Orders of the Day — Housing and Rents

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 28 July 1964.

Alert me about debates like this

4.31 p.m.

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

I beg to move, That this House deplores the hardship to tenants and dislocation of housing programmes, caused by the operation of the Rent Act, 1957, and the failure of that Act to justify the claims made for it; and notes with concern the inadequate progress made, under Her Majesty's present Government, towards the demolition of slums and the provision of homes at reasonable prices or rents. Although we debated housing less than a fortnight ago it is entirely proper that we should take up the subject again, if only because we find that, despite the rigidities of our party system, we extract something from the Government by having housing debates. In the debate on 16th July we extracted from them a statement about the use of a piece of land in South-East London for which the London County Council has been waiting for over a year. In what was commonly called the "Rachman debate", held about this time last year, we extracted the appointment of the Milner Holland Committee and an announcement of policies, some of which were enshrined in the Housing Bill that has recently become law—

Photo of Sir Keith Joseph Sir Keith Joseph , Leeds North East

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way, but I would say that the setting up of the Committee of which Sir Milner Holland's chairmanship was on that day announced had, in fact, been announced by the Government several months earlier, in two housing White Papers.

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

I think that the Minister did bring to that debate the actual membership of the Committee. However, he will remember that it has frequently happened that the Government have said they would do something and we have had to hurry them up afterwards. We got a further stage towards the Milner Holland Committee by that debate.

I think that the Minister will not deny the proposition that we get something out of the Government by having these debates. I agree that it is not very much, and it comes several months after it should have come, but it is always quite an achievement to get even a few drops of blood out of a stone. I am hopeful, therefore, that at some stage in this debate we shall hear, once again, that the Government have at last decided to do something we have been telling them to do for the last two or three years. If that happens, it will be in line with our housing debates.

In our Motion we have referred to the Rent Act. There are a very large number of facets to the whole housing problem and it would be a waste of time to try to cover them all in a single speech opening a debate, and I therefore think that one should, in successive debates, make a selection of topics. That being so, I want to put, first, emphasis, though not sole emphasis, on the problem of the working of the Rent Act.

Our Motion begins by deploring the hardship to tenants caused by the operation of the Act. I do not think that it will be denied that hardship exists. We had the figures of London's homeless given in the debate of 16th July, and we are having personal cases brought to our attention all the time. A middle-aged lady constituent visited me quite recently. Her lease is running out, and she is to be asked to pay a rent that will eat up half of her small income. That is the kind of thing that hon. Members representing the great cities find happening to them week after week. I see that even the Government Amendment admits that there is hardship, although it ascribes it to somewhat different causes.

Then there is the fact that with the operation of the Rent Act there is the activity known as Rachmanism, which can vary from the most atrocious behaviour to a number of quiet but unfriendly pressures all the time on the controlled tenant to get him out. That activity continues, and must continue, because it is so enormously profitable, if one has a controlled tenant, to get him out and get vacant possession.

In that field, the Government are almost creating a new industry. I recently saw this advertisement in the Estates Gazette:Controlled tenancies. Vacant possession obtained by expert staff specialising in this field. I have made inquiries of the firm inserting the advertisement, and I am assured that its members proceed in the most correct and legal manner, often seeking out ways in which, possibly, a controlled tenant can buy a house. But we know very well that there is a very different kind of expert staff that specialises in the field of getting vacant possession of controlled tenancies. That abuse continues, and will continue as long as the Rent Act continues. I do not doubt that some of my hon. Friends will give further examples of hardship during the debate.

Our Motion refers, next, to the … dislocation of housing programmes caused by the operation of the Rent Act … This is important, because it might be argued that the Rent Act was a kind of nasty medicine the nation had to take—a medicine that was no doubt unpleasant for some people, but which would help to cure the housing problem. Yet I have here a report from an official of a moderate-sized county borough who describes the growing number of cases in the area of his authority faced with eviction about which the local authority has to act.

Having given the figures, he says: It can be seen, therefore, that there is a vast increase on the problem which is absorbing many of the dwellings which would otherwise have gone to the long standing cases on the housing waiting list. The impact is so severe that it may even endanger some of the slum clearance and redevelopment schemes which are in progress. There is the experience of a local authority; the Act is not only causing hardship, but is making the problem still more difficult to solve.

A similar aspect of the matter has been brought to my attention recently from Liverpool. There are in Liverpool a number of areas that will be coming forward to be dealt with under the slum clearance procedure. Many of the inhabitants in those areas are decontrolled tenants; the decontrol having occurred by there being a new tenancy since 1957—these are not well-off people.

Anyone who knows Liverpool will have no great difficulty in saying in what parts of the town slum clearance orders are likely to be made in the very near future. Anyone who knows about slum clearance knows also that if some one is living in such an area at the time the order is made, he is quite properly regarded as having a right to be rehoused by the council.

What does the landlord do in such a situation? He points out to his tenants—perhaps not in the bluntest of words, but leaving the meaning quite plain—that, really, they are quite lucky to be living in an area that will probably be a slum clearance area soon, because it gives them the right to be rehoused by the council. He adds that they only enjoy that right by his good favour: that he could give them four weeks' notice and get them out of that area altogether—unless they are prepared to pay for the right to stay there, and pay as much as he can screw out of them. He can point out to them that if they will not pay he will not have much difficulty in finding someone else who will. That enables the landlord to extract a sort of key money for dwellings which he does not even provide himself, but which are to be provided by the council. That is why our Motion speaks not only of hardship, but of the dislocation of housing programmes.

We also refer to the failure of the Rent Act to justify the claims made for it, and I would remind the House of what some of those claims were. There was the claim of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) that, as a result of the Rent Act, supply and demand for houses would be made equal within a year of the passing of the Act.

There was the claim of the right hon. Gentleman, now the Home Secretary, that uncontrolled rents under the Rent Act would be very unlikely to reach a figure of more than two and a half times the gross value on the old valuation of the property. Yet we have had the Government refusing to sanction compulsory purchase orders when rents four and a half times the gross value have been demanded from tenants. There was the further claim of the same right hon. Gentleman that the Rent Act would bring more rented property on to the market. I notice with interest that in the Government's Amendment today that claim is dropped. The only claim which they make now is that it retains them in the pool for letting.

The bold claim that it would bring more on the market has been dropped in favour of the more modest suggestion that at least as a result of the Rent Act the number of properties available for renting is not dwindling as fast as otherwise it would have done. But even that is not supported by the survey which the Government themselves made. This showed that there were 320,000 decontrolled houses in 1957 and two years later one-quarter of them had ceased to be available for renting unfurnished. They vanished from the market and one in 12 stood empty, the landlord judging from the general state of the market that it would pay him to hang on for a higher price. Not only has the Act not brought more on to the market it has not succeeded in keeping houses in the market.

There is the further criticism of the Rent Act that it degrades the standards of landlordism. I have said before, and I say again, that there are many landlords who want to do their duty by their tenants and by the property and they have presented to them all the time the fact that it is much more profitable to do neither and that the landlord who bullies his tenants makes more money and makes it quicker than the landlord who behaves reasonably. That is the lesson of the Rent Act.

As to its effect on repairs, the Government will argue possibly that the working of the certificate of disrepair may have helped in the repair of properties still remaining in control, but what is the position of the uncontrolled tenant when the property needs repair of a kind for which he could go to the sanitary inspector? He knows that if he goes he will receive four weeks' notice, or if it is a lease that the lease will not be renewed. This is a factor working against the repair of decontrolled houses all the time.

I stress this because I have observed from the Daily Telegraph, in its articles about Tory policy, that the line of Tory thinking is to abolish the housing problem by abolishing rent control and subsidies and paying a housing allowance to people who cannot afford the resulting rents. It will be apparent that if we pay housing allowances without rent control we may enable landlords to put up rents even higher, and we will be shovelling out public money which will go to the landlords instead of to tenants. If the Government are thinking on these lines they must also think on the line of extending rent control. Any such policy would be in direct defiance of a pledge which the Minister gave in the House, oddly enough just before the Greater London elections. That was a pledge that this Government, even if it were in a position to do so in the next Parliament, would not extend rent decontrol by making an Order under Section 11 of the Act.

The right hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I say that we still have anxieties about this. I remind him and the whole party opposite that at the General Election of 1955 a most explicit pledge was given by the Conservative Party that it would not introduce legislation leading to a general rise in rents. The Minister was a candidate at that election and was, therefore, as bound by that pledge as anyone else in his party, yet coming later to the House at a by-election he managed to vote for the Second Reading and Third Reading of the Rent Act without turning a hair. This is the right hon. Gentleman and this is the party who now put down an Amendment accusing other people of ambiguous promises. I agree that there was nothing ambiguous about the promise given in 1955 and nothing ambiguous about the complete betrayal of it afterwards. This is why, after the right hon. Gentleman's pledge, controlled tenants still have anxieties on this matter.

I turn from the Rent Act to the question of the adequacy of housing policy in general, because it will be quite rightly said that necessary as an extended measure of rent control is as an immediate measure, the long-term cure must be the provision of more houses and the provision of different kinds of houses broadly in proportion to people's needs. Let us notice the position to date on that. For several years, up to the end of last year, in round figures we were completing in Great Britain 170,000 dwellings provided by private enterprise and 130,000 by public enterprise. That was the position for several years, including 1963.

Two years ago, in 1962, I expressed the view that we ought to be building 400,000 a year rather than 300,000 and that probably we should be providing 200,000 by public enterprise and 200,000 by private enterprise, which would have meant an absolute increase in our building of both kinds. The Government White Paper appeared last year and that put forward a figure of 350,000 with a later possibility of 400,000. This sequence of events was rather surprisingly described by the Minister as the Opposition accepting the Government's target. In fact, it was the other way round, but let that pass.

The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Public Building and Works pursued the story in a speech on 17th March when he spoke of 200,000 houses to be provided by private enterprise and 150,000 by public enterprise, and since then we have had more optimistic estimates. Let me put the line which the Government seem to be taking in the Amendment today. They are arguing that if we work towards, as I believe we should, a total of 200,000 dwellings a year provided by public enterprise that means that it is intended to cut down the number provided by private enterprise. I would say that the moral of that is that total building must be stepped up to such a figure as will enable us to have 200,000 dwellings a year provided by public enterprise.

I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman a question. He, in his Amendment, assumes that we stick to a total figure of 400,000, but what about those to be built by housing associations under the 1961 Act? At present, the number is zero. Presumably, it will increase to something. The Minister has recently informed local authorities in a circular that building by housing associations will not compete with building by local authorities. If, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman sticks to a total of 400,000 houses, that can be achieved only by reducing the number which otherwise would be provided by ordinary private enterprise. The rather over-ingenious arguments which the right hon. Gentleman tries to turn against us apply to his own position, but it is an unreal argument because there is no reason why we should regard 400,000 as a limit fixed for all time. Nobody's policy, neither that of the Opposition nor of the Government, can stand up if that assumption is to be made. We must regard 400,000 as the first milestone to be reached, and I do not underestimate the difficulty of reaching it.

It seems unwise for us to pretend to be able to predict the future more than we can. All our estimates of population are based on hypotheses. Our judgment of the rate of obsolescence is partly a matter of opinion, and on the other side of the balance sheet our judgment of real capacities of industrialised building must at present be hypothetical. I shall not pursue the matter of figures further, because I am sure that if I mentioned a further figure the Government, after a suitable interval, would say that a figure something slightly higher was the Government's target, and it would not give us any more houses.

I want to develop the question of the comparative importance in the whole picture of public and private enterprise housing. We know that at the moment, with few exceptions, housing provided by private enterprise means housing for sale, and housing provided by public enterprise means housing to let. I see an hon. Member shaking his head. I said that there were exceptions, but the vast majority of the houses provided by private enterprise are provided for sale.

I do not think that we should start off by saying that there is a positive virtue in owner-occupation or a positive virtue in being a tenant. The aim of policy should be to create a situation in which as many people as possible have a genuine choice of which they want and which best suits their need. At the moment, we have, on the one hand, people whose incomes, character and the rest would make them good owner-occupiers and who want to be owner-occupiers, but cannot get there because of the size of the first hurdle, the deposit, legal costs, and so on, that has to be surmounted. That is one problem. On the other hand, we have people who never really wanted to be owner-occupiers, but who had to buy the houses in part of which they live as a way of keeping a roof over their heads. That is not desirable, either.

If it is the Government's view, and their Amendment seems to imply this, that we must press on with providing houses for sale and the councils can fill in what is left of the total target, I would draw to their attention the fact that if we put on the market more and more houses built by private enterprise for sale, they must match that by making it rather easier for some of the people who want to become owner-occupiers. That is the point of the proposals that have made, which the Minister has tried to play about with, as I explained in the debate on housing last time, for assistance to the would-be owner-occupier whether he is making his purchase with help from the local authority or through another channel. I repeat that that is the Labour Party's policy. It is necessary, if we really want more owner-occupation, to pay account to the group of people who would make good owner-occupiers, if we could help them over the first hurdle.

There are several other things which we might do, but which, for reasons of brevity, I shall not outline now, except to say that if the Government are anxious about owner-occupiers it is a pity that they did not give facilities to more than one Bill introduced by some of my hon. Friends to protect house purchasers from jerrybuilding. That would be a desirable step if the Government's policy is to lay emphasis on building for owner-occupation. On the other side of the picture, I want to develop the argument that both the absolute amount and the proportion within the whole of council house-building ought to be increased.

If we take the amount of house building by local councils in recent years and deduct from that the number of houses needed for people from slum clearance schemes, and for people whose homes must come down for other reasons, a proportion is only one-bedroom dwellings. I do not deny the need for those—they are very useful—but none of those meets the need of most of the people on the council housing lists, the average-sized family who have not enough room. Only a few thousand houses a year are built to help satisfy the need of that kind of person, and that is why council after council, whatever its situation and political colour, is having to say, "The amount that we can do to help people on the ordinary waiting list is still pathetically small". It is those I have in mind when I say that we ought to step up the amount of council house-building.

Here, I am echoing something that was said two years ago by the hon. Member for Solihull (Sir M. Lindsay). In the debate on 2nd May, 1962, he said: I am perfectly certain that greater priority must be given to building more council houses…."—[OFFICIAI. REPORT, 2nd May, 1962; Vol. 658, c. 1061.] That is by no means a misrepresentation of his whole speech, which was a very harsh attack on the Government for not paying enough attention to this part of the housing problem.

The other reason that I stress the importance in the whole housing programme of more council building is that if we are serious about slum clearance we have to recognise that a higher rate of slum clearance obliges us to provide more council dwellings. Some of those which are cleared from slums will become owner-occupiers, but it is, in general, true that the average income of slum dwellers is lower than the average income of other members of the population and the proportion of them, therefore, for whom we must provide rented accommodation will be greater.

What is happening about slum clearance? The Minister will have seen the Report of the Town and Country Planning Association which points out that in the compiling of official statistics of slum clearance it is the habit to count a slum once when it is included in an Order and again when it is actually pulled down, so that the total figure of apparent demolitions is not quite in accord with the facts. There was some argument between the Ministry and the Town and Country Planning Association as to the exact size of this error—that it was perceptible was not in dispute. I notice that the Town and Country Planning Association seemed to be more shocked by this than, perhaps, some of us in this House who are more accustomed to the unreliability of some of the Government's claims would tend to be.

At any rate, allowing for this I do not believe that the real rate of slum clearance has been above 60,000 dwellings a year. What do the Government think is necessary? The right hon. Gentleman's predecessor once put forward the view that every year 160,000 dwellings reached that degree of obsolescence when they ought to be pulled down. Even if one regards that as an excessively high estimate, it is clear that if we take a figure of 60,000 slums pulled down every year, and then ask how many dwellings become slums by the mere passage of time, that is the figure about which there is room for argument.

Starting with Lord Hill's total of 160,000, and even scaling that down, we are left with the fact that the net demolition of slums—the extent to which the number we pull down each year exceeds the number that is created each year by the passage of time—must be alarmingly small, and if we divide that number into the total number of slums now existing which once again is well above as is well known, the official figure, the date at which we would clear all the slums recedes further into the distance even than fulfilment of the Government's 10-year Hospital Plan.

I have mentioned the quantitative problem of the building of houses and the comparative importance in that problem of the public and private effort. But we must notice a point at which there has been growing anxiety. Almost every speech by members of the Government in recent months has included a more optimistic estimate of the total number of houses that will be completed this year. I hope they are right, but, as we are all very well aware, the houses, in the end, have got to be built with something, and most of them still, despite the introduction of modern methods, are built with bricks. I know that one of the colleagues of the Minister has the main responsibility in that field, but I cannot believe that the Minister will have come to this debate without arming himself with the best information that he can get about building materials and, in particular, about the brick shortage, of which there has been so much comment.

I wish to draw the Minister's attention to the following points. First of all, the survey made by Cubitt's—and no one would suggest that they are alarmists or unreliable students of the matter—describe the present shortage of bricks as the most severe for a decade. Next, an inquiry made in the West Riding of Yorkshire showed that 90 per cent. of builders in the area said that they were short of bricks and feared that their work would be held up. I believe that my hon. Friend the Member for Faver-sham (Mr. Boston) has recently conducted an inquiry in his constituency and there have been similar disconcerting results. I notice, too, that the Economist, which, two months ago, took a very sanguine view of this problem, had an almost panicky note in its last issue and points out, as, indeed, does the Monthly Digest of Statistics, that the stock of bricks is now down to about 100 million or about one-sixth of what it was a year ago.

Against this we must set the recent comment of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Public Building and Works, who, incidentally, I am glad to see here. As I understood his comments, it came down to this, that there was admittedly a severe run-down of stocks but that this would be dealt with by the plans for the expansion of production. That, of course, is what we all hope to be correct. What we should like to know, certainly in view of the rate at which the run-down of stocks is going, is this: will the effects of plans for the increased production of bricks be felt in time to prevent an actual hold-up in building? It is very important that we should know that, and the Government should not be tempted, if they are not certain of the facts, to make an over-optimistic estimate.

Photo of Mr Philip Hocking Mr Philip Hocking , Coventry South

Will the hon. Gentleman say whether the figures that he has given are for the whole of the brick-making industry? In other words, do they cover all classes of bricks, or has he referred only to those which are in short supply, such as the cheaper makes? It is possible at present quite easily at a high price to get hold of supplies of bricks in some of the areas which he has mentioned where people complain of being short of bricks. I refer to locally-made bricks. It is not possible to get hold of the cheaper Fletton bricks which are used in housing construction. Do the figures that he has mentioned cover the whole of the brick industry, or only the cheaper variety?

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

They are given as covering the whole of the brick industry. After all, that is what they are intended to cover in the Monthly Digest of Statistics. I do not think that the Minister will question that fact. I do not think that the figures relating to brick stocks are restricted to the cheaper bricks. I am glad to hear that it is possible to relieve the general shortage by local supplies, but I hope that the hon. Member will forgive me if I say that we both want a fuller and more authoritative statement from the only people who have the information, namely the Government.

We know very well that, looking a bit ahead, if anything like the present level of house-building is to be maintained there has got to be an expansion in the actual production of bricks, in the brick industry as well as in the building industry. That will apply, too, to those branches of industry which produce other building components. We are faced with a major expansion in one section of the country's economy. If we are to ask the industries concerned to do that, we must give them—the Minister of Public Building and Works emphasised this—the certainty of large and long-continuing orders.

That is the clue both to the expansion of the industry and to the increased use and methods of industrialised building. Unless the industry can be certain that the the Govenment's pesent statement about housing figures is not just pre-election talk, but presages a long-planned expansion over a period of years, we shall not get the response from them and we cannot expect it.

The Minister has explained the fact that we built fewer houses in 1963 than in 1953 by saying that when the Tory Government first came in, they gave housing great priority but after that it dropped off. Is it to be that story again? If it is, I do not think that we can get the expansion from the brick and other industries concerned, and I do not think that we can get the development of industrialised building that we want.

I want to make this point clear at least to the Minister. This is part of the significance of what we have been saying about interest rates for house building. Some local authorities are following the advice of the Minister of Public Building and Works and are trying to plan their housing programmes well ahead. I spoke to an official of one such authority not long ago. He explained how they were thinking in terms of three to five years ahead. I said, "What will be the situation if, during that period, interest rates rise against you?" He said, "Then we shall be in a very perilous position".

This is an argument that the Minister must consider and that he has never tried to answer before. He blusters away trying to split hairs on what we have said about interest rates and so on. The point about interest rates is that not only does special action by local authorities to improve them and guarantee a favourable interest rate help in some measure to make the houses cheaper in monetary terms, but the security that it gives to the industry makes it much more likely that we shall get the expansion and modernisation which in the end will make houses cheaper in real terms. That is what we all want.

When we have argued about interest rates, the Government have always said, "You must not shield building from the risks of the economy". If we were in normal times, that might be a reasonable argument, but if we are saying to the building industry, "We demand from you great expansion and the increasing use of industrialised methods, some of them not yet well tried and some with risk", we must be prepared to offer the building industry a degree of shielding from the risks of the economy. We have tried to make it clear to the Government and they have never yet answered it. I hope the Minister will address his mind to it this time.

I want to refer to the fact that houses have not only got to be built of bricks and materials. They have got to be built on something—on pieces of land. I understand from the Press that my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Aston (Mr. J. Silverman), if he should catch Mr. Speaker's eye, will have yet another spectacular example of land profiteering to give us. The extraordinary thing about these examples is that if a really malicious person on this side of the House—if there were such a person—sat down to invent an atrocity story about land profiteering and published it, he would probably find that it would be outdone the next day by something that had happened in real life. This kind of thing goes on and on—

Photo of Mr Philip Hocking Mr Philip Hocking , Coventry South

The party opposite never has been up to date.

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

I agree that it is difficult for anyone to keep up to date with the rapacity of certain elements in our economy. The extraordinary thing is that apparently the Government believe in letting them get away with it.

There are two points about land policy which I want to mention. One important element in dealing with the excessively high prices of land is a policy of greater decentralisation of employment. The Minister has pointed out that there are too many offices in London. Perhaps he will tell us today what effective action the Government intend to take. Would he, for example, consider saying that planning applications already granted for offices in London must be phased out over a period of time? If he does not do something like that, then I do not think that he will ever solve the problem of the over-congestion of London.

The other aspect of the land problem on which I want to say a word is one about which we have often argued—the need for public action to get some part of the increased value of land, due to the fact that it is needed for development, into the public purse. In view of the phrase "ambiguous promises" in the Amendment, let us look at what the Minister has said on this subject. On 18th November, he said: It is a corollary of regional planning and development that land planned for major development should be bought well in advance by a public authority … Notice the phrase, "a public authority". I am not catching the Minister out on words, because he told the House that he was reading that passage because it was important that he should get it right. He said, "by a public authority". Presumably, therefore, it would not be an existing public authority, not a local authority but some body for this purpose.

Photo of Mr Albert Cooper Mr Albert Cooper , Ilford South

There is nothing new in what my right hon. Friend said. This policy of local authorities buying land in anticipation of future requirements has been going on in this country for years and years and years.

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

As we shall see in a moment, that is not what the Minister had in mind. He said: … well in advance by a public authority for disposal to private enterprise or to public enterprise … It is at that point that local authorities come in, but the Minister is evidently postulating some other authority which buys well in advance and subsequently disposes either to local authorities or to private enterprise. Indeed, he goes on to say: We may well have to devise new machinery for the purpose". Clearly, he is not thinking only of local authorities, nor is he thinking only of what is done in new towns, because a little later he said: This is a case for extending from the new and expanding towns the policy of public acquisition of land ".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th November, 1963; Vol. 684, c. 656.] This policy was to apply not only to new and expanding towns; it was to require a public authority, and he said: We may well have to devise new machinery". One point which was not quite clear to me was this: what happens if we devise such a public authority and it says, in effect, to the owner of the land, "Your land will be needed for development very badly in a few years, and then, of course, you can command a high price for it. But if you sell it to us now. we shall be able to get some of the benefit for the public". What conceivable motive would the owner of the land have to sell? He knows that he has only to wait.

The fact that there was something wrong was demonstrated by the Minister of Public Building and Works, who said that what his right hon. Friend had said involved no new departure. He said: The point that my right hon. Friend was making was that the second generation of new towns and expanded towns will provide more scope for this activity. But the Minister had already spoken of extending this policy from new and expanding towns to other land. That argument would not do, either.

