. That assumption is thoroughly unjustified and unjustifiable. If the Minister of Works, or the Minister of Health, could have found it convenient to have taken into consultation the various accredited organisations of the building industry—and especially the National Federation of Building Operatives—those bodies would have given them very considerable assistance by way of advice, and would have indicated to the Ministers and measures by which equal acceleration and equal application of these methods of mass production, and the application of the principle of prefabrication, could have been applied to the production of thoroughly good standard houses. I sincerely hope that that omission may be rectified.
Just as under this arrangement there is no economy in labour, so there is no economy in costs. The consideration of two or three figures will, I think, satisfy the House on that point. The house is intended to cost £600, and is to endure for a period of ten years. That is £60 per annum. To build a standard house, much larger than this, perhaps almost half as large again in superficial area, would cost about £700, which would be spread over a period of at least 40 years. Therefore, the loss per annum on each temporary house would be £42. Multiply that by ten and you have £420. There are to be built 250,000, which means that there is a loss of £105,000,000, so that there is no economy in labour or money. The Minister of Works is to be permitted to spend £150,000,000 entirely within his own discretion and it is to be the duty of the Minister of Health to unload these houses on to local authorities. I know that, rightly and properly, the Minister of Health has enormous power and great influence over the local authorities, but I think it regrettable that that influence and power should be used for the purpose of unloading this enormous number of substandard houses on to local authorities.
To these few helpful observations—[Laughter]—I would like to add a few further observations—dare I use the epithet "helpful" again?—with regard to the provisions of the Bill itself. The Minister revealed the arrangement which has been made between the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Works, and what is to be done with regard to the placing of orders for the manufacture of these houses. I would be glad if the Minister could tell us what is to be done in regard to the arrangements for the erection of these houses. Is it, again, to be the policy of the Government that the Ministry of Works is to have another selected band of favoured large contractors who, like the large contractors who are to produce the houses, will be sent round the country erecting the houses on behalf of the Ministry of Health—which will mean that local builders and labour will suffer? I should be glad to have some information about that, because local builders throughout the country are thoroughly unsettled by the adoption of the policy I have described in regard to the preparation of sites for these housing schemes. The Minister has told us that the Minister of Works is not confined to one particular type or method of construction, and we shall await with great interest the further types and methods which he proposes.
There are other matters which I hope will be dealt with on the Committee stage, but with regard to Clause 7, containing the financial provisions, the Minister of Works is to have full and unfettered discretion to spend this £150,000,000 in any way he likes, and the Minister of Health will be required to unload houses on to the local authorities, and make with them the best terms he can. He is to get rid to the local authorities of whatever number of houses the Minister of Works will have thought it fit and proper to provide. I am anxious to know whether it is possible that the purchasing activities of the Minister of Works can be controlled by the Minister of Health. That is to say, can the Minister of Works be restricted to the particular number of houses which the local authorities had previously consented with the Minister of Health, to take? The Minister of Works should not produce an enormous number of houses at high cost and then let the Minister of Health have the unpleasant duty, by various means in his power, of unloading them on local authorities. I am not sufficiently optimistic to think that I shall get a reply to all these points, but I hope they will be taken into consideration when the Minister further confers with the local authorities.
I was saying that I hope the Minister would consider the points I have raised, and I was about to ask if he could find it convenient to arrange for a meeting with accredited representatives of the building industry in order that they might have an opportunity of giving him that large measure of assistance which, I am sure, most of them can give, and with the National Federation of Building Operatives in particular?
I think most Members will agree that, in the solution of this urgent problem, the normal means of production of houses will not suffice, and that the House is ready to consider any means of supplementing the supply of normal houses which will be satisfactory on its merits. I take it that we are considering, on their merits, the proposals of the Government to supply a large number of Portal houses. I am quite prepared to discuss this question on the merits of the Portal house. I am going to submit that the Portal house is not a satisfactory solution of this problem. If it were, I, for one, should not in any way impede its production. The Minister agreed that it was sub-standard in two respects. It is sub-standard in a large number of respects, and I will mention a few that he omitted to refer to. In the first place, both bedrooms lead out of either the living room or the kitchen. To get to one, you have to go into the living room, then into the kitchen and then into the bedroom. In order to go into the second, you go from the living room into the bedroom. All housing opinion will condemn leading into bedrooms out of kitchens. Moreover, the living room, of about 145 feet, has three doors in it, one leading into the hall, one into the kitchen and one into a bedroom. Obviously there must be draughts coming from these various doors. Then the house will suffer from condensation, from noise and from excessive heat in the summer.
