10 NOVEMBER 1950, Page 2

The Extra 100,000

Monday's debate on housing in the Commons proved to be largely an electioneering occasion. This was to be expected, and though Mr. Marple,s did his best to start it off as a reasoned dis- cussion of ways and means, Mr. Bevan brought it firmly down to the hustings. For the voter who wants a house—the person at whom all this flow of oratory was directed—the debate was less than satisfactory. He can draw some comfort from Mr. Marples' state- ment that there is no technical-reason why 300,000 houses should not be built in a year, but he must still be little the wiser how this is to be done, or what restrictions would have to be imposed in other fields to compensate for a greatly increased emphasis on domestic building. It was, as usual, left to Mr. Churchill to state the problem in its simplest terms. He bracketed housing with national defence as the two objects to which the Conservatives proposed to devote "highest priority and most vehement effort" on their return to power. He believes in "bedrooms before schoolrooms," and the obvious inference is that the Conservatives are prepared to hold up all other forms of building until the revised housing programme is on the way to completion. Are they ? Have they calculated the method of operation of a bonus system, or Mr. Churchill's ten- year guarantee for the industry ? It is legitimate for many questions of this nature to be asked and, of course, perfectly legitimate for Mr. Churchill to refuse to answer them in detail until his party is in power. But now that the debate is over doubts may reasonably be expressed whether the country ultimately derives much benefit from the conflict of numerical "targets," which only encourage statistical juggling.' All that can be said for certain is that more houses could be built than are being built today, but that there is little chance of their being built as long as the present Government and the present Minister are in power.