Further, the Minister of Public Building and Works said: My right hon. Friend definitely did not define the limits of our policy or say that there was need to create new machinery."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th November, 1963; Vol. 684, c. 755.] In fact, what the Minister said was: We may well have to devise new machinery. I just refer again to the words in the Amendment "ambiguous promises". The Minister, with what grace he could, has retreated from the position which his hon., and right hon. Friends would not permit him to hold. He told us quite firmly in the debate on 5th June that the Government see no alternative to letting things go on as they are.

I do not believe that the public will be satisfied with that answer. Our case in this debate and in our Motion is that the Government have pursued a policy which, through the Rent Act, has inflicted great hardship without remedying any part of the housing problem, and indeed has made some parts of it worse; that their policies in house building, having been inadequate for years, are now being subjected to a welcome but remarkably belated spurt; but that they have not properly considered the comparative needs of houses for rent and houses for sale; and that they still find themselves unable to free this programme from the enormous burden of ransom which the private landowner can impose upon it.

5.16 p.m.

Photo of Sir Keith Joseph Sir Keith Joseph , Leeds North East

I beg to move in line I, to leave out from "to" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof: all those affected by a housing shortage, caused by such factors as the growth in household formation, which can only be cured by building more houses; recognises that the Rent Act 1957, by encouraging the proper maintenance of privately rented houses and their retention in the pool for letting, has helped substantially to improve the overall housing position; welcomes the accelerating pace of slum clearance where it is most needed and the programme of house building now running at near the annual target of 400,000 houses; endorses the Government's policy of increasing the supply of houses and land for needs for all kinds as the best way of restraining the levels of prices and rents; notes that the Labour Party's proposals provide for no larger housing programme and imply a cut in building for would-be owner-occupiers; and believes that, against this background, ambiguous promises of lower interest rates would add not a single house and however implemented could do nothing but raise the price of houses more sharply ". The hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) has covered a wide span, and I shall seek to cover as much as I can in a reasonable time. First, since this is the last housing debate of this Parliament, I should like to give a few figures of the progress which has been made under successive Tory Administrations.

Looking back to 1951, which admittedly was only six years after the end of the Second World War, we see that according to the 1951 Census there were 14½ million households in this country occupying 13¾ million dwellings. There was, therefore, a statistical gap of ¾ million dwellings—a shortfall between dwellings and households of ¾ million. We all know that for comfort in this country we need a significant statistical surplus. Merely to get equality between households and dwellings is not enough, because it gives one no choice and puts no discipline upon landlords to maintain the quality of their houses.

During the 13 years which have elapsed since the 1951 Census, this country has experienced a population growth of 3 million. This population growth has been accompanied, because of prosperity, by a far more than proportionate growth in the number of separate households, manifesting itself in younger marriages and a longer expectation of life. Yet during the 13 years, successive Governments have kept pace with this growth and have overtaken the statistical—I repeat, the statistical—shortage.

In June of this year, a month ago, there were 16⅔ million households occupying 17 million dwellings. Despite the growth in population and a much more rapid growth of separate households, a statistical shortfall of ¾ million dwellings has been turned over the 13 years into a statistical surplus—and I repeat that a statistical surplus is not enough; we need a significant surplus—of ⅓ million dwellings over the number of households.

During the 13 years the number of local authority dwellings has grown from 2·5 million to 4·7 million while the number of houses occupied by their owners has grown from 3·9 million to 7·2 million. No one can say that during those 13 years substantial increases have not taken place in the number of local authority as well as of owner-occupied dwellings.

The hon. Member for Fulham was right in quoting me as having said that housing was given top priority by the 1951 Tory Government. But he misquoted me when he went on to say that I then explained that housing dropped off. What I said was that during the 1950s first schools and then hospitals and roads were given the priority which originally had been given only to housing, industry and the supply of power. If I had to sum up in one sentence the effect of these 13 years on the housing of this country, I should have to say that, while a very great deal has been done, there still remains very much more to do because of the inherited obsolescence and because of the growth of population and of households.

What are the limitations upon us in tackling the job even faster? The hon. Member for Fulham and the House know them very well. First and foremost, there is the problem of land—the sheer exhaustion of fresh land, particularly in the big cities, where the shortage is especially felt. As the House knows, the Government are tackling this shortage by a series of regional plans leading to a new generation of new and expanding towns. These regional plans will also lead to a substantial programme of land release by the planning authorities without damaging the major planning objectives. The South-East Study has been published and is now under negotiation with the planning authorities. The studies for the North -West and West Midlands will be published next year.

The second limitation is the supply of labour, particularly skilled labour, in a fully-employed country where there must be some limit to the size of the building force and where, therefore, we are obliged to look to increased productivity by a largely static building force for the growth of output that we all want. We look to improved management, to rationalised traditional methods of building, and to industrialised building methods to save key labour and to enable a largely static labour force to produce more buildings. These will be helped forward by enlightened ordering procedures by clients, particularly in the public sector, where the largest single orders are placed.

I am glad to be able to say that productivity in the house building section of the construction industries- and I emphasise that I am relating this to housing—has about doubled since 1948 and is rising significantly now. On the industrialised front, some long-standing British labour-saving systems of house building, both low rise and high rise, are in wide use. Some European multistorey systems—that is, high rise—are coming into use, and there is a great surge of British invention of new low rise systems, a good number of which show great promise and are being adopted in hundreds or even thousands by hard-headed local housing authorities. This year, we shall complete about 25,000 dwellings by labour-saving methods, not all of them new methods. Next year we hope that the figure will rise to at least 30,000 dwellings, and the year after to at least 50,000. After that we expect a steep rise again.

I come to the figures of house completions this year. I have tried to be properly cautious in giving these figures because obviously, about halfway through the year, one must be very careful in predicting what the outcome of the whole year will be. I have already told the House that we shall complete at least 350,000 dwellings in Great Britain this year. As the year progresses, it is possible to come closer to a final figure. I can now say that it is safe to expect—and I am taking into account the difficulties with bricks—that there will be completed in Great Britain this year between 370,000 and 375,000 new dwellings. Of these, approximately 155,000 will be local authority and approximately 220,000 private enterprise. At the end of June there were 421,000 dwellings under construction, of which 226,000 were for local authorities and 195,000 for private enterprise.

I can say on the basis of the figures of starts and the figures of dwellings under construction that, subject to major interruption, it is safe to expect that next year completions will be very close to the Government's 400,000 target. So that this year and next year together should see completions very nearly touching 800,000 new dwellings—closer to 800,000 than to 750,000.

The hon. Member for Fulham rightly stressed that the building industry and the building materials industry need to foresee a steady programme in order to plan their essential investment ahead. I think that I can say that on the basis of this year's performance and the numbers under construction and starts we can foresee certainly 2 million new dwellings in the five-year period 1964–68.

It is true that the price of houses is tending to go up. This reflects, to some extent, the eagerness and capacity to pay of a more prosperous house-demanding population. House prices, particularly the price which people are willing to pay for a house near to their work, tend to drag up land prices with them. The Government believe that the only way to abate the pace of the rise of prices is to end the shortage, and that is the Government's policy. Certainly the price of houses is not restraining the demand for houses.

As I have indicated, the building industry is working at full stretch. It is the Government's intention to secure not just more houses but better houses. I am glad to say that the houses being built now are, in general, better houses, larger houses and better equipped houses, although I must agree that the figures which I have relate almost entirely to local authority dwellings. [Interruption.] I am making no imputation on the private enterprise dwellings, but I have returns of local authority dwellings and their size and cost. We are making good progress towards the adaptable better-heated houses, which makes sense for the future. Over the last few years local authorities have been building houses marginally larger on average, with £90 worth more equipment on average in each, mostly for central heating.

However, the task before any Government is not just to build more and better houses but to deal as fast as is practicable with the bad houses, worn out houses, and the houses without modern facilities. Let me deal first with the task of improving the solid houses with at least 15 years' life which lack modern facilities—in other words, with the improvement campaign that has been running for some years. Of the approximately 3 million stock of improvable houses, well over $ million have already been improved with the aid of grant. We are improving houses at the rate of about 130,000 a year. It is the Government's intention to raise this rate to, as near as possible, 200,000 a year. As the House knows, the Housing Act which was recently put on the Statute Book gives local authorities powers systematically to improve their areas, using compulsion, if necessary, where persuasion has not been effective.

There are, however, about 3 million or so houses which have not 15 years life ahead of them, which are not solid enough to be improved. For them, the only sensible future must be replacement. The most urgent need among these 3 million houses are the houses which are unhealthy to live in—the houses known as slums. These are the houses which medical officers of health certify as unhealthy to live in. They are, as it were, only the priority class of the 3 million houses which together cover slums and what we call twilight houses—houses not unhealthy to live in but not solid enough to be improved.

The House would, I think, wish me to report progress, first, on the slum clearance position. The House will know that the largest proportion of the approximately two-thirds million known slums which are still standing are to be found, so far as England and Wales are concerned—the two-thirds million was a Great Britain figure, but I now come back to England and Wales—in about 38 towns and cities. When, two years ago, the Government invited those 38 local authorities to accelerate their slum clearance programmes so as virtually to clear all their slums, if practicable, within ten years, the local authorities together in aggregate submitted a programme of 34,000 local authority house completions a year as necessary to approach this task.

I can now tell the House that the programmes put forward within that aggregate of 34,000 house completions a year by 29 of the 38 local authorities will suffice to clear all their known slums within ten years or less. A relatively small increase in their programmes will enable five of the remaining nine local authorities to clear all their slums within the ten years.

The other four—Hull, Sheffield, Birmingham and Liverpool—will need a further major acceleration beyond their present programme to get near clearance of all their slums within ten years. We shall certainly co-operate with the five authorities to increase their programmes to clear all their slums within ten years. We shall do all we can to enable the four authorities with the most intractable problems, whose names I have just mentioned, to get as close as is practicable to clearing all theirs within ten years.

The House will, however, wish to know how progress is being made in comparison with the 34,000 a year house completion target. At the end of June, 37,000 local authority houses were under construction in those 38 local authorities. I estimate that we need to have a few more under construction before those authorities can rely upon hitting the target of 34,000 house completions. I can, however, say that the 37,000 houses under construction compare with 26,000 houses under construction a year ago. At the moment, a further 11,000 local authority houses in those 38 local authorities have had their tenders approved but the building of them has not yet started.

Progress with slum clearance is, therefore, accelerating fast towards the achievement of the ten-year programme in the 38 authorities where the slums of England and Wales are now mainly concentrated. Once they are done, however, there still then remain the 2–2⅓ million houses which are not slums but which are twilight houses and cannot be improved.

Photo of Mr John Hynd Mr John Hynd , Sheffield, Attercliffe

The Minister has referred to the four cities, including Sheffield, which the Government will assist in a special effort to overcome their most intractable problem. Is he saying anything about the Government's ideas for this purpose?

Photo of Sir Keith Joseph Sir Keith Joseph , Leeds North East

There is nothing new in this. The Government—I myself—have been in the closest touch with many of the authorities for two years or more about the problems. On some of the points, particularly land, where planning jurisdiction is involved, obviously I should not be able to speak since I have a quasi-judicial responsibility.

I was saying that as soon as the slums are done we shall need to turn to the twilight area houses. It is relatively sterile to argue about the exact point at which houses cease to be slums and become twilight. The fact is that the country must face the need to replace probably 3 million houses, of which the urgent priority health task is to clear the two-thirds million remaining slums in Great Britain. As I have said, progress on that is accelerating fast.

The time will, however, come before very long when some of these towns will have put an end to their slums and when their building resources will then be able to be switched to twilight area renewal. It will not make sense to pull down twilight houses that are by hypothesis not unhealthy, although they may be unpleasant, to live in while there is still an absolute shortage of dwellings. But as soon as the shortage has been overtaken—and the present rate of building should help to bring that about fairly soon—and as soon as any town has finished with its slums, we want to be ready for the twilight area replacement that will follow. To get ready for this, the Government have initiated pilot studies which are at present running in Rochdale and Bolton so that we can be ready with the administrative, legal, technical and financial framework by which twilight area renewal, a much more difficult task than slum clearance, will be able to be carried out.

Perhaps at this stage, as this is the last housing debate of this Parliament, I may be allowed a personal comment. It was 21 months ago that I made my first speech as Minister of Housing. I was able then, on the basis of the solid work of my predecessors and of the preparations left by my right hon. Friend the present Home Secretary and by the noble Lord, Lord Hill, to say that What we are seeking to do is … to accelerate the progress of most of the elements of the housing programme so that we could from about 1964 … start overtaking much more rapidly the backlog of shortages, the backlog of slums and the backlog of obsolescence, while keeping pace with the continuing large rise in population."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st November, 1962; Vol. 666, c. 323.] During that speech, I referred to many projects such as local authority consortia, dimensional standardisation, system building, the Government's intention to double and treble the rate of slum clearance in the worst affected towns, the need to increase both local authority and private enterprise building programmes and the need to review the pace of improvement grants and the pace of land release. I also warned that there could be no quick transformation and no easy solution.

I think now, 21 months later, thanks to the preparation of my predecessors and of the opportunities which I have been given, that the trends of which I spoke have come to pass. The consortia now include 70 of the major housing authorities, covering one-quarter of the public house-building of the country. More and more system buillding is an established fact which is making a growing contribution. Preferred dimensions have now been brought to the attention of all concerned by a series of bulletins by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Public Building and Works and me. The Housing Act has made the changes in improvement procedure and powers. Slum clearance is accelerating where it is most needed. Land release proposals are being discussed with local authorities and, above all, the pace of building by local authorities and by private enterprise is growing, and growing fast.

But all that having been said, there is still a severe shortage in the cities, above all in London. The Government, recognising the increasing pressure upon housing in London and the problems in an almost fully developed capital city with all its prosperity, with practically no fresh land and surrounded by a green belt, set up the Milner Holland Committee last year to give us a thorough analysis of the problems and the position of rented housing, both public and private, in London. I have given a pledge on behalf of the Government that when that report is published and the facts are known at about the end of this year, the Government will take any steps that are shown to be necessary—

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

The Government will not be in office then.

Photo of Sir Keith Joseph Sir Keith Joseph , Leeds North East

—to end any exploitation of tenants that is shown by that report.

The answer which is constantly trotted out by the Opposition is the reimposition of rent control. I ask hon. Members opposite to accept that this might make things worse. The real problem is the shortage, which cannot be overcome in a built-up city like London by wholesale fresh building within London. We have to follow the far more laborious procedures set out in the South-East Study. The Rent Act, to which the hon. Member for Fulham referred in the first part of his speech, happened to coincide with, or to come just before, the turn in the population prospects of the country and a great increase, due to prosperity, in the pressures upon housing, particularly in London. The Rent Act, as the hon. Gentleman agreed, certainly succeeded in increasing the stock of accommodation to rent—albeit at a high price—compared with what that accommodation would have been had the Act not been passed.

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

I said that the Government's survey showed that the amount for renting had decreased after the introduction of the Rent Act.

Photo of Sir Keith Joseph Sir Keith Joseph , Leeds North East

Before the Rent Act was passed, almost every dwelling that became vacant was sold by the landlord. It was not kept for renting. After the Act was passed, 80 per cent. of the dwellings—the hon. Gentleman said 75 per cent.; but at any rate it was of that order of magnitude—were retained for renting, according to the latest figures. The hon. Gentleman said that 25 per cent. of the dwellings were sold—meaning that 75 per cent. were kept for renting. That compares with the figure before the Rent Act of practically no dwellings kept for renting once they were empty.

In a time of shortage there is a temptation for landlords to charge the market rent, but if there is rent control there is the same temptation on the tenants. We all know that before the Rent Act, when the shortage was far worse in London than it is now, it was the rent-controlled tenants who in many cases sublet their rent-controlled property at market rents. It was the same human motive at work as now, which the hon. Gentleman says leads many landlords to charge the market rent.

The market rent, of course, is possible for those with above average earnings, but it is a dreadful strain on those with below average earnings and those with large families. That is why the Government have acknowledged that there is a need in London for a substantial increase in dwellings available for local authorities, and that is why it was such a pleasure, for us all, to announce that 1,000 acres at Woolwich would be available for public dwellings.

The hon. Gentleman talked in a soft key after the loud trumpetings of his right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition about the problems of Liverpool. We read in the papers last week that the Leader of the Opposition had called attention to what he called Rachmanism in Liverpool. He was promptly disowned by local councillors and by Members of Parliament, and I should like to retail an anecdote. When I was in Liverpool last year at about the time when the Rachman trouble was very much in the public eye I was at a Press conference with the late respected husband of the hon. Lady the Member for Liverpool, Exchange (Mrs. Braddock). I asked him, "Mr. Braddock, is there any Rachmanism in Liverpool?". He replied, "If anybody tried that in Liverpool it would be the landlord and not the tenant who would get hurt".

I am sure that something like what the hon. Member for Fulham described is happening in Liverpool. It has happened in many cities. Landlords, fearing the early clearance of slum houses which they own, seek to exploit the position by extracting key money from tenants whom they seek to persuade that they will have a re-housing right. Many authorities have dealt with this by making it publicly known that they do not accept the obligation to rehouse tenants who have not been more than a certain time in dwellings cleared for slums. Liverpool has powers to seek permission to acquire, in advance of clearance, houses which are unfit so that it can be the landlord during the months before the clearance. It has not used these powers, but I would be willing to consider the matter sympathetically if it sought to use them if it was worried about this problem.

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

The right hon. Gentleman suggests that we could restrict the right to rehouse people who had been there for only so long. But that does not deal with the fact that the landlord is in a position to say to the tenant, "You are here, and you may have been here long enough, on any standing, to qualify for rehousing. That is a very valuable right, but I can take it away from you unless you pay through the nose". What the right hon. Gentleman suggested does not alter that situation. Secondly, the right hon. Gentleman will realise that the remedy which he proposes can prove very expensive for a local authority.

Photo of Sir Keith Joseph Sir Keith Joseph , Leeds North East

On the first point, if the publicity given by a local authority to the rehousing obligations that it will accept are wide enough, it will be an effective remedy. Secondly, many local authorities have found this problem and dealt with it, and I am sure that Liverpool could discuss this with the L.C.C. and others who have overcome the problem.

Thirdly, the remedy that I suggested is one that one other local authority has adopted fairly widely. It is expensive only if the local authority insists on charging uneconomic rents, that is rents which are to low, because we are dealing with houses which, at the end of the day, are going to get no compensation for the houses themselves, but only for the sites, because, by hypothesis, they are slums. If a local authority can establish that they are slums and buys them ahead of clearance, it will have very little cost to recover by way of rent, except for the patching, for which there is a subsidy which has been increased in the recent Housing Act.

Photo of Mr Julius Silverman Mr Julius Silverman , Birmingham Aston

On the question of the subsidy, surely it has been pointed out to the right hon. Gentleman on many occasions that the subsidy is inadequate? It is only a small proportion of what is spent by a city like Birmingham, which operates the 1954 Act. This patching-up process costs Birmingham more than £1 million a year.

Photo of Sir Keith Joseph Sir Keith Joseph , Leeds North East

The hon. Gentleman is misleading the House. That is not the net cost at all, because all the rent can be set against it. When I discussed the patching grant with Birmingham, I found that there was a matter of £1 or £2 in it. The grant has gone up to £8. Birmingham wanted £10 or £11 a year per house, but it made its calculation on the basis of rents which I thought were unnecessarily low. Nevertheless, the grant has gone up substantially and Birmingham is using it.

After that brief review of the programme and progress, I turn to the Labour Party's proposal. I think that the hon. Member for Fulham is making very heavy weather of who quoted first the figure of 400,000. I have the references here. On one occasion he said that he thought that there was a need for 350,000 houses.

Photo of Sir Keith Joseph Sir Keith Joseph , Leeds North East

On another occasion he said that he thought that there should be a target of nearly 400,000 for Great Britain. Anyone can say that he thinks there is a need for 500,000 houses a year. The point is at what stage does a party accept a figure as its target, as its responsibility to achieve? The hon. Gentleman spoke of need, but he never committed his party to a firm obligation to build 400,000 houses before the Government announced their 400,000 houses programme.

The hon. Gentleman normally is accurate, conscientious, and diligent. He spoke of a pledge given during the 1955 election having been broken by my party. I asked one of my hon. Friends to look at the 1955 Manifesto. There is no mention in it of rents. I am not aware of this so-called pledge, and I must disown any broken pledge on the evidence given by the hon. Gentleman. If he cares to tell me afterwards to what he is referring, I shall look it up, but it is not in the Manifesto.

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

The pledge was given in a public statement by Lord Woolton. There had been allegations that Conservative policy would result in a general rise in rents. Lord Woolton said that that was untrue, and not a single Member of the Conservative Party disagreed with him. The right hon. Gentleman says that there was no mention of rents in the Tory Party manifesto at that General Election. In view of the fact that they had made up their minds that there was going to be a general rise in rents, why was not that mentioned in the manifesto?

Photo of Sir Keith Joseph Sir Keith Joseph , Leeds North East

I do not know the background of the alleged statement by Lord Woolton. I only know that there was no reference, as the hon. Gentleman suggested there was, in the official Tory Manifesto.

Photo of Sir Keith Joseph Sir Keith Joseph , Leeds North East

I am not aware of any broken pledge, and I am sure that if there had been one I would have been aware of it, because the Opposition would rightly have made a great song and dance about it.

Photo of Mr James MacColl Mr James MacColl , Widnes

The right hon. Gentleman has attacked the integrity of my hon. Friend and has indicated that he has suggested that there were words in the manifesto which he knew were not there. My hon. Friend never said that at all. He was talking about Conservative policy. Is the right hon. Gentleman going to say that the statement made by the Chairman of the Conservative Party organisation, officially speaking on behalf of the party, is in no sense regarded as binding on the party when it comes to office?

Photo of Sir Keith Joseph Sir Keith Joseph , Leeds North East

I would accept that point, but I do not know the background of this matter.

The hon. Member for Fulham sought to escape from the dilemma that he is in—his belief is that local authority dwellings should increase—by telling the House that 400,000 houses a year was not the end of the road. That may be so, but at the moment it is the target that both parties believe to be the sensible and realistic one for the immediate future. This year 220,000 owner-occupied houses will be completed within the 400,000 target. Next year, when we shall build very nearly 400,000 houses, on present conditions probably 230,000 owner-occupied houses will be completed.

In the foreseeable future, for which parties can legitimately give undertakings, I think that the hon. Member will agree that an increase in the local authority component of the total programme to anything like 200,000 houses a year can be achieved in a 400,000 programme only at the expense of owner-occupied dwellings. What may happen as the resources of the country and the building industry increase is a different matter, but the realistic figure for the immediate future is 400,000, and it must follow that the hon. Member and his party must either disown their promises of increasing the local authority component or accept the need to cut back building for owner-occupation, presumably by building licences.

But the interesting part of the hon. Member's speech was the small amount of time that he devoted to interest rates. We had all been looking forward to the settlement, or reconciliation, of the conflict between the right hon. Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson) and the hon. Member for Fulham. The Sunday Mirror proclaimed that we should hear the full details of the Labour Party's policy for lower interest rates in this debate, but it appears that the conflict is still raging. Let me spell it out for hon. Members.

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

The right hon. Gentleman will remember that I answered his question fully in answer to an interjection that he made. He will go on saying "No". He will be as little worried about that as about Lord Woolton's pledge. We do not expect too much from him. But our view is that there should be favourable interest rates for local authority building, and that in so far as that cannot be achieved by general monetary policy it must be achieved by a specially favourable rate for local authorities. We regard it as essential for assistance to be given to owner-occupiers whether they are borrowing through a local authority or by other means. I said that again this afternoon. That is in no way in conflict with what was said by my right hon. Friend. He gave particular stress to the fact that the help given to owner-occupiers would not be in a form which would discriminate against building societies because that was the point about which his correspondent was particularly interested. That is the situation. The Minister did not say that. It seems that he will continue to misrepresent the situation.

Sir K. Joseph: But the hon. Member completely misses the real difficulty. He is as evasive about what he calls a favourable rate as he is about the price which the famous or notorious Land Commission would pay for land. Let me spell it out for the House. In his speech at Swansea and in his speech at Leeds the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, after a lot of comment on the excessive cost of interest rates for housing, committed himself to a firm pledge that there would be access by local authorities to money at a reasonable rate of interest which reflected the power of the Government to borrow. To make his view more clear he referred in each case to the Public Works Loan Board. The advantage to a local authority of borrowing through the Public Works Loan Board is marginal—a matter of a quarter or an eighth of 1 per cent. It would mean about 4s. a month advantage. The right hon. Gentleman used exactly the same terms when he wrote to Mr. Breach on 7th April, 1964, about interest rates for house purchases. Again he stressed that a Labour Government would give local authorities access to money at Public Works Loan Board rates. No doubt that is accurate, but the advertisements of the Opposition, the speeches of the hon. Member for Fulham, and the article in the "Building Societies' Gazette" by the hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun) interpreted these favourable interest rates in such a way as to give the impression that it would not be a quarter or an eighth of 1 per cent., but 1 per cent. or 2 per cent. advantage. Therefore this double impression is being given. The proposals have been responsible and limited when the Leader of the Opposition has referred to them, both in his speeches and in his letters, and they have been irresponsible and unlimited in the speeches of his colleagues and his party.