I recognise that the Ministry of Works have done all they can in the way of research to ensure that these dangers will not emerge, but it is one thing to try these things out on a laboratory scale and quite another to try them out in practice. Some of us have had experience of steel houses erected shortly after the last war, where all these evils continue to the present day. In my view, the only way of ensuring that this house does not suffer from these defects will be for someone to live in one of them for a certain period. I submit that the house will not stand up to rough weather. It may not outlast the ten years, especially if there are young, healthy children in it. As to the height of the rooms, that is a defect, particularly in congested areas, and I imagine that the majority of the houses will be built in congested areas. A height of 7 ft. 6 ins. in the country is all right, but in towns it is bad. In London the minimum height is 8 ft. 6 ins. Then there is a real danger of warping and, where that happens, the cost of repair will be enormous. It will mean substituting the warped part by a new part. I take it that the vast majority of these houses will be of the two-bedroom type. No other types are at present available. The prospect of anything like 250,000 of these houses, all alike, scattered all over the country, fills me with horror. Another point that ought to be mentioned is the danger of vermin. It is a grave danger in London and many large towns. I am advised on high authority that these houses are peculiarly susceptible to vermin.
The life of these houses is to be ten years. It is possible that they may not last much longer but the intention of the Minister is that they should last much longer, because he said that until he could replace them with something more satisfactory they would remain. In my submission the housing problem will not be solved in the next 25 years. I do not for a moment admit that the 3,000,000 to 4,000,000 houses that the right hon. Gentleman referred to really represents the number that are needed. I should place it at double that figure. One must contemplate the probability that these houses will be required to stand up for 20 to 25 years. They will provide for a limited type of family. It has been mentioned that we do not wish to limit families to two children, and consequently there will be a need for further accommodation. I do not know whether it is the right hon. Gentleman's intention that as soon as a family goes beyond two children, they should be forced to leave the temporary house and take a permanent one. A permanent house may not be available. Local authorities will be busy providing permanent accommodation for other families and may not have it available when families go beyond the stage of two children. So, while we shall cater for the small family with the Portal house, larger families will be catered for in the main by permanent houses and, since the need for housing the larger families is at least as acute as the need for housing smaller families, we must do nothing in this policy of building Portal houses which will interfere with the production of permanent houses.
I want to ask the House to consider whether this interferes with the building of permanent houses. Where are you going to put these houses? The right hon. and learned Gentleman has referred to blitzed areas, and that is where the need will be greatest, because of the destruction that has taken place. Is he going to recommend that these houses should be put on blitzed sites? If so, I would put to him that these houses, by reason of their construction of one storey instead of the normal two, would take up twice as much space as the ordinary house. That is confirmed by the frontage of the house, which is 34 feet 6 inches, against the normal frontage of 16 to 20 feet. As these houses cannot be put close together and do not lend themselves to terracing, but will have to be separated by some yards of air space and light, it follows that not more than half the number of houses can be put on a site as compared with permanent houses.
That is the position in most towns, but in London the position is even worse. Whereas you could get about nine houses an acre of the temporary type in London, the solution must be the erection of flats. As against nine houses of the temporary type you could provide perhaps 40 or 45 flats. Therefore, in a large town, where the solution is largely flats, if the local authority used their sites for putting up Portal houses they would be wasting the sites not only for Io years, but for the longer period which both my right hon. Friend and I contemplate will be necessary. What, then, are we to do in the large towns? Are we to build outside? Supposing London had its fair share of the 250,000 of these houses, it would have about 25,000. On the basis of the density I have indicated, they would need about 3,000 acres of land. That is just an impossible figure to contemplate for London. One jumps at the chance of five or Io acres; 100 acres is unthought of; 3,000 acres is just impossible.
I mean outside, within a reasonable distance. To get 3,000 acres within a reasonable distance of London is unthinkable. Would my right hon. Friend suggest that we should buy 3,000 acres on the outskirts of London for these temporary houses? I submit that this problem will arise in other places as well as London. Even where they would be normally building houses and flats, they would still be faced with the problem whether, in the long run, in the five year period, it would not be better to use their sites fully by putting up permanent dwellings instead of having only half the number of temporary dwellings. That is the problem that every local authority will have to face, and, in my view, the answer in most cases will be that they would prefer to use their sites to the fullest extent even though it might mean waiting. I submit that it will not mean waiting if we adopt the policy that my hon. Friend has suggested. Even if it meant waiting, better use would be made of the land in the long run and we should get more houses than by putting up the Portal houses.
