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Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 720: debated on Tuesday 16 November 1965

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Local Government

New Towns (Co-Operation With Delevelopment Corporations)

1.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government what steps he is taking to encourage co-operation between local authorities in new towns and the development corporations.

Since I became Minister I have constantly urged the need for the fullest possible cooperation. I took the opportunity in a speech at Redditch in August to emphasise the great importance I attach to this and to point the way to collaboration and partnership in the future.

While congratulating my right hon. Friend on his great efforts to encourage co-operation between new town corporations and local authorities, which is much appreciated in the new towns, may I ask him to be willing to consider representations about the ultimately more democratic form of administration than that which is possible under the New Towns Commission?

Yes, as I think I said at Redditch, we are aware that the present Commission is, from our point of view, a temporary form of government of which we do not approve and which we want to replace by a more democratic form, in which the local authorities would play a far more direct and important role.

Where there is a joint housing list already in operation, how does the Minister intend to deal with the problem of differing rises in rents, for various reasons, in the future?

That is really another question, but let me say that I believe that even under the Commission a great deal can be achieved by getting the corporation or commission houses and the local authority houses under joint management. This is something of which I strongly approve.

Elected Members (Financial Hardship)

2.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government, if he will request the Maud Committee to make an interim report, to relieve the financial hardship being experienced by elected members of the larger municipal authorities.

11.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government if he will instruct the Maud Committee to review as a matter of urgency the present maximum loss of earnings per diem allowance of £2 10s. payable to elected representatives of local authorities, and make an interim award to relieve financial hardship at present incurred by councillors and aldermen of the larger municipal authorities in discharging their public duties.

13.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government when it is intended to review the loss of earnings allowance payable to elected members of local authorities.

16.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government if he will request the Maud Committee to make an interim report, to relieve the financial hardship being experienced by elected members.

26.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government if he will request the Maud Committee to make an interim report, to relieve the financial hardship being experienced by elected members of the larger municipal authorities.

27.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government if he will request the Maud Committee to make an interim report, to relieve the financial hardship being experienced by elected members of the larger municipal authorities.

As my hon. Friend explained on 4th November, the Government have decided that it would not be right to increase the rates of financial loss allowance at the present time but the position will be reviewed next year. A decision on this matter is not dependent on a report from the Maud Committee. I understand that the Committee do intend to make an interim report on allowances to members of local authorities, but that what they are considering is the basis on which these payments are made rather than the actual amount.

While thanking my right hon. Friend for his reply, may I ask him if he will agree that it is unfortunate as well as destructive of good local government that working men who are councillors, even including the chairmen of major committees in the big authorities, have to work overtime at weekends to recoup their losses from the present maximum loss of earnings allowance of £2 10s. a day, and even some very dedicated people are beginning to call local government service a mug's game?

Yes, I am aware of the very great strain and difficulty in recruiting personnel of the quality recruited 20 or 30 years ago, and this is something to which the Maud Committee is giving its attention. However, I would say that the reference my hon. Friend made to the chairmen of key committees, with the implication that they might be paid differential rates, is something with which in principle I do not really concur.

I thank my right hon. Friend for his reply. Is he aware that since May, 1962, when the present maximum of £2 10s. was fixed, average weekly earnings have bounded from £15 12s. 10d. to £18 18s. 2d.—in other words, we have seen an increase in average weekly earnings of 21 per cent. and this burden is intolerable—

Order. The hon. Member must try to put his supplementary question more quickly.

The position of the wage-earning councillor is serious, but in my view it is not so serious as the position of those councillors, such as housewives and professional people, who cannot get anything for broken time. This is why I want the whole position of the allowance for a councillor to be reviewed whether he is a wage earner or a salary earner.

While appreciating my right hon. Friend's remarks, would he not agree that it would be better simply to pay people what they lose instead of the present limited allowances which are actually not subject to tax? Would it not be better to pay them and tax them?

These are all matters on which no dobut the Maud Committee will advise me on the basis of need. When dealing with professional people and housewives this is an even more difficult basis of estimation.

Oxford And Cambridge Colleges (Grants In Lieu Of Rates)

5.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether he will make arrangements to provide special grants through the University Grants Committee to the Oxford and Cambridge colleges in lieu of rates.

Is the Minister in a position to say whether I am right in suspecting that he has no intention of fulfilling the expectations raised by the general secretary of his party last year that the grievances of Oxford and Cambridge ratepayers over colleges' rate relief would be removed by an Exchequer subsidy? If I am right, may I ask him to say so frankly now so that the city and college authorities can get together on an alternative solution?

No, the hon. Member would not be right on that assumption. All I was asked to say was whether special grants would be made through the University Grants Committee. Although I am more impressed than ever by the legitimate irritation of ratepayers of Oxford I am also more impressed than previously by the difficulty of persuading my colleagues of the kind of solution I should like to introduce.