It is quite right for my right hon. Friends and me to refer in our Amendment to the fact that these are ambiguous promises. I would add that they are conflicting promises and that they represent phony, false and bad advertising which hon. Members opposite are so quick to condemn. Whom should the public believe—the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition in his categorical letter of 7th April, 1964, or his colleagues in the Labour Party? I saw in the Financial Times the other day that the Building Societies Association's chairman had said that there were rumours of second thoughts on the part of the Leader of the Opposition on this question. I was hoping that we should have this apparent conflict reconciled today, and that either, as in the case of education and the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman), the right hon. Member for Huyton would disown his colleague, or would disown his own policy. We must wait and see, but I am sure that the public will want to know what they are to believe—the 4s. a month represented by the speeches of the hon. Member for Huyton or the impression of £4 a month given by the advertisements and by the hon. Member for Fulham.

The hon. Member spoke briefly and with indignation about land prices. All I can say is that despite land prices we are getting a house building programme at record level—a building programme and other social and industrial investment running at record levels, with the building industry fully stretched. The Labour Party proposals would not make houses cheaper. If betterment is its sole aim, which I conclude is the case from an article in The Times yesterday written by the hon. Member for Fulham—which again avoided the key issue of the price at which the Land Commission would seek to buy land—the result of the proposal would be a colossal bureaucracy, severe delay at every stage of development, massive compulsory purchase, great bitterness on the part of those often of relatively modest means who were forced to sell at cut prices, and the conversion of all future owner-occupation into leasehold tenure, with rising ground rents. On top of that, it would not produce a single extra house.

The fact is that the Opposition are like Canute's sycophantic courtiers. They are ignoring the forces at work. They are ignoring prosperity. They are ignoring the greatly increased demand for housing generated—particularly in the cities—by that prosperity. They are ignoring the near exhaustion of fresh land in the big cities. They are proposing the indiscriminate reimposition of rent control, with ambiguous promises about interest rates, which, if carried out, would increase the demand but would not increase the supply, and would drive up prices and make matters worse and not better.

Hon. Members:

Sit down.

Photo of Sir Keith Joseph Sir Keith Joseph , Leeds North East

We are going to build more houses as we are doing now. The Opposition are not even suggesting that we should or that they would supply more houses.

Photo of Mr John Mendelson Mr John Mendelson , Penistone

The right hon. Gentleman has spent a great deal of time discussing either actual or alleged policies of the Opposition. Why cannot he spend some of the precious time at his disposal explaining to us what the Government would do?

Photo of Sir Keith Joseph Sir Keith Joseph , Leeds North East

I think that in nine separate debates I have explained Government policy, which is to build more houses. All the houses being built are being snapped up even at present prices.

I was saying that the heart of the impertinence of the Opposition Motion is that they are not even suggesting that they would, or that we should, at this moment be building more houses. All they are doing is trying to harness the understandable impatience of those still in bad housing without, in point of fact, even offering a single relevant advance on the Government's existing policy. I hope that the House will reject the Motion and accept the Amendment.

6.4 p.m.

Photo of Mr Arthur Skeffington Mr Arthur Skeffington , Hayes and Harlington

I think it significant that in the dying breaths of this long Parliament we should turn back to look at one of the great follies perpetrated in a previous Session by the passing of the 1957 Rent Act. The Minister attempted to create a shield to prevent him from being too hotly shelled by the Opposition by concentrating on our housing policy and therefore hoping he would escape from our censures upon his policy. I propose to turn the attack back and to look at what I believe to be one of the prime reasons for the lack of any social content to Government housing policy. I believe that the failure in a social context may be traced very largely to the 1957 Act, both because it physically decontrolled a large number of properties, with all the often tragic consequences which flowed from that; and also because the Act crystallised the basic philosophy of the Conservative Party in relation to housing as to so many other social objectives.

Frankly, the 1957 Act was an administrative expression of the fundamental Conservative belief that commercial forces, if given their head, would provide a solution to the problem of providing accommodation for people. In other words, if the appeal is sufficiently strong to the pecuniary interests of landlords and landowners, the problem would be solved and we should have no more bother about providing physical accommodation for all the people.

The Bill which became the 1957 Act was introduced by the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) in a very dogmatic and philosophic speech of the kind which, since then, he has had even more rein to deliver to the various assemblies which he addresses so frequently up and down the country. I do not know whether he speaks now on behalf of the Conservative Party, because I do not know to what extent the Conservative Party subscribes to his views. Now many people regard the right hon. Gentleman as a sort of Goldwater of the Conservative Party. Whatever may be the estimation of his character today he was in 1957 a servant of the Government and he gave voice to fundamental Conservative philosophy as may be gathered from the following statements made by the right hon. Gentleman on 21st November, 1956, when he was introducing the Bill which became the 1957 Act.

I have enjoyed myself by refreshing my memory about what was said and the prophecies made in the debate on that Bill, not only by the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West, but also by the present Minister, who was then a back-bencher, and by other hon. Members opposite. The conclusion which I draw from those speeches, and which the public and the House may draw, is that never were more prophecies made which were so quickly proved to be absolutely false. The right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, Southwest, talking about the provision in the Rent Act for decontrol, said that it would enable houses to be let. He said: They will be let at the market rent. The capital value of a house is the capitalisation of its market rent. The inducement to an owner to attempt to get the current value of his house by selling it will disappear. He will have the object of letting that house again as soon as possible. In future, the object of landlords will not be to get possession, but to avoid voids. Later the right hon. Gentleman said: I would once again emphasise to the House that in the vast majority of cases the object of the owners of these houses will be to ensure that they are not vacant of a tenant. If they are to get the value out of those houses, they will have to continue to let them at a market rent at which they can find tenants and they will have to bid for those tenants"— at that point someone shouted "Oh", and the right hon. Gentleman continued— in what I have shown is a very large market indeed."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st November, 1956; Vol. 560, c. 1767–9.] I am glad to note that my hon. Friend the Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. K. Robinson) shouted "nonsense". The Minister was suggesting dogmatically that once the houses were let at a much more adequate rent, in the sense that there would be no rent control over a large number of houses, there would be adequate accommodation available for renting. As I shall show, that forecast is completely false.

I am glad to note that the hon. Member for Aldershot (Sir E. Errington) is present in the Chamber. On the occasion of the debate in 1956 he said—I do not know whether he is still—that he was president of the National Federation of Property Owners, and that it would be pleased with the Bill. The hon. Member for Aldershot said: The second main reason is that the Bill will be of great value in increasing the flow of houses which become vacant…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st November, 1956; Vol. 560, c. 1797.] Again I shall show, as no doubt the hon. Member knows now, that that prophecy was false.

I am glad to note that the Minister has now returned to the Chamber, because during that debate as a back bencher he went further than his right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West. He said: It seems to me that this Bill will create a free market in housing accommodation which will give such a person ample alternatives"— here he goes much further than anybody else— at cheaper rents, though possibly "— the right hon. Gentleman was frank enough to add— not so much accommodation and possibly accommodation not in such a good condition."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st November, 1956; Vol. 560, c. 1820.] He believed that the Rent Act would lead to property becoming available at even cheaper rents. The present Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations wound up the debate by saying: Once the house is decontrolled, the landlord will obviously no longer have the same urge to sell as he has at present; and if he wants to sell he will be able to get full value without necessarily giving vacant possession."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd November, 1956; Vol. 560, c. 2060.] Every hon. Member on this side of the House knows that that statement was quite false and it was proved false within a few months of the passing of the Act. Thinking of what happened then, I am not referring only to Rachmanism but to the ordinary commercial exploitation of the market made possible by the passing of the Rent Act. An article in the Daily Herald today referred to the passing from the House at the end of this Parliament of the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) by saying that this was the end of the age of amateurs. All I can say is that in the field of social policy and the administration of housing and the need for homes, it is a very good thing that the age of the amateurs is passing. When we have those who care and know about the problem it will be a welcome change for the people of this country.

Photo of Mr Ellis Smith Mr Ellis Smith , Stoke-on-Trent South

Will my hon. Friend agree that it is policy that matters?

Photo of Mr Arthur Skeffington Mr Arthur Skeffington , Hayes and Harlington

Exactly. It is policy that matters, but policy, and the selection of policy and knowledge of the problem depends for the right solution on those who understand how the people live. The doctrinaire pronouncements of the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West and many other hon. Members opposite have led to a policy which has caused very considerable hardship to growing numbers of people

What is the statistical result of the operation of the Rent Act? What in fact is the answer when one puts it against the prophecies that were made which I have quoted? The Central Office of Information made a survey in 1963 which showed that there are now 1¾ million fewer rented houses available than there were when the Labour Government left office in 1951 although of course more houses have been built since then. We know that as a result of the Act's decontrol 2 million houses have gone out of control and some of the 1¾ million will be houses which are no longer controlled and have been sold. In the counties of London and Middlesex last year, according to an Answer given by the Minister, 537,000 houses had been decontrolled since the passing of the Act. I should think that today the figure is nearer 600,000. Every year about 340,000 houses, as they become let to a new tenant or are sold, go completely out of control.

So the prophecies that were made have been completely falsified by the statistics and not by statistics produced by hon. Members on this side of the House, but by the bodies to which I have referred. I want to relate those bald statistics to the actual human problems of people trying to provide accommodation for themselves and their families. The first evidence I refer to is again provided by an organisation which has nothing whatever to do with the Labour Party. It is the Family Service Units which made surveys only last year of the position in London. It found virtually no private accommodation in the capital for families of limited means. That is why in the county council area there are 6,000 homeless people who are having to be looked after by London County Council. Those inquiring on behalf of the Family Service Units visited no less than 78 estate agents in London. With only two possible exceptions they found in the lists of those 78 agents no accommodation for a family with children at a rent of under £6 a week. For most of the accommodation available £8 to £10 was asked.

If one looks, as I have done in my own survey, at estate agents' lists not in the West End, in Chelsea or Kensington, but in the outer suburbs, one finds a large number of flats available all decontrolled but with quite fantastic rents and often there is the bracketed remark "No children". A man looking for a home for his family finds himself in an extremely difficult position. That is the first piece of evidence of what statistics mean in human terms which have proved how false were the prophecies.

I refer to an article in The Times of October last year. It is headed: Flat Finders Charged 10% of Year's Rent. This is how ordinary people are affected in Greater London when searching for premises. The article starts by saying that the special correspondent proceeded down a corridor which "smelt of cats", which was "dark and sleazy", and was a curious entrance to a gold mine, yet a gold mine it must undoubtedly seem to the hundreds who troop down this corridor every week…. They found that they had to pay in the end £30 or £40 to get a list of addresses; that is 10 per cent. of the rent of the accommodation.

The Times special correspondent went on to give some examples. I emphasise that he was not talking about luxury accommodation but accommodation for ordinary people, minor professional people, people in the Civil Service in the Greater London area. The article went on: 'I can recommend this', said the young man in one agency. His eyes gleamed sincerity behind the heavy horn-rimmed glasses. 'It's only just come in. A house in Highgate that has just been converted into three flats. All self-contained, three rooms, kitchen and bathroom on each floor. Very nicely decorated. Quite the best value on our books at the moment. It should suit you very well.''How much?''Only £6 10s. a week, sir. Oh, and £100.''What is the £100 for?''That's what the landlord is asking for the three year lease.''Oh, I see.''You would have to pay our commission as well, of course. That would be, let me see, about £34.'The young man smiled brightly, as well he might. In this case they were talking about a so-called self-contained flat of three rooms, kitchen and bathroom, but many are not in fact self-contained. This one had a bath in a room which, presumably, was called a kitchen because it had a gas ring, but that was the sum total of kitchen equipment. The article went on to say: one agent's list of about 200 unfurnished flats in the £4 to £10 range shows 71 landlords asking sums ranging from £20 to £450 … If one wants to get such accommodation one has to pay, and I have come across cases where even £600 has been asked. The article concludes by talking about a young professional couple, the sort of persons Conservative Party policy is meant to appeal to—young engineers or municipal employees. It says: If they have children they will be very lucky indeed to find an unfurnished flat in a reasonable area at less than £8 or £9 a week and they will not get much luxury for that. Only those who can afford to pay £10 a week or more, exclusive of rates, and have a fair capital sum to put down as well, can afford to be at all particular. I have quoted this from The Times as a reasonably fair investigation made last year into the difficulties of those seeking accommodation in this great capital city and I add it to the one from the Family Service Unit.

Of course, this is not the only evidence. The Evening News earlier this year had a title which said: Vicars Join Rent Rackets Battle. It said: The Rev. Frank Bull, vicar of St. Paul's, Herne Hill, says in his magazine: 'The conditions are absolutely ripe for racketeering and exploitation. There is little or no freehold land left in this neighbourhood, hence what comes to the market can command what price it likes. The result of this is to make luxury building the order of the day'. These are some of the number of houses for which the Minister claimed credit. The vicar said: Reasonably-priced property to purchase or rent is almost non-existent. The Reverend Geoffrey Heal, vicar of St. Chrysostom's and St. Jude's, Peckham, wants to prevent the exploitation of our grave shortage of housing by the property racketeer and speculative landlord". He says that there are many cases on the parish's own doorstep. The Reverend John Nicholls of St. Giles', Camberwell, says: It is time something was done at Government level. The Reverend Ashby of St. Antony's, Nunhead, says: We have had the same problems in my parish. These are cases from another part of the London area where the same sort of conditions are rife, and it is largely the result of the Rent Act.

I quote a further example, taken this time from a more fashionable part of London, the Borough of Chelsea. Although not all the King's Road is regarded as fashionable. This is the case of Alexandra Mansions, and I give it because it is one of the cases in which the Chelsea Borough Council has endeavoured to come in and prevent tenants who have been there for many years being grossly exploited by constant increases of rents every time the property is sold or every three years if they were fortunate enough to stay on and get a new lease.

The history of Alexandra Mansions is this. It was sold in 1960 for about £37,000. It then changed hands three times in a week. This is not luxury property. It is not the poorest property, but it is property inhabited in the past by professional people and those we think of as being in the more limited middle-income group. The premises changed hands three times in a week, as I said, the last sale taking place for £75,000, that is, double what the first purchaser gave at the beginning of the week. Of course, each landlord hopes in such circumstances that he can make a profit by putting up the rents. This is a direct consequence of the 1957 Act. It is no accident. One cannot put it all down to the growing number of households or the increase in the number of families with more children. It flows from the fact that there was no social policy in the Government's housing ideas from the very beginning.

I sum up this part of my argument against the Government's case by quoting from part of the Rowntree survey by Professor Donnison which gives a complete answer to the case the Minister put today about the effect of the Rent Act. Again, this is not a publication which has come out of Transport House. It is the result of an investigation made jointly by the British Market Research Bureau and the Joseph Rowntree Memorial Trust.

Professor Donnison says: Six years ago many people hoped that the relaxation of rent restrictions, coupled with generous improvement grants, would rejuvenate the market for private rented housing, and enable landlords to provide good housing for tenants who could neither get a council house nor buy a home of their own. Broadly speaking, and putting it at its best—I am not referring to the extreme argument which the right hon. Gentleman advanced when the Bill was originally before the House—that is the case which the Minister put today.

What did this investigation, which involved inquiries in many areas and about many houses, find? Outside Central London private rented housing has continued to dwindle. The fact is that it has not increased. The idea advanced by the hon. Member for Aldershot, that the flow of houses would be increased, is completely negatived by the findings of this survey. It goes on: Landlords have been reluctant to improve their property and have preferred to take their profits (or minimise their losses) by selling to owner-occupiers. Meanwhile in Central London, where rents have risen much more sharply, the improvement in their property has only been brought about at the cost of major changes in the kind of tenants it houses. Thus, we see that outside central London there is less rented property, and inside there are higher rents which mean that many of the original occupants have been driven further out.

Photo of Sir Eric Errington Sir Eric Errington , Aldershot

There may be some question about the level of rents in the cases to which the hon. Gentleman referred, but he has stated that there is less accommodation available. He has himself given an instance of a house which was turned into three flats. If it had not been for the 1957 Act, that would have been impossible and one person, instead of three families, would have continued in the house.

Photo of Mr Arthur Skeffington Mr Arthur Skeffington , Hayes and Harlington

Taking that case at Highgate, there were three flats, but if one takes the whole situation as revealed by Professor Donnison, one must accept, unless one is quite blind to the facts, that there is now less rented accommodation. Evidence to the same effect is provided by the survey made by the Central Office of Information.

The concluding passage which I quoted refers to the change in the kind of tenant. I believe that the Government completely underestimate the resentment felt by many people who, previously, have supported the Conservative Party at being driven from pillar to post in our great cities. Members of the Bar have said to me, "Have I to face, every three years, if I want to live in London, a new lease with another £100 or £150 added on to the rent?" Not all barristers become more prosperous as they get older; perhaps they do not want to go so far or to work quite so hard.

The fact is that many people of all kinds are not only subject to having to pay, out of declining resources, perhaps, growing increases in rent unless some form of control is introduced, but, every three years, they very often have cause to wonder whether they will have any accommodation at all. The Government greatly underestimate the resentment felt by such people and the hardship to which countless thousands of deserving citizens at all levels are having to suffer.

The other limb of the Government's prophecy which also has failed is this. They say that, if people cannot find rented accommodation because there are too many households with too many children coming along, they can go and buy. For a great many people, of course, this is no answer at all. I have on previous occasions quoted from what was said by Graham Don of the London School of Hygiene on this subject. In a lecture, after an investigation, he said that 80 per cent. of houses now being built were too dear for 90 per cent. of the population. We know from the survey published by the Co-operative Building Society that there is a gradual increase in the cost of houses. The heading to the article in The Times reporting on this survey was: House prices up by £900 in five years I shall not read the whole list, but one sees that both modern and old houses have risen greatly in every region. There has been a substantial increase in the South-East, for instance, where the rise was 60 per cent. The average rise for modern houses over the country as a whole, between the last quarter of 1958 and the last quarter of 1963, was 43 per cent., and for older houses it was 44 per cent. The two are, in fact, keeping pace with one another.

Photo of Mr Philip Hocking Mr Philip Hocking , Coventry South

Will the hon. Gentleman give us the period over which these rises took place?

Photo of Mr Arthur Skeffington Mr Arthur Skeffington , Hayes and Harlington

I expect that the hon. Gentleman has seen the relevant bulletin published by the Co-operative Building Society which gives all the figures. I do not want to take too much time, so I am quoting from the report of it in The Times. The period covered was that between the last quarter of 1958 and the last quarter of 1963. In the Midlands, the hon. Gentleman's own area, modern houses were up by 37 per cent. and older houses were up by 38 per cent.

As we on this side have said time and time again, people in the South-East of England—this is probably true for most parts of the country—cannot purchase their own houses unless they have a fairly substantial wage. Mr. Needleman, in the National Institute Economic Review, has come to precisely the same conclusion.

On 10th February last, the Daily Herald published the results of a survey of houses for sale in the Croydon district. It gives the case of a young engineer whose wage was £833 a year. General inquiries of building societies showed this young man and his wife that they would lend up to three times his annual wages, which meant loan of £2,500. This couple were in a more fortunate position than some in having saved £500, so that £3,000 was their top limit.

The Daily Herald listed seven examples of houses offered for sale in the Croydon district, one in South Norwood, one in Grange Road, Thornton Heath, one in St. Peter's Street, Croydon, one in Wolsey Crescent, New Addington, another in Thornton Heath and two more in Norbury. In all these cases, that couple could have bought a house four years ago or, perhaps, even two years ago, but now the prices were too high.

We therefore say that the two prongs of the Government's case—that by the ending of rent control and freeing more houses more rented accommodation is available, with the alternative that people can buy houses—have failed for very many people who are certainly not in receipt of £20 a week, which is the minimum required in the South. Although wages and earnings are less in the northern part of the country and house prices are cheaper, this still means that a great proportion of the people cannot solve their housing problem by buying.

Only when we have stepped up, as we would have stepped up in the last five years, the number of council houses being built—there has been a gradual deterioration in the number—and brought back some security of tenure and put some ceiling on rents and dealt with the land racket, shall we bring decent accommodation within the means of all who need it.

6.31 p.m.

Photo of Mr John Temple Mr John Temple , City of Chester

It is a privilege once again to take part in a housing debate. I welcome the fact that we frequently have housing debates, because I believe that good housing is the bedrock of a happy society. I should like to put on record a tribute from these benches to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government. I do not know of any Minister who has brought greater drive to his Ministry than my right hon. Friend. Throughout difficult times, he has tackled every problem which has faced him with a real degree of sincerity. I associate with that tribute my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, who has worked immensely hard at this tremendously important Ministry.

My right hon. Friend has given some most encouraging figures about the progress of our housing drive. He has told us that, compared with the situation in 1951 when there was a statistical shortage of about 750,000 dwellings, there is now a statistical surplus of houses over households of some 300,000. That is a measure of the achievement of the Tory Government since 1951.

My right hon. Friend has stressed the progress being made with slum clearance. It is all very well for hon. Members opposite to say that progress has not been fast enough, but it has been a great deal faster and the rate of house building has been a great deal faster than was ever achieved by hon. Members opposite when they were in power.

I would say without hesitation that we as a party can claim to have encouraged the builders to deliver the goods, and now we have set out once again to increase our housing programmes. It is immensely satisfactory to find not only that we have set a target of 350,000 houses for this year—our targets are not just pie in the sky—but that our targets are almost immediately eclipsed by the actual number of buildings. I travel a great deal throughout the country and I am struck by the tremendous amount of building which is going on.

Photo of Mr Simon Mahon Mr Simon Mahon , Bootle

As the hon. Gentleman travels throughout the country, will he tell the House about his own part of the country, Merseyside, and give us the figures for the improvements on Merseyside, and particularly in Liverpool?

Photo of Mr John Temple Mr John Temple , City of Chester

My right hon. Friend specifically referred to Merseyside and said that it had a particular problem of slum clearance. I accept that. I know Merseyside and Lancashire very well. They were in the forefront of the Industrial Revolution and hence in that area there is a backlog of a problem of slum clearance. I do not represent Merseyside myself, but I know the area well. This afternoon my right hon. Friend said that he was ready once again to consult the Liverpool local authorities with a view to accelerating the rate of slum clearance, as is necessary on Merseyside.

In the Amendment we deplore hardship caused by shortage. It is right that we should deplore any hardship. I agree with the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington) that one must have a great deal of sympathy with those who do not have housing accommodation of which we can all be proud and of whom there are a number, but what we are doing is to take practical steps to do something about it. We have not cured the lot.

In the last few years I have visited most of the world's major metropoli and have discussed housing problems in New York, Tokyo and Moscow. There are housing problems in all the world's major metro-poli. The hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) said only recently that there was rent control in New York. On that occasion I drew his attention to the fact that while there might be rent control in New York there were far more homeless there than in London. This shortage is not confined to London alone.

I cannot say exactly why there is this magnetism of the world's metropoli, but it undoubtedly exists. I cannot say why people living in the North and North-East should want to come to live in London. Nor can I say why people living in the hinterland of Tokyo should want to live in Tokyo. The fact remains that there is a central magnetism in the world's metropoli.

That is why I welcome the fact that the Government are to tackle this matter positively and that in the South-East Study they are putting before planning authorities in the South-East a plan to provide counter-magnets in Bletchley, Newbury and the Southampton area. These will be towns of a significant size. I suppose that it is fair to make a personal claim in a debate of this nature and to say that some years ago in the House I advocated new towns with a population of 150,000, although I was then told that new towns of such a size were not a feasible proposition. Times have moved on and the suggestion which I dared to put forward at that time has now become part of Government policy.

It is my custom in housing debates to be constructive rather than destructive and I shall start at exactly the same point as my right hon. Friend—the provision of land. The absolute shortage of houses and sites for industrial buildings is inhibited by the difficulties of the provision of the necessary land. The corollary is that planning must produce that land. I shall deal with planning and then suggest how we might build even more houses.

