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Annual Housing Programme

Volume 530: debated on Tuesday 20 July 1954

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asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government from what date he has decided that the annual maximum of 300,000 houses shall not be exceeded; and what steps he has taken to ensure that this maximum shall not be exceeded.

The total number of houses completed in any year depends partly or prior planning and partly on sufficient labour and materials being available. In addition, resources vary from region to region. While I have, therefore, had to take some steps to see that the programme does not get out of step, I do not attempt to control it within precise figures. I am hopeful that, with improving production, the total for this year will be at least as large as last year, and I am equally optimistic about 1955.

Is the Minister aware that his policy already denies to active housing authorities like the Lambeth Borough Council the same completion rate in 1955 as in the two previous years? Should not the right hon. Gentleman in those circumstances be a little more honest and admit that his so-called limit to expansion is really a cut in the housing programme, so far as the more active housing authorities are concerned, which is not being imposed on private builders?

I do not think that we are doing too badly on housing. I think that it ought to run to something between 60 per cent. and 70 per cent. above the last Socialist Government's figures.

Is it not the case that the decision of the Conservative Party conference, under which the Government are acting—because the conference gave them their instructions—was that there should be a minimum of 300,000 houses a year? Is it not the case that, in a letter which his Department sent to the Lambeth Borough Council, it was pointed out that the Government were in danger of going substantially over the 300,000 figure, and that therefore the enterprise of the Lambeth Borough Council must be checked'? Why is the right hon. Gentleman stopping the Lambeth Borough Council from building houses, when they are willing, able and competent to do it?

They are building six times as many houses as they built under the previous Administration.

I put it to the right hon. Gentleman that that has nothing to do with the point. Inevitably and properly the post-war housing programme would develop as it went along. Is it not the case—apart from his party political stuff—that the right hon. Gentleman has stopped the Lambeth Borough Council from building the houses which it is competent and able efficiently to build; and is it the case that the Government are determined that the housing programme shall not materially exceed the figure of 300,000?

I do not know about the post-war programme. The trouble was that the numbers fell from 240,000 houses in 1947 down to under 200,000. It went backwards—

and our programme has gone forward. As for Lambeth. I have to keep regionally to some reasonable plan by which we shall be able to proceed without having the kind of follies which we had under the former Administration, where far more houses were planned and started than could be finished.