Oliver Letwin is one of those terribly clever people who turns out not to be wise nor bright. This reputation for cleverness has, surprisingly, survived all the evidence he’s given us over the years as well. His latest idea is that the housing crisis – such as it is an t the extent that it’s not already being solved – should be dealt with using a national plan, the full power of governance, as with aircraft production during World War II.
Ministers and officials must invoke Britain’s effort to build Spitfires during the Second World War to help construct the homes the country needs, one of the Government’s key housing advisers says today.
Sir Oliver Letwin, who is carrying out a major review for Theresa May, says infrastructure must be organised like wartime aircraft production to solve the housing crisis.
He warns that the slow provision of new power lines and transport links is holding up the construction of thousands of homes by “years and years”.
As it happens, an informant (thank you Stephen!) sends a section from Hansard concerning that wartime air production:
AIRCRAFT (SPARE PARTS). House of Commons Debates, 21 Jan 1942
Mr. Garro Jones asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he is aware that several hundred aircraft are grounded for lack of spare parts, airscrews, etc.; and to what extent the responsibility for these deficiencies rests upon the Air Ministry?
The Secretary of State for Air (Sir Archibald Sinclair): In an Air Force of large size a number of aircraft must always be unserviceable for short periods awaiting spares. The current proportion is not, however, abnormal, and the supply of spares is improving.
Mr. Garro Jones: When my right hon. Friend says that the total number of aircraft grounded for lack of spares is not abnormal, does he mean that there has been no improvement over the enormous proportion of aircraft grounded for lack of spares six to 12 months ago?
Sir A. Sinclair: No, Sir. It is true that the supply of spares has given some cause for anxiety in the past, but I am glad to assure the hon. Member that the position is improving.
Mr. Garro Jones asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he is aware that maintenance and repair instructions for air units are supplied, some by the Air Ministry and some by the Ministry of Aircraft Production; that this division of responsibility is resulting in contradictory instructions and to a large number of errors in the spare parts volume; and whether he will take steps to unify the instructions?
Sir A. Sinclair: The Director of Servicing and Maintenance in my Department and the Director of Repair and Maintenance in the Ministry of Aircraft Production issue instructions within their respective spheres. They are in constant touch with each other and are fully aware of the need for co-ordination in order to avoid overlapping or conflicting instructions.
Mr. Garro Jones asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he is aware that the Director of Repair and Maintenance under the Ministry of Aircraft Production is stationed in one town, that his technical staff are stationed in another town, that the Air Ministry organisation for the provision of spare parts is situated in a third town, and that the actual supply of spare parts is the function of a Director of Depots situated in a fourth town; that this system involves inordinate delays due to correspondence and other paper work; that important communications upon which the supply of equipment depends frequently take two or three months to make the complete circuit of reference; and whether he is prepared to consider proposals for a better arrangement?
Sir A. Sinclair: I am aware that the dispersal to which the hon. Member refers is
administratively inconvenient, but in the existing circumstances governing Government Department locations and accommodation this must be accepted as inevitable.
Mr. Garro Jones Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many of those who are responsible for administering this part of the machinery of supply are greatly concerned about the dispersal of the various Departments, and that delays amounting to three or four months in correspondence regularly occur?
Sir A. Sinclair: I am aware that this dispersal, which is forced upon us by circumstances outside our control, does involve serious disadvantages.
Well, yes, that’ll work well then, won’t it? We’ll all be out of the wattle and daub housing and into proper wood as God intended by 2100 AD as the government solves the housing crisis.