My solution to the problem is to build more houses. If more houses are built of a rather superior quality, there will be more dwellings and people will be able to move out of one dwelling into another more easily. The hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington seemed to deplore the fact that some magnificent houses were being built. If better houses are being built, possibly more expensive, at least people are moving into them and so out of other accommodation. In other words, the total housing stock is increased.

My right hon. Friend has laid before the House Cmnd. 2308 on South-East England, which considered the present position, but also very wisely considers that for a long time ahead. In paragraph 4 it says: Further growth—probably at a higher rate so far as natural increase is concerned—is likely after 1981. A littel over a week ago, I had the privilege of visiting the great Shell Centre just across the River Thames from the Houses of Parliament. I was told that in its oil drilling programme the Shell Company looked 12 to 15 years ahead. If we are looking almost 20 years ahead in the provision of land, we are not looking at the problem any too early, for the time is here when we should look beyond 1981, accept the evidence of the statistics and realise that we are going to have a growing population until 1981, with an even faster growing population after that. It is essential, therefore, that we follow the advice in paragraph 17 of the White Paper that Developers—whether meeting private or public needs—must be assured of a long forward supply of land for development". That is exactly what is reiterated in the Government Amendment tonight; a sufficiency of building land.

I turn to the question of how this land must be provided, and in the right places, because this is no easy problem to solve. The Government have referred to the problem of regional planning, and I welcome that, because I see in his place my hon. Friend the Member for North Angus and Mearns (Sir C. Thornton-Kemsley) with whom I had the privilege of serving for nearly two years on a Committee, under his chairmanship, which produced a document entitled "Change and Challenge".

That document advocated a regional planning system throughout the country. Since then the Government, from the centre, have been producing a series of regional plans and studies. They have produced them for North-East England, and Central Scotland, and the most imaginative plan of all has been that for the South-East of England. My right hon. Friend has promised a plan for the North-West and the West Midlands, but I am not absolutely convinced that those plans, produced from the centre, are enough. I suggest that they should be followed by a form of regional planning structure designed on the same basis as the river authorities, which, the Joint Parliamentary Secretary will remember, we were debating in the early hours of this morning. Those authorities are being set up on the basis of having a bare majority of local authority members, while the rest of the membership is being drawn from the various aspects of national life which are closely concerned with the correct planning of our country.

I was glad to receive an Answer to a Parliamentary Question from my right hon. Friend the Minister earlier this month. I had asked him what improvements and simplifications he was proposing for planning procedures. All who study these matters are concerned about both the complexities and the amount of time taken with our planning procedures now. I was glad when my right hon. Friend replied, in a long Answer from which I will quote only sections: … I appointed a Planning Advisory Group which includes experts from local government and the professional field. The Minister of Transport and the Scottish Development Department are associated with my Department in this work. It goes on to say that they are looking at new concepts of planning and are trying to answer the criticisms, which often results in delays. My right hon. Friend went on: We have to try and find a right balance between on the one hand modernising, simplifying and speeding up, and on the other, assuring to people their legitimate desire to have the opportunity to be heard … "—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd July 1964; Vol. 699, c. 146.] This planning advisory group is a real step forward because there is no doubt that we will have to move more quickly than we have been in the planning sphere. These delays have been responsible for a lot of shortage in building land in the South-East.

I have spoken of the shortage of building land. I have also mentioned industry. Urgent measures will also be called for to secure developable land for reservoirs and all sorts of other public enterprises. But from where is it to come? Without doubt, a great proportion of it will have to be given up by the agricultural community. It will, of course, be desirable for the least valuable agricultural land to be taken, but I submit that it is extremely important that we should encourage the maximum amount of good will between the town and country because there are suspicions in the farming world that the pool of farming land is to be decreased. One cannot help but confirm those suspicions, but it must be decreased in such a way as to make the minimum impact on our agricultural community and it must be handled in such a way that the farming community realises that fair and just compensation will be paid.

There is a branch of the agriculture industry which has served the country well down the centuries I refer to the tenant farmers, many of them yeomen farmers. They have been farming their land for generations and it is no good saying to them that they can go out and get similar properties if they are dispossessed of their land. They may have to do just that, but I urge my right hon. Friend to say to the acquiring authorities that they must use their powers under the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1963, with foresight and generosity. The position of the tenant farmers is something unique in British life and they deserve fair and generous treatment.

I have referred to the possibility of some regional planning structure. We have all been watching the tremendous progress which has been made by the Standing Conference on London Regional Planning. My right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Sir R. Nugent) is the chairman of that Standing Conference, which is a non-statutory body but which embraces county councils, district councils and all local authorities in and around the London area.

That Standing Conference has brought about this understanding between the town and country which is so important. It has been a conference where the members of the county boroughs have been able to speak openly to the members of the county councils. It has been in this direction where we have often fallen down in the provision of building land because county councils are not the housing authorities. They have many other duties, but they are not the housing authorities in England and Wales. The authorities with the big problems are the county and big boroughs and if we can get something of this nature working in the other big conurbations it would be a real step forward.

I said earlier that it would be important for us to encourage sub-regional or regional centres. That is an important aspect of our future planning. But, running alongside it, I was somewhat alarmed to read in the farming Press, which I study closely, that the N.F.T.J. as an alleviation of the housing problem, was suggesting that villages should be increased in population rather substantially. That suggestion wants looking at closely because whereas it might seem superficially attractive to increase the populations of villages significantly I do not believe that it would be a particularly good plan nationally.

In placing urban communities alongside rural communities the urban adjunct to the village would always be wanting to get back to its urban life in the adjacent city. Again it would put an added strain on rural transport facilities, which are already provided to a minimal extent. Whatever happened, it would be bound to increase the amount of commuting. More serious, it would place great pressure on the social services of the country districts because, for example, education which is one of the most expensive social services. Only village schools would be available to cater for children up to the age of 11 or 12, after which those children would have to commute over long distances to get their secondary education. Hospital visits would also entail much travelling for people in these villages. The difficulties of adequate water supplies and refuse disposal, and the rest, would be considerable. Above all—and I speak now of one service that is little thought of but is one of the most expensive of all—the provision of satisfactory sewerage systems is becoming increasingly difficult and serious. Anyone who has studied this problem knows that the most satisfactory system is to have large sewerage works provided with all the technical equipment necessary. I do not think that our housing problem can be solved by an expansion of population on a vast scale in the villages; but that it can be solved by satisfactory "counter magnets", the expansion of towns, the creation of new towns and sub-regional centres, which the Government are at present trying to promote.

Turning to the subject of more houses, I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page), who is not at present with us, on being the first to suggest in this House a target of 500,000 houses a year. He has been followed recently by the Roskill Report, put out by the Town and Country Planning Association, on whose executive I have the honour to serve. The Government have made magnificent and practical progress; but the targets ahead may have to be larger than we have been tackling so far.

The hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) spoke of a shortage of bricks, and my right hon. Friend said that that matter was in hand but my own view is that we are at about the maximum output of traditional houses. My right hon. Friend said that the labour force could hardly be increased, although its output could, and that adds strength to the view that we are very near the ceiling of output, bearing in mind all the other building that is going on at the same time.

If that is the case we may have to look to ancillary forms of house building, and I do not believe that to be out of the question. All the traditional houses we are building at the present time should be good houses, but I am not wholly satisfied that they are up to the standard of goodness that I should like to see. On 13th December, 1963, the House accepted a Motion which congratulated the National House-Builders Registration Council and called for legislation, if necessary. The National House-Builders Registration Council has a certification procedure under which the prospective buyer of a certificated house can be assured that both good workmanship and good material go into it. I believe that only a small minority of our builders turn out a shoddy job, but they can get the building industry an indifferent name.

This certification system is making progress, but that progress is not yet sufficiently fast. I know that my right hon. Friend has consulted the National Federation of Building Trades Employers on the subject, and has spoken to the Registration Council. The coverage of the scheme was 10 per cent. in 1953, by 1963 it had risen to 26 per cent., and I believe that there has been further progress since then.

In a debate at the end of last year, my right hon. Friend—and, I think, my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary—said that he would regard certification of 80 per cent. of our houses as satisfactory. If 80 per cent. were certificated the odd 20 per cent. would probably come in eventually, but I doubt very much whether, without some degree of compulsion, we shall get to that stage. I therefore hope that my right hon. Friend will look at this matter extremely sympathetically because, while we certainly want more houses, we definitely want good ones.

I have said that we are possibly reaching the ceiling of production of traditional houses and will have to look to certain ancillary possibilities, and the first that springs to mind is the industrial building programme. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Public Building and Works has just left the Chamber, but I would pay a tribute to the great dynanism he has brought to his Department. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing has spoken of a very steep rise in the output of industrially built houses, and I welcome that. I know that this programme of industrialised building is making immense progress, but I still believe that there are two ancillary forms of housing that could be encouraged.

Earlier this month I went to the Royal Agricultural Society's show at Stoneleigh, in Warwickshire, where, in the building section, I saw a most splendid timber house. If people can live in frame houses in the United States of America and in other parts of the world where the climate is much more severe than ours, I believe that timber houses could make a significant contribution to solving our problem. Their appearance is extremely good—I have a photograph of one of them here. This type is called the Linton house, and I am able to invite any hon. Member to go to Stoneleigh to look over it. Building societies will make advances on these houses, which have an estimated life of at least 60 years. They are offered in a range of different external patterns, and both internally and externally they are very charming.

One snag is that some local authorities are not being as helpful as they might be with regard to the byelaws that affect the construction of these houses. The houses are passed as satisfactory in every possible way, but I believe that local authorities have a considerable prejudice against them. Perhaps my right hon. Friend might be able to do something to overcome this prejudice and perhaps my right hon. Friend the Minister of Public Building and Works might ensure that when his national code of building bye-laws is brought out, special reference is made to timber houses—

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

I do not know why the hon. Gentleman went all the way to Warwickshire, when he could have come to my constituency—just a few steps down the road—where we have had, for about 30 years, the Portal house, which was originally meant to last for 10 years. We still have them. We also still have the Nissen huts—hundreds of them. They, too, were intended to last 10 years, but they are still there. If the hon. Gentleman wants to live in a Nissen hut or a Portal house, I can export them to his constituency any time he likes.

Photo of Mr John Temple Mr John Temple , City of Chester

I seem to have acquired a rather dubious ally. I thought at the start that the hon. Member was with me, but now he has rather spoilt himself.

There is another ancillary form of housing. I know that hon. Members on both sides have been invited recently by the National Caravan Council to visit the caravan parks near London. I believe that hon. Members opposite were taken to the Fangrove Caravan Park, as I was, and saw the possibilities of mobile homes in this country. This is a caravan park which it was a pleasure to see. I spoke to one postal official who had comparatively recently moved into one of these mobile homes and who said that he had exchanged it of his own volition for a very satisfactory traditional house. I do not argue that mobile homes will make a large contribution but I know that there are a great many retired people who are extraordinarily happy in mobile homes and if retired people could give up their traditional homes this would make room for other families to move into their traditional houses. I ask my right hon. Friend whether he will see that in his further surveys there is reference in development plans to land being made available for caravan parks and mobile homes because this can make a useful contribution to the housing problem and will not increase the demand on scarce building labour.

It has been a privilege to take part in the last housing debate of this Parliament. I recognise the extreme importance of good housing to our community. I know that the provision of building land for further development is extremely difficult. The problem must be tackled realistically and swiftly, and this we are doing. Our planning methods could equally be modernised and simplified. I am satisfied that we are turning out more homes for the people and that they are good homes. I believe that our policies are delivering the goods, and I am certain that our goal as a party should always continue to be a property-owning democracy. When I read the policies of the party opposite it seems to me that if they should get into power they would allow people to own their houses, but they will not allow them to own the land on which those houses are to be built. No more owner-occupiers will be created by the party opposite. We should move into a land of "Land Commission leaseholders."

7.3 p.m.

Photo of Mr Julius Silverman Mr Julius Silverman , Birmingham Aston

I will follow the hon. Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple) in only one theme and that is in his reference to a property-owning democracy. The matter with which I propose to deal is concerned with that concept, and the hon. Member will see that some parts of the property-owning democracy are treated very differently from other parts. I do not want to deal with wooden houses, mud huts or caravans. All those are very remote from the real problems of people in our large cities such as Birmingham. What they want are houses. Given the plan and the organisation and the control of vested interests, we on this side of the House believe that those houses can be provided, but I ask the House to consider what is happening now.

I want to mention one case only. At Solihull, not far from Birmingham, the Rover Motor Company was possessed of 72 acres of what is called "white land", which was part of green belt land and was not intended for development. It is safe to say that at its then use value that land was not worth more than £20,000. At the end of 1961 the Rover Motor Company applied to the Solihull Borough Council for permission for residential development of that land. It was refused. On 4th May of the following year the company appealed to the Minister. The right hon. Gentleman, in the quasi-judicial function about which he talked today, held a public inquiry on 8th November, 1962, and a few weeks later he overruled the Solihull Borough Council and planning permission was granted.

The consequence was that about 12 months later this land, together with another small parcel of land with which I shall deal separately in my speech, was sold to the highest public tenderer at £16,200 an acre. The total amount realised was in excess of £1,200,000. This means that the Minister has by his action as a Minister—let us make no bones about it—made a present of £1,200,000 free of Income Tax to the Rover Motor Company. It is much easier to make money in that way than by making some cars. I cannot see how this sort of transaction can be justified.

Photo of Mr Philip Hocking Mr Philip Hocking , Coventry South

Is the hon. Gentleman absolutely sure, and can he say categorically, that the sale of this asset by the Rover Motor Company will not appear in the company's accounts? If it does, then surely it will be subject to tax.

Photo of Mr Julius Silverman Mr Julius Silverman , Birmingham Aston

The hon. Member does not realise the limitations of the present tax on capital gains. If the land is sold after six months it is a capital gain.

Photo of Mr Philip Hocking Mr Philip Hocking , Coventry South

Mr. Hockingindicated dissent.

Photo of Mr Julius Silverman Mr Julius Silverman , Birmingham Aston

If it is sold within less than six months it is subject to tax, but if it is sold after that period it is a capital gain not subject to tax.

Photo of Sir Eric Errington Sir Eric Errington , Aldershot

Not three months—three years.

Photo of Mr Julius Silverman Mr Julius Silverman , Birmingham Aston

At any rate, this amount of money was given as a present by the Minister under existing procedure. How can we possibly hope to have an incomes policy, and what right have we to say to postmen or anybody else, "Please restrain your demands on your portion of the national income" when these people get away with these enormous sums without any effort whatsoever? This is one part of the story and we have often pointed out these manifold social evils. The Minister told us on the last occasion when this subject was debated that he proposed to do nothing except wait for the shortage to abate, but there is another facet of the story with which I should like to deal.

This part of the story has a smell of Crichel Down and a touch of Naboth's vineyard about it. I regard it as just as bad as anything in the Ferranti case. Surrounded by the plot of 72 acres with which I have been dealing is a plot of land which up to 1962 was owned by two people of modest means, a Mrs. Clarke and a Mr. Raven. This was a plot of four acres, and these people are the other part of the property-owning democracy. They had inherited the plot from their father. In 1960 the Rover Motor Company first negotiated for this, site. I do not want to make many comments, I want to recite the bare facts as far as I know them. There was a communication between the solicitors of the Rover Company and the solicitors of Mrs. Clarke and Mr. Raven written on 5th February, 1960, and in order that there should be no doubt about what it means I shall read it out: Our clients, the Rover Company Ltd., have referred to us for attention your letter to them of the 1st instant as to the above. As we believe you are aware our clients are interested in purchasing the above"— that is land at Solihull— solely for the convenience of their employees who use their sports ground to whom it would afford a comfortable access. Development is not contemplated in any way and we do not think planning regulations would permit variation of the existing use. It may be helpful in negotiations if we could agree the existing value of the land which we think would be approximately £400. Because of the convenience that it would afford our clients' employees we feel sure that they will be prepared to pay a reasonable sum in excess of this amount and we would recommend the purchase at £600. Another letter from the same solicitors to the solicitors acting for Mrs. Clarke and Mr. Raven came on 1st December, 1960. There they say: We now have our clients' views on your letter of The 1st ult. and are asked to inform you that they are still interested in purchasing the land. In our view the price quoted by your clients of £4,000 very much exceeds the market value today. If you will refer to the amount agreed for estate duty purposes recently this will tend to support our view. The permitted use has not varied since this date and in our view the land is incapable of development In 1962, there was a further approach by the Rover Company to buy this land. In May or June, 1962, following on the lines of this correspondence, the Rover Company assured Mrs. Clarke and Mr. Raven that they still wanted the land for the purposes of extending the facilities for their employees for an open space and said that the most that would be built upon the land would be a pavilion.

On this occasion it will be borne in mind that already, at the end of 1961, the Rover Company had applied for development permission and indeed had submitted an appeal to the Minister on 4th May, 1962. Yet they were contending at the same time that they still wanted the land for use as an open space.

Photo of Mr Julius Silverman Mr Julius Silverman , Birmingham Aston

The owners sold to them for the sum of £2,000. An interesting point is that before the sale they had made an inquiry through their agent, to the Solihull Borough Council, and the council informed them during the, month of May that there was no prospect whatsoever of residential development being allowed on this land. The council did not disclose to them the fact that on the surrounding land there was in process at that time an application for development rights and that the Rover Company was at that time appealing to the Minister. Completion of this sale at £2,000 took place.

Photo of Sir Keith Joseph Sir Keith Joseph , Leeds North East

I have a number of minor points which I could have taken but really the hon. Gentleman is implying something which I think is unfair. At the time to which the hon. Gentleman is referring, Solihull Council knew only that it had refused planning permission to the Rover Company for the large 72 acre site. It did not know the result of the company's appeal. It had not occurred then. So, from the council's point of view, the proper thing for it to say was whatever it said. The hon. Gentleman's imputation was that the council knew.

Photo of Mr Julius Silverman Mr Julius Silverman , Birmingham Aston

I have not made any imputation. I have stated the bare facts and let the facts speak for themselves. It is quite true that at that time Solihull Council did not know that the Minister was going to make this present to the Rover Company. At that time the appeal had just been lodged. Of course, Solihull Council was under no legal duty to inform Mr. Raven and Mrs. Clarke that this appeal had been put in. The fact is that nothing whatever had been said about it.

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

Rovers knew and could have told them.

Photo of Mr Julius Silverman Mr Julius Silverman , Birmingham Aston

There was no legal or statutory obligation to tell them, but the council could have told them the position. In fact, completion of this, sale was made in October, 1962.

Photo of Mr Philip Hocking Mr Philip Hocking , Coventry South

I know this land fairly well. I looked at it at the time of the sale. In the course of his remarks, the hon. Member said that the small parcel of land was incapable of development. The then owners were told that it was incapable of development. It is true that this land was incapable of development on its own. It could be developed—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—it is no good hon. Members saying "Oh". It is true that the sewage had to pass through the other portion of land, and it could only be developed as a whole.

Photo of Mr Julius Silverman Mr Julius Silverman , Birmingham Aston

Let me complete the story. In October, 1962, there was completion. That means that this land was sold for £2,000. It was the month afterwards that there was the public inquiry by the Minister of Housing and Local Government and a few weeks later the Minister made his decision.

The point is that until October, until the moment of completion, these two people were under the impression, and given the impression, that the Rover Company intended to buy this land for an extension of its open space. Obviously, if they had thought anything else they would not have dreamt of selling it at that price. Nothing that was said by the Rover Company or by anyone else gave them any cause to think differently.

A few weeks later, the Minister made his decision and gave planning permission. The Rover Company then went, with this additional four acres of land, to Solihull Borough Council and applied for permission for residential development. Although it had been indicated before that permission would be refused, it was then given to the Rover Company. I believe that there was some condition and that there was a certain amount of horse trading which provided that when the eventual price was decided by tender, 11 acres of land should be provided to the Solihull Borough Council for its own purposes. I think that was the arrangement and the condition. The Minister may correct me if I am not precisely correct. That was the position up to then. In the month of January this year, all this land was sold by public tender and all of it was sold at the price of £16,200 per acre, including the four acres that I have mentioned. It seems that this piece of land which was sold by this brother and sister for £2,000 was sold by the Rover Company again for £64,000 as a capital gain.

Photo of Mr Julius Silverman Mr Julius Silverman , Birmingham Aston

I put down Questions on this matter and I asked that an inquiry should be carried out. I should have thought that hon. Members on both sides of the House who are interested in the ethics of public administration and public business would want such an inquiry. This is a case for an Ombudsman to carry out an inquiry, probing deeply into Government Departments and covering every aspect of the matter.

The Minister said in reply to my Question on 14th July: The land was not allocated as open space. That is so, but it is a mere technicality. It was land for which no planning permission had been granted. The Minister went on to say: I am informed that planning permission was not refused to Mrs. Clarke and Mr. Raven who had not sought it. It is true there was no formal application. They had inquired what the position was and they were told that planning permission would not be given.

The Minister continued: … after Rovers bought it the Council laid certain requirements on them in connection with their development of a nearby estate which made it reasonable to contemplate allowing housing on some of this land too."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th July, 1964; Vol. 698, c. 198.] That is the condition which I have described. In fact, when the Council heard of the price which this land had fetched—£16,200 an acre—it refused to go on with the purchase, and Bryants Holdings bought the whole lot, which simply shows the ridiculous extent to which the price of land has risen in this area.

I gave the Minister notice that I intended to raise this matter because the House is entitled to a full and clear statement. There should be an inquiry. This is not a case in which one should ride off on technicalities. Naturally, Mrs. Clarke and Mr. Raven feel that they have been cheated. It may be that what is wrong is the whole system, and we want to know what the Minister is going to do about it.

This is not merely a question of what is happening to certain parts of this property-owning democracy. The question goes far deeper. It demoralises the whole nation. We have heard about an increase in crime. I am convinced that part of the demoralisation which is afflicting the whole nation is due to the idea that many people are making easy money for nothing. I am convinced that the whole structure of our social system will suffer if this sort of thing goes on. I am entitled to ask not merely that the Minister will say that he will make a full inquiry into these matters but that he will make the fullest possible statement to which hon. Members are entitled.

7.24 p.m.

Photo of Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley , North Angus and Mearns

When I made my maiden speech over a quarter of a century ago, I spoke of land as the basic raw material of our Scottish basic industry, and. tonight, in what will almost certainly be my last speech in this House, I want to speak about land as the basic raw material of the houses that we all want to see built, in the price of which land is a factor.

The House has listened with great attention to the hon. Member for Birmingham, Aston (Mr. J. Silverman) speaking of a case which he has developed fully. It would, be impertinent of me to follow him, because I do not know all the facts, although he presented them as he understands them to be. Of course, one accepts that his statement of the facts is correct. I would only say this to him, and I say it on every occasion possible: people who are dealing with matters concerning land nowadays owe it to themselves to obtain the best possible advice before doing so. It pays them to do so, and I hope this course will be followed by others who are similarly placed.

Photo of Mr Julius Silverman Mr Julius Silverman , Birmingham Aston

Perhaps the hon. Member will bear in mind that the humbler members of this property-owning democracy cannot afford such advice.

Photo of Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley , North Angus and Mearns

That is wrong. Professional bodies would be very glad to give advice. Arrangements can be made. Land is a valuable asset and people should get the best possible advice, in the same way as they go to see a doctor and get the best professional advice possible if there is something wrong with their health. However, I do not want to enter further into this matter. I accept the hon. Member's challenge. I want to talk about land and the evils of rising prices.

Rather over two years ago, two men were sitting in an estate agent's office in a pleasant suburb about 10 miles from London. They were neighbours and they had decided to put their two properties together and put them on the market. They were two ordinary detached properties in grounds which together totalled a little under an acre and a half. They had received an offer of £65,000 for the two properties. To them this offer was undreamt of, and they had gone to ask the agent what they should do. They said, "We had not expected anything like that. We must take it." He begged them not to do so. The next day, within minutes of the commencement of the auction sale, that land was knocked down under the hammer for £72,000 and within 24 hours the purchaser had had an offer for his contract, which he refused.

Examples of that kind are not difficult to come by. We hear of them every day. Indeed, in last year's report of the London County Council it was stated that the average cost that the council had to pay per acre for land for housing requirements was £61,800 in 1963, as compared with £13,600 an acre in 1953. Of course, it is true that between those two dates there has been a change in the basis of compensation and there has been a fall in the value of money.

