HOUSING RAISES A STORM
‘Let Builders Build,’ says Miss Roberts
Liberals' Late Bid Criticised
Housing has loomed large at the meetings of Miss Margaret Roberts, Conservative candidate for the Dartford Division, and there was some uproar at Belvedere from the “opposition” when a questioner declared he had been disillusioned by the Socialists' promises.
“You people who have got a house,” retorted Miss Roberts, amid counter-cheers, “should listen to someone who hasn't.”
Of the Liberals, Miss Roberts said the Conservatives did not have to wait for an election to realise the danger to personal liberty and put up a candidate at the last moment. If Liberals valued that individual liberty, the Conservatives asked, and indeed expected, that they would vote for the Conservatives, who had been fighting for this in the constituency, and not suddenly come in at the last moment.
The storm over housing came at St. Augustine's County Primary School, Belvedere, on Monday, when the doors had to be closed before the meeting began and while there was still a queue outside.
At question-time a man asked: “What are the Conservatives going to do about houses? I am apart from my family, and I have been sadly disillusioned since I came out of the Forces. What are the Conservatives going to do about the mess, for it is a mess. They promised us houses. I am still waiting …”
Amid some uproar from the back of the hall, the chairman (Mr. J. W. Panton) said, “Our Socialist friends are very touchy about housing. We will put that right for you.”
When order was restored, Miss Roberts told the questioner that the policy should have been to put every available man on the job. They must let the private builder build, and build as fast as he could, and so ease the pressure on the housing lists.
“Plugging the Past”
In her address, Miss Roberts said there was one great difference between the way this election was being fought and the way in which the 1945 election was fought. In 1945 the whole cry was, “Let us face the future.” This time it was “Let us plug the past.” The Socialist Party, she declared, had no policy for the future, as indeed its manifesto showed. Whatever side got back—and she hoped and trusted it was the Conservatives then in six or eight weeks' time they had got to formulate the Budget, which would set the tone for the financial policy of the coming Government.
They could not establish sound security on borrowed money. All parties were agreed that, but for overseas aid, their standard of living, so far as jobs and food were concerned, would be very much worse than it was to-day. They had been unable to make ends meet by their own efforts. “We have been using savings,” she went on, “and you can only use savings once, When they have gone, they have gone for good.”
They had already been told ployment.[sic]
The Conservatives, she said, would cut out bulk buying, which would lower the prices of raw materials and also put quality up. With this, production had to go up, and in this they could not ignore the factors of human nature—that people worked for the ordinary things of life—perhaps to have a better house, perhaps to have a higher standard of living, perhaps to enjoy more consumer goods, perhaps to get a new television set, perhaps to give their children a better start in life.
But increased reward for increased work must be the basis of any policy for increased production. The present level of taxation had obscured all that.
They were the highest taxed nation in the world, and the Conservatives believed that this was having a very serious effect on output. The Chancellor of the Sir Stafford CrippsExchequer must not take such a large slice out of the national income.
Miss Roberts declared that other savings could be made in overheads by cutting controls, which would release many people for work on productive industry, which was crying out for them. The complex system of licences and permits often cut across each other and one was often the direct negation of the other. How could people in a central office know many of the details which had to be coped with many miles away in a particular industry?
“If prices come down by these means,” said Miss Roberts, “the demand for goods abroad will go up and you will not be faced with this dangerous situation in 1952. There are still two years to do it, but if the policy of the last 4½ years is continued, then we shall have merely a continuation of the economic crises as we have had—a major fuel crisis, a major crisis when the American loan ran out, then devaluation.
When a point on the new Rating Act was raised at questiontime, Miss Roberts replied that the Act “will be reviewed when we get back to Parliament.”
On the question of political levies in trade unions, Miss Roberts said the first thing the Conservatives would do would be to have a round-table conference with the trade unions.