Blitzed Areas (Steel Allocation)

Part of Class V – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 21st March 1949.

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Photo of Mr Douglas Jay Mr Douglas Jay , Battersea North 12:00 am, 21st March 1949

I think that the main point has been the allocation of steel for blitz rebuilding. We all agree that we should like to see the rebuilding of blitzed cities going forward as fast as our resources permit. The only question has really been, how far we should divert, in particular to the building of shops and offices in those blitzed cities, building steel away from other purposes such as housing, factory building, and so forth. Of course, in the first phase after the war the priority in building was given to houses and to factory building, particularly to the building of factories in Development Areas, and to the rebuilding of blitzed factories. Then, the rebuilding of blitzed factories on or near the blitzed sites got priority. In the second stage—18 months or so ago—when the balance of payments crisis became severe—we shifted the emphasis and put the main priority on industrial schemes which had export value and dollar saving value. Throughout the whole of that period, these blitzed cities have shared to a considerable extent in all these types of buildings.

I think that the hon. Member for Drake, Plymouth (Mr. Medland), was unconsciously misleading when he said that there had been no allocation of steel for blitzed cities up to this winter. As the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Foot) made clear, in Plymouth a great deal of building of all sorts has gone on, and that also applies to the other blitzed cities. It was decided this winter that the time had come to give a special bonus, as it were, for blitzed cities, particularly for rebuilding of shops and offices in the centres of the cities. If we take the case of Plymouth, this 750 tons of steel is very far from being the total allocation of steel for building. There are, in addition, industrial schemes already under construction, or starting this year, including 14 major projects worth £650,000, and taking in themselves 1,520 tons of steel. There will also be many smaller projects —houses, hospitals, schools, etc.—going on. We decided to start with a special bonus allocation for this special purpose.

An annual figure of 5,500 tons of steel which has been mentioned, and which is for 1949, would have been larger, and was intended to have been larger, if the blitzed cities as a whole had been able to use more for these purposes. As the hon. Member for South West Hull (Mr. S. Smith) said quite candidly, in many cases they were not ready, and that was the total amount of steel which it was possible for them to use. My information is that in the case of Plymouth the original figure suggested was 1,000 tons for this year, but actually there were only schemes sufficient for the remaining three-quarters of this year, to make use of 750 tons. However that may be, the steel allocations are made quarterly and it is perfectly open to the Government to revise the amount if the schemes are ready and if the supply of steel permits. Reference was made by the hon. Member for Drake to a building in London in which it was said that 13,000 tons were being used. Perhaps the hon. Member did not realise that that 13,000 tons is for a period of five years and not strictly comparable with the annual figure.