Orders of the Day — Housing Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 16th March 1949.

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Photo of Mr Harold Roberts Mr Harold Roberts , Birmingham Handsworth 12:00 am, 16th March 1949

I am relating the facts, and not referring to the propaganda, or to whether it was right or whether it was a good or bad thing. The Unionist Party took no part whatever in the propaganda with regard to that poll. The Labour Party went all out to get people to it in support of the Clause. The significant thing was not that 40,000 voted against the Clause, but that with all that Labour propaganda only 8,000 people could be found to vote for it. Accordingly, I say to the Minister that he must not expect too much from the Clause. In Birmingham there is not a great deal of support for any Clause of that kind.

I now turn to the Bill itself, or more particularly to the background of it. The right hon. Gentleman said very rightly that this is a Bill which is asking for money to carry through housing projects and so the present state of housing should be reviewed. The Minister asked us to remember his words of wisdom in 1945 as to the desirability of mixing up different social classes. I am in agreement with that. I think that most of his very varied words on this subject have been carefully studied and are remembered. For example, there was his statement, made a little later in the same year, that he anticipated that the worst of the housing crisis would be over by the end of 1947. He made a statement later in 1947 that in something over two years the Government had already provided as many homes as were provided in 10 years following the last war which, if correct, would have meant a total exceeding 1,194,000 houses. Those statements are quite well remembered.

There were other more recent statements of a very mixed kind. First of all, there was the remarkable statement last Thursday to the effect that the resources of labour and materials on housing are now fully employed and, accordingly, that if the housing programme were added to, it would be at the expense of hospitals. Then came the fiery challenge, "Are we prepared to vote for fewer hospitals? "I can assure the right hon. Gentleman—and I think my Birmingham colleagues will bear me out—that to the Birmingham people, that dilemma has no terrors at all, because in our favoured city we have been told by the Minister that, we are not to have a new hospital. There is one to be built in Stoke Newington, or thereabouts. Presumably the London County Council elections are more important than the municipal elections.