§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ Mr. DUNNICO
I have no desire to object to any of the Commissioners on the list, but I want to raise a question, 1753 which I think will be in order under this Clause, with regard to the method of disbursement of loans made by the Commissioners under the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Act. Perhaps I shall be able to make the burden of my complaint more plain to the Committee if I select one single authority as an illustration. I refer to the township of Ilford, over whose destinies for the time being I happen to preside. Under the existing procedure, much inconvenience, much delay, and much difficulty is caused in completing the purchase. For instance, in the township of Ilford this year we are making disbursements to the extent probably of £25,000 per month, or something like £250,000 a year, and trouble arises in this way. We have to supply full details of the intending purchasers, the residences to be acquired, the tenure of the mortgage, the amount of the respective advances, and other incidentals, and the effect is that by the time all this procedure has been completed either the tenant is denied the right of possession, or he has to pay interest upon the money to the end and in some instances serious loss occurs.
I have a typical case in my mind at present. A certain person came and applied for a loan under this Act, but there was a long delay, the house was completed, the builder declined to wait for his money, and this particular person had to obtain a temporary private loan from a friend. He obtained the loan, expecting to redeem it, went into the house, but when the sanction came through, because he was actually in residence and had bought the house, he was unable to get a loan, as the Act forbids that. What we suggest is that the method of disbursement by the Public Works Loans Commissioners should be brought into harmony with the method adopted by the Ministry of Health. For instance, it is easy for any local authority to anticipate the amount of money it is going to expend over a given period. If we in our township estimate that our disbursements are £20,000 or £25,000 per month, the Ministry of Health sanctions the loan, and the town mortgage is held by the Public Works Loans Commissioners. Why cannot they make disbursements, say two or three months ahead? We 1754 could then complete each mortgage and supply all the necessary information to the Commissioners before applying for a further loan, or a further instalment out of the same loan.
Ilford would never have been able to make the success that it has made of the Small Dwellings Acquisition Act if we had not dipped very largely into our own funds in order to meet these cases. What we are asking is simply that where a loan of £100,000 or £200,000 is granted, and that is to be spread over six months, a quarter or a third of the loan should be granted to us, and then we could supply all the details afterwards before proceeding to a second instalment. I do not want to exaggerate the importance of the Small Dwellings Acquisition Act, but in a town like Ilford it is meeting a great need, and i think that, instead of difficulties being put in our way, those difficulties ought to be removed and the terms, perhaps, made more easy. If the responsible Minister could give some undertaking that this point will be considered, I shall be extremely grateful.
The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the TREASURY (Mr. Guinness)
The point which the hon. Member has raised is a new one. Of course, he will understand that the administration of their powers is really a matter for the Public Works Loans Commissioners. The Treasury exercises only general supervision, and, of course, has to give approval in certain cases. I understand that the hon. Member's complaint is that the Public Works Loans Commissioners would not make their advances in sufficiently large units and in advance of the work.
§ Mr. DUNNICO
My point is that the Public Works Loans Commissioners make their grants after the disbursements are made, and not before, and that means dipping into the ordinary funds of the council to meet these cases promptly.
I do not know what the legal position is, but it happens that under this Bill we have a case of an advance to a public utility society which has had to be written off because the money was lost, and I know that in that connection definite statutory rules are laid down as to when the money can be paid. I do not in any way suggest that that applies to local authorities, but it is impossible for me to give an answer, 1755 because I have not looked the matter up, and all I can honestly do is to go into it and call the attention of the Public Works Loans Commissioners to the alleged inconvenience, and invite them to co-operate with us in seeing whether anything can be done to meet it.
I do not know that I shall be able to give an answer, but if the matter is raised on Report I shall be glad to deal with it again.
§ Mr. DUNNICO
I should like to point out that there is absolutely no risk, because the loan is taken by the council and sanctioned by the Ministry of Health. There can be no risk whatever, such as might be in the case of a public utility society.
In the case of a public utility society Parliament deliberately, in the Act of 1919, abolished the safeguard which had hitherto existed in the case of these loans, under which the Public Works Loans Commissioners were not empowered to advance money for building in advance of certificates that the work had actually been done. If it is merely a question of advancing money on a mortgage on the land, that, of course, is a smaller question. I understand that the hon. Member wants to have the money advanced on the whole building before the building has been done.
§ Mr. DUNNICO
No. The local authority will not advance the money until the building has been completed, but. by reason of the delay in the procedure, the money is not available when the building is completed. We want the money to be there in the hands of the local authority the moment the mortgage is ready for completion. There is no risk whatever either on the part of the Commissioners or the authority.
I am not raising difficulties, but only want to know what the hon. Member suggests. I take it that the Public Works Loans Commissioners would have to advance the money before the building was complete, in order that the local authority may have it in their possession by the time the certificates of completion of the building were available.
§ Mr. DUNNICO
No. The Public Works Loans Commissioners hold the mortgage in the name of the town, sanctioned by the Minister of Health. All that we ask is that an instalment of this loan, for which the mortgage is already in the hands of the Public Works Loans Commissioners, shall be in the hands of the local authority, in order that the purchase may be completed the moment the building is ready for occupation.
I will certainly go into the matter, and see whether anything can be done to give assistance.
§ Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to."
§ Remaining Clauses ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ Schedule agreed to.
§ Bill reported, without Amendment; to be read the Third time upon Monday next (20th July).