The case for this house is that it can be put up quickly. Is that really the case? The crisis will be within the first year after the war with Germany ends. People will be wanting homes and will be pressing and urging that homes should be provided. It is just within that period when no homes will be provided. It will take from six to nine months to jig and tool before we even begin to manufacture. I submit that it will take longer if the experience of production during the war is any guide. After all, we shall still be at war. I submit that it may well be 18 months to two years before we turn out these houses on any scale at all. If that is the case, many people will be gravely disappointed. Is the Minister satisfied that there is an adequate supply of pressed steel capacity in this country? These houses will mean an enormous quantity of pressed steel. If we divert all our production of pressed steel for the temporary houses we may get what we want. Is it desirable, however, to divert the whole of our production of pressed steel for this purpose? It is used for the manufacture of motor cars. If it were a choice between houses and motor cars, every Member would plump for houses, but we cannot close our eyes to the vital importance to this country of the production of motor cars from the point of view of providing work and of our export trade. Have we an adequate supply of plywood, which is an essential feature of the temporary house? If we are to provide the houses quickly we must have the land. Is my right hon. Friend giving local authorities the same powers to speed up the acquisition of land for the temporary houses as will be available to them under the Housing (Temporary Provisions) Bill which is now before the Lords?
Another advantage which is claimed for the temporary house is that it will not require much building labour. Is that really the case? The house has to be painted, and painters will therefore be required. The wall is lined with plywood, and that will require a type of building labour. The floors are of wood, and that will require a particular type of building labour. The same type of plumber will be required for the temporary house as for the permanent house. The fittings such as the baths, taps and kitchen arrangements in the temporary house are excellent, and I hope they will be adopted for the permanent houses. If they are, the labour required will be the same. The saving is really in the walls and roof and a certain amount of foundation. Is it really worth while, for the sake of that amount of saving, to put up a temporary house which will last only a limited period and will then have to be dismantled? If the Government are merely out to save on the walls and roofs is there not a better way of solving this problem? Has it been considered? My right hon. Friend is going to collect the pieces when the house is dismantled. Will they be of any use to him? I have had some experience of collecting odd bits from houses in the course of my chairmanship of the London County Council Housing Committee and we have never found it a profitable undertaking. I do not think my right hon. Friend will either. I beg him to think once more whether there is not a better way by providing permanent houses of permanent standard, but with temporary finishings, temporary walls and temporary roof, which can be converted at some time at leisure, but which will in the end give a permanent house to live in.
Now a word about the finance. I accept the figure of £600 for the house. On top of that will be land, roads and sewers. I have made a calculation which I have had checked and it shows that the economic rent of such a house outside London would be £95 a year and inside London, if we used one of the bombed sites, the economic rent would be £135 a year.
Yes, I think that must be done. What rent is to be charged for these houses? If it is to be, say 15s., there will be an enormous amount to be made up by somebody. I am very much afraid that if we spend too much money on these temporary houses that fact will be used later on, possibly in times of financial stringency, as an argument for slowing down on the permanent houses. Inevitably, this enormous expenditure is bound to have that effect. I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend will be able to use the interval between now and the end of the Recess profitably. Do not let him accept this proposal as the last word. If it were the last word, I should be in some difficulty. I do not believe that it is the last word, and I believe that if my right hon. and learned Friend is energetic and does not take things for granted from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works, if he can evolve something better, I can promise him that he will earn the gratitude of the whole House and its support for the Second Reading of the Bill.
I am sure that we are all very grateful for the extensive and enlightened criticism to which we have listened, after my right hon. and learned Friend introduced the Second Reading of the Bill. I am satisfied that there are a number of other points of view that will enrich us in our further examination of this problem, and we shall be very happy to receive them. At the commencement I would point out that the Bill should not be confused with the Government's normal housing policy. It is very wrong to regard this as the Government's normal housing policy. The Minister of Health has stated very definitely and clearly on more than one occasion that that policy should be for the more permanent type of housebuilding, making provision to build houses on the more established lines of brick, stone, etc.—whatever those etceteras might be.
