HC Deb 15 November 1937 vol 329 cc28-30
52. Mr. Bossom

asked the Minister of Health whether, as many beautiful and historic cottages are now being destroyed which it would be possible to save if properly reconditioned, he will ask the county councils, the preservation societies, and the local panels of architects to prepare a list of the cottages it is essential to preserve so that the entire subject can be comprehensively considered?

The Minister of Health (Sir Kingsley Wood)

I have frequently urged, and will continue to urge upon local authorities the desirability of taking all practicable steps by way of publicity and proper survey to secure the reconditioning of cottages which can be made fit for human habitation, and I understand that such a list as my hon. Friend has in mind is in course of preparation.

Mr. Bossom

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the list to which he refers will not be finished for about 10 years, and then will not cover the whole country?

Sir K. Wood

I could not say how long it will take, but the official list, I understand, is being compiled by the Royal Institute of British Architects, and I should think it would be a very satisfactory attempt to deal with the matter.

Mr. Bossom

Could not my right hon. Friend urge upon them that it might be done with greater speed?

Sir K. Wood

This, of course, is a voluntary body, and, in coming forward to do this work, I feel that they should have an opportunity of making a commencement.

Mr. Leach

Will the Minister bear in mind the fact that not one of these ancient cottages exists that is not a grave menace to health; and will he please try to discourage this worship of the mouldy?

Sir K. Wood

I must not be taken as assenting to that proposition. I agree that a good many cottages will have to be either reconditioned or pulled down, but to assert that none of them is of historic interest or value is quite incorrect.

Mr. Johnston

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind the report of the committee that studied the experience in Scotland in connection with this matter, and that that committee reported that there had been a grave waste of public money?

Sir K. Wood

Even so, that is a different matter from the question on the Paper.

53. Mr. Bossom

asked the Minister of Health whether, in view of the fact that the preservation of many beautiful old cottages depends entirely upon the amount of money available for reconditioning, and that the sum now available is often insufficient, he will promote legislation or issue regulations increasing the sums available for this purpose where the cottages justify it?

Sir K. Wood

I am not aware that the grants available under the Housing (Rural Workers) Acts are insufficient for their purpose. I propose to introduce legislation extending the time of operation of these Acts, and hope that the fullest use will be made of them.

Mr. Bossom

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, while the amount allowed is obviously quite enough in the case of houses built during the Victorian period, the very early and beautiful ones require, unfortunately, a little more; and will he give consideration to that point?

Mr. Paling

Would it be possible for the Government to take over all the liabilities, and leave the landlord nothing to do except to draw the rent?

Sir K. Wood

That would be under a new dispensation.