Orders of the Day — Slum Clearance (Manchester)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 22nd November 1965.

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Photo of Mr Alf Morris Mr Alf Morris , Manchester Wythenshawe 12:00 am, 22nd November 1965

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The point which I wished to emphasise with all the strength at my command is that the Conservative Party's way is not the way to solve the housing problems of our great cities. I trust that my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary will utterly reject the advice of his Conservative predecessors and that he will give a clear indication that cities like Manchester will receive much increased help in their urgent task of removing the curse of their slums. In my view the council house tenants of Manchester are shouldering a very heavy share of the burden of slum clearance costs.

One suggestion which he might consider is that of greatly increasing the subsidy payable by the Government into the local authorities' housing revenue accounts to take care of the first 10 to 15 years of the life of new housing accommodation. During this period, the occupants will be rehoused slum dwellers, many of whom will be replaced by the next generation within 10 to 15 years and the remainder of whom will rid themselves of the degradation which living in a slum inevitably produces. At the end of the 10-to-15-year period, it seems fair to assume, the occupants would be able to pay a higher proportion of the economic rent, partly because incomes should have risen by 30 to 35 per cent. in the next 10 years and partly because a much larger proportion of the children of the slum dwellers will have benefited from a full education by the end of the 10-to-15year period and will be commanding salaries in the middle income group.

Perhaps the subsidy could be worked on an escalator so that it is initially much higher than at present but is reducible at the end of every 10-year period. It would be in the national interest also for the subsidy to be designed to encourage local authorities to build larger and better quality accommodation. Too many local authorities still think in terms of providing houses for X number of slum dwellers. Instead they should be facing the fact that they are currently providing houses which will be occupied by at least five generations of people over the next 100 years, during which time the proportions of people in the different income groups will alter beyond all recognition.

If we fail to make provision for larger and better quality accommodation, subsequent generations will never forgive us. As soon as the last slum has been demolished, people will be saying that while we were about it we might have made a proper job of it. Certainly Manchester will rejoice in any new initiatives to improve quality and design, as is demonstrated by the City Council's present activity in this field. For all of us in Manchester's public life have it on trust to make her again, in the words of Leland, "The fairest, best builded" city of the North.