Photo of Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley , North Angus and Mearns

It is true that sites now have to be cleared of buildings, and to do that in London or in any other great city is very expensive. Very often compensation has to be paid—and, no doubt, it formed an element in the price in the case which has been mentioned—to owners of land in return for taking away their rights to use that land for commercial or industrial premises. But, high as these prices are—and in my professional life as a chartered surveyor I am constantly coming across these cases—this is not happening all over the country.

Photo of Mr John Mendelson Mr John Mendelson , Penistone

As the hon. Gentleman has said that these matters concern his own professional life, I am sure he would not like to leave incomplete the recital of events. We also had the Rent Act for which the present Government are responsible.

Photo of Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley , North Angus and Mearns

That has nothing to do with the value of land.

This is not happening all over the country. Yesterday, the Financial Times published a very interesting supplement on the land market. Some hon. Members may have seen in it an article by Mr. J. H. C. Chesshire, the chairman of the valuation and estate agency panel of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, in which he said that land with planning permission for ten houses to the acre changed hands at present in some cases for as little as £1,000 an acre in parts of the North-West of England, that its price would be between £4,000 and £5,000 an acre on the outskirts of Nottingham or in the Bristol area, whereas it would be about £20,000 an acre in the South-East of England.

No one has yet devised a better method of allocating the use of land to its optimum advantage than a combination of land use planning and the price mechanism. Mr. Alan Day, in a most interesting article in the Westminster Bank Review recently, pointed out that while this means that there is no obvious way of avoiding the payment of high land prices in cases where there is pressure of demand for a limited area of developable land, it does not follow "— here I entirely agree with Mr. Day— that the individual selling his land ought necessarily to receive the whole of the price paid. I sometimes wonder whether we have got our emphasis right in these matters. High land prices are not in themselves undesirable. I do not believe that anyone, even the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart), will lose a night's sleep because a property developer, a development corporation or a speculating builder has to pay a high price for the land which is his stock in trade. What does matter is that high land prices are passed on to the purchasers of houses put on the land.

Photo of Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley , North Angus and Mearns

That is what I am trying to do. I am directing my speech to the Minister.

For example, site costs used to account for about a quarter of the purchase price of the land and house. In the South-East of England today, site costs make up about one-third of the price of low-cost houses and up to one-half of the cost of luxury houses on special sites. What is needed is not some panic action to reduce high land costs—price levels represent the best way of allocating land to its proper use—but we need to reduce occupancy costs. Occupancy costs are what really matter to the kind of people about whom the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington) spoke, the young married couple who have not another house to trade in at an enhanced price in order to get possession of a new one, people who start without the advantage of owning a house. These are the ones we want to help.

I believe that there is a variety of ways to reduce occupancy costs if the Government would really set their mind to it. They could, for instance, abolish Stamp Duty altogether on the purchase of houses for individual occupation. They could make a contribution from the State towards the cost of the mortgage survey.

Photo of Mr Albert Evans Mr Albert Evans , Islington South West

How much difference would that make?

Photo of Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley , North Angus and Mearns

They could provide—I am myself very much in favour of this—cheaper house purchase loans operated through the building societies and other agencies. They could provide for a reduction or a redistribution of the rate burden.

If the Government of the day, whatever their complexion, would put their mind to it, these and other methods could be financed from the proceeds of a betterment levy by which the State would recover some part of the substantial financial benefits which accrue to owners as a result of public expenditure or the grant of planning permission.

Over the past eighteen months, I have been taking the chair of a working party of chartered surveyors, men drawn from what one might call the higher echelons of the public service and private practice, with absolutely no party affiliations that I know of or have known of. We have been concerned to look at the problem from a non-party point of view in order to see whether a workable scheme for the recovery of betterment could be devised. After eighteen months of quite hard work, we are convinced that it can be devised in a way which would be both fair and simple to operate.

I shall not spend a lot of time describing the scheme but, basically, it would be this. After the passing of the enabling legislation, the district valuer would be asked to make two valuations in every case where planning permission had been granted and acted upon. He would be asked to value the property as it was, for its existing use and before the grant of planning permission or change of use, and he would be asked also to value the site for the new use to which it was to be put. The difference between the two valuations—which, of course, could be the subject of appeal to the Lands Tribunal—would form the basis of a betterment levy payable by the owner to the Exchequer. But, because it is never possible for anyone to say with any certainty how much betterment is attributable to the initiative and foresight of owners and how much is attributable to community action, the enabling legislation would provide that in no circumstances should the levy exceed 50 per cent. of the assessed betterment.

Within this upper limit, Parliament, through statutory instruments, could itself fix variable maximum percentages of charge for different regions so that, by this means, it could encourage development, perhaps, in the development districts and discourage it in the South-Eastern Region. Local planning authorities themselves, within the maximum limits imposed for their regions by Parliament, could vary the rate of charge or waive it altogether.

I have skated over the various provisions of the scheme and referred only to the most important of them so that the House may have some idea of what we propose, but I think that these means of positive planning should commend themselves to those who wish to increase the incentive to owners to develop land in ways which best serve the public interest.

Photo of Mr Albert Evans Mr Albert Evans , Islington South West

Are not the hon. Gentleman's ideas about a betterment levy rather pathetic and belated in a dying Parliament? Will he address himself directly and personally to the Parliamentary Secretary who, probably more than anyone else in the House, was the author of the abolition of the betterment levy and put nothing in its place? The hon. Gentleman should address himself strongly to his own Government if he is sincere in his views.

Photo of Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley , North Angus and Mearns

I told the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson), who interrupted me, that I was doing that very thing.

Photo of Mr Niall MacDermot Mr Niall MacDermot , Derby North

I am most interested in the scheme which the hon. Member is propounding. I quite understand that he cannot go into it fully in a debate of this character, but may I ask him whether any provision is built in to the scheme to ensure that the betterment levy would not be passed on to the purchaser and would not serve to increase prices even more? I understand that something of this sort has been attempted in France and that that is the end result.

Photo of Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley , North Angus and Mearns

I am most grateful for that intervention. To get the matter in sequence, may I first deal with the intervention of the hon. Member for Islington, South-West (Mr. A. Evans)? He asks why I have not propounded this before. I wrote articles about this two, three and four years ago, and I have been studying it ever since. For the last 18 months I have been working with an expert committee to try to find a solution. We have only just arrived at a solution. Secondly, I am asked whether it is too late in a dying Parliament. Of course it is too late for action to be taken in this Parliament, but I am still optimistic enough to hope that there will be something in my party's election manifesto which will enable us to do something about this in the next Parliament.

The hon. and learned Member for Derby, North (Mr. MacDermot) asked whether the tax would be passed on in the form of increased prices. I think it is true to say that any tax increases the price of the commodity to which it is added. In the pressure areas the tax would probably be added to the cost of land. I do not claim for this scheme that it will do anything to reduce the price of land. What I am saying is that the proceeds of the levy could be applied to reducing occupancy costs, which is really where the shoe pinches.

If the need for a tax such as this were accepted—and, in my view, it is the linch pin of a comprehensive and imaginative land policy—the proceeds of it on what I call windfall land profits would be applied to the reduction, not of land prices, but of occupancy costs. At the same time, something could be done to reduce high land prices by extending to all local authorities the power of advance purchase of land earmarked for future residential development. If this were done, local authorities, by intelligent anticipation of trends which has enriched so many private developers in recent years, would be able to secure to themselves such betterment as may subsequently accrue.

Having for many years pondered deeply on these matters, which are brought daily to my attention in my profession as a chartered surveyor, I can find nothing either in my philosophy as a Conservative or in my responsibilities as a land agent which prevents me from urging that part of the large, often untaxed, gains in land values which are at present enjoyed by individuals should go to the State which helped to create the increment in value by the grant of planning permission or in other ways.

I am quite sure of one thing, that one day this will be seen to be both right and expedient. To criticise the Land Commission—I have done it myself and I shall certainly do it again—and to proclaim the merits of a free land market when the pressure of demand on a limited area of developable land is blowing the roof off land prices is not enough. In our efforts to modernise Britain, we would be foolish to deny ourselves the opportunity—if I may borrow a phrase from an article in yesterday's Financial Timesto channel some of the profits from land sales into the public purse a policy which, I would add, is increasingly demanded by public opinion.

7.45 p.m.

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

I commence by congratulating most sincerely the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns (Sir C. Thornton-Kemsley) on what I thought was an admirable speech. I do not want to get him into any difficulty with his party, but I should like to suggest to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition that the hon. Gentleman might well make a radio broadcast for the Labour Party because all that he said has been said by the Labour Party and has been pooh-poohed and denigrated by the Minister.

The last few words of the Minister, who attacked my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) for putting forward a positive suggestion, were to the effect that nothing could be done about the land racket except to build more houses. He suggested that building more houses would solve the problem. But he had spent the best part of his speech in explaining that the Tory Government had, over the years, been building more houses than any other Government. I am not here to argue about the right hon. Gentleman's figures and statistics, but if that is true, why is it that, with all these new houses and all this extra housing, the land racket is now worse than it has ever been in our history? Why is it that house prices are at their highest level in the history of this country? Why is it that the rents of private houses and local authority houses are the highest that they have ever been? The answer is simple. It is because of the policies of this Government.

The Minister was very upset when my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham interjected to say, with no personal disrespect to the right hon. Gentleman, that he could not believe any pledge given by the Government or by the Tory Party because the Tory Party had pledged itself faithfuly to the electorate not to introduce rent decontrol. Yet in 1957 it did just that. The Minister wanted to know when and where this statement was made. Either he must have not been in the House during the debates on the Rent Act, 1957, or he could not have read the debates of that period. This is a strange attitude for the Minister to adopt. Since 1951, the Tory Party has consistently, regularly and deliberately broken every one of its pledges and promises.

The hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns mentioned high land prices. The Minister mentioned high rents and the high cost of housing. Who said that if the Tory Party got back it would control and reduce the cost of living? It was not me. It was not my hon. Friend. It was the Tory Party. It pledged itself faithfully to increase the purchasing value of the £. Yet the purchasing value of the £ is the lowest that it has ever been in peace or war. The cost of living is the highest that there has ever been in peace or war.

Rents have gone up directly because of the policy of this Government in reducing subsidies and because of the Rent Act. Those who are suffering—those who are trying to buy their houses, those who are buying and those who cannot afford to buy—all owe their suffering directly to the Government's legislative programme. The Minister said that more houses were being built, and that is true, but fewer are being built today for those in most urgent need— that is, those who need a house to rent because they cannot put down the deposit. They want local authority houses. Fewer local authority houses are being built now than was the case two or three years after the war.

The Minister has given the figures, and they are on record. To get the position clear, I recently asked the Minister what the position was in some well-known Tory areas neighbouring my constituency. Fortunately, we have a 100 per cent. Labour council and we have done a wonderful job with local authority housing, notwithstanding the difficulties placed in the way by high interest rates, reduced subsidies and the difficulties created by the Minister and his Government. I therefore inquired the position in such places at Ilford, Hornchurch, where the Prime Minister was last night, and in Wanstead and Woodford, which is represented by the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill), and Chigwell. These are areas where there is no particular shortage of land.

The Minister gave me the figures for 1947 and for last year. Nineteen forty-seven was two years after the worst world war, when the right hon. Member for Woodford said that we had a bankrupt nation and when we had no peace-time industry because our factories had not yet been turned over to a peace-time economy. In addition, thousands of men in the Armed Forces were still being demobilised.

In 1947, Ilford, under a Labour Government, built 126 houses. By 1951, the figure had risen to 248. Last year, it was 122, or fewer than in 1947.

Photo of Mr Philip Hocking Mr Philip Hocking , Coventry South

Is the hon. Member including council houses?

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

Of course I am. That is my point. The postman earning £11 a week cannot put down a £500 deposit to buy a house costing £3,000 or £4,000. The hon. Member smiles, but a postman cannot afford that. He has to go to the local authority. The road-sweeper cannot afford a deposit of £500 or £600 and mortgage repayments of £4 or £5 a week. He has to go to the local authority.

Let us look at Hornchurch, where the Prime Minister was yesterday. In 1947, the number of houses built in Hornchurch was 257. In 1951, it had gone up to 344. Last year, it was 14. This is an area where there is great need of houses because it is easily accessible to London. Land is available, but only 14 houses were built last year. The figure for Wanstead and Woodford in 1947 was 222. Last year, it was 52. Chigwell, which again is within easy reach of London, built 128 houses in 1947 but only 52 last year. That is typical throughout the country.

One finds from the figures that fewer council houses have been built in total and in the area where they really matter than in 1951. This has been the deliberate policy of the Government. I know that the London County Council has done a good job and I know that a number of other Labour councils have done a good job. One can quote Labour-controlled areas which, notwithstanding the difficulties which have been put in their way by the Government, have got on with the job of housing for those in the lower income groups. The Government have gone out of their way to reduce in total the percentage of council, as against private enterprise, houses.

We hear a lot about slum clearance and what the Government have done. In the main, it has been Labour authorities which have done the slum clearance. I do not know of any property speculator who offers to clear a slum area and put up houses for workers to rent.

Photo of Mr Norman Pannell Mr Norman Pannell , Liverpool Kirkdale

Is it not a fact that the slum landlords have great difficulty in doing so, because they cannot get the local council to provide alternative accommodation while the houses are being demolished?

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

I should like to know of even one case of a property speculator, either in the past or in the future, who has a scheme or an idea for slum clearance and wants to go ahead. I have yet to find one.

I go further. Nine out of 10 slum properties, of which I have many in my constituency, have been in existence for 80, 100 or 150 years and many of them were built at a cost of only £100 or £150, but they are now changing hands at £2,000 or £3,000. Over the years, many of them have never had a halfpenny spent on them by way of repairs or decorations, whether internal or external. The tenants have purchased and re-purchased the property six or seven times over. I know of no other commodity which can be held for 80 or 100 years, from which rent can be drawn to the extent that the original capital outlay is repaid six or seven times over and which can then be sold for 2,000 or 3,000 per cent. more than its price when new.

I have an old Ford Consul car, which I bought about seven years ago. It cost me about £900. I am told that if I took it to a dealer today, I should be lucky to get £150 for it.

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

If the Government's policy concerning land and housing prices were applied, that car should now be worth about £5,000. The Rent Act has caused immeasurable suffering to people in my constituency. Unfortunately, we in West Ham were the worst bombed borough during the war. We lost one-third of every type of habitable accommodation and the remaining two-thirds was bombed, blasted and blitzed in some way. Our people were promised that they would be looked after and given housing.

The hon. Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple) spoke about setting up wooden huts to solve the housing problem. We had wooden huts. We had Portal huts to help us out of our difficulty. We were promised that they would be there for 10 years, but we still have them. We also had Nissen huts, those iron things which get very hot in summer and very cold in winter, and which one can never get dry because the water drips off them. They were put up, so it was said, to last for 10 years, but they look like being there for another 50 years, and now it is being suggested that we should have wooden huts. There is a place in Holborn called Headquarters and General Supplies. It has a good line in tents. I suggest that the Minister should go there and buy as many tents as he can find. Why should our people have to put up with this kind of treatment?

Photo of Mr Frederick Corfield Mr Frederick Corfield , Gloucestershire South

It is only fair to point out that my hon. Friend was talking about the wooden houses which are used widely in Canada, and which provide very good homes. The reason why we do not encourage them here is because of the fire risk in great densities.

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for helping me with my next point. I did not mean to denigrate the houses that are used in Canada. The Minister may call them beautiful places, or chalets, but I suggest that in the first instance they should be put up in Sloane Square, or Portland Square, or even here in Parliament Square. In other words, do not send them to the East End of London where the working-class people work for their living. Put them up in the areas occupied by the Clore's and people like that. If these wooden buildings are so good, I suggest that those people would jump at the opportunity of having these wonderful, beautiful wooden Canadian-type houses. After we have seen how these wonderful houses are received in these luxury West End areas, the Minister can send as many as he likes to my area. These Nissen huts, these Portal huts and things like that are not for areas like mine. They can go to the luxury areas.

The Rent Act has adversely affected my constituency. I have here a page and a half of cases quoted by my housing officer in West Ham. He points out that before the Rent Act fewer than 18 people were homeless in that area. After the Act was introduced the figures rose as follows: 31 in 1958; 36 in 1959; 29 in 1960; 19 in 1961; 33 in 1962; and last year the figure rose to 42. He reckons that this year he will have to deal with 84 cases.

In an area such as mine we have an enormous housing list due to slums, overcrowding, and destruction in the blitz. The list is so long that we have an urgent priority list. If 60 or 70 people, through no fault of their own, become homeless because of the Rent Act, they take precedence over people who have been on the list for perhaps as long as 14 years, and not unnaturally these people ask, "Why should Mrs. Smith, who was living in a decent house, come out of it and take precedence over us on the housing list?" I do not mince my words when I tell them what has given rise to this situation. I tell them quite bluntly that it is because of the Government at Westminster, and because of the Rent Act, because if it were not for the Rent Act these people would not have been compulsorily evicted.

In my constituency the situation with regard to rents is appalling and disgusting. I sat through the last housing debate. One of my hon. Friends quoted an instance of an exorbitant rent being charged, and the Minister asked my hon. Friend to send him details of the case. But I have been sending the Minister details of cases for many years, and all that he says is, "Of course, nothing can be done. These people must seek legal advice, and I have no power to intervene". I know that.

I have here the names and addresses of people who have been affected by the Rent Act. I do not propose to name them, but perhaps I might quote a few examples of what has happened. In January, 1964, the rent of a decontrolled house was increased from £1 10s. 5d. to £2 5s. a week, and a demand has now been made for a further 10s. a week accompanied by the usual notice to quit. The house in question is a small one shared by two families. There is a common entrance, an outside toilet which both families have to share, no bathroom, and no hot water.

In another case the rent was agreed in April, 1960, at £3 10s. a week inclusive. The occupants have now been served with a notice to quit because they are unable to agree to pay a rent of £4 5s. a week. The accommodation consists of two bedrooms, one small living room, a kitchen, and a bathroom which is shared with another family.

In another case notice to quit has been served, the time allowed has expired, and the bailiff has been instructed to evict the occupants. Last April by moving from the upper to the lower part of the house, they lost the protection which they previously enjoyed. They have been given notice to quit without any question of an alternative.

One of the most tragic cases that I have come across is that of a lady who is separated from her husband. She has two children, one of whom is a spastic. Because this unfortunate child must have everything done for it, such as being taken to school and brought back, fed, washed and clothed, and cared for all day long, this poor woman is unable to go to work. She was recently given notice to quit the one room which she occupied, and for which she paid £2 10s. a week. There was no separate toilet no bathroom—nothing. She had to share the toilet with about half a dozen other tenants. Nothing could be done about the notice to quit, and she had to leave.

Eventually a place was offered to her, which consisted of one room—it is true that it was a larger room than she previously occupied—at a rent of £5 10s. a week. She said to me, "Mr. Lewis, they cannot do this, can they?". I had to reply, "I am afraid that they can". She said, "What can I do? I cannot work because of this child. Can you get my child into a home for spastics?". I tried to do that, but without success. I told her that she would have to go to the National Assistance Board. As always, the Board was very helpful and it agreed to pay her rent of £5 10s. She receives the money and pays it straight over to the landlord.

I learned from an answer to a Question that I asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance that under this Government National Insurance contributions have increased by 173 per cent. I am not surprised that the Minister either cannot or will not tell us how much money is being paid into the pockets of the landlords of this country through National Assistance. When we hear about subsidies, and about subsidising rents, and when the Minister talks about economic rents and says that the councils should do something about them, I suggest that the Government should do something about the subsidies being paid to the landlords through the National Insurance Fund. I suggest that the Minister should give us the figures. They would make the Ferranti scandal look insignificant by comparison. This is all due to this Government and their legislative programme.

If the Minister feels that he can do something about the cases on the list that I have here, if I send them to him will he guarantee to intervene? Will he see whether, in cases where rents rise from £2 5s. a week to £4 a week, and where rents have been doubled and notice to quit given, and nothing can be done from the local end, he can do something? I know that he cannot, because he has no power to do anything.

Photo of Sir Keith Joseph Sir Keith Joseph , Leeds North East

I am always interested to receive details, because there are circumstances in which either I or the local authority, or the local authority and I together, can initiate or take some action. If a landlord is exercising improper pressures on tenants in multi-occupied property the new control order which was introduced under the Housing Act as from last week will be available. If there is a danger of homelessness through exorbitant rent demands local authorities—if they judge fit to do so—can make compulsory purchase orders, which would then come to me.

I do not want to exaggerate the position, but there are occasionally cases, apart from this, where I can be of assistance. There is no harm in sending me the details. I do not hold out any wide hope of being able to do something, but occasionally I can.

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

I am very appreciative, and I thank the right hon. Gentleman very much. I mean no disrespect to him when I say that both his predecessors and he himself have been sent by me particulars of numerous cases, and in every case I have had a stereotyped reply telling me that the landlord was quite within his rights, or words to that effect. I have been told that there is no action which the Minister can take. I always send those letters on to my constituents, with a nice covering letter, saying, "I send you the letter that I have received from the Minister. This is the sort of reply that I expected, because this is what I have been getting from housing Ministers for years. Nothing can be done."

I do not suggest that there is any undue pressure. I am not suggesting that for a one-roomed flat an increase of rent from £2 10s. to £5 is excessive. I do not know what is excessive. All I know is that for the postman earning £11 a week or the road-sweeper earning £12 a week, to have to pay £3 or £4 a week in rent is excessive. If a person is getting £30 a day in expenses, or £30,000 or £40,000 a year, of course it is not excessive.

The Minister knows this as well as I do. The landlord has it all his own way. In all these cases the tenant has an alternative. If he does not want to pay he can get out. That is the point that I want to emphasise. And once the tenant is evicted and becomes homeless the local authority must do something, and that is an added expense for the local authority. I agree that there will always be some people who are forced to pay higher rents.

The Opposition are to be congratulated. In the last week of this Parliamentary Session, and in the last few days of the life of this Government, they have once again initiated a debate on the most important subject of rents and housing. I am confident that this Government will be evicted without any option when the election comes. Not only that; I am so convinced that this will be the case that I know in my heart that that was why the Prime Minister put off the election from June until October. But even those few months will not save this Government. They will get the defeat they so richly deserve.

8.12 p.m.

Photo of Mr Philip Hocking Mr Philip Hocking , Coventry South

The hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. A. Lewis) made a sparkling and scintillating speech. At the beginning I thought that we were in the midst of a cost-of-living debate of the sort that we had a few days ago. One thing struck me about his speech; he was unable to make a single point which would help to remedy the situation. It was the most negative speech that I have ever heard. As he had no real points to make I can only presume that he, or his party, has not got any policy which is likely to build more houses or to relieve the situation. If he and his colleagues campaign in this way, I am quite certain that my right hon. Friend or one of his colleagues will continue in the same office and that we shall be permitted to carry on the government of the country.

In the last few weeks I have noticed a new mood among hon. Members opposite. Continuously, day after day, they suggest that they are the brains behind my right hon. Friend's policy. The hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) said that he had continually put these suggestions to my right hon. Friend and that he had now woken up and adopted them.

In that case, I cannot understand why hon. Members opposite did not put these suggestions into practice between 1945 and 1951. I spent the last 25 years in the housing business, and I know something about it. I agree that in those days there was a shortage of materials and labour. But it is a remarkable fact that if anyone was prepared to build houses without using any controlled materials it was almost impossible for him to get a licence to do so. Homegrown timber was free of licence. If a person said that he would use homegrown limber for the construction of houses and would not want any imported timber, did the Labour Government give him permission? A friend of mine wanted to build his own house with his; own hands in Redditch. He had to get a licence to do so. Even where a person used his own labour, and materials which were in good supply, it was still necessary to obtain a licence.

I can only conclude that the party opposite has no more expansive views with regard to building more houses than it had when it was in power. Still hon. Members opposite talk about licensing and controls. Still they talk about building 200,000 council houses a year. This has been their rigid policy ever since they went out of office. If, when the time comes, they continue the policies of yesteryear, they will be rejected yet again.

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

Just listen for two seconds. I was speaking of people on low incomes. I talked about the postman and the road-sweeper earning £11 and £12 a week. Is not the hon. Member aware that if local authorities built 200,000 houses for people like that it would be an enormous help? It would mean that we would be getting back to what was happening 13 years ago.