Green Belt, Whiston Rural District

8.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government why he approved the recent proposal by the Huyton and Kerby District Council for development in the Green Belt at Lickers Lane in the Whiston Rural District, contrary to the recommendations of his inspector.

I approved this proposal by Huyton-with-Roby Urban District Council because of its urgent need for more housing land.

Is it not a fact that this land is good agricultural land in the Green Belt, that the application was opposed both by Lancashire County Council and the rural district in which it lies and that the rural district council, rather than seek to build on this land, built on more expensive land? In those circumstances, does not this favouring of Huyton demand some explanation?

There was no favouring of Huyton. The fact is that Huyton is one of the most overcrowded urban areas we know. It was due to run out of housing land altogether by the end of 1966. There and in one or two other cases I had to decide on a choice of evils which it was preferable to make and decided on a small encroachment on the Green Belt rather than to leave this urban district without any housing land.

London Government Act (Effect On Rates)

14.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether he will make a statement on the estimated effect of the London Government Act on rates in the London boroughs during the present financial year.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government
(Mr. Robert Mellish)

No, Sir.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that I have had many complaints from ratepayers in my constituency about increases in rates due to this Act?

Yes. I, too, speak as a London Member. I think we had all better wait and see what the position is in the rating assessment which will come up in April of next year, because by that time the London Government Act will have been working for a year and there will be no rough estimate, as I think there was in the last year.

Is it not the fact that the great majority of the major increases took place in Labour-controlled boroughs? Can the Joint Parliamentary Secretary explain why that is so?

Rating

15.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether, following representations made to him, he will make a statement in regard to the inequitable rating position of counties with very rapidly expanding populations.

The Government's proposals on local government finance are to be announced early next year.

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will include measures to deal with that problem. Is he aware that this is not a question of planing ahead to meet future hardship? It is an existing problem which is already being aggravated in the current year's financial arrangements, certainly in Hertfordshire, and probably in relation to other counties?

Yes. I am aware of the problem which the Hertford County Council, among others, has presented to me. In our reorganisation of the grant system we will try to work out an improved formula which takes account of that aspect.

Rent Officers, Dorset

18.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government when he expects to appoint rent officers in the County of Dorset.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government
(Mr.James MacColl)

:These officers will be appointed by the Clerk of the County Council personally. I do not expect that they will be operating before next February.

Is it not a fact that in the meantime the granting of tenancies is being held up and thereby the amount of available housing diminished? Is there any good reason why London should have any preference over the County of Dorset?

The main reason is that, as the Milner Holland Report made perfectly clear, London is in an extremely difficult position and requires top priority.

New Town, Humber Estuary

20.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether he will make a statement regarding his plans for a new town in the Humber Estuary.

There is great potential for growth on Humberside; and the special review referred to on page 97 of the National Plan will include among its urgent tasks a study of the possibilities offered by Humberside. Specific proposals will have to be considered in the light of that review.

Does my right hon. Friend know that his statement at the Blackpool conference about this new town was welcomed on Humberside, particularly in Hull? We believe that the Humber Bridge is essential to any future planning of this nature. Does my right hon. Friend share that view? Is the bridge an integral part of his future planning?

My enthusiasm is as strong now as it was at Blackpool. I also think the bridge is very important, but I still think that we have to look at this carefully and I am waiting for the report of the Regional Council and its views on the subject.

Welwyn Garden City And Hatfield Development Corporations

21.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether he will make a statement about the future employment of the staffs of the Welwyn Garden City and the Hatfield Development Corporations in the light of his announcement that he intends to dissolve the Corporations on 1st April 1966.

If it is finally decided to transfer responsibility from the Welwyn Garden City and Hatfield Development Corporations, I will then send to the New Towns Whitley Council details of what is proposed so that the Council may have an opportunity of considering any matters which may appear to affect the staff of the two Corporations.

Does the right hon. Gentleman recollect that he has already announced that the Welwyn Garden City and the Hatfield Development Corporations are redundant? He has done this without any discussion with the staffs involved. This has been the cause of very considerable worry to these people, whose employment prospects are involved. When are these discussions likely to take place, because these people are very worried?

I should like to tell the hon. Gentleman that since I made that announcement the Hatfield side has come to me and asked to have the decision reconsidered, in view of a possible expansion. I have given them eight weeks. If the hon. Gentleman would table another Question in a few weeks, I will try to give him a further answer.

Local Authority Housing Loans

22.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government if he is aware of the dissatisfaction that arises from the fixed nature of housing loans granted by local authorities; and whether he will seek to make some simplified movement of interest rates mandatory.

Housing loans may carry fixed or variable rates of interest depending on the method of financing adopted by the local authority. My right hon. Friend is aware that there have been complaints where rates have been fixed for the period of the loan. He is reviewing the lending policies of local authorities including the methods of fixing lending rates.

Will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that many authorities refuse to have a varying rate because of the inconvenience which this causes to them and that this matter of convenience ought not to stand before the interests of the ordinary citizen?