I shall be coming in a moment to many of the questions which have been asked, but first I would ask hon. Members to indicate what type of material they think temporary houses should be built of. What type of material are we to consider with a view to designing and planning another type of house, instead of the one which is indicated in the Bill? The Bill asks for the type of house which we hope to make available, a factory-made house, as an emergency dwelling, in which to house thousands of British citizens. It is intended to fill an interregnum, to bridge over a gap, between the end of hostilities with Germany and such time as the build- ing industry can regain its stride and be equal to the task of meeting our housing requirements in the more traditional way. I shall be compelled to ask, when the hard, harsh facts relating to the figures of labour and materials are available, that hon. Members who are not inclined to accept this proposal—and perhaps they are right, but that will be proved in the discussion and in the Division later on—how they would propose to build.
I listened with great interest to the hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Sir J. Walker-Smith) while he told me what to do. He revealed quite a lot about costing. I have been sitting round a table with him for 20 years, and he never told me how they got on with those things, but I had a shrewd idea. We have invited suggestions from the building employers and building operatives at all times. We have usually had to provide the agenda at the meetings. Where is the proposal of the building trade employers and operatives that would help my Minister to fulfil this request of the Government to provide temporary houses? I should like to know. I will give the House some figures later as to the number of men and the amount of materials that are available.
What are the real facts, apart from the emotions and prejudices in hon. Members' minds? I yield to none in defending the highest possible standard of housing. I have spent 40 years with that ambition, and in my public life, sitting with the party opposite for many years, I have always urged the claims of high standard housing. I have done my very best on all occasions to urge the improvement of the standard.
I want to thank my hon. Friend the Member for East Ham South (Mr. Barnes) for the excellent way in which he opened the Debate. I could enthusiastically subscribe to all the things that he asked me for, but I regard the proposed scheme not as permanent but as temporary. We must get on with the job as quickly as we possibly can to provide permanent homes. With all the enthusiasm which I am capable of summoning to my aid I believe that the Government will be happy to do that, but we are faced at the present moment with the problem of providing some accommodation between the end of hostilities and the period when the normal building trade is able to get into its stride and build houses. My right hon. and learned Friend has stated that, in his opinion—and it is my opinion too—to build 100,000 houses in the first year will take 100,000 building trade operatives; that is, of course, building in the traditional style. At the present time the industry is in the position of having to employ people who are not too familiar with this type of work, and a number of contractors are not so specialised on house building as they were before the war.
Before the war a number of big contractors really specialised in house building. They knew exactly how to get out the foundations and how much concrete would be required, the number of bricks, the length of the floor joists, the length of the boards, the length of the rafters and the number of locks and doors they would have to put in. It was all worked upon a mass production scale and houses were built in succession one after another. Those contractors reached a higher output than one man per house per year. I am definitely satisfied that we must not deceive ourselves, and that in the very first year it will require 100,000 men to build 100,000 houses. My right hon. and learned Friend is asking that we should accept that as his contribution—not as a solution. It is something that should be accepted. The figure of 200,000 houses that he is proposing to start to build in the second year must be appreciated from the aspect of the size of the labour force that will be required to tackle that problem.
Instead of confusing the House generally with talk of my own Minister's attempts to provide some form of shelter, in the shape of a temporary house, let me ask hon. Members to realise how long it will take, at the end of the European war, for the building trade to get back into its normal stride again. No one wants to prevent permanent houses being built to the maximum with the amount of labour and materials available. With the maximum amount of factory production, the industry will be able to go on and do this work. The hon. Member for East Ham South asked me a number of questions. Perhaps he will forgive me if I do not answer them all, because it might keep us here too late. He will have to be patient with me, as I may not answer them as meticulously as I should like to. He asked me whether we favoured a make-shift house. I reply that neither I nor the Government want a make-shift house.
Sheer, hard, stern necessity has conditioned this proposal to tide over a period. The problem will be grave after the war. We have had a cessation of normal housebuilding for five years. My hon. Friend the Member for East Ham South asked why we concentrated on one kind. Who has come forward with a house of comparable quality? My Ministry is constantly open. Anyone has access to it who has ideas. About 50 or 60 people have put up proposals for housing to meet the need for temporary houses, but at the moment they have not stood up to the requirements. Some are going along fairly well. I ask hon. Members not to ask me to mention names of those which are going along fairly well, because others who are not mentioned may think credit is being accorded against them. They can bring forward proposals which can be sent to the Watford Research Station if they can meet our requirements for loading capacity, for thermal insulation and so forth, and provide other necessities. Let anyone with ideas come along.
