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Agricultural Workers

Volume 390: debated on Thursday 3 June 1943

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42.

asked the Minister of Health whether he has conferred with the Minister of Agriculture with a view to arriving at a programme and target to be achieved in building farm-workers cottages for 1944, in view of the inevitable delay which arises after the programme has been sanctioned?

I am keeping in close touch with my right hon. Friend with a view to undertaking the maximum possible programme that the resources of labour and material may permit.

Do the Government really take any account of the time factor, and is it not a fact that in all probability there will be no completed houses for farm workers in 1943? It really is not good enough.

My right hon. Friend knows better than to argue against the facts; it is very wise.

43.

asked the Minister of Health whether tenders for the authorised 3,000 rural cottages will be allocated on a basis of time of completion as well as of price; and whether, as yet, he is in a position to give an estimate of the average number of weeks required for completion of building and the estimated all-in cost per cottage?

The answer to the first part of the Question is that price is at present the primary consideration, but the period for completion will also be borne in mind. The answer to the second part of the Question is "No, Sir."

Can the right hon. Gentleman say when he expects the first real, active steps will be taken for the erection of the first of these cottages?

Is the Minister aware that quotations as high as £2,400 for a pair of cottages are being received, and does he think that in these circumstances the proposition is worth proceeding with?

My hon. Friend is taking something he has seen in the newspapers. He had better wait until I can give an answer and he can see the whole lay-out. He will find the figures much below that.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that before the war we were building twice as many houses as this every week?

44.

asked the Minister of Health whether the attention of his Central Housing Advisory Committee has been drawn to the model of a rural worker's dwelling on exhibition in Edinburgh embodying the ideas of 30,000 Scottish women as to the style and interior of the dwelling best suited to the needs of the rural worker; and whether, in view of the year's housing programme which rural district councils in England and Wales are being asked to prepare, he will have the best ideas of English and Welsh housewives embodied in models and sent on tour through the rural centres of this country?

I understand that this model was designed by an architect in private practice at the request of the Scottish Women's Rural Institutes to illustrate suggestions put forward in evidence by members of the Institutes to the Scottish Housing Advisory Committee. The Sub-Committee of my own Central Housing Advisory. Committee which is also considering the design of post-war dwellings under the chairmanship of Lord Dudley is in touch with the Scottish Committee and has been supplied with copies of all the evidence submitted to it. Lord Dudley's Sub-Committee has also received evidence from a number of bodies well qualified to represent the point of view of working housewives in England and Wales and the type plans circulated to Rural District Councils in connection with the emergency scheme for agricultural cottages included plans recommended by the Sub-Commitee after considering this evidence. These were, however, interim recommendations, and I understand that the Sub-Committee's final report will not be ready before the end of the summer. I intend that the recommendations in the Report shall receive the widest publicity, and I will certainly give sympathetic consideration to my hon. Friend's suggestion.

Does that relate to the circulation, on tour, of a type of model for the inspection of housing authorities as well as the community?

The English Committee are very keen on models, and the Rural Housing Sub-Committee recommended to the main Committee in January last that consideration should be given to their preparation.

51.

asked the Minister of Health what progress has been made in the erection of the 3,000 rural cottages which the Government have stated are to be completed this year?

By 28th May sites had been selected and approved for 2,734 houses, and plans had been approved for 1,624. Tenders for substantial numbers are expected soon, and I hope shortly to be able to make a general statement on the scheme.

Could the Minister say what has been the cause of these delays in building these cottages and also whether the Government are still deter' mined that the cottages shall be built this year?

That, of course, is our intention, but my hon. Friend will understand that there is a mass of detailed work to be done to get to the point where tenders can be approved, and the selection of sites in 382 rural districts has meant a considerable amount of hard, detailed work.

When the right hon. Gentleman talks about the approval of tenders does he mean approval by the local authorities concerned or approval by himself?

I meant the approval of tenders by myself. My hon. Friend will understand that all the tenders have to come to me for approval.

Is it not a fact that a good many tenders have now been approved by local authorities?

Can the right hon. Gentleman assure us that his colleague the Minister of Labour has agreed to release sufficient building labour to enable these cottages and others to be built?

57.

asked the Minister of Health the latest estimate of the shortage of cottages required to house married workers permanently employed in agriculture; and whether such an estimate includes cottages condemned before the war under the Housing Acts but still occupied?

The Government have in contemplation a ten-year programme of house construction, which would include about 300,000 cottages for agricultural workers, to cover all needs including the replacement of unfit property and other needs.

Do I understand the answer of the right hon. Gentleman to be that the shortage of cottages at present is 300,000?

Including the second part of my answer, the figure includes cottages under repair.

58.

asked the Minister of Health when his Department first informed rural district councils that per- mission had been given for the immediate construction of 3,000 cottages for agricultural workers; whether work has yet commenced on the erection of any of them; and, if not, whether he will take steps to accelerate their construction by the reduction of the number of authorities to be consulted or in other ways?

Rural district councils were authorised on 4th February to make preliminary arrangements, including selection of sites and plans and the obtaining of tenders. In view of the importance of the price of houses, acceptance of tenders requires, my approval. A number of tenders have now been received from districts through-out the country and hope shortly to be in a position to announce the decision of the Government in regard to them.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that Members in all parts of the House with a knowledge of rural conditions are seriously concerned at the administrative failure to give effect to this promise, and that we shall certainly approach the Prime Minister on his return and ask him for an inquiry into this administrative scandal?

I do not agree to that at all, but the noble lord will take his own course.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that owing to changes of mind regarding the type of houses there are still certain rural districts which have not yet settled on the type?

Can the right hon. Gentleman say how many tenders he has been asked to approve up to date?

May I make a most vigorous protest against what is happening—a very vigorous one?