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that the dissatisfaction varies directly with the rate of interest originally fixed? Will he also bear in mind that it is desirable to leave some functions with local authorities to decide locally, in the light of requirements in their areas?

Yes. My right hon. Friend will be making a statement very shortly, I hope, in regard to interest terms which will be available to local authorities.

Bognor Regis Inquiry (Report)

25.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether he has received the Report of the inquiry conducted in Bognor Regis by Mr. J. Ramsay Willis, Q.C.; if he will make a statement on its findings; and what arrangements he is making to ensure that the Report will be available to the public.

I have studied very carefully Mr. Ramsay Willis's comprehensive Report. It seems to me to put the events which led to Mr. Paul Smith's resignation as Town Clerk of Bognor Regis into their true perspective—as an unhappy domestic quarrel, revealing no fundamental weakness in the administration of the Council or of local government generally. The Report will be on sale from tomorrow as a Stationery Office publication, and I am arranging for copies to be available to hon. Members in the Vote Office from 9.30 a.m.

May I thank the Minister for that reply and for the efficient way in which the inquiry was conducted? Is he absolutely certain that the whole matter is to be completely and thoroughly aired so as to reduce the possibility of any ill-informed speculation which has already done harm to a very fine seaside resort?

I would prefer to leave it to the hon. Member to judge the report for himself. My view of it has been described in the Answer. I think that it has cleared the air, which is most important, and it has made clear that charges of widespread corruption in local government were completely unsubstantiated.

Machinery Of Local Government

36.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government how much information is at the disposal of his Department about the machinery of local government.

A lot, Sir. But if the hon. Gentleman will let me know what he has in mind I will give him a more specific reply.

I shall be interested to know how much more information the Minister needs. Would it not be better to deal with the reform of local government on the basis of a national plan—

Order. That is very interesting, but it does not arise on this Question.

I had not finished my supplementary question, Mr. Speaker, because of the interruptions opposite.

The hon. Gentleman must come to the subject matter of his supplementary question.

Would it not be better to deal with the reform of local government in the way I suggested rather than deal with it on the basis of a piecemeal tabling of Orders for separate areas?

My right hon. Friend found this difficulty as soon as he came into office, and he has said that he is looking at the possibility of a much broader approach to the problem of the reform of local government than is possible under existing legislation. He is not responsible for that legislation.

Housing

Leigh Park Tenants' Association

6.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government why the letter written to him on 11th October, 1965 by the hon. Member for Portsmouth, Langstone, asking him to receive a delegation from the Leigh Park Tenants' Association, remains unanswered.

Does the Minister not consider that a period of three weeks is a rather long time to wait for a reply when a large number of my constituents have asked for an interview with him? Does he not consider it most inappropriate that the main answer to questions which I have put to him in a letter were con- veyed to a Parliamentary candidate in an adjoining constituency?

I think the hon. Member has put the second part of his supplementary question as a separate question, although I do not know. I do not think it was unreasonable to wait for three weeks since finally the city council decided to ask for an independent inquiry and asked me to appoint a district auditor to carry it out. To wait for three weeks seems not unreasonable.

Building Societies (Proposals For Restraining Lending)

7.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government if he will now make a statement on his discussions with the building societies and representatives of the building industry about his proposals for restraining building society lending.

I would refer the right hon. Gentleman to the speech which I made on 11th November in the course of the debate on the Address.

Will the Minister answer the question he rather pointedly did not answer in that speech, as to whether or not—aye or no—the building societies have agreed with him to ration or restrict advances where not to do so would take the total of privately built houses above whatever figure the Government desire to fix?

The building societies, as I announced in the communiqué which I published, have now agreed and are working on a working party with me on the financial arrangements we are to make for the joint control of the programme. This is something we shall consult on together. It is true that there is great reluctance on the part of the builders and also, naturally, of the building societies to see any restriction on private building. We are now discussing in a working party the method by which the regulation of the private sector can be achieved without the kind of restriction which they would resent and also with the kind of balance and flexibility which is required.

Does not that answer to my supplementary question simply boil down to "No"?

No, it does not, and it would be very misleading to say so because the building societies and the builders are completely agreed with me on the need to work out a method of cooperation which will achieve a continuous expansion of the industry. It is not unreasonable in the economy, when other people put themselves targets and decide on the general advance which they would need to complete, that we should decide how much we want to do.

Order. I hope that Ministers will make their answers to supplementary questions shorter.

Rent Act, 1965 (Tenants' Rights)

10.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government what action has been taken to inform tenants of their rights under the Rent Ac: 1965.

I have already drawn attention to the Act in a television broadcast, and it has also received wide publicity in the Press. Later this week there will be available a million free leaflets for distribution by local authorities and citizens advice bureaux, and half-a-million copies of a ninepenny booklet published by the Stationery Office. In due course, a team of mobile cinemas will publicise the opening of the new rent assessment machinery in the various registration areas.