The hon. Member said that Parliament has exerted its influence. It is doing so now. Parliament did so when it said that we would guarantee to the building industry after the war not the same haphazard experience as after the last war but a ten to 12 years' programme. We had hoped to be able to overhaul the arrears of maintenance in the first two years after the war, but the labour forces will be so depleted that it may not be possible to do it to anything like the extent we should like. Consequently, the Government are here exercising their influence in favour of a very definite policy of house building in order that the people may be better housed. I agree with my hon. Friend's general exhortation and I thank him for what he had to say. I would like also to thank the hon. Member for Wansbeck (Mr. D. Scott) for his sympathetic approach to this difficult problem. It is a difficult problem to settle. Everyone who speaks can aid us with their respective experience, many of them on their local councils; and there are many who, without being on local councils are deeply concerned about and have familiarised themselves with many aspects of housing. That is all to the good. They have informed the House and helped us, and we appreciate that profoundly. The hon. Member asked whether we could build one floor, come back and take off the roof, build another floor and put it back again. We will consider that, but it is bound to cost a lot more money if we put on a temporary roof, move the labour and then start building again.
The hon. Lady the Member for Anglesey (Miss Lloyd George) said there were many objections to temporary houses, and asked how long a temporary house was to last. I do not know. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Health does not know. All we can say is the Bill provides that no money shall be spent on the provision of these houses after October, 1947. That limits the amount the Government can spend. I think they will last their ten years. With all houses much depends on the wear and tear; experience with ordinary houses shows we must have some regard to that. Plenty of new houses have been turned into slums—houses built under the Acts before the war. It is not merely a question of the type of house, but of how the house is treated, whether it becomes an unfavourable abode or a good one. I subscribe very definitely to the point made by the hon. Lady about many of the houses built after the last war. That is what we are trying to avoid. What did my Noble Friend say about this question when he raised it? That we would try to get them publicly owned. Is there anything more than that the hon. Lady would like? The houses to which she referred are privately owned. They are not municipally owned, so far as I know, nor are they under central control. Instead of having much temporary accommodation below standard owned privately, this time it will be under public control and subject to public criticism and public decision. Surely we cannot do better than have this kind of property under public control. The property to which the hon. Lady referred is all privately owned and unfortunately it has provided us with many places of a character we do not like.
I do not know how to answer that. I am sure the hon. Member wishes to be helpful, but there will be very great difficulty with regard to housing accommodation after the war. For example, when a soldier or a sailor comes back will he prefer to have one room in another man's house or have his own home? This Bill is not intended for the rehousing of the industrial population but as a contribution, as supplementary aid, in order that those who come back from the Forces may have a home during a difficult period.
How can anybody tell the number of houses that may be required—I am supporting the hon. Gentleman—when we do not know what enemy action is going to be? There may be thousands of people, millions without a house before the end of November.
I cannot give any guarantee of that. We are hoping with these temporary houses to meet the difficulty of a very large number of them. My hon. Friend the Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin) asked me how many would be built and whether they would be erected under the local authorities. Surely the procedure in that matter is as clear as the noonday sun. The Minister of Health has to consult with the local authorities. When the local authority orders the houses the Minister gives instructions to the Minister of Works, who then puts them into production, and no more will be produced than are asked for.
Where a local authority that takes a real dislike to the scheme, does not understand it, and decides not to erect any houses, and there may be 2,000 soldiers returning who have no homes and no chance of getting a home, will the Ministry of Health or the Ministry of Works take any action and build Portal houses in that particular area in such circumstances?
I can assure my hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster (Mr. E. Walkden) that the house will not be as hypothetical as his question. The hon. Lady asked about the Dudley Committee. I was a member of the Dudley Committee for many years, until I accepted office in the Government, and I commend the great work that the people of that Committee have done. In the main these houses do not come up to the standards that the Committee require. We welcome those standards enthusiastically, but this is a temporary house.
The hon. Lady has mentioned the Weir house. The Weir house is not a temporary house but a permanent house. It requires about 15 tons of steel, as against 5.75 tons for the Portal house. Negotiations are going on with the firm of Weirs, and with the trade union representatives, on the general conditions under which they will be erected. The hon. Lady will remember that, on the last occasion, there was quite a lot of difficulty about the type of labour to be employed in this direction. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland tells me that discussions are going on very well, and that, as soon as a decision is reached, he will be able to give a direction to go on building steel houses of a permanent character. I am not expressing an opinion about that—hon. Members know the profession in which I was brought up. The hon. Member for Barrow has earned our thanks, I am sure, for his contribution. There is only one point of his to which I want to refer. He said that this house is likely to cost £600, and that a full-standard house would cost about £700. The Post Office is open, and I am sure that my Noble Friend will be very happy to be told how he can build a house for that figure. There is quite a difference between discussing the matter here and making suggestions and getting them carried out by the industry. When it comes to putting them out to tender, the results are not equal to the enthusiasm of the advocates of that method. The jerry-built houses that were put up were not built by the Government.