Photo of Mr Philip Hocking Mr Philip Hocking , Coventry South

I could quote figures which would quickly refute that argument. The trouble with the philosophy of the hon. Member is that he believes that everybody is a road-sweeper or a postman and is living on the minimum wage. I have made inquiries about postmen's pay. I know that the basic rate is £11 a week, but I know many who take home much more than that, and the hon. Member knows it.

All through the debate we have heard the basic philosophy of hon. Members opposite—the almost built-in philosophy—about landlords. Continuously hon. Members opposite decry every landlord as being the most dreadful person that ever lived in the land. This is not so. I agree that there is a small minority of bad landlords, but there is a small minority which is bad in every section of the community, and I see no reason why hon. Members opposite should have this in-built feeling against landlords.

Photo of Mr Philip Hocking Mr Philip Hocking , Coventry South

No, I cannot give way to the hon. Gentleman; time is short and I have several points which I wish to make.

If hon. Gentlemen opposite would get rid of this feeling about landlords; if they would look at the matter realistically and accept the fact that it is possible for there to be good landlords, and that there are good landlords, people would be encouraged to provide houses to rent. One other fact which seems to run through the housing philosophy of hon. Member opposite is that only local authorities can be good landlords. I have never understood this. Landlords can give notice to a tenant to quit and get him out of the property much more quickly than can a private landlord, and frequently local authorities do this. There have been many cases in my constituency of the Coventry Corporation throwing out council house tenants with a week's notice for not paying the rent. I had a tenant who did not pay the rent for six months and it took another six months to get him out of the property. I had to take him to the county court to claim the rent. The dice are loaded against the private landlord, yet a local authority which may throw out a tenant at a week's or a fortnight's notice is said by hon. Members opposite to be a model landlord.

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

Why did not the party opposite support my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. D. Foot) when he brought in a Private Member's Bill to give council house tenants security of tenure?

Photo of Mr Philip Hocking Mr Philip Hocking , Coventry South

I am always doubtful with regard to policies put forward by hon. Members opposite. I see no reason why I should join with them in that sort of thing.

I believe that hon. Members opposite should think seriously about this question of landlords to see whether they cannot reorientate their views to bring themselves up to date in the midst of this century and realise that there are good landlords whom it is worth encouraging. They should stop making the kind of suggestions that they have made about every landlord being a bad landlord.

Earlier in the debate points were made to my hon. Friend about party policy and a party manifesto. He was asked whether he stood by a statement made by the Chairman of the Conservative Party. I have listened on a number of occasions to speeches about land policy made in debates on housing. About eighteen months ago I had the privilege and pleasure of debating in a B.B.C. programme with the hon. Member for Fulham the policy of the Labour Party. When I asked him whether the Land Commission proposed by the Labour Party would cover all land the hon. Gentleman said they did not think it would. It would not cover land used by owner-occupiers. He did not think that small estates would be covered. In view of many of the remarks that have been made since, I wonder whether that was a statement of policy on the part of the party opposite; whether what the hon. Member for Fulham said about small parcels of land not being taken up by the Land Commission was correct. There is no doubt that the only policy advanced by hon. Members opposite about land will not help to build a single extra house, as was indicated by my right hon. Friend. Their policy will not reduce the cost of housing one scrap. It would mean that from the introduction of legislation by the party opposite every house built would attract a ground rent which would have to be paid continuously to whatever receiving body was ordained by the Commission. The amount would not be settled for a term of years. From the small print of their manifesto we understand that it would go up over 10 years.

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

Accepting for the sake of argument that what the hon. Gentleman is saying is correct, can he say what would be the alternative of the Tory Party and why hon. Members opposite have not implemented it during the past 13 years?

Photo of Mr Philip Hocking Mr Philip Hocking , Coventry South

If the hon. Gentleman will listen for a little longer, he will find that I shall come to the question of what I believe should be done about land.

I wish to emphasise that there is no virtue in the proposals of hon. Members opposite about land purchase. If their proposals were put into effect, the cost of housing would be considerably increased for a large number of people. The hon. Member for Fulham suggested during the debate that it would help people if a deposit were obtainable for the purchase of property. This has been done for years. Many reputable builders keep a collateral security on a house and the deposit is reduced. That is going on at present. There is nothing new in the hon. Member's suggestion. The machinery exists for doing this. I think it would be far better to encourage people to do that sort of thing, and encourage the industry and local authorities to do so than merely to make suggestions.

I am at a loss to understand how the proposals about cheap interest rates advanced by hon. Members opposite are to work. There is a large number of people in the country who have mortgages. According to the advertisements inserted in the Press by Transport House, it would appear that the Labour Party propose to reduce interest for all house purchasers. If that be so, it means that they will bring about a very different economic policy. They will make a considerable reduction in interest rates over a wide field. Do hon. Members opposite suggest that they are prepared to go back to the sort of financial policy which brought this country to the verge of ruin in 1951? Or, on the other hand, are they proposing to be selective? Should the party opposite ever come to office, does it intend that people about to buy houses shall enjoy beneficial terms? If that is so, it means that a very small proportion of citizens will enjoy the benefits derived from cheap house-purchasing facilities.

I was interested in the remarks which have been made about brick production. There was a strange suggestion from the Opposition benches that the Government should encourage the brick industry to build more kilns and increase the production of bricks. What has been the policy of hon. Members opposite? What encouragement have they given to the brick industry to increase production? At the last General Election they proposed to nationalise the London Brick Company. What about the cement industry? What encouragement do they give to cement manufacturers? Not long ago hon. Members opposite were talking about nationalising the cement industry.

That is not the kind of encouragement to give to any industry. It is the same basic philosophy of hon. Members opposite. They continue to believe that by these threats and the suggestion that this or that industry should be taken over they can encourage production. We have a sneaking feeling that in the words about industries which have "failed the nation" there is a threat to brick companies and cement manufacturers that they will be drawn into the net of nationalisation. These are not the sort of suggestions that should come from the party opposite when hon. Members opposite criticise my right hon. Friend because these suggestions do not encourage the industry to build a single house more. They are discouraging everyone, discouraging landlords from providing properties to let and discouraging the building industry from expanding. These are the wrong sort of things for a party to say at this time when it is offering itself as the alternative Government.

I turn to one or two aspects of the policy of my right hon. Friend with which I am not altogether satisfied. Much has been said in regard to land. This afternoon we have heard two hon. Members, one from each side of the House, draw attention to this question. I should be the first to admit that there are certain aspects of the land question at Solihull which do not bear looking into. I shall not comment on the letters written by the Rover Company to the brother and sister, but the sale was made on the understanding that that land would be kept for an open space. It seems that the professional advisers of the brother and sister were very much at fault because they were selling land for open space and they should have included in the conveyance a covenant to that effect. That would have precluded any possibility of development without at some later date providing some sort of payment for breaking the covenant.

Hon. Members should not think that this is done only in private sales between individuals. I can give examples of cases where individuals have sold land to local authorities and four or five years later the local authority as the planning authority for the area has changed its mind. It has decided that it does not want an open space and would rather build some blocks of flats or garages on that land. When that has been done it has not been regarded as a scandal, but it has been said to be in the public interest. If a private individual does it, it is regarded as a scandal. There is no difference whatever in this matter between the local authority and the private individual who changes his mind about the land.

There is, however, an important difference in the law affecting sales between private individuals and local authorities. Private individuals can covenant land one to the other, but hon. Members should try to put a covenant on to a local authority. They would be immediately told that that cannot be done and that the authority would not allow the sale to go through in such circumstances. I should like to hear what my right hon. Friend intends to do about this matter. I believe the law should be made the same for local authorities and private individuals in this respect. I should also make it exactly the same in regard to private landlords and local authorities. Let us get rented property all on the same basis.

Photo of Mr Arthur Skeffington Mr Arthur Skeffington , Hayes and Harlington

I think the hon. Member has overlooked a provision in the 1959 planning Act If land has been purchased by a local authority when it is designated for one use and then the local authority uses it for a more valuable purpose, within five years the private seller can claim additional compensation from the local authority. Incidentally, there is no provision the other way round, but in this case the local authority has to pay more if it uses the land for a more valuable purpose.

Photo of Mr Philip Hocking Mr Philip Hocking , Coventry South

That is for a limited period of five years. I would extend it further.

My right hon. Friend has put forward suggestions about advance purchase of land for new towns. This may be an excellent idea, but I am very much concerned about whether the freehold would go. I want to see the freehold principle kept because it is very important. I should like to know whether when these areas of land are to be bought for new towns they will be developed on a leasehold basis, or what proposals should be made to see that owners of the houses in those new towns shall own the freehold of the land on which the house stands. Unless this is done there will be nothing more than a slightly watered down version of the policy of hon. Members opposite. This I cannot believe to be in the mind of my right hon. Friend.

Photo of Mr Philip Hocking Mr Philip Hocking , Coventry South

I have given way several times and other hon. Members wish to speak.

Another aspect of what should be done, and done quickly, is for the Government to give encouragement to private landlords to build to let.

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

Do not forget land policy.

Photo of Mr Philip Hocking Mr Philip Hocking , Coventry South

I have not forgotten that and I shall come to it in a moment.

Hon. Members say that private landlords are not at present being encouraged to build to let, but this is being done although it is mainly done by insurance companies. In the Midlands large blocks of fiats are built and let at 50s. or 60s. a week. That is a modest rent in the Midlands, bearing in mind the high wages paid there. Take-home pay is regularly £30 a week for many motorcar workers. These flats are built mostly by insurance companies which have vast sums of money invested in them by various people. Not very long ago private individuals built or bought blocks of property through building societies. That has been a satisfactory arrangement, but, unfortunately, under the Building Societies Act such advances are given special treatment. I should like some amendment made to that Act to make it possible for people to borrow money on these properties and to let them.

I said that I would say a few words about land. I was not enamoured with the scheme put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for North Angus and Mearns (Sir C. Thornton-Kemsley) because I did not think that it was practicable in any way. It seemed to me to create a good deal of work for land agents, surveyors, auctioneers and district valuers, but I do not think that in the end it would reduce the price of the house or the flat built on the site.

We must accept the fact that high prices for land have come to stay. We need to reorientate our views on land values. In a debate some time ago I pointed out to hon. Members that the carpet in this Chamber cost more than the average building site. It was perhaps £8 per sq. yd. or even £10 per sq. yd. or £40,000 an acre.

Photo of Mr Philip Hocking Mr Philip Hocking , Coventry South

No doubt my hon. Friend the the Member for Kidderminster (Sir G. Nabarro) will tell us where the carpet came from. I remember that he made some pronouncement about his constituency when this new carpet was put down some time ago. We must get our values into proper perspective. If a carpet is worth £40,000 an acre, I am sure that building land, which is permanent and exists for all time, is worthy of a reasonable sum.

In order to reduce some of the high prices being paid, instructions should be given to planning authorities to release more land all over the country, and to release it quickly. If that policy were carried out and sufficient land were made available immediately for the number of houses which are required in the country, the price of land would fall.

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

Builders would buy more.

Photo of Mr Philip Hocking Mr Philip Hocking , Coventry South

There would be no point in buying more, because one would know the demand and the number of houses required over the next 20 years. It is possible to make that assessment. If land were made available in large quantities, the scarcity value would to a certain extent be removed.

I hope that both parties will look at this problem of land to see whether it is possible to adopt a realistic policy. There is no advantage in creating leaseholds all over the country. There is no advantage in the taxation system suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for North Angus and Mearns. Taxation in itself will not reduce the price. It will keep it up.

All parties are agreed—with the exception of the Liberal Party, from which we have not heard this afternoon—that more than 400,000 houses must be built each year. I know from practical experience that houses and flats are not built with fine words. They are built by encouragement. I hope that in the next few weeks and months we shall hear words of encouragement from political parties seeking election—words of encouragement to the building industry. It is only by encouraging the building industry and fostering it that we shall solve the problem. If we do just that, instead of applying restrictions and decrying various sections of the industry, we shall solve the problem, and the people of the country will be happy.

8.45 p.m.

Photo of Mr Cyril Bence Mr Cyril Bence , Dunbartonshire East

We heard some extraordinary remarks from the hon. Member for Coventry, South (Mr. Hocking). Some of the things he said were astounding. For instance, he suggested that as there were many good landlords and a large minority of bad landlords, we should do nothing about it.

Photo of Mr Philip Hocking Mr Philip Hocking , Coventry South

Mr. Hockingindicated dissent.

Photo of Mr Cyril Bence Mr Cyril Bence , Dunbartonshire East

That was the implication of what the hon. Gentleman said. He said that the housing programme was being frustrated because the Opposition were always attacking the vicious landlords. Of course we are. We want some action to prevent the exploitation of the scarcity of accommodation which exists not only in our own but in every industrial society of Western civilisation. If we are to solve the problem of the scarcity of land and housing, we have to prevent any landlord from becoming vicious, whoever he may be. It is no use blaming the Opposition because these vicious landlords exist. Hon. Members opposite have been in power for 13 years, during which time they could have taken action to prevent Rachmanism and that sort of thing.

The hon. Gentleman also said that the difference between the parties was that hon. Members opposite encouraged the landlords and we discouraged them. We ought to discourage landlords of that type, but in the 13 years that I have been a Member, we have never opposed proposals for encouraging institutions of all kinds to provide houses to let for the people.

Photo of Mr Philip Hocking Mr Philip Hocking , Coventry South

I seem to remember that at the last General Election hon. Members opposite stood on the ticket of municipalising all privately-owned property. What is that but discouragement?

Photo of Mr Cyril Bence Mr Cyril Bence , Dunbartonshire East

I remember that a couple of years ago the Minister of Housing and Local Government was saying that where local authorities met vicious landlords of private property, they would have power to take over the property. That is municipalising. We said that 13 years ago and we said it again in 1955. It is now being said by hon. Members opposite in 1964. If the electors are foolish enough to return them again, I have no doubt that encouragement of the landlords will return, to the discouragement of the tenants.

The hon. Gentleman also proposed that building societies should be given power to finance investment building. Building societies were established to accept the savings of ordinary people and to use them to enable the same sort of ordinary people to buy their own homes for owner-occupation. Building societies have limited funds. They do not have an inexhaustible credit and they are not creators of credit like the banks. They can lend only what they can borrow. Provided a man has a secure job and is earning more than £1,000 a year, the building societies will give him a mortgage.

Photo of Sir Eric Errington Sir Eric Errington , Aldershot

The position is that the assets of the building societies total about £5,000 million. Does not the hon. Gentleman think that it is worth while their being able to advance money to people who are prepared to build accommodation for the ordinary man and woman who want it?

Photo of Mr Cyril Bence Mr Cyril Bence , Dunbartonshire East

That is what they are doing. They are lending money to people who are prepared to buy houses. The societies have no idle money and are lending to the limit of their capacity. If a percentage of the money they have is granted to building speculators to build houses to let, there will be less money in the pool to provide for owner-occupation. I believe in owner-occupation. It is a desirable feature which any Government should encourage.

We on this side of the House have always said that, but along with it we have said that people who cannot afford to buy their own houses, people to whom no building society, bank or solicitor will grant a mortgage, are also entitled to be housed and that we must therefore balance our resources between those two functions. Surely that is what the State and the local authorities do. We try to find a balance between those who have a credit background and the security and the financial resources to finance their own housing and those people who cannot afford to buy their own.

Photo of Sir Eric Errington Sir Eric Errington , Aldershot

I say that facilities should be made available to private individuals who are prepared to build houses to let. Mo help is given to them at present, largely because of the attitude of hon. Members opposite.

Photo of Mr Cyril Bence Mr Cyril Bence , Dunbartonshire East

Anyone who was in industry between 1945 and 1951 appreciates that, having come through a terrible war, with our factories still on the ground, we had as much as we could do to help the country recover from that devastation.

We paid tribute today to one of our greatest Parliamentarians. I recall how in 1945 the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) said that the future would not be easy. We were faced with a battle, a hard one, he said. Between 1945 and 1951 that battle was fought, and when history comes to be written it will be said that the greatest tribute must be paid to the engineers and technologists throughout British industry for the changeover that was achieved from the production of goods for war to goods for peace, enabling us to lead Europe at that time.

Photo of Mr Philip Hocking Mr Philip Hocking , Coventry South

The hon. Gentleman referred to my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) saying in 1945 that a difficult time was ahead. I must judge the party opposite by what some of his hon. Friends said at the election of that time. When my right hon. Friend spoke about those things Aneurin Bevan was saying that his proposals were chickenfeed.

Photo of Mr Cyril Bence Mr Cyril Bence , Dunbartonshire East

I hope that in 1982 Parliamentarians will not be reminding hon. Members of what happened between 1959 and 1964. There is no more wasted effort than continually to refer to the past. We are dealing with a contemporary problem—that of housing our people. To solve it someone, a section of people in this country, must be prepared to submit to discipline.

It must be remembered that our most precious asset is land and that we cannot rehouse our people while a free market in land is perpetuated. I am getting tired of hearing talk about people owing the land on which their houses stand. If the general public believe that, it is obvious that our system of disseminating news has something wrong with it. The vast bulk of property in Scotland is feu property, while in England and Wales the majority of property is leasehold.

Photo of Mr Cyril Bence Mr Cyril Bence , Dunbartonshire East

I assure the hon. Gentleman that at least 40 per cent. of all domestic and commercial property in Britain stands on leasehold land. I understand that the figure for the Midlands is higher. Many houses built in Scotland in the 1930s carry a feu of £4 a year, but lots of houses now being built there, which are of the same size but often on smaller sites, have a feu of £30 a year. Ground rents have gone up and up. They are a splendid investment. We need only look at Stock Exchange reports of price movements to see that ground rents always make the biggest increase.

The increased prices of land and other things that we have seen in the last 13 years are due to the Government's failure to halt inflation. Rising prices are due to a fall in the value of money. As a nation, we have failed to tackle the problem of full employment without inflation. The Government were returned in 1951 to solve that problem, but they have not been able to stop the hole in the purse. Increased prices of land, houses and every commodity are due to the present Government making the hole in the purse bigger.

In many cases the hole in the purse has been made bigger by the owners of land and property. It is they who push the spiral of wages chasing rising prices; it is not the rising prices that chase increased wages. It is not true to talk, as hon. Members do, about increasing wages being chased by increasing prices. The monetary system commands the price structure—not the workpeople. And the large property owner is the worst element in this mad rush of fantastic increases in land values.

For example, 170 acres of land at Bishop's Stortford changed hands at £42,000 and were later sold for residential purposes for £1·7 million. The firm of Ferranti is to return £4 million to the Ministry, which means that it has made £1·5 million. But for that £1·5 million we get the Bloodhound, while for the other sum of over £1 million we get nothing extra at all. Manufacturers create things, give us something and make a profit, but here we have people making fantastic profits and giving us nothing. They do not create the land—they just hold on to it until they have the ear of the right people and can get planning permission.

The hon. Member for Coventry, South talked about a private building contractor providing houses to let. The hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do that it is only in London and Birmingham, where there is terrific pressure and the income level is high, that the private building contractor can find a market for his houses. In Glasgow, it would be impossible for any speculative builder to house the thousands of people who need homes by the normal commercial practice of building houses and letting them. The Minister knows that, and so does the hon. Gentleman. The private building contractor may be able to help to some extent, but if the party opposite wants to encourage him, let them stop this racket of land speculation so that he can have a better chance to get land at a more modest price.

The hon. Member for Coventry, South and his hon. Friends are not helping the Minister when they tolerate this racket in land prices. Time and again all over the country one has seen small builders being squeezed out by the big combines. I could bring details of cases to prove that the little man has not had a chance. The hon. Member said that in this country the dice are loaded against the landlords. I never heard such nonsense. They are not loaded against them in the Metropolitan area of London and in the Midlands. With the gradual decontrol of housing since 1957 the dice have been loaded against the homeless of London, Birmingham and Glasgow. This is a piece of impertinence on the part of the hon. Member. He should go to Glasgow or to the East End of London and tell the homeless, "You are doing all right. The dice are not loaded against you. They are loaded against the landlord."

I have been getting tired of listening to hon. Members opposite these last six months speaking in defence of the Government of the last 13 years as if all the ills of the country from 1951 to 1964 were not the fault of the Administration or were the result of failure of policies but resulted from the failure of the Opposition, as if we on this side of the House were the Government. The hon. Member for Coventry, South suggested that we on this side were responsible for everything that is wrong with the country. We had not encouraged the landlords. We had not encouraged the cement manufacturers. I suppose that the hon. Member objects that we put down Questions and ask that these various institutions should be brought before the Monopolies Commission.

People are sick and tired of a Government who whenever anything goes wrong can do nothing but blame the Opposition and who become nasty and vicious when the Opposition carry out their job which is to criticise the Establishment. We on this side of the House will not be the Opposition for more than three more days and I dare say that this will be the last speech that I shall make in Opposition. I shall be on the other side of the House in the next Parliament. It is nonsense and humbug on the part of hon. and right hon. Members opposite to blame the Opposition for the Government's failure to govern our society as they should have done and their failure to recognise the problems of modern times. The Government have had their heads in the nineteenth century although their bodies have been here.

9.3 p.m.

Photo of Sir Eric Errington Sir Eric Errington , Aldershot

I want to make only three points. We do not blame the Opposition for their policies or lack of policies—we blame them for being unconstructive. They never produce anything which would help solve the problems the country is facing.

It is important that the labour position in the jobbing industry should be watched carefully in relation to building work done under improvement grants. Large numbers of jobbing workers have transferred to construction work and there is a serious shortage of jobbing labour to carry out the purposes of the improvement grants which are important for preservation of existing houses. I understand that arrangements have been made for a separation in the statistics of those who are doing jobbing work and those who are doing constructive work. That is very useful.

The debate today has been wide-ranging and has not really dealt with the main issue to the extent that it ought to have done, namely, the question of decontrol under the 1957 Act. I believe that both the Opposition and the Government should be realists about this. I do not believe that the Opposition are. I do not believe that in denigrating the 1957 Act they have considered the question of labour mobility. Labour mobility, as I understand it, though difficult to pin down to a particular figure, is somewhere between 250,000 and 300,000 people during the year. If we had continued with the controlled houses there would have been no room, at any rate so far as private rented houses were concerned, for those people who had to move in order to get to the work that they wanted to do in other parts of the country. I think that it has not been realised how important this item is and has very much to do with the solution of the problems of industry as well as housing accommodation.

The second matter that I want to speak on is the question of subsidised housing. I think that this debate was initiated by the party opposite because it thought that it would be rather satisfactory from its electoral point of view and it has stressed very much the importance of subsidised housing. I am sure that the question of subsidies is getting completely out of hand, and that it has to be dealt with and that when we get back it will be dealt with. But there are 3½ million council tenants receiving subsidies of £128 million a year and, in addition, there are 2½ million of rent-controlled owners of property who are also contributing a subsidy by reason of the fact that they are not able to charge a realistic rent for their accommodation. Those facts will dawn upon the public at no distant date. I do not think the other side of the House has realised there are more people who subsidise than those who are subsidised. Hon. Members opposite may find that out during the course of the next month or two.

9.4 p.m.

Photo of Mr James MacColl Mr James MacColl , Widnes

I make only two comments on what the hon. Member for Aldershot (Sir E. Erring-ton) has said. The first is that if his argument is that we help the mobility of labour by creeping decontrol and that it will encourage people to leave controlled houses to move into areas where there is no hope of getting controlled houses, that is as fitting a comment on the 1957 Act as I should like to make.

The other comment is this. There are two things which I am certain will not happen before the General Election. First, the right hon. Gentleman will not finish his review of subsidies if it means that he will face the electorate with suggested reductions in subsidies. The second is that the Milner Holland Committee will not report until the election is over. I have no doubt that that Report is potentially such a blow to the whole policy of the Government that has been deployed today that it could never be allowed to see the light of day until afterwards.

Having made those rather controversial remarks, I should like to say that we and every decent person must welcome the information that we have had about improved housing output. It would be silly if, in the process of tightening up party controversies, one forgot the importance to everyone of getting improved housing output. Therefore, I am sure that everyone on this side of the House is glad to have heard the news that the Minister has given us, and we hope that his optimistic predictions will be confirmed by events. But he must forgive us if we view these things with a certain amount of caution and cynicism.

The right hon. Gentleman complained that he had been misquoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) about his remark in March that housing was given an early priority under the Conservative Government and that it was then rather dropped into the background. But that is precisely what happened, and that is our complaint. We complained that the housing figures were pushed up to a very great extent—higher than anything that has been reached since, and not equalled in any year since—and then they were allowed to run down. Those houses were lost, in the sense that the resources of material and of building labour and the opportunities of getting the houses will never come back.