I thank my right hon. Friend for the action he is taking. Is he considering bringing out a publication in a simple question and answer style because it is important that the information on rights in respect of the Act restored to tenants should be widely known? Will he consider sending this publication to local authorities, advice bureaux and tenants' associations?

The ninepenny booklet to which I referred is exactly a question and answer booklet for tenants and landlords.

Will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that supplies of the ninepenny booklet are available for hon. Members for use in their advice bureaux?

Elderly People (Hearing Installations)

12.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether he will introduce legislation to include heating and thermal installations in dwellings for elderly people as qualifying for standard grants by local authorities.

Legislation on improvement grants is under review, and the point will be borne in mind. Discretionary grants can already be given for this purpose for property owned by local authorities, housing associations or other responsible bodies.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for the hopeful tone of his reply. Would he agree that heating installations are absolutely essential in homes for the elderly and that it is wrong to exclude them from grants as of right which are given to other communities under the Housing Act?

Interest Rates

17.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government what priority Her Majesty's Government now gives to the introduction of a policy of lower interest rates for housing.

I shall be announcing shortly details of a new subsidy scheme related to the interest rates housing authorities have to pay. During this Session we shall also make known our plans to broaden the basis of owner-occupation.

Would not the Minister agree that it is disgraceful, the Government having canvassed for votes at the last General Election on the basis of lower interest rates, that owner occupiers a year later are in fact paying higher interest rates?

No. I would not think that in a five-year programme the decision to postpone one important element in the programme and not have it so far is anything like a broken pledge. I repeat the Prime Minister's assurance that we shall announce our intentions and legislate as soon as possible.

Does that reference to the Prime Minister's assurance mean that it is the Government's intention to introduce the necessary legislation this Session?

No.I merely referred to the Prime Minister's statement that we should announce it in this Session and legislate as soon as possible.

Local Authority And Private Housing (Building Ratio)

19.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government upon what criteria he based his decision to impose a 50:50 ratio between local authorities and private enterprise in the building of houses.

The criterion upon which I adjudged it necessary to achieve an annual output of 250,000 rented houses by 1970 was acute social need. There is no question of imposing a 50:50 ratio. The balance between building for letting and building for owner-occupation will be kept under regular review in the discussions in which representatives of the builders and building societies have agreed to join.

What right has the Minister to set himself up as a judge in these matters? Will he bear in mind that the great majority of the people do not want to remain council tenants all their lives? They want the sense of independence and security which home ownership brings and which is being actively discouraged by the Government at present.

I appreciate the demand for home ownership. However, it is not the right but the duty of a Minister of Housing to decide what amount of our housing resources should be allocated to houses to be let by councils. I have decided that a very modest requirement to make up for the backlog is 250,000 a year by 1970.

Does my right hon. Friend realise that the Government's policy is welcomed in the country generally, especially in large conurbations like Birmingham where there are 40,000 or more on the waiting list whose only hope is to have a house to rent from the council? Although we support the Government's efforts to increase the num- ber of houses for sale, we also welcome the Government's policy to make up the backlog.

23.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government what were the total numbers of houses built in the United Kingdom between 1952 and 1964 inclusive, for private owners, and the public sector, respectively.

One million, seven hundred and seventy thousand for private owners and 2,260,000 for public authorities. I will, with permission, circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT a table showing the figures for each year.

As these figures, on a quick mental calculation, work out at five council houses for every four private houses built during the 13 years of Tory rule, will the Minister explain why he is so dissatisfied with that ratio and how he intends to change it in the future?

Yes. My dissatisfaction is due to the fact that for the first seven years of Conservative Government public sector building exceeded private sector building. Since then, private sector building has overwhelmingly exceeded public sector building, and I need to redress the balance.

Would my right hon. Friend show in the table he intends to publish separate figures for Scotland as against the English position, because the Scottish trend has been quite different from the English trend?

I am afraid my hon. Friend must ask our right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland to deal with the Scottish picture. I deal with the collective picture.

Following is the Table:

DWELLINGS COMPLETED IN THE UNITED KINGDOM 1952–1964

Year

Public sector

Private Sector

Total

1952211,64936,670248,319
1953261,93764,867326,804
1954261,70692,423354,129
1955208,330116,093324,423
1956181,243126,431307,674
1957178,806128,784307,590
1958148,413130,220278,633
1959128,402153,166281,568
1960132,850171,405304,255
1961122,434180,727303,161
1962135,232178,211313,643
1963129,927177,787307,714
1964161,928221,264383,192

Mortgages

24.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether it is his intention to introduce legislation for cheaper mortgages for house purchasers this session.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said in the debate on the Address on 9th November that the Government's plans will be made known during this Session and legislation will be introduced at the earliest possible date; but we have to get the country's accounts into balance first. I have nothing to add to his statement.

First, do I understand from what the right hon. Gentleman has said that it is only the money factor which is preventing the legislation from being introduced now? Secondly, would he end some of the uncertainty which is being created, by saying whether the legislation will apply to existing mortgages?