The hon. Member for Peckham says that the normal methods of providing housing accommodation will not suffice. He discussed the house on its merits, and I thank him for the very temperate approach that he made to this problem, because we can all criticise very extensively. An entrance to the bedrooms from one of the other rooms is not, I believe, common in ordinary working-class houses, although it is in flats. The question of the alteration of materials and design will be seriously considered, I can assure him, and it may be that a passage will be put in to cut off the living room from the bedroom. Whether that would improve the amenities of the place or not I do not know. My Noble Friend has considered a lot of suggestions for alterations to the house. First, he had a model made in timber, which was exhibited in the Tate Gallery. Then he had a prototype made in steel. That was all made by hand, and, therefore, it would not be so accurate as if it had been stamped out by presses. The fittings and the rooms, as my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health has stated, were inspected by well over 30,000 people, who went through the houses, and the houses are standing up well.
One of my hon. Friends said that it would be a very good thing if someone had to live in this house, and somebody else suggested that I should do so. I can assure them that we have had people living in the house for some time—people who have been bombed out. My Ministry approached a borough council in London, and asked them to find a bombed-out man and his wife who would live in the house. I have been round to see the lady and her husband, and have had a talk with them about the amenities of the house. I inquired about all these terrible stories—that one could hear every little spot of rain, and that it would be very cold or very hot, and so on. The qualities of the house have been indicated by me very often in answer to Questions and in speeches. The lady told me that she is comfortable in the house—and she previously lived, not in a sub-standard house, but in a house of four bedrooms. She has lived in this house with her husband, and they have had her brother-in-law and his wife with them. They lived there, and did their cooking there, and they say that they have been quite com- fortable. They have asked that certain alterations should be made.
They have not seen the alterations which my noble Friend decided to undertake—to raise the height of the ceiling, to alter the size of the bathroom, to arrange other lavatory accommodation, and to increase the size of the hall, with a loggia on the outside—but when she went to look at these alterations, with the other things we have indicated, she said that she was perfectly satisfied with the arrangements, and that it made quite a comfortable house. We have been advised, by the greatest people we have been able to consult on the thermal and other qualities of the house, that this Wall of steel, with a backing behind it of slag-wool or aluminium foil, is equivalent to an II-inch wall. We are told that the insulation quality of this house is equivalent to that of a brick house with such a wall thickness. How can we refute such evidence, when it has been subjected to all the tests of our physical laboratories and our special research stations and when Dr. Stradling has given us such a guarantee?
Did my hon. friend take any consensus of opinion from the 30,000 people who have passed through these two houses as to the merits of one house against the other?
Yes, we had representatives there taking down comments from everyone who had any to make about the house. About 18 to 20 per cent. of the people who visited the houses had some comment to make. About 80 per cent. had no comment at all. We have not been able to invite everyone who went into the first house to go into the prototype, but a number have visited both, and they have expressed themselves as being quite happy about it. I am one of those people who like an eight feet or nine feet ceiling, but I am told that in this 7ft. bins. ceiling, with the windows high up and ventilation at the top, there is no reason for bad air under the ceiling. We are told that this is a perfectly healthy room.
I am sorry that I have not got on to my speech, but, perhaps I ought not to go too far now. I would like to say one or two words about the size of the building industry, as I promised earlier. In the building industry, the numbers we had prior to the war were, roughly, about 1,008,000. With the demands made upon the building industry since the war, either by munition factories or the Services, and allowing for those who have "joined the great majority," the number has been reduced, certainly, to below 380,000.
Yes, and the 380,000 includes the same. This is the global number in the building industry. It is anticipated, after much examination, not only by my Department, but by other Government Departments, that the numbers available in the building industry immediately on the termination of hostilities, and when other demands of the country have been met, will be just over 300,000, of whom only 50,000 will be under 41 years of age. When I mention the advancing age of the men remaining in the industry, and the number of youths coming in, the House will see what I am referring to and will note the make-up of the labour force after the war. We calculated this very seriously; it was not taken lightly. My Minister is not a man to take anything lightly; he is very anxious to have everything proved from the top to the bottom, and he persists with it with a meticulous enthusiasm that is very irritating to some of the people he interrogates from time to time. We believe, taking an optimistic sort of figure—not too optimistic, but just favourable to our side—it will take us two years after the end of hostilities with Germany to build up the labour force in the building industry to 800,000.
