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Volume 496: debated on Tuesday 26 February 1952

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Approved Schemes


asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government the number of houses representing the total, to the most recent convenient date, of the applications received by him from local authorities for approval in respect of their housing schemes for the year 1952; how many applications have been approved; and how many houses these approved applications involve.

The published housing returns give full information of the progress of housing which is a continuous operation.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is very grave disquiet about the amount of progress, and will he tell the House quite frankly whether there is any truth in the suggestion now being widely made that plans are being evolved for a new form of building which is about half-way between a moderate-size house and a commodious dog kennel, which is called a cottagette, and will that form the basis of his future housing programme?

The hon. Gentleman's supplementary question is not relevant to the Question asked, and if it were relevant, it is completely untrue.

37 and 38.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government (1) if the number of dwellings in local authority housing schemes approved since October, 1951, and comparative figure for the same period in 1950–51;

(2) the number of dwellings completed by local authorities since October, 1951, and the comparative figure for the same period in 1950–51.

If the hon. Member has housing allocations in mind, I would refer him to the answer I gave to the hon. and gallant Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton) and others on 7th December last.

I have not housing allocations in mind. What I have in mind is what is stated in the Question. Can I ask the Minister for a reply to my Question, which asks for the number of dwellings in housing schemes approved since October, 1951, and the number of completions which are not up to date?

All these matters are dealt with in detail in the housing returns. I do not propose to abandon the practice of my predecessors in connection with this matter.

Is the Minister aware that that is not correct; that the monthly housing returns do not contain details of approved schemes but only completions; that the last return was issued in January; that the housing appendix, which does contain details of approvals, was issued for 31st December and, therefore, no up to date information is available?

I propose to adhere to the practice of my predecessors, and I must ask the hon. Gentleman to have the patience to await the returns when they are published month by month.

Building Workers


asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government to what extent he anticipates the housing programme will be affected by the recent diminution in the number of building workers.

I am not aware of any recent decrease in the number of building workers, other than the normal seasonal trend.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the appropriate information about the diminution of building workers is available to me in the published reports?

The figure in December, 1950, was 216,000, and in December, 1951, 224,000, and that does not seem to me to be a diminution.

Crown Property (Evictions)


asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government how often, during the last six months, local government authorities have applied for requisitioning powers under Defence Regulation 51 in cases where tenants are threatened with eviction from Crown property.

Would the Minister reaffirm that it is his intention to use his powers of requisition, provided the local borough councils make the necessary application for this action to be taken?

There was only one occasion when it was necessary, and the application for requisition was not issued because the landlord withdrew the notice to quit.


asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government if he will again draw the attention of local councils by circular to his powers of requisitioning under Defence Regulation 51 in order that tenants on Crown property may have a measure of protection against eviction.

In view of the comparatively small number of local authorities affected by this problem I do not think that a general circular is appropriate, but I hope to make a statement shortly.

Is the Minister aware that there have been instances in my constituency of dissatisfaction with the action taken by the local borough council?

My hon. Friend will appreciate that there will very soon be an opportunity for a general statement in the ordinary course of the business of the House.

Is it not a fact that by Circular 23/52, published on 19th February, the right hon. Gentleman instructed local authorities not to requisition any further properties?

Price Control


asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government if he will give an early indication of the Government's intentions in regard to the control of house selling price, provided for in Section 43 of the Housing Act, 1949, which expires in 1953; and if he will take action as soon as possible in this matter.

I am watching the situation carefully and will take action as soon as it seems expedient to do so.

While the Minister is watching the situation, will he bear in mind the very genuine hardship which is caused to people who have put up a house at their own expense and have then had to move to another district, by reason of their having to sell their house and use the proceeds to buy a secondhand house at a very much higher price?

Yes, Sir, that is true; but so long as there is a high demand and a comparatively short supply I think that we must keep some protection, and as this does not expire for another 18 months I do not think that I need act immediately.

Aircraft Industry Workers


asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government how many houses have been constructed, and how many licences have been given, for houses to be built adjacent to factories connected with the aircraft industry since 1st January, 1951.

I regret that the information is not available and could not readily be obtained.

Will my right hon. Friend go further into this matter and bear in mind that if progress is to be made in constructing aircraft in this country, houses have to be provided for the workers?

Yes, Sir. We are, of course, in touch with the Ministry of Supply all the time, but I am afraid I cannot give the precise information required.

Cannot the Minister of Supply give the information, because surely it is important when we have a large re-armament programme on hand?



asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government why his 1952 provisional housing allocation to Lambeth was only 50.

At the end of 1951, the Lambeth Borough Council had been given approval to tender for 586 dwellings the construction of which had not begun. I see no object in giving a larger instalment until some progress can be made with these. If there are any special difficulties my regional officer and I will be glad to help in any way we can.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many of last year's housing allocations are held up through his inability to help the council to get the steel required, and will he also agree that it is quite ridiculous to give a provisional allocation of 50 when in his own Department there has been lying an application for long-sanction in respect of 103 dwellings, included in the 586 to which he referred, which has not yet been granted?