I have nothing to add. We are preparing our plans. We shall announce them. Meanwhile, I would only add that our immediate plans for rate rebates will benefit owner-occupiers as well as everybody else.

Can the right hon. Gentleman confirm whether the First Secretary was right when he said at Erith that the plans would be made available this year?

My right hon. Friend was obviously referring to this Parliamentary year.

Untenanted Houses

28.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government if he is aware of the large number of houses which have been untenanted for long periods; and if he will make these more readily available to those in need of them either by speeding up the present compulsory purchase procedure or by seeking to permit rates to be levied on them.

If my hon. Friend has any evidence to suggest that this is a serious problem in particular areas I should be glad if he would send it to me. My right hon. Friend has recently taken measures to reduce the time spent by the Department in dealing with compulsory purchase orders, but interested parties must, of course, have the opportunity to put their views. The levying of rates on empty property is being considered by the Government as part of its examination of the rating system.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware how galling it is for people to see desperately needed houses being kept empty often for a long period? There were, for example, 498 in Salford alone on 31st March and, according to the Lord Mayor of Birmingham, £1 million worth of property in that city. Would my hon. Friend, therefore, give these two suggestions further consideration?

As I said to my hon. Friend, we are considering this. It is not a question of dismissing it, but in looking at the figures one must have some regard to the percentages because some degree of vacancy is necessary if we are to have some mobility in rented properties.

Will not the delay in the appointment of rent committees and rent officers add to these difficulties?

Old Houses (Improvement Grant)

29.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government if he will make a statement on his review of old houses lacking baths, hot water and inside lavatories; what is his policy with regard to such houses; and if he will reduce the period of 15 years minimum existence a house must have before an improvement grant can be made.

My right hon. Friend's review is continuing. Its aim is to see what changes would best further his policy of making improvement play its full part in the renewal of our cities. I shall bear my hon. Friend's suggestion in mind.

Is my hon. Friend aware that that Answer will be very pleasing to many families, particularly as most landlords are dragging their feet? Will he also bear in mind that even 10 years is far too long a period in which to have to bring up a family in such houses without improvements and that most councils do not know which houses they will be demolishing 15 years hence?

The 15 years' minimum is certainly one of the things which we are looking at. It is a perfectly fair point to say that all these facilities must be put in some houses which may perhaps have a shorter life.

Private House Building (1965 And 1966)

30.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government what details he has received about the number of private houses for sale likely to be started in Great Britain in 1965, and the number likely to be started in 1966.

34.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government what information he has about the number of private houses for sale likely to be started in Great Britain in 1965, and the number likely to be started in 1966.

I expect private builders in Great Britain to start about 210,000 houses by the end of 1965 and about 230,000 to 240,000 in 1966, almost all of them for sale.

Is the Minister aware that that is not a very satisfactory answer? Does not he think that when there is a growing desire by people to own their own houses and a growing ability to be able to own them, it is most disturbing that his policy is working in the reverse direction?

I am not at all aware of it and I do not think that the hon. and gallant Gentleman will find that to be true. We are determined to increase the number of houses started and completed for owner-occupation and have a steady improvement throughout the next four-year period.

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the figures given for 1965 are about 10 per cent. below those for 1964? Does not that mean that we are going backwards?

There were 37,000 fewer starts this year than last year. According to the builders, and I accept their analysis, one difficulty was the problem of land. The other was the shortage of mortgage finance caused by difficulties which we had last spring—difficulties now overcome and with record investments now available.

Is not it the plain fact that in their period of office the last Government said that they were going to put first priority on slum clearance but that they cut public housing by 50 per cent.? Is not it a fact that the only way to give a clear priority to the clearing of the rotten parts of cities is by stepping up massively public sector housing in this way?

What steps is the Minister taking to make up for the backlog, to use his own phrase, resulting from houses lost this year?

We have already made up in terms of mortgage advances, and after consultation with the building societies and the builders I see no reason for difficulties on that side in pushing forward and increasing starts next year.

Industrialised Building

31.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government what discussions he has had in order to ensure an increase in the number of dwellings built by industrialised methods.

My right hon. Friend's adviser on industrialised building and regional and headquarters officers of the Ministry and of the National Building Agency acting in concert with the Ministry have had many discussions with the main housebuilding local authorities, with groups of local authorities who are working in consortia and with the sponsors of building systems. The purpose is to help authorities to make good use of the productive capacity of industrialised building methods and my right hon. Friend will be sending a circular to authorities about this shortly.

Will the Parliamentary Secretary ask his right hon. Friend not to yield to the pressure coming from the brick makers at the moment to cut down industrialised building which is so vitally important to the housing drive? Will he add his weight to that of his right hon. Friend the Minister of Public Building and Works and resist this pressure, however justified the brick makers may be in thinking that they were misled by his right hon. Friend last year?