One does not excuse that position by saying 14 years later, "Now we have at last solved the problem of keeping an increased housing target." That is the danger of all housing targets, that they become an electoral stunt. The right hon. Gentleman must not be surprised if a few people are inclined to be suspicious about the present position.

Next I want to ask about the shortages of building materials and the danger of having a slow-down in completions. We have had a certain amount of information about this. The right hon. Gentleman quoted some figures about housing under construction, but it does not follow that because the figures for housing under construction are high, we will get a bumper figure at the end. High figures of housing under construction often mean slow completions, and are indicative not of a good programme but of a programme which is choked in the pipeline and in danger of failing to produce the houses in time. That is something about which we should like more reassurance before we accept completely the figures which the right hon. Gentleman gave.

Next I want to emphasise that the housing figures put too great a strain on the land situation. The effect is that the demand for land will be intensified and quickened, and the slowly moving procedure of finding and releasing land will mean that we shall be faced with all the signs of enormous increases in the price of land, exploiting and milking the housing market.

My final observation on the subject of the target, to underline what I have already said, is this. If we are to have an efficient housing output, we must guarantee for the future that the figures will be maintained. The great complaint of all housing authorities over the past 10 or 12 years has been about the hideous business of stop and start, the slow running down of the work of architects, surveyors and building foremen who built up teams for housing development but who had to cut down again because Government policy has been based on restriction in housing. If it happened—God forbid that it should—that the Conservatives came back to Government, triumphant at having achieved a target of 400,000 houses, and if the same thing happened as happened in 1956, that is, a slow whittling down of the figure, all the confidence of the building industry would be destroyed. All chance would be lost of having real development in building techniques, industrialised building and the rest, all the things which depend upon a large and assured demand for houses. Therefore, it is most important to be sure of being able to maintain the output. What is important is not a maximum figure, which, once they have achieved it, people can sit back breathless and look at. What really matters is the maintenance of a steady figure, come wind, come weather.

This is what lies behind the difficulties regarding the rate of interest which we have been discussing. There was a little more controversy today between my right hon. Friend the Member for Fulham and the Minister about what we meant by a differential rate of interest. Believe it or not, I once nearly became an economics don, but that was a very long time ago and I do not hold myself out now as a pundit in these matters. But what we say seems perfectly simple. We believe that one must have a low rate of interest for all types of housing building. If the general market rate is low, then the problem, to some extent, solves itself and one does not need to do anything in particular. If, on the other hand, the general rate of interest happens to be high, one must shelter housing from the effects of that high rate of interest because, otherwise, one cannot have the smooth flow of housing which is a vital national interest. It is a judgment of priorities. Making a judgment of social priorities, one has to determine to keep housing going smoothly because that is the only way to secure one's object.

Now, slum clearance. The right hon. Gentleman told us that he thought that he was in sight of solving the slum-clearance problem.

Photo of Sir Keith Joseph Sir Keith Joseph , Leeds North East

Sir K. Josephindicated dissent.

Photo of Mr James MacColl Mr James MacColl , Widnes

The right hon. Gentleman now says "No". I was being charitable to him. I thought that, with the exception of about three towns—and he thought that the programme in these could be speeded up—he could see his way ahead. The right hon. Gentleman has at least been consistent today. The last time I heard him speak on this subject, he grew more enthusiastic as he went along. I am referring to his speech last March when he started by saying that all but 12 will have cleared their slums by 1973". A column later, he is reported as saying: … all slums now known as slums … will be virtually cleared by 1973". Then on the next page, he is reported as saying: … by 1973 … there will be virtually no more slums".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18tth March, 1964; Vol. 691, c. 1419–28.] The right hon. Gentleman made those three different statements as he got warmed up. He now appears as the great man who is driving forward in sweeping away the slums which have shackled our life for so long. This is to be the great election slogan which will win the election for the Government—the great sweeping away of slums by 1973.

The only difficulty about this is that the Conservative Party has already contested two elections on precisely the same slogan. The right hon. Gentleman got angry about things which were said to be in a manifesto which were not in fact there. I took the trouble to look up, not in the manifesto but in a Conservative document, a speech in January, 1955, by the present Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations. He said: We think there may be about a million houses"— that is, slums. If these figures prove correct I suggest that we should aim at breaking the back of the problem in most areas within 10 years"— that is now—10 years since the date of the 1955 election. Today the Minister said that there were still two-thirds of a million slums. It is, therefore, a little hard to see how this somewhat complicated vertebra of the back of the slum clearance problem has been broken.

Photo of Sir Keith Joseph Sir Keith Joseph , Leeds North East

The fact is, as I also said today, that over ½ million of the 1 million slums referred to by my right hon. Friend in 1955 have been demolished. We have now discovered a further 200,000 or so houses which need to be demolished. But the back has been broken of my right hon. Friend's then target.

Photo of Mr James MacColl Mr James MacColl , Widnes

It must be a curious animal if its back is broken when only half of these houses have been demolished. But that is so like the right hon. Gentleman. He transfixes the nation by speaking of this wonderful thing that he has discovered—that there are more slums that there were in the returns upon which the Conservative Party based its programme. He speaks as if this was something which only the very wise and most foresighted and prudent statesman can see. But the Government were told about it at the time.

When the Housing Repairs and Rents Act was being discussed, one of the major arguments which we on this side used was that Section 1, which dealt with the survey, would be impracticable simply because one could not suddenly launch people on what was admitted to be a whistle-stop survey, going from house to house and making a quick assessment of the slums. It is true that there are far more slums than the slum clearance programme has been based upon. It is true that, so far from having made a tremendous advance in slum clearance, we are desperately attempting to keep up. Far from having completed the programme in 10 years, we are now back where we started, and we must face another 10 years of slum clearance.

Last night in the train I was looking through the agenda of the Widnes council, which is meeting tonight. This was not something which I obtained by a telephone call to the town hall. The slum clearance position in Widnes caught my eye. In the 1955 return, the local authority in Widnes said that there were 906 slums to be cleared. Widnes is a town of 50,000 people in the industrial North. It is not the middle of Liverpool and it has not the difficult and intractable problems of the great conurbations. It is an old industrial town.

Since the end of 1955, it has cleared 760 slums, which represents a very substantial inroad into the original assessment of 906. The local authority has not been slack in this matter, but it now finds that it has 1,313 slums waiting to be cleared, more than it originally returned in the survey which it had to make so cursorily in 1955. I quote that merely because it happens to be a fortuitous piece of information which came to my notice from my constituency. I am s are that the position in Widnes is the same as in an enormous number of other areas.

I want to make some comments about land, because the Minister was very truculent in demanding pledges and details about this. The one fly which the right hon. Gentleman never once rose to was what happened to his own policy, put forward in November, 1963, for the acquisition of land by a new public authority in advance of requirements. I hope that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary will help us out on this. I hope that he will spend a little less time wanting details from us and will answer that simple question, because this is not a debating point.

The right hon. Gentleman is far too shrewd a Minister not to realise that he is absolutely naked in the face of increases in land prices. I agreed with almost everything in the speech of the hon. Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple), except his plural of metropolis, which, I understand, is metropoleis and not metropoli. I agree with most of what the hon. Member said about the extending public demand for land and the developing of the public services, including education, roads, and so on, not only in housing but in ancillary matters. All these things will increase the demand for land.

The hon. Member referred particularly to regional sub-development centres, an important new field of Government activity. I happened to find a cutting from The Times of 18th January this year. This is an interesting illustration of how the land racket works. Again, this is not the Labour Party. It is The Times correspondent from York, who stated: Confidential negotiations have been going on between the Ministry of Housing and four local authorities to release huge areas of green belt land around York which could house 60,000 people and put a profit of around £10 million or more into the pocket of local landowners. That is what happens. This is not a scheme It was merely the slightest rumour or suspicion of a thought that there would be development in an area, and one which at that time was losing population. This is immediately seen in terms of millions for landowners. These enormous potential increases in the price of land apply not only in major development schemes but in the kind of things of which we have been speaking, such as the increase in housing output to which I have already referred.

I should like to quote again from the Roskill Report, which was blessed by the hon. Member for the City of Chester. At page 15 it states: The rise in the price of new houses is therefore likely to be due more to the rising price of land than to the cost of building new houses. In other words, we can spend all the time we like improving our methods of building, improving building output and productivity per worker, developing new techniques and industrialised building, but in the end the net result is that the price of land mops it all up because the Government have failed to give themselves the machinery with which to control it.

That is what happened when the Government dismantled the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, without any idea what they were doing. As to asking us for details about our programme, what details did the people have about the programme of the new Conservative Government when they dismantled the 1947 Act? They had none, because the Government did not know themselves. They worked it out by degrees over the years with improvisation from Act to Act as they went along. The Joint Parliamentary Secretary knows this, because he played a rather discreditable part in a political sense in the process, [Interruption.] The result is that those provisions were dismantled and nothing has been put in their place.

That is why we have made our proposals about the Land Commission, not out of gratuitous interference with the freedom of the small property owner but because unless the Government are prepared to grasp the difficulties of the land problem, and to grasp them firmly and decisively, all along they will have this round their neck and all the time that they are trying to do the work of development they will be up against the grip of monopoly exploiting every move they make. Unless we are prepared to tackle that and risk distortion and misunderstanding among the electorate, we are deceiving people because we are going in without the essential weapon of control. Unless we are prepared to do that, we might as well give up.

I end by making some comments about something which I think has been implicit in the debate. It has come out in the discussions about the market price of land, about rent decontrol, and so on, and that is the basic assumption behind the Government's policy that these things can be done if we ration by price. In other words, we do not need controls and we do not need artificial interference with rent or land prices, because if we leave these things to the market price supply will equal demand.

As the Minister said, every one of the houses has been "snapped up", to use his words, no matter how expensive they were. Who snapped them up? Were they snapped up by people with three or four children? That is the question implicit in the whole problem of shortage that we have today, particularly in London.

I should like to give three illustrations. The first is not a question of housing but of education but it concerns land price. I was governor of St. Marylebone Grammar School for many years. It is housed in an old overcrowded building which is in a state of obsolescence. There was an empty site next door into which that school could have expanded. On that site today there is a brand new block of offices belonging to Woolworth's. I am not criticising Woolworth's because the block was built before they got it. The point is that it is clear that the education authority could not be expected to spend money on acquiring that site to expand the school when it had to compete with this commercial development, which the Minister now admits was allowed to get out of hand and went too far.

That is a symbol of the scale of values. Which is the most important? Which is the thing to put in the main street—an ancient school which for many years has educated the people of London or a brand new office block for people who can afford to pay the market price of land? That is rationing by price.

Further along Edgware Road there is Burwood Place in the constituency of the hon. Member for Paddington, South (Mr. R. Allan). This is a fine piece of development. Posters advertise it as office development, housing development and shopping development. This used to be an area of rather shoddy and cheap houses, but now they have been cleared. That is the good side of the picture. The bad side of it is who is going to occupy these flats and offices? I imagine that the rent for a flat in a place like that is a good deal more than the salary that we earn in this place. There is no prospect of people living in desperately overcrowded conditions in London being able to take advantage of that development.

The third example—and I have kept the Minister in touch with the various stages of this development—concerns one room in 42, Sutherland Avenue in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin), which is occupied by a man and his wife and three small children under school age. A management order has been made under the 1961 Act in respect of that accommodation, one condition of which is that adequate heating, lighting and water facilities must be provided for the tenants.

From 2nd June until 11th June when they capitulated, that little family was the victim of warfare. They had one water closet on the ground floor—not their own—and they had no electricity or gas to heat or cook anything. That situation occurred in spite of attempts to apply a management order. This is no doubt what the right hon. Gentleman the other day called a prospering and increasingly sophisticated community…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th March, 1964; Vol. 691, c. 1416.] in the modern world.

This is not the Home Secretary's adventures in Soho; it is the fact that in this year of 1964, within little more than three miles of this place, that kind of armed warfare is going on. Apart from rent control and anything else, the Government would not agree even to saying, "There will be no evictions without a court order", a basic principle of decent society. When my hon. Friend the Member for Paddington, North introduced a Bill to deal with the situation hon. Members opposite turned it down. They are responsible for the monstrous horror that is going on.

9.35 p.m.

Photo of Mr Frederick Corfield Mr Frederick Corfield , Gloucestershire South

I shall not start with any apology for having played a part in destroying a system which produced Pilgrim, and which produced over and over again compulsory purchases at figures below what people legitimately gave for land, and without the destruction of which we could never have hoped for 3¾ million houses since the war, let alone upwards of 400,000 houses today.

We have had a wide-ranging debate and it was perhaps not entirely unexpected that the Opposition, who selected the subject, should have touched upon all three of their main planks of criticism—it would be a euphemism to call it their policy—with which they attack the present Government. They have talked about their Land Commission in relation to land prices. That was mentioned by the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart), and a modified version was referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for North Angus and Mearns (Sir C. Thornton-Kemsley). If the Land Commission has not been specifically referred to by every speaker, land prices have been.

We have also heard a great deal about the Rent Act, and I shall hope to say something about that later on. It was the main theme of the speech by the hon. Member for Hayes and Harrington (Mr. Skeffington) and the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. A. Lewis). My hon. Friend the Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple) covered almost as many points as the rest of the speeches put together. It was a useful contribution. I hope that my hon. Friend will forgive me if I do not pronounce on his version of the plural of great cities—the term that I prefer—or deal with such matters as the National House-Builders Registration Council, except to say that my right hon. Friend, of course, confirms that he is still most anxious that this voluntary scheme will extend to cover a greater number of houses in the country, but that if it does not he is still watching the position and will not flinch from making it a compulsory scheme.

My hon. Friend also referred to town and country planning techniques, which are relevant to something which the hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) said, namely, that quite apart from the price of land the range of subjects to be covered by these techniques becomes more important as the housing programme increases. I agree, but the House will appreciate that the balance between giving a degree of certainty for the future for all the people concerned, on the one hand, and providing the flexibility that is required quickly to meet the planning needs of the community, on the other, is not always easy to find. But we are taking the matter very seriously and will have proposals by which we hope things will be considerably speeded up.

My hon. Friend went on to refer to the need to preserve agricultural land. He talked about the part that villages could play in absorbing the extra population, and he was rather unkindly called to task by the hon. Member for West Ham, North when talking about the use of more timber houses, which the hon. Member for West Ham, North rather unkindly referred to as huts. Timber has a great part to play, although the position regarding byelaws is difficult. In a short speech, my right hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Sir E. Errington) raised three points, and I think it only right to say that the matters will be considered. If I went into them in detail tonight it would be unfair to other hon. Members.

I wish to take up the specific constituency matter which was raised by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Aston (Mr. J. Silverman), to which he devoted the whole of his speech. I wish to make quite clear that negotiations between Rovers and Mrs. Clarke and Mr. Raven had been going on for some time before the transaction was concluded in the autumn of 1962. I understand that negotiations were started as far back as 1957. The planning appeal which came to my right hon. Friend was heard in November 1962, which certainly means that Rovers must have applied for planning permission and been refused by the local planning authority some time considerably earlier and before the conclusion of the transaction in the autumn of that year.

The decision of my right hon. Friend to allow the appeal in respect of the adjoining land was given in June 1963, about nine months after the transaction between Rovers, on the one hand, and Mrs. Clarke and Mr. Raven, on the other, was completed. It is, I think, fair to point out that the price paid for this land by Rovers—£2,000 for three-and-a-half acres— works out at about £570 an acre, and is substantially more than the agricultural value which I have seen estimated, in the only estimate which I have seen of the agricultural value for that area, at £80 an acre. However that may be, one must assume that the vendors had at least something to put them on guard that the land might have considerably more value.

Regarding the decision of my right hon. Friend, the inspector found that the site could be suitably used for housing; that such land was needed in Solihull, and there was insufficient outstanding land selected on the town map. As a revised town map was to be submitted he thought that to permit immediate development would be premature. My right hon. Friend, however, took into account the facts of shortage and that Solihull was about to become a county borough and would be submitting another town map. He decided there was no reason why permision should not be given there and then.

It is not for me to criticise in this House the behaviour of Rovers. I do not know enough about it to do so. It must be appreciated that the value of this land was almost certainly very much greater as part and parcel of the bigger piece than it would have been as a single entity. That has to be borne in mind—

Photo of Mr Frederick Corfield Mr Frederick Corfield , Gloucestershire South

—as has also to be borne in mind that this value was largely controlled by the fact that it became an access to this development—[HON. MEMBERS: "Give way."]—if the hon. Member for Aston will allow me to finish, I will give way—due to the fact that the developers had to provide a bridge which the council estimated would cost about £40,000 in order to make a suitable access.

Photo of Mr Julius Silverman Mr Julius Silverman , Birmingham Aston

While it may be that the value of the small parcel of land—four acres—was enhanced by being part of the whole, surely the value of the rest of the land was enhanced by this plot because of access and planning.

Photo of Mr Frederick Corfield Mr Frederick Corfield , Gloucestershire South

Of course, this works both ways, but it is just as valid one way as the other. All I am endeavouring to do is to show that my right hon. Friend was concerned with the planning merits of the case, and the valuation does not come into it at all. I was explaining to the hon. Member, as I thought he would wish, what the planning situation was and one of the reasons which might well account for the very substantial rise in the value of the land.

Photo of Mr Frederick Corfield Mr Frederick Corfield , Gloucestershire South

The hon. Lady says "humbug", but whether she thinks that or not after all her time in the House, with a planning appeal one cannot work out exactly what will happen as to price when one is concerned only with the suitability of land for development. It is an impossible task and one which hon. Members opposite never thought of undertaking in the 1947 Act and, so far as I am aware, have never proposed to do so since.

Photo of Mr Julius Silverman Mr Julius Silverman , Birmingham Aston

Does not the hon. Gentleman think that the Rover Company had some obligation to these people at whose expense the company has made a profit of £62,000?

Photo of Mr Frederick Corfield Mr Frederick Corfield , Gloucestershire South

I do not think it is for me to comment on a matter of that sort. Quite apart from anything else, I do not know the full details or the information which was before either Rovers or the vendors at the time of the sale. I am certainly not going to misuse Parliamentary privilege to condemn a firm without studying the details. [An HON. MEMBER: "Have an inquiry."] The hon. Member for Widnes—

Hon. Members:

Give way.

Photo of Mr Julius Silverman Mr Julius Silverman , Birmingham Aston

There is a final point about which I wish to ask the Minister. He might not have all the facts, but I asked in a Question and in my speech for an inquiry. Does the Minister accept the necessity for an inquiry?

Photo of Mr Frederick Corfield Mr Frederick Corfield , Gloucestershire South

No, I do not think there is a need for an inquiry into the planning merits of the case. If there were any misrepresentation in the negotiations that is a legal matter between the parties and not something in which a Government Department should intervene.

I was trying to turn to the speech of the hon. Member for Widnes and I wished to run briefly through some of the points he made. He said that after the target of 300,000 houses was reached there was a certain levelling off, indeed a slight running down. But this was because it was necessary, and I believe right, to deploy a proportion of the building construction industry on other things such as schools, roads and hospitals. [HON. MEMBERS: "Offices."] Hon. Members say "offices" but so far as I recollect support for the Offices, Shops and Railway Premises Bill did not come only from this side of the House. It is time that hon. Members opposite realised that in nearly all the advanced engineering firms today a bigger and bigger proportion of the work is done in the office than on the floor of the factory. If we are to compete in the world, offices are as important to us as factories.

The hon. Member, among others, talked about the Land Commission. He expressed the hope that I should not ask too many questions about the Labour Party's proposals. I shall probably disappoint him, because it seems to me that there is no merit whatever in a proposal to change for the sake of change, and that it is right that we should examine whether the proposed change will do what it is claimed it will do and whether it will improve the situation. The proposal is the most radical alteration in the property law of this country since the abolition of the feudal system. It has certain characteristics in common with the feudal system. It is at least right that we should look at it with a degree of care.

At the beginning of the debate my right hon. Friend once again presented the House with a masterly account of the remarkable progress which has been achieved in housing in 13 years of Conservative Government, and I was glad that the hon. Member for Widnes admitted that it would be silly to ignore the improved productivity in house building and, I think he said, the increase in the number of houses being built. Unless it can be shown that either private developers or local authorities are not building to meet a demand, then the most important factor in matching supply with demand and in closing the gap between households and houses is the number of houses which have been built.

Under Conservative Governments this has been increasing rapidly and has reached a peak in a space of time which the Opposition thought impossible, impracticable and, indeed, fraudulent. Their own statements make it clear that by delaying the achievement of a target of 300,000 houses a year they could not have matched the number which we have reached today.

Their criticisms today, as on other occasions, would not build one extra house. They have been anxious to portray to the country the idea that there are vast savings in prices around the corner provided that the country is foolish enough to return them as a Government in the autumn.

They have three main proposals—a Land Commission, the reimposition of rent control and special interest rates. I am still as muddled as I have ever been about the views of the hon. Member for Fulham, on the one hand, and those of the Leader of the Opposition, on the other hand. Reading the right hon. Gentleman's letter to the chairman of the Council of the Building Societies Association, it seems that the last sentence is a categorical statement that there will be no special interest rate for housing. It reads: As you will see, however, we are not, as your questions assume, proposing to introduce through the public sector some special or discriminatory form of subsidised loans for house purchase. If the earlier part of the letter is not quite as categorical, the implication is strongly that local authorities will have to rely for their finance for housing, as for everything else, on the Public Works Loan Board at a rate of interest reflecting the Government's power to borrow. The hon. Member for Fulham puts a gloss on that when he says—and I think he will agree that I am fairly paraphrasing what he said the other day—that the objective of the party opposite will be to lower interest rates generally and, if that is not sufficient, to give a special interest rate to local authorities for housing.

If local authorities—the implication is that they will—pass on that favourable rate to help the private householder, then provision is to be made to balance that through the building societies so that the building societies will not be injured. But the clear implication is that in these circumstances there would be, either directly or indirectly, a special favourable rate for house purchasers in the private sector, and I still do not see how that can possibly tie up with what the right hon. Gentleman said in his letter to the Building Societies Association.

I do not have much time in which to pose the important questions on the Land Commission but I am grateful to the hon. Member for Fulham for at least giving me the chance to read his article in The Times yesterday instead of having to make notes today. I am bound to say that I am not very much further forward, because the vital details and the vital questions remain unanswered. All of us who have given some study to the problem of betterment know that nearly all the cases in the past and all the methods which have been considered over a number of years break down on matters of detail, not the least important of which is the formula by which to

assess the price to be paid to the vendor and the terms given to the purchaser.

These are the matters on which hon. Members opposite remain noticeably silent and they are as vital to this as they were to the development charge system. Whatever the hon. Member for Widnes may say about the development charge, I notice that hon. Members opposite have never for a moment proposed to reinstate it. Hon. Members opposite ask what we would do: we would not do anything until we were certain that it would improve the situation.

The crux of the housing problem remains to match supply to demand by building more houses more quickly and, in the meanwhile, making the best use of the stock we have. On all these fronts the Government and my right hon. Friend, in particular, have made and are making unprecedented progress. The Opposition have put forward not one constructive idea to build one extra house.

In asking the House to reject the Motion, I ask hon. Members to recall that it is moved by a party which so underestimated the problem that its spokesmen of the day was pledging that he would solve the problem by 1950 and which was so lacking in confidence that it did not think that it was possible to produce more than 200,000 houses a year for a number of years and which regarded that as the right priority in 1957. It is a party which, wittingly or unwittingly, is misleading the country into believing that there are great savings in price to be made by adopting its proposals.

In rejecting the Motion tonight, I am certain that we shall be anticipating the country in throwing out the party opposite.

Question put, That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question:—

The House divided: Ayes 225, Noes 283.