As there are 586 which are to be put up for tender, there is not much object in making an addition.

Contract Payments

The following Questions stood upon the Order Paper:


To ask the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether he has yet come to any conclusion as to the principles on which Parts VI and VII of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, should be amended;


To ask the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether he is aware that in many cases local housing authorities are very slow in paying builders for work completed under housing contracts; and whether he will issue a circular with a view to accelerating these payments.

I am about to seek the views of the Association of local authorities on proposals for overcoming this and similar difficulties arising out of present contract procedure.

Does my right hon. Friend appreciate that in this matter time is not on his side by reason of the fact that owing to the ill-conceived legislation of the previous administration—

On a point of order. Do I understand, Mr. Speaker, that the right hon. Gentleman has answered Question No. 28?

I am afraid that I answered Question No. 28 in mistake for Question No. 27. No doubt the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question to Question No. 27 will be just as apposite.

The answer is as follows:

No, Sir. As hon. Members are aware, a review of the financial provisions of the Act is in progress. Until that is complete I regret that I cannot make any statement.

On a point of order. May I at this point seek your guidance, Mr. Speaker. Would it be in order for me to take as read the supplementary question to No. 27 which I inadvertently put to No. 28, and for me now to put my supplementary question to No. 28.

So far as I know, the hon. Member has not yet asked No. 28 but the answer has been given.

Owing to the noise, Mr. Speaker, I was not able to hear your Ruling as to which Question we are now on.

The hon. Member can take it that he has asked Question No. 28, and if he has a supplementary question to put to the answer which he received to Question No. 27 he can ask it.

In regard to Question No. 27, will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the impediment to housing and other desirable development by reason of the uncertainty in regard to the amendment of the financial provisions of this Act. In regard to Question No. 28, does my right hon. Friend appreciate that these are matters of contract between the local authorities and the builders and, therefore, there can be no reason for delay in this way.

On a point of order. Would it be in order to ask a supplementary question on Question No. 27?

It would be quite in order to do so if we had not passed on. This is such a tangled affair that we had better pass on.

Fuel Economy Appliances


asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether he will introduce legislation to enable him to require the installation of only approved domestic fuel economising appliances in all new housing construction and what steps he is taking to substitute, where practicable, in such new housing construction, approved gas space-heating appliances instead of electric space-heating appliances.

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave on 19th February to the hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Renton).

Can my right hon. Friend say unequivocally that all new houses being built—100 per cent. of new housing construction, whether for private sale or for local authority letting—now have installed in them only modern appliances in the way of solid fuel-burning grates?

We do everything we can by advice and persuasion, but we still believe in the freedom of the local authority to accept that advice, and I should prefer to work under that system.

While we ought not to impinge on the rights of local authorities in this and other matters, is there not something to be said for Government action as regards the provision of modern fuel appliances in order to economise in fuel?

Yes, Sir. It is being done and it is working very successfully, but I would rather get 97 per cent. without compulsion than 100 per cent. with compulsion.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the answer that he gave on 19th February—I have a copy of it here —makes no reference whatever to the second part of my Question which specifically inquires in regard to the installation of gas space-heating appliances in preference to electric space-heating appliances?

If the object of the Question is to suggest that I should advise people to have a gas space-heating appliance instead of an electric space-heating appliance, I do not propose to do that.

Will the right hon. Gentleman see that the increased supplies of iron and steel for improved domestic stoves and grates are maintained at the level which was agreed last autumn?

We are doing everything we can in this matter. I am naturally as anxious as the right hon. Gentleman is, but I am not anxious to apply compulsion if I can obtain the results by persuasion. I feel certain that the supplies can be maintained, and I think we may even add to them.

Wage Increases (Costs)


asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government what is the anticipated average increase in the cost of a three-bedroomed local authority house arising from the recent wage increases to building trades operatives.

Any effect of wage increases on costs cannot be estimated in isolation, since costs are affected by other factors such for example as reductions in man-hours due to increased productivity and improvements in building technique.

Can my right hon. Friend say whether any definite steps are in contemplation to offset the necessary increase in costs which will arise from the wage increase?

I believe that all the measures which have been taken to increase interest in, and the tempo of housing and building will have that effect, and there are special measures to introduce various economies in construction and design.

Is not one of the greatest causes of the increased cost of building the cost of building materials? What is the Minister doing to bring down the price which "The Times" the other day referred to as the greatest rise in building material costs since the end of the war?

The hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends are always complaining about rises in costs and they are always attacking every Measure, monetary and otherwise, which is intended to reduce them.