We are very enthusiastic about the use of industrialised building and we are doing all we can. Let me give some figures to the House. Let us have credit for something. In the first half of 1964 the amount of industrialised building done in this country for local authorises and new towns was 15·3 per cent. of building. I am happy and proud to say that in the first half of this year this has gone up to 25·5 per cent. and it is going up all the time.

Programmes Approved

32.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government how many of the figures described as Programmes Approved have the approval neither of their councils nor of his Department; and how many of them include schemes whose phasing will stretch beyond 1968.

I assume the Question refers to Greater London. Each local authority's programme was officially submitted by the council. The submitted programmes were modified in the light of the Department's assessment of their feasibility. The revised programmes were then approved by me on behalf of my right hon. Friend, announced by me on 20th September, and confirmed officially in writing to each local authority.

The answer to the first part of the Question is therefore "None". The answer to the second part is that since programme approval is in terms of tenders to be let, all the programmes contain schemes whose construction period will run on beyond 1968.

Is not it true that some discussions are going on still between the London boroughs and the Ministry on this subject? If that is so, how can the Parliamentary Secretary describe this scheme as approved, particularly when tenders have not been let in any event?

The programmes have been approved in conjunction with the local authorities. They are minimum programmes and when they apply for loan sanctions they will be given those sanctions. What more can we do than give approval to programmes of this kind?

Population Density, Inner London

33.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether it is his intention to issue a circular recommending higher density of population in Inner London.

No, Sir. Any development proposed at a density higher than in the development plan must continue to be looked at on its individual merits.

Will my hon. Friend resist any temptation or pressure to try to squeeze a quart into a pint pot, and will he, therefore, encourage the dispersal of population to the new towns outside London, as this would make the biggest possible contribution to solving the housing problem in London?

I do not know about putting a quart into a pint pot, but it is a fact that the local authority programmes in London, which we have announced, can be achieved within the broad policy of the county development plan. We look at each case on its merits.

Houses Under Construction (Increase)

35.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government by how much the number of houses under construction increased between 30th September, 1963 and 30th September, 1964; and by how much it increased between 30th September, 1964 and 30th September, 1965.

The increases in Great Britain were about 56,000 and 24,000, respectively.

Do not those figures show that the rate of increase in the year 1963–64 was over twice as great as it has been in the 12 months just ended? How does the right hon. Gentleman reconcile the figures with Labour's promises about a great expansion in house building?

The hon. Gentleman has asked me for figures of. houses under construction. I am much more concerned with the figures of houses completed, and if I take these in the same period, the 12 months from 1st October, 1964, I find that we have 24,200 more houses completed than in the previous 12 months. I should have thought that that was quite a good result.

Commonwealth Relations

Rhodesia

37.

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations which of the powers over Rhodesia, reserved by the Constitution of 1923, were abandoned by the British Government in consideration of the acceptance by Rhodesia of the 1961 Constitution; and which are still in force.

Between 1923 and 1961 the British Government had the power of disallowance of any law passed by the Southern Rhodesian legislature and the Constitution also required certain Bills principally those discriminating against Africans, to be reserved for Her Majesty's pleasure. There was also a limited power of amending the Constitution by Letter Patent or Order in Council. Under the 1961 Constitution the power of disallowance is restricted to laws which affect Southern Rhodesian Government stock issued under the Colonial Stock Acts or which are inconsistent with international obligation relating to Southern Rhodesia. The power to amend the Constitution by Order in Council is confined to a limited range of provisions, principally those dealing with the Governor and only certain Bills amending the Constitution are liable to be reserved. The scope of the powers—

It must be put if the facts are required by the House.

The scope of the powers vested in the British Government by the Constitution does not, of course, affect the ultimate responsibility of this Parliament and the British Government for Rhodesia.

Order. The Minister must find other ways of dealing with a long Answer like that.

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that, from 1961 until today, the British Government have had no powers to alter the main provisions of the Rhodesian Constitution or to enforce immediate adoption of such doctrines as one man, one vote, and will he agree that the repeated suggestions that Britain should use such powers may have helped to convince loyal Rhodesians that their country had to attain independence in one way or another?

I cannot accept anything that the hon. and gallant Gentleman has said.

40.

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations whether he will make a further statement about the situation in Rhodesia.

I would refer the hon. Gentleman to the very full statements already made by myself and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.

Are the Government still in touch with the Governor and the Chief Justice? If not, is there any way of regaining contact and, through them, with the loyalist and moderate element in Rhodesia? Without such contacts it would be very difficult for a constitutional and legal Government to emerge in future.

India And Pakistan (Visits By The Secretary Of State)

38.

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations what plans he has to visit India and Pakistan.

I have no plans to visit India or Pakistan in the immediate future. I was glad to welcome Mr. Patil and Mr. Shoaib here recently for political discussions and I hope that it will be possible to exchange other visits at Ministerial level in the coming months.

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that the House will be very disappointed by the vagueness of that reply, particularly in view of the damage done to relations between Britain and India by the maladroitness of the Prime Minister's reaction to the outbreak of fighting in the Punjab? Will the right hon. Gentleman treat this as a matter of urgency to the Commonwealth?

