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Volume 395: debated on Thursday 2 December 1943

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Local Authorities (Acquisition Of Sites)


asked the Minister of Health why his Department is advising local authorities against the acquisition of housing sites beyond those required for building in the first year after the war?

The advice is given in accordance with an arrangement made early this year by my right hon. Friend's predecessor with the then Chancellor of the Exchequer and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Town and Country Planning which removed the embargo against the purchase of land by local authorities so far as a first year's housing programme is concerned. My hon. Friend will be glad to know that my right hon. Friend is looking into the practicability of some further relaxation.

Does not this answer indicate the desirability of the Government coming to some conclusion about general policy on land acquisition?

I pointed out to my hon. friend that the sites that are already in the possession of local authorities will provide for housing to a great extent beyond what is possible at the moment.

Is the Minister keeping his eye on speculators to see that they do not get away with it?

I am sure that my right hon. and learned Friend will have the assistance and the information required from my hon. friend.

Rural Districts, Essex


asked the Minister of Health how many rural cottages have been built in the county of Essex, respectively, during the war and since June; whether he will give the cost per cottage and price of land per acre for those constructed this year in comparison with those previously built and those built immediately before the war; what are the rents plus rates for those built this year; and how many new cottages are needed?

As the answer is rather long, I will with permission circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Meanwhile, will the hon. Lady at least say how many houses for occupation have been constructed in rural districts since the war broke out?

Nine hundred and forty-four houses were completed in rural districts in Essex between 1st August, 1939, and 31st March, 1943. If the hon. Member will look at my answer, which is rather long, I think he will be able to obtain a better picture.

Surely most of these houses were completed just after the beginning of the war and from that time onwards practically no houses have been completed?

It has been the policy of the Government that labour is not to be taken during the war from other essential work to build houses. The Prime Minister has made that clear in this House.

Is the hon. Lady sure that that is the reason and that it is not due to the high price of land?

Yes, Sir. The reason as has been stated, is that labour and materials are required for essential war work and should not at this stage be diverted to housing.

Following is the answer:

944 houses were completed in rural districts in Essex between 1st August, 1939, and 31st March, 1943 (the nearest dates for which figures are available). Practically the only houses built in Essex since June last are the 66 agricultural cottages now being completed under the War-time Agricultural Cottages Scheme. The estimated average cost of these cottages is £875 for a parlour house and £691 for a non-parlour house, excluding the cost of land, roads, sewers and architects' fees and contingencies such as workmen's travelling expenses, overtime, etc. The average price of the land is £85 an acre.

The average cost of houses built by all rural district councils in June, 1939, was £462 (parlour type) and £374 (non-parlour type).

The rents of the war-time agricultural cottages will not exceed 10s. a week for parlour houses and 8s. 6d. for non-parlour houses, plus rates.

The number of new cottages ultimately needed cannot yet be assessed. It will certainly be substantial.


asked the Minister of Health whether he will use for the building and repair of rural houses Irish or other labour engaged hitherto in the construction of airfields as and when such airfields are completed?

My right hon. Friend will be glad to make use of any suitable labour as and when it becomes available.

Flats (Carpeting)


asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware of the clause in many leases for flats, that the floors must be carpeted; and whether he will take action in the matter in view of the fact that it is often impossible to buy carpets except at prohibitive prices?

My right hon. Friend has no evidence that in so far as such clauses may be included in leases, action is being taken to enforce them unreasonably at the present time. He does not think, therefore, there is any need for him to seek special powers.

Is the Minister aware that my information is absolutely to the contrary, and that while certain firms such as Plus Flats do meet the requirements of people, other firms absolutely insist on the letter of the agreement?

If my hon. and gallant Friend will give me particulars, we will be very glad to look into them.

Is it the policy of the Ministry not to prevent an evil of this kind before it arises, when it is threatened, or is it to wait until it has occurred and then try to do something to cure it?

I think we have found in wartime that if we spend time looking for evils which may arise we shall not get on with the work. When these difficulties have arisen we have generally with goodwill been able to solve them.

Old People


asked the Minister of Health, whether, in any future plans for housing, he will consider the provision of a percentage of almshouses in country towns and villages for old people?

The Sub-Committee of the Central Housing Advisory Committee under the Chairmanship of Lord Dudley, is giving special attention to the type of accommodation most suitable for old people, and my right hon. Friend will certainly give advice to local authorities on this very important matter when he has considered the Sub-committee's report.

Would the hon. Lady impress on local authorities that such accommodation must be in an accessible position, and will she bear in mind that some of them made the most crashing mistakes? I hope she will do more than advise them and that she will almost compel them.

Will the hon. Lady consider if this praiseworthy aim is adopted, the objection to the word "almshouses"? In my opinion it is objectionable.

I will take note of that, but I think that people's opinions differ. I think we may be able to call such houses one name in one place and another in another, according to local feelings.

Are we to understand that the post-war policy of the Ministry of Health is to segregate old people into separate dwellings rather than to leave them among the rest of the population?

No, I think if the hon. Member will look at the reply, he will see that we are calling attention to the type of accommodation most suitable for old people.

Will the hon. Lady take as an example the houses provided by Glasgow Corporation just outside Glasgow as an indication of what can be done?

There are several very good examples. I could tell the hon. Member of a very good one in Dundee.