Orders of the Day — Housing

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 22nd March 1945.

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Photo of Mr William Gallacher Mr William Gallacher , Fife Western 12:00 am, 22nd March 1945

I am quite in favour of giving the hon. Member a council house, but no one has a right to a better class house, while there are masses of people who cannot get houses at all. This question of housing must be taken up by new methods of utilising materials, new methods of building, new methods of labour and new methods on the part of the Government as far as the land and the materials are concerned. Will those who say this is not a political question, support the proposition that the Government should take full control of the land to ensure that local authorities are not handicapped as far as sites are concerned? The land is a big question in connection with housing. As soon as you come to the question of the land you will find out whether it is a political question or not. It is an offence against the best interests of the country to say that a few people should own the land, and that masses of the people should own no homes. It is more important for the future and the welfare of the country that the masses of the people should have homes than that a few should own land.

Another important issue is the question of financing the local authorities. I agree with those who say that the main burden of the expense of building houses should be a national charge, and that the local authorities should be relieved of it as far as possible. The building of houses means the building up of a sturdy population. It is of the greatest importance for the nation. I have heard it said that local authorities should get loans at 2½ per cent. I heard it said a week or two ago that there were local authorities paying interest on loans they obtained 10 or 15 years ago of 6 per cent. It is terrible robbery. The only justification that anyone can ever put up for usury—it is not a valid one— is the risk that is run. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is taking no risk in assisting the local authorities to build houses, and he is getting enormous advantages. If he lends money to the local authorities and they give people decent homes, that means strong, healthy men and women building up wealth for the country, so what risk is he taking? It is coming back to him in another form.

The first of the new methods is to take the land, and I ask the Secretary of State to say that it is necessary to take over the land, in order to ensure that there is an abundance of accommodation. The second thing is to provide the main bulk of the money from the Exchequer, and to lend whatever is lent to local authorities interest free. Give them the necessary land, give them the interest-free money, give them a supply of materials, direct the material as it should be directed, and they will get on with the building of the houses. Then people will get homes and health and the advantage will come in many forms to the Chancellor. The White Paper says that the Government propose to treat the first two years after the end of hostilities in Europe as a period of national emergency, when essential measures must be taken to meet the housing shortage. There was a period of national emergency before the war, as far as housing was concerned. I heard the right hon. and learned Gentleman's predecessor, the right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) say that housing in Scotland was shocking—a scandal—and he only wished it was in Order to use stronger language. That was several years before the war. In the matter of housing the emergency was present before the war. Two years after the war the emergency will still be in existence; it will exist until every family in this country has a home in which every man, woman and child can enjoy health and happiness. Until that time the emergency must be faced as the war has been faced, and everything must be utilised to solve the crisis of housing.