asked the Minister of Health whether he will publish in the OFFICIAL REPORT the reply which has been sent by his Department to the Colchester Borough Council's application to build a thousand temporary bungalows of the Handcraft type; on what date details of this scheme were forwarded to his Department by the local authority; on what date his Department replied; and in what form his reply was conveyed to the Press by or on behalf of his Department.
Yes, Sir. I am circulating in the OFFICIAL REPORT a copy of the letter which was dated 13th March. The original proposals were submitted by the local authority on 28th November, and have been the subject of full investigation in the meantime. The Press have been informed in reply to inquiries that the bungalow was considered below standard and the scheme therefore not acceptable.
Does not the Press statement imply that the external appearance of the bungalows was a major factor in the Ministry's decision, and has he any comment to make on that?
The reason why this particular type of bungalow was turned down was because the accommodation provided was substandard, and had nothing to do with the external appearance.
The cost originally quoted for the bungalows at Turner village was £500 a dwelling. It was clear from an examination of the schedule of prices that this figure was quite unreliable, the sums allowed for many items allowing nothing for labour costs and the allowances for certain items being less than the present market price of the materials involved. The Council's own figure is approximately £800, but it is admittedly an estimate not tested against tenders.
For this price, which is not greatly below the normal price for a permanent bungalow of the same size, the Council would obtain a dwelling which is seriously below the standards generally accepted by the Minister and by local authorities. The superficial area is low for a two-bedroomed dwelling; the window space is inadequate; kitchen fit- tings, cupboard space and floor surface finishings are inferior and the structure itself is admittedly not of a permanent character. The estimated length of life is 'at least thirty years.' This again is an estimate which the Minister accepts with reserve.
The Minister fully appreciates the Council's anxiety to improve housing progress, but he is quite convinced that at this stage in the national housing programme it would be a most retrograde step to approve proposals of this nature and he is obliged therefore to ask that the Council reconsider their project.