The hon. Member's views are not shared by all knowledgeable people. I should welcome an opportunity to visit India and Pakistan as and when it is readily agreed by both sides.

Cyprus

39.

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations whether he will make a statement on progress towards a peaceful settlement in Cyprus acceptable to both major communities.

I regret to say that little progress has been made towards a settlement. But the Cyprus items are to be debated by the United Nations General Assembly in the near future, and we hope that this will pave the way for further discussions between the parties concerned which could result in progress being made towards a satisfactory solution.

Did the Prime Minister tell the Press that the Government would accept any solution agreed to by the U.N. General Assembly? Have the Government relinquished any of their responsibilities as co-guarantors of the Cyprus Constitution? Must not any settlement be acceptable to both major communities in the island?

The comment refers to me. I said to the Acting Foreign Minister in Cyprus that the British Government would support any solution that the United Nations was able to achieve. It goes without saying that there can be no solution to the Cyprus problem not acceptable to all the parties concerned. There has thus been no change whatever in the position on this matter.

Does not that mean that there can be no solution to the problem because there can be none which is acceptable to both communities?

Rhodesia

Q1.

asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement about his discussions with the Rhodesian Governor, and on the situation in Rhodesia.

I have nothing to add to my statements of 9th, 11th and 12th November.

While expressing admiration for the devotion to duty displayed by the Governor, may I ask the Prime Minister how it is intended that he should govern? Is he, for example, to try to set up a lawful Government in opposition to Mr. Smith?

I have nothing to add to what I have already said on this Question.

Q3.

asked the Prime Minister if he will give an assurance that the use of force, under United Nations auspices, in Southern Rhodesia has been included in Her Majesty's Government's contingency planning on this problem.

I have nothing to add to, or subtract from, the statements I made in the House on Thursday and Friday of last week.

Am I right in assumiug that my right hon. Friend's statement on Friday made no reference at all to subscribing to a United Nations force and he was referring to a plea for help from the Governor in Rhodesia which might possibly be made to the Government in this country? Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that, if all else fails, United Nations action by force, backed up by Her Majesty's Government, is not ruled out?

The statement I made in the middle of the speech of the Leader of the Opposition relared to an appeal from Rhodesia for help in restoring law and order. I have said on a number of occasions that I do not believe that the use of military force is appropriate for settling the constitutional problems of Rhodesia.

Will the Prime Minister take it that he will have the fullest support of this side of the House for what he has said on the inappropriate-ness of the use of force in this difficult situation? Has he had any application from his hon. Friend to join any expeditionary force?

I shall take all offers of fullest support from any hon. Gentleman in the spirit in which they are intended.

Q8.

asked the Prime Minister which of the reserve powers under the 1923 Constitution have ever been enforced by the British Government, and which reserve powers were withdrawn when Rhodesia was granted a further Constitution in 1961.

The answer to the first part of the Question is None, Sir: as regards the second part of the Question, I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given to him earlier today by my right hon. Friend the Commonwealth Secretary.

Would the right hon. Gentleman agree that, from 1961 until today, anyone who advocated that the British Government should force the Rhodesian Government into adopting such a doctrine as the immediate implementation of one man, one vote, was advocating that the British Government should do something ultra vires?

I have explained on a number of occasions our position about majority rule in Rhodesia, but since we are referring to the 1923 and 1961 Constitutions I may add that what appals all of us is the way in which the 1961 Constitution has been twisted out of recognition while still being appealed to as being enforced. This is why we were anxious, if there were to be independence, that the Constitution should be fully entrenched and safeguarded against tricks of that kind.

Prime Minister's Statements

Q2.

asked the Prime Minister if he will arrange for statements by him in the House of Commons to be made available to Members at the conclusion of the statement whenever the statement is also being issue to the Press.

Copies of my statements are already put in the Library of the House as soon after delivery as a correct text can be made available.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that on several occasions, for example, the occasions of his important statements of 1st and 3rd November, on Rhodesia, hon. Members wishing to study them had to beg or borrow copies from members of the Press Gallery, and that only one copy in the Library is not really adequate for this purpose?

I shall consider whether there should be more copies in the Library, but my hon. Friend will recognise that the statements last week had to be prepared right at the last moment, and I was not able to observe the usual courtesy to the Opposition. No member of the Press receives a final copy of what has been said until I have sat down and it has been checked.

Television Programmes (Invitations To The Prime Minister)

Q4.

asked the Prime Minister how many invitations he has accepted to appear in his capacity as Prime Minister on British Broadcasting Corporation and Independent Television programmes.

The information is being collected and I will communicate with the hon. Member.

I congratulate the Prime Minister on his undoubted dexterity as a television performer, but will he tell us what plans he has for providing equal time for those whose views may differ from his own, whether he has received any observations from Lord Norman-brook on the subject of over-exposure, and whether he will comment on the recent use on the television screen of a disgraceful four-letter word?

