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Agricultural Workers' Cottages

Volume 388: debated on Thursday 22 April 1943

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39.

asked the Minister of Health how many of the houses in the scheme for building 3,000 houses for agricultural workers have been commenced or completed; and when it is expected that the whole 3,000 houses will be ready for occupation?

No building has yet commenced, but the preliminary work is under way in almost all rural districts concerned and covering 2,962 houses. By 9th April sites had been selected and approved for 2,054 houses and plans had been approved for 126. As indicated on 4th February in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Sir P. Hurd) the rate of progress will depend on the labour and materials that can be made available having regard to the requirements of other important schemes. In view of previous experience of building in war-time conditions I would hesitate to forecast the date of completion of the whole 3,000 houses. The local housing authorities will, I am confident, spare no effort to achieve the aim set before them when the scheme was announced of having as many houses as possible ready for occupation by harvest-time.

Gracious heavens, what an answer! Is no progress to be made? Will the right hon. Gentleman report progress after the Recess or resign? He really must get on.

I know from experience that my hon. Friend speaks loudest when he has been asleep.

In view of the fact that this question of providing houses for food producers is of the utmost importance, is my right hon. Friend aware of the deplorable contrast between the celerity of erecting buildings for Service purposes and the slowness in erecting these buildings? Surely he should make representations to the War Cabinet so that a proper start can be made with this meagre scheme?

The rural district councils have done admirable work in having already done as much as I have reported, and I am sure that they will push ahead as quickly as labour and materials become available.

The right hon. Gentleman knows that what has been said is true and that he does not like it and cannot think of a suitable answer.

41.

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware of the general objections to concrete floors for living rooms in the rural cottages which it is proposed to build; and why alternative forms of floors are not acceptable?

I am aware of the objections to concrete floors for living rooms, but I am afraid there is no alternative base while timber cannot be made available for the purpose. In accordance, however, with notes on materials and design and the specification prepared for the guidance of the local authorities by the Ministry of Works, in consultation with my Department and the other Departments concerned, the floors of the downstairs rooms may be covered with tiles or, in the case of parlours, with wood.

42.

asked the Minister of Health whether, in constructing rural cottages, he is aware of the dissatisfaction which exists in many parts of the country with the different designs; and whether, to meet such dissatisfaction, he will arrange, after stipulating the maximum financial outlay and the prescribed amount of accommodation, for greater latitude to be given to the local authorities as to what type of house they can erect within these limits?

As the reply is long, I will, with my hon. and gallant Friend's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Is the answer in any way acquiescent to the suggestion in my Question?

It is a very full statement, and I am in a dilemma. I must either read the whole of it or circulate it, hoping that all Members will read it.

Following is the reply:

I am not aware of any general dissatisfaction regarding the type plans, the bigger of which were drawn up by a sub-committee of the Central Housing Advisory Committee under the chairmanship of Lord Dudley in consultation with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and after careful consideration of a large volume of evidence from housewives and others. As my hon. and gallant Friend will, I am sure agree, no particular plan is likely to receive unanimous approval in view of the differing circumstances, including taste, between various parts of the country and various sites. Some objections have been received on details of design and construction, such as flat roofs and concrete floors. My hon. and gallant Friend will appreciate that limitations of this kind are, through shortage of materials, inevitable in war-time building schemes. This is, I know, fully understood by local authorities, who will do everything they can to overcome the many difficulties confronting them. From this scheme we shall gain experience which will be of great value in deciding whether further schemes can be undertaken whilst the present conditions persist.

As regards the last part of the Question, local authorities are aware that the type plans which in themselves cover a wide range of sizes—non-parlour as well as small and large parlour—are intended for general guidance only and that alternative proposals will be entertained, provided that substantially the same standards of accommodation and amenity are afforded and that regard is had to the limitations on materials. I do not think that there would be any advantage in adopting the suggestion made by my hon. and gallant Friend but I can assure him that I am fully alive to the importance of finance and that the tenders will be carefully considered from the point of view of value for money.

61.

asked the Minister of Health whether, in connection with his scheme for constructing rural houses, he is prepared, in suitable cases, to approve thatched roofs?

I shall certainly be willing to give consideration to proposals on the lines mentioned.