Division No. 144.]AYES[10.0 p.m.
Abse, LeoBaxter, William (Stirlingshire, W.)Blyton, William
Albu, AustenBeaney, AlanBoardman, H.
Alldritt, W. H.Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.Boston, T. G.
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)Bence, CyrilBottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)Benn, Anthony WedgwoodBowden, Rt. Hn. H. W. (Leics, S. W.)
Awbery, Stan (Bristol, Central)Bennett, J. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)Bowles, Frank
Bacon, Miss AliceBenson, Sir GeorgeBoyden, James
Barnett, GuyBlackburn, F.Braddock, Mrs. E. M.
Bradley, TomHughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)Popplewell, Ernest
Bray, Dr. JeremyHynd, H. (Accrington)Prentice, R. E.
Brockway, A. FennerHynd, John (Attercliffe)Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)Probert, Arthur
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)Irving, Sydney (Dartford)Pursey, Cmdr, Harry
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)Jay, Rt. Hon. DouglasRandall, Harry
Callaghan, JamesJeger, GeorgeRankin, John
Carmichael, NeilJenkins, Roy (Stechford)Redhead, E. C
Castle, Mrs. BarbaraJohnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)Reynolds, G. W.
Corbet, Mrs. FredaJones, Dan (Burnley)Rhodes, H.
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Cronin, JohnKelley, RichardRobertson, John (Paisley)
Crosland, AnthonyKenyon, CliffordRobinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)
Cullen, Mrs. AliceKing, Dr. HoraceRodgers, W. T. (Stockton)
Dalyell, TamLawson, GeorgeRoss, William
Darling, GeorgeLee, Frederick (Newton)Royle, Charles (Salford, West)
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda. E.)Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.
Davies, Harold (Leek)Lever, Harold (Cheetham)Silkin, John
Davies, Ifor (Gower)Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)Silverman, Julius (Aston)
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)Skeffington, Arthur
Deer, GeorgeLipton, MarcusSlater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)
Delargy, HughLoughlin, CharlesSlater, Joseph (Sedgefield)
Dempsey, JamesMabon, Dr. J. DicksonSmall, William
Diamond, JohnMcBride, N.Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)
Dodds, NormanMcCann, J.Snow, Julian
Doig, PeterMacColl, JamesSorensen, R. W.
Donnelly, DesmondMacDermot, NiallSoskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
Driberg, TomMcInnes, JamesSpriggs, Leslie
Duffy, A. E. P. (Colne Valley)McKay, John (Wallsend)Steele, Thomas
Edelman, MauriceMackenzie, GregorStewart, Michael (Fulham)
Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)Mackie, John (Enfield, East)Stonehouse, John
Edwards, Robert (Bilston)McLeavy, FrankStones, William
Evans, AlbertMacPherson, MalcolmStrauss, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Vauxhall)
Fernyhough, E.Mahon, SimonStross, Sir Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)
Finch, HaroldMallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)Swain, Thomas
Fletcher, EricMallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)Swingler, Stephen
Foley, MauriceManuel, ArchieSymonds, J. B.
Foot, Dingle (Ipswich)Mapp, CharlesTaverne, D.
Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)Marsh, RichardTaylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Forman, J. C.Mason, RoyThomas, George (Cardiff, W.)
Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)Mayhew, ChristopherThomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)
Galpern, Sir MyerMellish, R. J.Thompson, Dr. Alan (Dunfermline)
George, Lady MeganLloyd (Crmrthn)Mendelson, J. J.Thomson, G. M. (Dundee, E.)
Ginsburg, DavidMillan, BruceThornton, Ernest
Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.Milne, EdwardTomney, Frank
Gourlay, HarryMitchison, G. R.Wainwright, Edwin
Grey, CharlesMonslow, WalterWarbey, William
Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)Moody, A. S.Watkins, Tudor
Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)Morris, Charles (Openshaw)Weitzman, David
Griffiths, W. (Exchange)Morris, John (Aberavon)Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)Moyle, ArthurWhite, Mrs. Eirene
Hamilton, William (West Fife)Mulley, FrederickWhitlock, William
Hannan, WilliamNeal, HaroldWigg, George
Harper, JosephNoel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)Wilkins, W. A.
Hayman, F. H.Oliver, G. H.Willey, Frederick
Healey, DenisO'Malley, B. K.Williams, LI. (Abertillery)
Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur (Rwly Regis)Oswald, ThomasWilliams, W. T. (Warrington)
Herbison, Miss MargaretOwen, WillWillis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)
Hill, J. (Midlothian)Padley, W. E.Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Hilton, A. V.Paget, R. T.Winterbottom, R. E.
Holman, PercyPannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Houghton, DouglasPargiter, G. A.Woof, Robert
Howell, Charles A. (Perry Barr)Parker, JohnWyatt, Woodrow
Howell, Denis (Small Heath)Parkin, B. T.Yates, Victor (Ladywood)
Howie, W.Pavitt, LaurenceZilliacus, K.
Hoy, James H.Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)
Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)Peart, FrederickTELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)Pentland, NormanMr. Short and
Mr. G. H. R. Rogers.
NOES
Agnew, Sir PeterBennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos & Fhm)Boyle, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward
Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.)Berkeley, HumphryBraine, Bernard
Allason, JamesBidgood, John C.Brewis, John
Amery, Rt. Hon. JulianBiffen, JohnBromley -Davenport, Lt. -Col. Sir Walter
Anderson, D. C.Biggs-Davison, JohnBrooke, Rt. Hon. Henry
Arbuthnot, Sir JohnBingham, R. M.Brown, Alan (Tottenham)
Ashton, Sir HubertBishop, Sir PatrickBrowne, Percy (Torrington)
Atkins, HumphreyBlack, Sir CyrilBryan, Paul
Awdry, Daniel (Chippenham)Bossom, Hon. CliveBuck, Antony
Barlow, Sir JohnBourne-Arton, A.Bullard, Denys
Barter, JohnBowen, Roderic (Cardigan)Bullus, Wing Commander Eric
Batsford, BrianBox, DonaldButcher, Sir Herbert
Beamish, Col. Sir TuftonBoyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. JohnCampbell, Gordon
Carr, Compton (Baron's Court)Hughes-Young, MichaelPitt, Dame Edith
Carr, Rt. Hon. Robert (Mitcham)Hulbert, Sir NormanPounder, Rafton
Cary, Sir RobertHutchison, Michael ClarkPowell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch
Chataway, ChristopherIremonger, T. L.Price, David (Eastleigh)
Clark, Henry (Antrim, North)Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)Prior, J. M. L.
Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)Jennings, J. C.Prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho
Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)Johnson, Eric (Blackley)Pym, Francis
Cleaver, LeonardJones, Arthur (Northants, S.)Quennell, Miss J. M.
Cole, NormanJones, Rt. Hn. Aubrey (Hall Green)Ramsden, Rt. Hon. James
Cooke, RobertJoseph, Rt. Hon. Sir KeithRawlinson, Rt. Hon. Sir Peter
Cooper, A. E.Kerans, Cdr. J. S.Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin
Cooper-Key, Sir NeillKerby, Capt. HenryRees, Hugh (Swansea, W.)
Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.Kerr, Sir HamiltonRees-Davies, W. R. (Isle of Thanet)
Corfield, F. V.Kershaw, AnthonyRenton, Rt. Hon. David
Costain, A. P.Kimball, MarcusRidley, Hon. Nicholas
Coulson, MichaelKitson, TimothyRidsdale, Julian
Courtney, Cdr. AnthonyLambton, ViscountRippon, Rt. Hon. Geoffrey
Critchley, JulianLancaster, Col. C. G.Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. Sir OliverLangford-Holt, Sir JohnRodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)
Crowder, F. P.Leavey, J. A.Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard
Curran, CharlesLegge-Bourke, Sir HarryRoyle, Anthony (Richmond, Surrey)
Dalkeith, Earl ofLewis, Kenneth (Rutland)Russell, Sir Ronald
Dance, JamesLilley, F. J. P.Sandys, Rt. Hon. Duncan
Lindsay, Sir MartinScott-Hopkins, James
Deedes, Rt. Hon. W. F.Linstead, Sir HughSharples, Richard
Donaldson, Cmndr. C. E. M.Litchfield, Capt. JohnShaw, M,
Doughty, CharlesLloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfield)Shepherd, William
Douglas-Home, Rt. Hon. Sir AlecLloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)Skeet, T. H. H.
Eden, Sir JohnLongbottom, CharlesSmith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)Longden, GilbertSmyth, Rt. Hon. Brig. Sir John
Elliott, R. W. (Newc'tle-upon-Tyne, N.)Loveys, Walter H.Spearman. Sir Alexander
Emery, PeterLubbock EricSpeir, Rupert
Emmet, Hon. Mrs. EvelynLucas, Sir JocelynStainton, Keith
Errington, Sir EricLucas-Tooth, Sir HughStevens, Geoffrey
Farey-Jones, F. W.McAdden, Sir StephenSteward, Harold (Stockport, S.)
Farr, JohnMacArthur, IanStodart, J. A.
Fisher, NigelMcLaren, MartinStoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm
Fletcher-Cooke, CharlesMaclean, SirFitzroy (Bute & N. Ayrs)Storey, Sir Samuel
Foster, Sir JohnMacleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.)Studholme, Sir Henry
Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)MacLeod, Sir John (Ross & Cromarty)Summers, Sir Spencer
Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.McMaster, Stanley R.Tapsell, Peter
Gammans, LadyMacmillan, Rt. Hn. Harold (Bromley)Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Gardner, EdwardMacmillan, Maurice (Halifax)Taylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.)
Gibson-Watt, DavidMaddan, MartinTaylor, Frank (M'ch'st'r, Moss Side)
Giles, Rear-Admiral MorganMaginnis, John E.Taylor, Sir William (Bradford, N.)
Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, Central)Maitland, Sir JohnTeeling, Sir William
Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham)Markham, Major Sir FrankTemple, John M.
Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.)Marlowe, AnthonyThatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Goodhart, PhilipMarples, Rt. Hon. ErnestThomas, Sir Leslie (Canterbury)
Goodhew, VictorMarshall, Sir DouglasThompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)
Gough, FrederickMarten, NeilThornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin
Cower, RaymondMathew, Robert (Honiton)Thorpe, Jeremy
Grant-Ferris, R.Matthews, Gordon (Meriden)Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)
Green, AlanMaude, Angus (Stratford-on-Avon)Touche, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon
Gresham Cooke, R.Mawby, RayTurner, Colin
Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.
Grimond, Rt. Hon. J.Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.Tweedsmuir, Lady
Grosvenor, Lord RobertMills, Strattonvan Straubenzee, W. R.
Gurden, HaroldMiscampbell, NormanVaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hon. Sir John
Hall, John (Wycombe)Montgomery, FergusVickers, Miss Joan
Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)More, Jasper (Ludlow)Wade, Donald
Harrison, Brian (Maldon)Morrison, Charles (Devizes)Walder, David
Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)Morrison, John (Salisbury)Walker, Peter
Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)Mott-Radclyffe, Sir CharlesWalker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir Derek
Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)Nabarro, Sir GeraldWall, Patrick
Harvie Anderson, MissNeave, AireyWard, Dame Irene
Hastings, StephenNoble, Rt. Hon. MichaelWells, John (Maidstone)
Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir LionelNugent, Rt. Hon. Sir RichardWilliams, Sir Rolf Dudley (Exeter)
Heath, Rt. Hon. EdwardOakshott, Sir HendrieWilliams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Henderson, Sir John (Cathcart)Orr, Capt. L. P. S.Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
Hendry, ForbesOrr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Hendon, North)Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Hiley, JosephOsborn, John (Hallam)Wise, A. R.
Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe)Page, Graham (Crosby)Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Hobson, Rt. Hon. Sir JohnPage, John (Harrow, West)Wood, Rt. Hon. Richard
Hocking, Philip N.Panned, Norman (Kirkdale)Woodhouse, Hon. Christopher
Hogg, Rt. Hon. QuintinPartridge, E.Woodnutt, Mark
Holland, PhilipPearson, Frank (Clitheroe)Woollam, John
Hollingworth, JohnPeel, JohnWorsley, Marcus
Holt, ArthurPercival, IanYates, William (The Wrekin)
Hopkins, AlanPeyton, John
Hornby, R. P.Pickthorn, Sir KennethTELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Dame P.Pike, Miss MervynMr. Finlay and Mr. J. E. B. Hill.
Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral JohnPitman, Sir James

Question put, That the proposed words be there added:—

The House divided: Ayes 275, Noes 226.

Division No. 145.]AYES[10.12 p.m.
Agnew, Sir PeteerGalbraith, Hon. T. G. D.MacLeod, Sir John (Ross&Cromarty)
Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.)Gammans, LadyMcMaster, Stanley R.
Allason, JamesGardner, EdwardMacmillan, Maurice (Halifax)
Amery, Rt. Hon. JulianGibson-Watt, DavidMaddan, Martin
Anderson, D. C.Giles, Rear-Admiral MorganMaginnis, John E.
Arbuthnot, Sir JohnGilmour, Ian (Norfolk, Central)Maitland, Sir John
Ashton, Sir HubertGlyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham)Markham, Major Sir Frank
Atkins, HumphreyGlyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.)Marlowe, Anthony
Awdry, Daniel (Chippenham)Goodhart, PhilipMarples, Rt. Hon. Ernest
Barlow, Sir JohnGoodhew, VictorMarshall, Sir Douglas
Barter, JohnGough, FrederickMarten, Neil
Batsford, BrianCower, RaymondMathew, Robert (Honiton)
Beamish, Col. Sir TuftonGrant-Ferris, R.Matthews, Gordon (Meriden)
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos & Fhm)Green, AlanMaude, Angus (Stratford-on-Avon)
Berkeley, HumphryGresham Cooke, R.Mawby, Ray
Bidgood, John C.Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.
Biffen, JohnGrosvenor, Lord RobertMaydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.
Biggs-Davison, JohnGurden, HaroldMills, Stratton
Bingham, R. M.Hall, John (Wycombe)Miscampbell, Norman
Bishop, Sir PatrickHamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)Montgomery, Fergus
Black, Sir CyrilHarrison, Brian (Maldon)More, Jasper (Ludlow)
Bossom, Hon. CliveHarrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)Morrison, Charles (Devizes)
Bourne-Arton, A.Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)Morrison, John (Salisbury)
Box, DonaldHarvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. JohnHarvie Anderson, MissNabarro, Sir Gerald
Boyle, Rt. Hon. Sir EdwardHastings, StephenNeave, Airey
Braine, BernardHeald, Rt. Hon. Sir LionelNoble, Rt. Hon. Michael
Brewis, JohnHeath, Rt. Hon. EdwardOakshott, Sir Hendrie
Bromley-Davenport, Lt. -Col, Sir WalterHenderson, Sir John (Cathcart)Orr, Capt. L. P. S.
Brooke, Rt. Hon. HenryHendry, ForbesOrr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Hendon, North)
Brown, Alan (Tottenham)Hiley, JosephOsborn, John (Hallam)
Browne, Percy (Torrington)Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe)Page, Graham (Crosby)
Bryan, PaulHill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)Page, John (Harrow, West)
Buck, AntonyHobson, Rt. Hon. Sir JohnPannell, Norman (Kirkdale)
Bullard, DenysHocking, Philip N.Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)
Bullus, Wing Commander EricHogg, Rt. Hon. QuintinPercival, Ian
Butcher, Sir HerbertHolland, PhilipPeyton, John
Campbell, GordonHollingworth, JohnPickthorn, Sir Kenneth
Carr Compton (Baron's Court)Hopkins, AlanPike, Miss Mervyn
Hornby, R. P.Pitman, Sir James
Carr, Rt. Hon. Robert (Mitcham)Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Dame P.Pitt, Dame Edith
Cary, Sir RobertHughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral JohnPounder, Rafton
Chataway, ChristopherHughes-Young, MichaelPowell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch
Clark, Henry (Antrim, North)Hulbert, Sir NormanPrice, David (Eastleigh)
Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)Hutchison, Michael ClarkPrior, J. M. L.
Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)Iremonger, T. L.Prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho
Cleaver, LeonardIrvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)Quennell, Miss J. M.
Cole, NormanJennings, J. C.Ramsden, Rt. Hon. James
Cooke, RobertJohnson, Eric (Blackley)Rawlinson, Rt. Hon. Sir Peter
Cooper, A. E.Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin
Cooper-Key, Sir NeillJones, Rt. Hn. Aubrey (Hall Green)Rees, Hugh (Swansea, W.)
Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.Joseph, Rt. Hon. Sir KeithRees-Davies, W. R. (Isle of Thanet)
Corfield, F. V.Kerans, Cdr. J. S.Renton, Rt. Hon. David
Costain, A. P.Kerby, Capt. HenryRidley, Hon. Nicholas
Coulson, MichaelKerr, Sir HamiltonRidsdale, Julian
Courtney, Cdr. AnthonyKershaw, AnthonyRippon, Rt. Hon. Geoffrey
Critchley, JulianKimball, MarcusRoberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. Sir OliverKitson, TimothyRodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)
Crowder, F. P.Lambton, ViscountRopner, Col. Sir Leonard
Curran, CharlesLancaster, Col. C. G.Royle, Anthony (Richmond, Surrey)
Dalkeith, Earl ofLangford-Holt, Sir JohnRussell, Sir Ronald
Dance, JamesLeavey, J. A.Sandys, Ht. Hon. Duncan
Deedes, Rt. Hon. W. F.Legge-Bourke, Sir HarryScott-Hopkins, James
Donaldson, Cmndr. C. E. M.Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)Sharples, Richard
Doughty, CharlesLilley, F. J. P.Shaw, M.
Douglas-Home, Rt. Hon. Sir AlecLinstead, Sir HughShepherd, William
Eden, Sir JohnLitchfield, Capt. JohnSkeet, T. H. H.
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfield)Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)
Elliott, R. W. (Newc'tle-upon-Tyne, N.)Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)Smyth, Rt. Hon. Brig. Sir John
Emery, PeterLongbottom, CharlesSpearman, Sir Alexander
Emmet, Hon. Mrs. EvelynLongden, GilbertSpeir, Rupert
Errington, Sir EricLoveys, Walter H.Stainton, Keith
Farey-Jones F. W.Lucas, Sir JocelynStevens, Geoffrey
Farr, JohnLucas-Tooth, Sir HughSteward, Harold (Stockport, S.)
Finlay, GraemeMcAdden, Sir StephenStodart, J. A.
Fisher, NigelMacArthur, IanStoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm
Fletcher-Cooke, CharlesMcLaren, MartinStorey, Sir Samuel
Foster, Sir JohnMaclean, Sir Fitzroy (Bute &N.Ayrs)Studholme, Sir Henry
Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.)Summers, Sir Spencer
Tapsell, PeterTurner, ColinWills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Taylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.)Tweedsmuir, LadyWise, A. R.
Taylor, Frank (M'ch'st'r, Moss Side)van Straubenzee, W. R.Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Taylor, Sir William (Bradford, N.)Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hon. Sir JohnWood, Rt. Hon. Richard
Teeling, Sir WilliamVickers, Miss JoanWoodhouse, Hon. Christopher
Temple, John M.Walder, DavidWoodnutt, Mark
Thatcher, Mrs. MargaretWalker, PeterWoollam, John
Thomas, Sir Leslie (Canterbury)Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir DerekWorsley, Marcus
Thompson, Sir Kenneth (Walton)Wall, PatrickYates, William (The Wrekin)
Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)Ward, Dame Irene
Thornton-Kemsley, Sir ColinWells, John (Maidstone)TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)Williams, Sir Rolf Dudley (Exeter)Mr. Pym and Mr. Peel.
Touche, Rt. Hon. Sir GordonWilliams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
NOES
Abse, LeoGourlay, HarryMendelson, J. J.
Albu, AustenGrey, CharlesMillan, Bruce
Alldritt, W. H.Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)Milne, Edward
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)Mitchison, G. R.
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)Griffiths, W. (Exchange)Monslow, Walter
Awbery, Stan (Bristol, Central)Grimond, Rt. Hon. J.Morris, Charles (Openshaw)
Bacon, Miss AliceHale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)Morris, John (Aberavon)
Barnett, GuyHamilton, William (West Fife)Moyle, Arthur
Baxter, William (Stirlingshire, W.)Hannan, WilliamMulley, Frederick
Beaney, AlanHarper, JosephNeal, Harold
Bence, CyrilHayman, F. H.Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)
Benn, Anthony WedgwoodHealey, DenisOliver, G. H.
Bennett, J. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur (Rwly Regis)O'Malley, B. K.
Benson, Sir GeorgeHerbison, Miss MargaretOswald, Thomas
Blackburn, F.Hill, J. (Midlothian)Owen, Will
Blyton, WilliamHilton, A. V.Padley, W. E.
Boardman, H.Holman, PercyPaget, R. T.
Boston, T. G.Holt, ArthurPannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)
Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.Houghton, DouglasPargiter, G. A.
Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W. (Leics, S. W.)Howell, Charles A. (Perry Barr)Parker, John
Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan)Howell, Denis (Small Heath)Parkin, B. T.
Bowles, FrankHowie, W.Pavitt, Laurence
Boyden, JamesHoy, James H.Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)
Braddock, Mrs. E. M.Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)Peart, Frederick
Bradley, TomHughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)Pentland, Norman
Bray, Dr. JeremyHughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)Popplewell, Ernest
Brockway, A. FennerHynd, H. (Accrington)Prentice, R. E.
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.Hynd, John (Attercliffe)Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)Probert, Arthur
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)Irving, Sydney (Dartford)Pursey, Cmdr. Harry
Callaghan, JamesJay, Rt. Hon. DouglasRandall, Harry
Carmichael, NeilJeger, GeorgeRankin, John
Castle, Mrs. BarbaraJenkins, Roy (Stechford)Redhead, E. C.
Corbet, Mrs. FredaJohnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)Reynolds, G. W.
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)Jones, Dan (Burnley)Rhodes, H.
Cronin, JohnJones, T. W. (Merioneth)Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Crosland, AnthonyKelley, RichardRobertson, John (Paisley)
Cullen, Mrs. AliceKenyon, CliffordRobinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)
Dalyell, TamKing, Dr. HoraceRodgers, W. T. (Stockton)
Darling, GeorgeLawson, GeorgeRoss, William
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda. E.)Lee, Frederick (Newton)Silkin, John
Davies, Harold (Leek)Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)Silverman, Julius (Aston)
Davies, Ifor (Gower)Lever, Harold (Cheetham)Skeffington, Arthur
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)
Deer, GeorgeLewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)
Delargy, HughLipton, MarcusSmall, William
Dempsey, JamesLoughlin, CharlesSmith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)
Diamond, JohnLubbock, EricSnow, Julian
Dodds, NormanMabon, Dr. J. DicksonSorensen, R. W.
Doig, PeterMcBride, N.Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
Donnelly, DesmondMcCann, J.Spriggs, Leslie
Driberg, TomMacColl, JamesSteele, Thomas
Duffy, A. E. P. (Colne Valley)MacDermot, NiallStewart, Michael (Fulham)
Edelman, MauriceMcInnes, JamesStonehouse, John
Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)McKay, John (Wallsend)Stones, William
Evans, AlbertMackenzie, GregorStrauss, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Vauxhall)
Fernyhough, E.Mackie, John (Enfield, East)Stross, Sir Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)
Finch, HaroldMcLeavy, FrankSwain, Thomas
Fletcher, EricMacPherson, MalcolmSwingler, Stephen
Foley, MauriceMahon, SimonSymonds, J. B.
Foot, Dingle (Ipswich)Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)Taverne, D.
Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Forman, J. C.Manuel, ArchieThomas, George (Cardiff, W.)
Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)Mapp, CharlesThomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)
Galpern, Sir MyerMarsh, RichardThompson, Dr. Alan (Dunfermline)
George, Lady MeganLloyd (Crmrthn)Mason, RoyThomson, G. M. (Dundee, E.)
Ginsburg, DavidMayhew, ChristopherThornton, Ernest
Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.Mellish, R. J.Thorpe, Jeremy
Tomney, FrankWhitlock, WilliamWinterbottom, R. E.
Wade, DonaldWigg, GeorgeWoodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Wainwright, EdwinWilkins, W. A.Woof, Robert
Warbey, WilliamWilley, FrederickWyatt, Woodrow
Watkins, TudorWilliams, LI. (Abertillery)Yates, Victor (Ladywood)
Weitzman, DavidWilliams, W. T. (Warrington)Zilliacus, K.
Wells, William (Walsall, N.)Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)
White, Mrs. EireneWilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Mr. Short and Mr. G. H. R. Rogres.

Main Question, as amended, put and agreed to.

Resolved, That this House deplores the hardship to all those affected by a housing shortage, caused by such factors as the growth in household formation, which can only be cured by building more houses; recognises that the Rent Act 1957, by encouraging the proper maintenance of privately rented houses and their retention in the pool for letting, has helped substantially to improve the overall housing position; welcomes the accelerating pace of slum clearance where it is most needed and the programme of house building now running at near the annual target of 400,000 houses; endorses the Government's policy of increasing the supply of houses and land for needs for all kinds as the best way of restraining the levels of prices and rents; notes that the Labour Party's proposals provide for no larger housing programme and imply a cut in building for would-be owner-occupiers; and believes that, against this background, ambiguous promises of lower interest rates would add not a single house and however implemented could do nothing but raise the price of houses more sharply.