No question of four-letter words has appeared or ever will in any of my performances on television, to which this Question refers. I am only too well aware of my inadequacies on television, but I have not yet fallen to the point where I need the hon. Gentleman as a scriptwriter.

Would not the Prime Minister agree that, while everybody has a right to protest to the B.B.C. about its conduct, it is extremely important that we should encourage and support independent decisions by the B.B.C. and that we in political parties should not try and decide what is appropriate or inappropriate in this type of broadcast? If the broadcasting authorities go seriously wrong, no doubt the matter can be raised in debate, but surely the more decisions the B.B.C. takes independently on as many points as it likes, the better.

Certainly. I am aware that there have not been many complaints about the performance of Independent Television and, indeed, the impartiality shown in all these matters by the Chairman. But I think that the ground rules, if there must be ground rules, should be worked out by consultation between the principal parties in this House and then by the television authorities. Subject to that, I agree with what the right hon. Gentleman has said.

Defence

Q5.

asked the Prime Minister what recent discussions have been held with the Leader of the Opposition on defence matters.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the Answer I gave to a similar Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle on the 29th of July.

Does not my right hon. Friend consider that some clarification should be sought from the Leader of the Opposition of the new attitude to defence as expressed by the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell)? Does my right hon. Friend realise that the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West, speaking on behalf of the Tory Party, seems to be—

Later—

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I refer to your comments to my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Mr. loan L. Evans) on Question No. Q.5? You ruled that his supplementary question was out of order. For the guidance of the House, could you say how it could be out of order when, in fact, he was inquiring whether, in discussions with the Leader of the Opposition, the views of the official spokesman of the Opposition on defence matters would be a matter for comment? Some of us might think that this was too strict a Ruling and I would ask you to give your view.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I have to make decisions very quickly. It seemed to me that the original question of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Mr. loan L. Evans) involved the Leader of the Opposition in his relationship with the Prime Minister but no other member of the Opposition.

With great respect, Mr. Speaker, is it not the case that anybody responsible for the formation of defence policy on the Opposition Front Bench is invariably involved in such discussions between the Leaders of the parties? Would it not be better if such matters were allowed?

That is a political argument rather than an argument about order. I hope that we can now proceed.

John F Kennedy Memorial Stone, Runnymede

Q6.

asked the Prime Minister if he will take steps, as a matter of urgency, to safeguard from vandalism and further defacement the John F. Kennedy Memorial Stone at Runnymede.

While I am sure that the whole House would join with me in deploring acts of vandalism, I understand that recent reports of such acts at the Runnymede Memorial to the late President Kennedy have been exaggerated.

Is the Prime Minister aware that many of the worst scars have been removed successfully, except for some scratching on one side of the stone, and that the National Trust, on behalf of the trustees for the American people. is doing what it can to keep the area free from litter and untidiness? Would the right hon. Gentleman care to express an opinion as to why these monstrous desecrations occur? President Kennedy represented a great ideal in the Western world. Is nothing sacred?

I agree with the hon. Gentleman in deploring what has been done. This is pointless and vandalis-tic action. But I understand that the trustees who have been responsible for the memorial are taking all steps to preserve it in proper condition. The hon. Gentleman will know what they are doing about paving the approach.

Party Political Broadcasts

Q7.

asked the Prime Minister if he will seek by legislation or amendment to the appropriate charter to put an end to party political broadcasts.

Arrangements for party political broadcasts are to be discussed between the political parties, and I would ask my hon. Friend to await the outcome.

In these discussions, will my right hon. Friend put forward the view that broadcasting should be entirely free from any interference and that there should be liberty of the air just as there is liberty of the Press? Will he also resist any attempt to censor the B.B.C. from any quarter?

This Question relates to party political broadcasts and not to broadcasts mounted by the B.B.C. or any other broadcasting authority. There is, I think, a growing feeling that the system of party political broadcasts— I am not referring to their content—needs modernising, but this is a matter to be discussed between the parties in the first instance and then with the broadcasting authorities.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the majority of people would prefer to see their politicians in action in this House rather than in set piece political programmes?

I understand that this is still a matter of controversy. It was debated not long ago and members of the Government are ready to receive representations on the point at any time.

Ministry Of Power

Gas Industry (Proposed Tax On Oil)

41.

asked the Minister of Power if he is aware that the proposed tax on oil used to make gas, suggested in the National Plan, would add approximately £19 million per year to the gas industry's costs and that this could result in a further reduction in the use of coal by the gas industry; and what steps he intends to take to obviate this danger.

No such tax is proposed at present. In reviewing the preferences accorded to the gas industry, as proposed in the White Paper on Fuel Policy, the considerations mentioned by my hon. Friend will be borne in mind along with others.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the coal industry is already being hard hit and will be harder hit when the pit closures imminent take place? Will he bear this very much in mind when making his policy on this and related matters?