HC Deb 30 November 1937 vol 329 cc1873-5
42. Mr. Mander

asked the hon. Member for Central Leeds, as representing the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, what action it is proposed to take arising from the report prepared by Miss Marion Fitzgerald on the instructions of the Church Union, and with the assistance of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, indicating that the Church has been participating in ground rents from houses in Maida Vale and Paddington of doubtful character, and that on the Ecclesiastical Commissioners' Walworth No. i estate, near Lambeth Palace, every house in one bad patch of property, from which ground rents are drawn, is infested with vermin; and whether the Commissioners have considered the advisability of promoting legislation to enable them, under Section 30 of the 1925 Act, to ask the court to break the type of lease in question?

Mr. Denman (Second Church Estates, Commissioner)

The Ecclesiastical Commissioners do not accept the implications contained in the question. The Commissioners are satisfied that either the police or the housing and sanitary authorities enjoy full powers to remedy abuses of the kind referred to wherever they may be found to exist. It is not the function of the Commissioners to invite Parliament to amend the law governing the powers of owners of land and of houses respectively, and no special protection of the Commissioners against inaction by those charged with its administration would be appropriate. The hon. Member could more speedily attain his beneficent purpose if he would persuade the authorities to exercise their powers so as to bring these houses, over which the Commissioners have no control, up to the standard which the report says is maintained by the Commissioners in respect of their own property.

Mr. Mander

Does not my hon. Friend feel that the Church has a special responsibility in this matter, and that it really cannot get out of it by saying that these properties are let on long leases; and will he not consider, if he thinks the circumstances appropriate, coming to Parliament for special powers to break the leases?

Mr. Denman

As I have stated in my answer, it is scarcely the function of the Commissioners to invite Parliament to make a change in the general law governing the relationship between landowners and householders respectively.

Mr. Maxton

Would the hon. Gentleman be so good as to inform his fellow Commissioners that their duty is to look after the material property of the Church, and not to deliver sermons to Members of this House?

Mr. Denman

My hon. Friend may be assured that we look after the property of the Church far better than we deliver sermons.

Mr. Bellenger

When breaches of covenants occur, have not the Commissioners the right to sue in the Courts for forfeiture of the lease; and why are they not doing so when breaches of covenants have been established?

Mr. Denman

We do take action where breaches of covenants are established. In these cases I know of no breach of covenant arising at all.

43. Mr. Whiteley

asked the hon. Member for Central Leeds, as representing the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, the annual amount received by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in coal royalties?

Mr. Denman

The amount received by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in respect of royalties on coal for the year to 31st March, 1936 (the last available), was £239,000.