I should say it will. Judging by the number of men able to get back to the industry from munitions and through demobilisation, it is anticipated that, at the end of two years after the war, we will get up to about 800,000 men. After the war, we will also have to deal with the maintenance work which has been left over for five years. Maintenance labour alone in the building industry prior to the war required just over 300,000 men—that is, men permanently employed upon maintenance. That will be our total labour force, and when the Minister of Health states that he will agree to take 100,000 for building it is a very creditable gesture.
Is it not the case that thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of the lads now in the Forces are not only knocking down buildings but are also engaged in reconstruction and maintenance work in different parts of the war, and will they not all be ready for this work?
It will take two years because of general demobilisation. It cannot be done as easily as the hon. Member suggests. We will have to deal with years' arrears after the war, and with the rehabilitation of factories and the repair of requisitioned houses, etc. There is still a great deal to be done, and in applying the forces in the country to house-building it must be remembered that there will he other work to be done in order to balance things.
We have not taken that matter into consideration but we will welcome them if they like to come here. To come back to a point made earlier, and in reply to the hon. Member who made the contribution to the Debate on the question of materials available, I was asked whether these houses would absorb all the pressed steel in the country. The answer is that they will not. It is expected that if 100,000 houses are made in the factories in the first year it will require one-third of the total of pressed steel of the country, leaving two-thirds available for other work, and that is an important figure to remember. On the question of timber, it is anticipated by the Government and my Department that timber will be very difficult to obtain for the first year or two and that, apart from maintenance work, it will be required for general housing. In the Portal house there is only about half a standard of timber and that will enable the doors inside to be of timber. There is the question of timber for floors as well as doors, but all the doors will be of timber, with the exception of the bathroom and the exit door from the kitchen.
We have taken care not to impinge on any commodities or fittings required for general housing, except baths. The supply of baths is well down now, and we shall be making a claim for baths for these particular bungalows. We are trying to make use of the firms with experience of mass production. If we do not do that, where should we go? Would it not be inviting disaster? There are two firms which would have the plant and capacity just now. It means this: If one of the firms worked two shifts, each of 50 hours a week, they would turn out one house every six minutes, and if the two firms were both working double shifts there would be one house turned out every three minutes. I am certain we are engaging in high-rate production, and when Members are asking that it should be transferred to other places, it must be ascertained if the presses are available in sufficient numbers and whether the organisation is available to produce at that rate of 100,000 houses a year. The programme of pressed steel houses at the rate of 100,000 houses a year for two years, using timber only for floors and interior doors, with the exception of the bathroom and kitchen exit door, includes fittings made in the factory which will raise the standard for permanent houses. I have not yet heard of any one who went through the prototype house who has not testified to the definite improvement in the kitchen and home generally. The fittings will be of standard size, and we hope that they will be so generally accepted that they will form part and parcel of the ordinary housing of the people of this country.
I do not think they will be better. There is one point where the hon. Member might say there is a difference. Instead of chrome steel being used I think pressed steel will be used with vitreous enamel. As far as I know, there is no other alteration.
That is the only one of which I am aware. There have been additional improvements, such as the copper and water butt and other amenities. These houses are to be publicly owned. We are moving one of these houses from Edinburgh to Glasgow; this shows they are dismountable. We anticipate that between 8,000 and 10,000 men properly trained in the assembly and erection of these houses will be able to erect 100,000 a year.
That is a matter for the Ministry of Health. It does not come under my Department. My hon. Friend the Member for Peckham raised the question of the type of work that will have to be done upon the sites. The price of £550 that my Minister considered in the original instance has been extended to £600 to allow £50 for improvements to the height of the rooms, ventilation, the provision of a back door, and the shed outside. On the site, so far as building work is concerned, there will be the erection on the site; plumbing connections—not much work on those because they are standard; the concrete slab to be put over the site in the first instance, or the piers that the house may be put upon; drains to be put in, paths to be made and the doors hung. There are certain functions on which the building trade will be called in to advise my noble Friend. There is no intention of avoiding that. Every encouragement will be given to them to assist in the erection of the houses.