No 115, Ebury Street, Sw1


asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government the total amount of building work now proceeding at No. 115, Ebury Street, S.W.1; what building licences have been granted; and to whom.

Two licences have been issued within the past twelve months in respect of this property: one for £810 on 3rd July to form a self-contained flat on the second floor, the other for £3,099 on 24th October for the repair and general reconditioning of the property. Both were issued by Westminster City Council to Mr. Godfrey Winn.

Is the Minister aware that each of these licences was issued for work to be done which diminished the number of tenants who could live in that house; that prior to the licences being issued there were a number of flats occupied there; that Mr. Godfrey Winn obtained that licence in order to turn the house into a one-man occupied house rather than a house occupied by several tenants; and would not the right hon. Gentleman exercise greater supervision over the issue of licences in order to prevent the diminishing numbers occupying a house?

My information does not quite tally with that of the hon. Member's. I understand that part of the licence was for the making of an office. In any case, I do not interfere generally with a local authority in these licensing matters. Even if I wished to do so, one of these licences was issued six months before I took office and the other two days before I took office, so I do not see what I could do.

Irrespective of the date upon which these licences were issued, would the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether the purpose of the licences, which were fairly extensive, was actually to increase or to decrease the living accommodation of these premises, because even with the Westminster City Council—and I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to agree with this—it would be extraordinary if these building licences were granted with the object of actually reducing living accommodation?

Building Standards


asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether he will, in order to maintain good standards of house building, make compulsory as a minimum standard the general specification laid down by the National Householders' Registration Council referred to in the appendix to circular 73/51 issued by him on 27th November last.

No, Sir. I have no evidence that the present arrangements are inadequate.

Is the Minister aware that unless he lays down a minimum specification for the 50 per cent. of the houses which are to be built under private enterprise he stands a very good risk of getting those jerry built houses such as we had before the war?

I thought there was a general agreement that the system of the National Housebuilders Registration Council worked extremely well.

Is it not a fact that the Council's recommendations are purely voluntary and in no way binding on anybody?

In spite of this passion for compulsion which hon. Gentlemen opposite seem to have, if everything is voluntary and operates over the whole field I think it is a very good plan.

Estate Agents (Registration Fees)


asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government if he is aware of the practice of some estate agents who take considerable sums in registration fees without at the time having accommodation of the type required on their books; and if he will introduce legislation to prohibit estate agents charging registration fees in respect of types of accommodation not at the time on their books.

I have no information about the practice to which the hon. Members refers. The Government cannot undertake to introduce legislation with regard to it.

Does that mean that the Minister did not read the evidence I submitted to him before his secretary returned it to me?

No, Sir, it means we have quite a heavy legislative programme and we cannot introduce a Bill about it.

Is it not a fact that I sent evidence to the right hon. Gentleman of a practice which amounts to absolute racketeering, the knowledge of which is known to many people on both sides of the House, and even if the right hon. Gentleman cannot provide housing accommodation, at least he can stop the exploitation of home-seeking people until such times as he provides houses for them?

It is difficult to try and answer courteously in view of the way in which the hon. Gentleman asked his supplementary question, but this matter is very difficult and cannot be dealt with without legislation. There is a very heavy legislative programme, and it will not be possible to obtain an opportunity of dealing with it at any rate in this Session.

Is the Minister aware that the practice complained of is entirely contrary to the code of conduct and practice of all the senior professional associations, and that any hon. Member who wishes to avoid being caught like the hon. Member has only to refrain from giving his business to a bucket shop?



asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government what is the amount of loan sanctioned for housing development by local authorities since 7th November, 1951; what is the estimated increase in the total amount of interest repayments to be made as a result of the rise in the interest rate from 3 per cent.; and what is the increased cost per average dwelling disregarding all subsidies.

The amount is £79,198,200. All these loans have, however, not yet been taken up from the Public Works Loan Board, and I am not able, therefore, to give the information asked for in the second and third parts of the Question.

Will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance to the House that the increases in interest rates to be borne by local authorities will, in fact, be refunded by him in the shape of increased subsidies; and secondly, would it not be a better administrative economy, instead of one Government Department increasing the rate of interest to local authorities and another one refunding that rate of interest to the local authorities, if the Public Works Loan Board was requested to advance housing loans at the original rate of interest? Would it not save a lot of time and effort?

We shall have an opportunity of debating this whole matter in the near future, and perhaps it would be better to wait until the Bill is introduced.

Unoccupied Dwellings


asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government the number of vacant houses there are throughout the country; and whether he will take action to prevent houses from standing empty for long periods by drawing the attention of local authorities, by circular, to the powers of requisitioning in order to allocate them to people in need of accommodation.


asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether he will empower local authorities to take over under-occupied private dwellings in order to rehouse families in urgent need and prevent sale with vacant possession at excessive prices.

