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asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government how many local housing authorities have reduced the number of houses they are building compared with 1955; and how many have decided not to build any more houses, stating as their reason the additional heavy costs arising from excessive interest charges on loans.
In answer to the first part of the Question, I would refer the hon. Member to the published Housing Returns.
In answer to the second part, out of a total of 1,468 housing authorities 38 have informed me that they have decided to reduce their housing programmes because of increased loan charges.
Does not the Minister realise that if thirty-eight housing authorities have already decided that because of the present extortionate interest charges they cannot go on with more housing, that will spread like a disease all over the country? Does he not realise that many more are considering doing this? Is he aware—I am sure he is—that even the London County Council has had very considerably to restrict the area of its loans for house-building purposes because of the extremely high rates of interest?
The latter part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question deals with a separate matter. The fact is that a number of local authorities have in any case decided that they are within sight of satisfying the housing need in their area. I have to deal with the situation as it is, and the present situation is that fewer than 3 per cent. of the housing authorities have acted in the way that the hon. Member indicates.
Does the right hon. Gentleman's figure include local authorities which have stopped without telling him? Does it include such cases as Bristol where the programme, which was for 3,000 houses last year, will be reduced to 600 next year, and similar cases all over the country, including those in my county, where six out of fourteen local authorities had no houses building at the end of September?
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether, in the light of the recent debate on economic affairs, he will now state the total number of houses and flats which he anticipates will be completed by local authorities in England and Wales during 1958; and also the number that will be started during the same year.
I do not propose to make a speculative forecast of the number which will be completed in 1958. I am prepared to give approval for the starting of 100,000 houses by local authorities and New Town Corporations in that year.
But is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Secretary of the National Housing Council, a non-political body, has forecast that by next summer the total number of houses being built will not exceed an annual rate of 100,000, including private enterprise houses? For how much longer will the right hon. Gentleman stand at the Dispatch Box and be wilfully blind to the miseries which his policy is causing? Will he not see the local authorities and try to avert this tragic happening of local authority housing coming to a standstill?
On the contrary, I am ready to give approval for a very large amount of local authority housing, and with respect to the gentleman whom the hon. Gentleman has quoted, I entirely disagree with his statement.