HC Deb 10 December 1919 vol 122 cc1549-51

(1) Any expenses incurred by the Minister under Section sixteen of the Housing, Town Planning, etc., Act, 1919, in connection with the conversion of buildings into separate tenements shall, subject as hereinafter provided, be paid out of moneys provided by Parliament:

Provided that such part of any such expenses as would have been borne by the local authority if they had been expenses incurred in carrying out a scheme to which Section seven of the said Act applies shall be payable by that authority and shall be recoverable from that authority as a debt due to the Crown, and the certificate of the Minister as to the part of the expenses to be borne by the local authority shall be conclusive.

(2) The provision of money for the payment of any amounts payable by a local authority under this Section shall be a purpose for which the authority may borrow under Part III. of the Housing of the Working Classes Act, 1890.

(3) The Minister may make Orders containing such provisions with regard to the vesting in the local authority of any buildings converted into separate tenements under the provisions of the said Section sixteen and such consequential and supplemental provisions as the Minister may think necessary, and any Order so made shall be binding on the local authority.


I beg to move, at the end of the Clause, to insert the words Provided that a local authority shall not be compelled to take over as part of their housing schemes any buildings which the Ministry shall have acquired under the provisions of the said Section sixteen after being informed by the local authority that in their opinion the property in question was unsuitable for the purpose. I regret that we should again have inserted in this Bill, our old friend, legislation by Order in Council. Therefore it is necessary, in my opinion, that local authorities should receive protection on the lines indicated by the Amendment. The local authorities are certainly the people who are the best judges as to whether any particular house is suitable for reconstruction and conversion. As proposed in Section 16 of the principal Act, if the local authority, with their knowledge of the local circumstances, have formed the opinion that certain premises are not suitable for conversion, then, under this Order in Council, the Minister can say that the particular premises which they think unsuitable can be vested in them. Some little time ago a kind of panic seized the Ministry, they thought things were not getting on fast enough. They were to be sympathised with, but some gentleman from the Ministry was sent round to a number of the boroughs in London, apparently scheduling empty houses wherever he happened to see them. Where houses are isolated, a quarter or half a mile apart, the local authority can not administer the houses. If houses are to be administered by the local authority there ought to be some two or three of them together, or else the cost of management becomes prohibitive. The main point is that where the local authority has, after taking all the facts into consideration, decided that in their opinion a house is not suitable for conversion, it should not be able to be vested in them by Order in Cuncil.

4.0 A.M.


I think my hon. Friend has asked me who would be responsible for these houses in the country? The necessary powers to assist the local authorities in carrying out their schemes have been deliberately provided. The hon. Member says, quite truly, that a certain amount of work has been carried out in the Metropolitan area. He made the objection, that when a house was two or three hundred yards further away, the, local authority might have to send a special rate collector a few hundred yards further to collect the rent. That is neither here nor there. What would be the position of the Ministry if, having done this in respect of local schemes, they are to act as rent collectors at a miscellaneous assortment of houses? It makes no difference to the local authority, and surely, housing, so far as it is undertaken, whether constructed by the local authority or by the Ministry and their Department, in any area, must be administered by the housing authority in that area. We only step in, with great reluctance, to remove the pressure and to limit the extent, and it is clearly necessary that the provisions so made must be a part of the local scheme, and that is all we seek power to do. It was a loophole which was inadvertently left in the principal Act, and which I am now seeking to fill up in the only way in which it can be filled up.

Amendment negatived.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 4 (Amendment of Section 7 and Section 19 of;9&10 Geo. 5, c. 35, with, respect to Amount of Annual Payments) ordered to stand part of the Bill.