HC Deb 05 August 1924 vol 176 cc2756-8

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to prohibit the demolition of dwelling-houses, and for other purposes connected therewith. The provisions which are incorporated in this Bill were already enacted by> Section 6 of the Housing (Additional Powers) Act, 1979, but most of the Sections of that Act were passed for only two years, with the result that the provisions which are the subject of this Bill came to an end about 1921. It has come to the notice of the House, in the course of the discussion of the Housing (Financial Provisions) Bill and various other Bills dealing with evictions and tenancies of residential property, that one of the incentives to the owners of property to secure vacant possession of houses is, that indirectly they may be let for commercial purposes or demolished so that factories or business premises may be erected on the sites. This evil is particularly prevalent in the inner boroughs of London, but it is also prevalent to some extent in other of the great industrial centres of Great Britain. Therefore, I am anxious that the provisions of Section 6 of the Housing (Additional Powers) Act, 1919, shall be re-enacted, in order that a tenant of such property may have the necessary safeguard against houses being utilised for that purpose, and I feel that the House will agree that, at this time of serious shortage in houses for residential purposes, it is nothing short of a tragedy that some of them should be changed from use for residential purposes to use for commercial purposes, or should be demolished for a similar reason.

I desire to give to the House certain figures which are in my possession with regard to some of the Metropolitan boroughs. There have been in recent years, in Islington, 21 houses demolished in order that they might be used for factory purposes, and, also in the borough of Islington, 44 houses have been converted from residential use to commercial use. In the borough of Hackney, the figures are even more alarming in this particular respect. There are, in that borough, 874 premises used as workshops, but excluding altogether workshops where mechanical power is used, which come under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of State for Home Affairs. Of these 874 premises, no less than 414 were built for use as private houses, but are now in use in whole or in part as workshops. During the year 1923 no less than 23 premises were converted from use as dwelling-houses to commercial purposes. It will therefore be seen that the evil is very real so far as London is concerned, and particularly in the inner boroughs. It has the effect of driving the residential population out from the central parts of London while commercialising and industrialising the inner boroughs, and this must have the effect of producing further congestion on the transit system and increasing the time that it takes for people to get to their places of employment.

The Bill provides that houses cannot be demolished without the consent of the local authority, and if they are in a fit sanitary state, that they cannot be used for purposes other than residential without the consent of the local authority. It is provided that the owner may appeal to the Minister of Health on the ground that the premises are not capable, with- out reconstruction, of being put in a fit sanitary state for human habitation, and there is provision for a Standing Committee of Appeal. Property which is going to be demolished or is limited in user in pursuance of an Act of Parliament is exempted, and there are the usual provisions as to definitions, application to Scotland, and so on. I feel that this Bill will be of value to many of the inner boroughs of London where this evil is prevalent, and I hope that the House will give consent for it to be introduced.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Herbert Morrison, Mr. Thurtle, Mr. Gillett, Mr. Gibbins, Mr. Montague, and Mr. Windsor.