The right hon. Member for Greenock (Mr. McNeil) stressed the anxiety he felt about the financial situation very much from the point of view of local authorities versus the Government. While I agree about the seriousness of the financial aspect, I should like to approach the question from the point of view of the individual and the effect it has upon him or her. Who has to pay this additional cost entailed in house building nowadays? It can be paid in three ways: by the tenant by way of rent; by the ratepayers in a general rise in the rates affecting both occupiers and owners; and, thirdly, it can be paid by the taxpayers through an Exchequer grant from the Treasury which the taxpayers feel in the Budget by increased taxation.
Many cogent arguments can be brought against increasing the charge on any one of those three sources. I have no doubt in my mind that our taxation, both direct and indirect, is already such a burden that it is hampering our economic recovery, and I should much regret to see it increased unduly, even in the worthy cause of helping housing.
As to the ratepayers, I need go no further than quoting, if the House will allow me, some remarks made on 6th March this year by the Agent for the Convention of Royal Boroughs, who said:
Housing finances of local authorities are in a serious state. Scottish local authorities have sustained deficits in the last five years of over E5 million, in addition to the statutory contributions.
To turn to another person whom I regard as an expert in local affairs, Sir John Ure Primrose, the Lord Provost of Perth, who speaking on 4th December last year said:
There will be a housing crisis in Perth and other cities unless something is done quickly to bring down housing costs. I am afraid that the time is coming when the town council will decide to stop building.
My last quotation in this respect is from the Clydesdale Bank Survey of Economic Conditions in Scotland in 1951, which says:
As a result of rising costs some small boroughs have been unable to take up their housing allocations in full, and other authorities have postponed or abandoned part of their housing plans.
That is a measure of the serious situation from the local authority point of view.
We must consider not only the local authority point of view but also that of the individual ratepayer. After all, these increased rates will not be paid only by the fortunate people who obtain new and up-to-date council houses. They are also paid by people living either in old council houses or in privately-owned houses. What do they think of having their rates raised in order to subsidise much better houses, many of which go to people who-are richer than themselves? It must be wrong for poor ratepayers to be called upon to subsidise people richer than themselves. It is not only occupiers' rates which are the worry. Owners' rates come into it too.