One point I ought to make is that we are doing away with the hire purchase system for many essentials in the home. The provision of wardrobes and cupboards, the bookcase in the living room, the sink, the immersion heater, the thermostat and so on—my Noble Friend is entitled to a little respectful commendation for thinking of these. This will eliminate the need for men and women, when they get married, having to equip themselves with some of the furniture they require by hire purchase. My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade said he hoped to be able to supply the same type of furniture as that which was exhibited in the Portal house at a cost of £45. I am sure that no jerry-builders or any others put this sort of furniture into a house unless they are forced to do so. I see that my hon. Friend the Member for Barrow is now back. He was not able, apparently, to listen to the kind things I said about him. We are obtaining prices for fittings such as stoves, gas and electric cookers and refrigerators. Many working class homes have never had a refrigerator.
I have had one for a number of years in my own house, and I would not want to be without it. It is a nice thought that in the kitchen unit in every home there should be a refrigerator.
No, but when I go to the hon. Member's country I get a very warm welcome. The atmosphere there does not prevent a warmth of heart. The minimum life of these houses is ten years.
We hope it is the maximum, but we should not turn people out if they had no other shelter. We are trying to stimulate other house building in the interim period, and we hope that the arrears of other building will be overtaken to such an extent that there will be no need to keep on these temporary houses. We have been successful with the prevention of noise through the walls, and as regards condensation we have been advised by the Watford Research Station that they are satisfied on that point. Nobody's home, however, has been free from condensation sometimes.
Thank you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker; I hope Members will take notice of what you have said.
About £50 is estimated as the cost of services and drainage. Site preparation ordinarily includes the making of the roads and putting in sewers. In this matter the houses will not only be manufactured, transported and erected on the sites, but water, electric light and gas, together with drains and services, will be put in as part of the general cost. It does not include the cost of land.
It does not include the making of roads but it does include paths round the house and hedges, and the fittings are fairly expensive. This £600 is made up like this: Erection costs including drains and services, and concrete slab, roughly £100; built-in cupboards and the kitchen unit with gas cooker and refrigerator are estimated to cost another £100; £175 is the price generally for the steel in the carcase, the roof and the ceiling, walls and floor supports and the shed. The balance of £225 includes bath, lavatory basin, w.c., living-room stove, painting, hot and cold water circulation, waste pipe, immersion heater, wooden floor, wooden doors, antidrum treatment, ventilators, electric lighting and so on. Each item has been examined and made up to ascertain the cost and not to guess at it. Every item has had to be examined by the greatest experts we can summon to our aid to find out the actual cost. Whilst £600 is the figure given now, it must of necessity be a rough estimate until the houses go into production and are assembled and put up in proper positions in such numbers as to allow us to give a more accurate estimate. It is not anticipated that it will be any more. It is hoped and believed that the house may be supplied at an even cheaper rate.
It would be better called a factory-made bungalow than a factory-made house. We must have some respect for the building trade operatives and we have entered into an agreement with them to expand their personnel. That is one of the great things about these houses being publicly owned and licensed for a period. The building trade have been asked to agree to bring their numbers up to at least 1,250,000 for getting through the programme after the war. After examination of the difficulties they have agreed to help us in this matter. Therefore, I do not want temporary houses or sub-standard houses put up all over the place. We owe it to these men, who have made a great contribution to the war and have worked very hard and are working very hard now in this city helping to repair damage caused by outside agencies. We owe it to them in our planning and building in this country and to the industry generally that we ought definitely to take and keep control over this matter.
My Minister is satisfied, after having discussed this matter with the manufacturers, that, with the control that at present exists of the respective industries, he will be able to negotiate a proper price. The iron and steel industry and the timber industry are under the control of the Ministry of Supply. Anyone who knows anything about control knows that when a Government places orders they can put in as many costing clerks as they care to see what is exactly the cost of labour, material and overhead and report it back to the Department that gives out the job. Once they have done that and the accurate costings and facts are obtained, the Government decide the price. That is the controlled price arrived at after an examination has been made by competent men into the costs of manufacture. My Minister is satisfied that there is as effective a control over this matter as over anything—and more, because this is a Government order. I ask hon. Members to believe me when I say that we are not simply accepting somebody's statement about it but that there has been a genuine attempt to find out exactly what the position is. We must be prepared to meet the position which will probably face us after the war with Germany. We shall be five years behind with our building and with our maintenance work. We shall have a largely depleted labour force and our difficulties will have been added to by the flying bomb. I feel that a Minister or a Government that neglected to make provision to meet such a contingency would be keenly criticised by this House and by the country.
Would the hon. Gentleman say a word about one of the major difficulties facing urban areas which was raised by the hon. Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin), that erecting these houses of a temporary character on the land available inhibits them from going on with their permanent building on that land?