Orders of the Day — Building Control Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 8th December 1965.

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Photo of Mr Thomas Urwin Mr Thomas Urwin , Houghton-le-Spring 12:00 am, 8th December 1965

Yes, that is what I am suggesting. Many local authorities build traditional houses of repetitive design. After the first contract, therefore, it is not necessary to employ a quantity surveyor. This was the experience of my authority, as, I am sure, it has been of many other authorities. Because of the insistence of a Tory Minister, however, the practice of using a quantity surveyor had to be followed. Until the most recent tendering prior to the issue of my hon. Friend's directive, my local authority, despite the fact that it had proved beyond doubt that it had eliminated the possibility of being defeated at tender by a private contractor, was still compelled to follow the practice of paying out fees to quantity surveyors.

What is the difference between us? Right hon. and hon. Members opposite accuse us of being dogmatic. We are entitled to make the same accusation against them. If we have a vested interest for the people whom we represent, many right hon. and hon. Members opposite also have vested interests.

My hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North East (Mrs. Renée Short) was accused by one or two hon. Members opposite of not addressing herself to the Bill. Very few hon. Members have addressed themselves to it. Was not my hon. Friend completely justified in talking as she did? If we are properly to utilise the resources available within the industry for the major social considerations that are before us, first and foremost among which is the achievement of a big enough target to satisfy the demand for housing, we can do this only by conserving resources which, throughout years of Tory Government, were applied to luxury office-building, petrol filling stations and the thousands of betting shops that were constructed throughout the country as a result of another piece of legislation emanating from the Tory Government. These things have eaten up valuable and vital resources which should be available for housing.

Whilst we are on this subject, we should pay special attention also to the requirements of development districts. I remind the House of the importance of the northern region in this matter. Three years ago, the hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg), who was then Lord Hailsham, took part in a belated attempt by the Government of that time to address themselves to the problem of under-developed areas—our neglected areas. We in the localities in the northern region—I speak as a member at that time of a local authority —looked forward to an indication of faith from the Government in recognising the long-overdue necessity to provide something better than the lot which we had to endure for very many years. Indeed, I do not recall a time when the northern region, as must be the case also with Scotland and Wales, has not felt the effects of indifference from successive Conservative Governments. The economic suffering which has been endured throughout almost all my life time has been particularly hard in the northern region.

Belatedly, as I say, the Government of that time—I think, perhaps, because there was an intention to have a General Election in 1963 instead of 1964—began to think of the advantages of planning, and the result was that that ebullient right hon. and learned Gentleman was sent as the ambassador for Toryism to us in the northern region. I may say in his favour that I am sure he is a much cleverer man than his Press agent made him out to be. I have a photograph of him from a local newspaper, and in it he appears somewhat sartorially inelegant wearing a cloth cap. He alone will be able to explain why he resorted to that kind of tactic in coming to the North of England, because people in the North of England are not so easily deluded and he did not do his cause very much good by resorting to this kind of thing.