I regret that I am unable to give the information asked for. Local authorities already have powers to acquire houses for the discharge of their duties under the Housing Act, and I think that where necessary those powers, and not those of requisitioning, should be used.

Can the Minister say how he expects local authorities to respond to his appeal to rehouse in bungalows families living in houses which are too large for them, unless the private landlord is willing to take people from the local authority lists instead of waiting to sell the house with vacant possession at extortionate prices?

I am asked in this Question to state the powers of local authorities in this matter, and I have stated in reply that the local authorities have power to acquire these houses.

In view of the very unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I will raise the matter on the Adjournment.



asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether he is aware that the additional cost of site works, due to difficult site, is £151 11 s. 4d. per house for 64 houses on the Banksfields Estate, Mytholmroyd, and £293 12s. 10d. per house for 20 houses at Dodd Naze Estate, Hebden Bridge, both in the Sowerby Division of Yorkshire; and whether he will consider this unavoidable and additional burden on local housing costs when he comes to review the housing subsidies.

I have been informed by the local authority that costs above the normal to the amount stated have been incurred on site works in connection with these houses. As regards the second party of the Question, the point has been considered in connection with the review of housing subsidies.

Water Schemes (Steel Allocations)


asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government how many licences for the supply of steel, and for how much steel, have been granted to water authorities for the first quarter of 1952; what he estimates will be the respective figures for the second and third quarters of the year; and how these figures compare with those for 1951.

It is not the practice to disclose allocations for particular purposes.

Is the Minister aware of the very grave concern of water undertakings because in many cases they have received only sufficient steel for the development of new housing estates and nothing at all for repairs and maintenance? Will he reconsider the question because many water undertakings are faced with a very serious position in regard to the repair of their undertakings?

Can the right hon. Gentleman state the principle on which the applications are being met? Is priority being given to those areas which at present have no piped water supply?

I was asked to give allocations in certain instances. That has never been done by this or any other Government when there has been an allocation system. The purpose of an allocation system is to operate without the rigid priorities which led to so much trouble in the early stages of the war and to make the allocations for definite separate purposes and then to divide them up as best possible in the circumstances.

Is the right hon. Gentleman now abandoning his party's pledges to the rural areas about water supplies?

Is it not a fact that no licences have been issued for this purpose in the first quarter? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the very serious situation which is now arising in a constituency which he once represented because no licences have been granted to the Tees Valley Water Board?


asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether his attention has been drawn to the fact that many large schemes for the supply of water to power stations, coalmines and other vital industrial undertakings, are held up for relatively small quantities of steel; and if he will take steps to increase the supply of steel to water undertakers.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the demand of the water undertakers for steel for the whole of the year is only 50,000 tons, one-third of 1 per cent. of our total supplies? Is it not well known in all parts of the House that these great undertakings are now seriously endangered and delayed?

Of course they are most vitally important and I will do everything possible within the allocation system to obtain what is necessary; but one of the reasons for the allocation system was that, although everyone's application was fairly small, the total required amounted to rather more than the total amount of steel available.

Will the right hon. Gentleman mobilise his courage and demand his rightful amount from the Cabinet?

Surely the right hon. Gentleman is wrong in saying that it has never been the practice to disclose how much steel is allocated for a certain purpose? Although it has not been the practice to disclose the amount of an individual licence, have there not been a number of White Papers giving the global allocations?

The hon. Member is incorrect and, anyway, that relates to the Question which we have just passed.

On a point of order. I was about to ask a supplementary question about steel and rural water supplies when the question was interrupted, Mr. Speaker, by your calling the next Question. In those circumstances, is it in order to put the supplementary question after the next Question, as has just been done?

It is frequently my duty to interrupt the asking of a supplementary question by calling the next Question. Mr. Nabarro.

Gravel Pits (Land Restoration)


asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government what steps he is taking to require full and proper restoration of agricultural land used for sand and gravel pit working.

Planning authorities can insist on restoration when giving permission for pits to be worked, but this is as a rule considered reasonable only if suitable filling material is available. General guidance on restoration was included in the Memorandum on the Control of Mineral Working published a year ago, but the special problems of gravel pits are being examined by the Advisory Committee on Sand and Gravel.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the extent of urban depredation of good agricultural land which is at present taking place, aggravated by this problem? Will my right hon. Friend take special powers or at least examine the problem further?

In view of the great success of the restoration of land worked for opencast coal—

and the very much greater area devastated by working for gravel and sand, will the right hon. Gentleman really give the subject his attention and get something done?

New Government Offices


asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government if, in view of the housing shortage, he will take steps to stop large-scale building for Government offices and nationalised industries, particulars of which have been sent to him.

A general ban on new office building, including offices for Government Departments and the nationalised industries, has been in force since June, 1951.

Will my right hon. Friend convey the idea of this Question to the Minister of Works and realise that homes are more important for people than for bureaucrats?