Am I not right in saying that the Prime Minister's letter fails to deal with my main proposal, which is that he should ask local authorities to bring forward by six months their council housing programmes, which I am told is practicable in most cases? Would not this help both the homeless and the 147,000 building workers now out of work?
I think that the hon. Gentleman will agree that the letter I sent to him was lengthy and dealt with a very wide range of points. But it did not omit to deal with what he believes is the key point. What I said was this:
The local authorities know the Secretary of State for the Environment is prepared to approve any housing scheme which they put to him subject, of course, to the usual standards and yardstick requirements.
I think that that meets the hon. Gentleman's point.
Is the Prime Minister aware that while we have over 140,000 unemployed building workers, the figure for starts of local authority housing in the third quarter of last year was 18½ per cent. lower than in the year before and the lowest since 1961. Would it not be a good thing to put some of these unemployed workers to building council houses?
This must be a matter for the local authorities to decide. Some local authorities are in a position in which their housing requirements are already met. Others, I am told, already have a surplus. Therefore, it must be a matter for local authorities to decide. I have indicated that the Secretary of State for the Environment will give his approval if they wish to build. But the right hon. Gentleman should also recall that the fall in the public sector was more than compensated by a 22 per cent. increase in the private sector.