Housing Subsidies

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 13th December 1956.

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Photo of Mr Gilbert Mitchison Mr Gilbert Mitchison , Kettering 12:00 am, 13th December 1956

The hon. Member points out that he would sit in another place. The Duke of Omnium is a fictitious character who spends a lot of time in this House as Planty Pal. If the hon. Member will consult his Trollope, he will find that that is so. During that period he certainly voted.

I sum up; at the moment there are still our objections to reducing the housing subsidy, and I have taken care not to repeat them at length. Secondly, there have been very substantial changes during the year—changes which the right hon. Gentleman could not have anticipated and which have made things far harder for local authorities from whom these subsidies are to be taken away.

To put them shortly, those changes consist, first, of a sharp and considerable rise in the rate of interest for borrowing, which is actually bigger than the sum with which we are dealing here; secondly. the economic crisis resulting from the Government's action in Suez; thirdly, the fact that the Rent Bill has been introduced and it has become clear since the Gracious Speech of 6th November—and not previously—that it is going to produce throughout the country, and particularly in the large towns, a complete dislocation of the housing position and undoubtedly a large increase in the number of people who will, on general grounds, need council houses, and, lastly, the very remarkable statement of the Minister of Agriculture, which appears to indicate that the philosophy of the right hon. Gentleman in confining subsidies to those who need them does not apply to landowners in connection with pigs and pigsties.

Before I sit down, I want to take up one small and quite separate point, simply because I have been asked to—and I hope that the Minister will take note of it. It is a small objection to the removal of the general needs subsidy, and it arises out of his slum clearance campaign. In some parts of the North of England, if a house is marked for demolition and demolished and the occupant moves out into the only accommodation available at the moment, which happens, in a mining district, to belong to the National Coal Board—and if he goes there only temporarily because the local authority cannot deal with him—it seems very unfair that when the local authority deals with him finally it is deprived of the slum clearance subsidy because there has been a short interval during which he occupied a National Coal Board house.

That is quite a minor point, but I commend it to the right hon. Gentleman's attention—not necessarily for answer today but at some time or other in the future. I suggest that my right hon. and hon. Friends will find no difficulty whatever in opposing the Order.