§ 63. Sir J. Lucas
asked the Home Secretary whether he will authorise occupiers or landlords of bombed dwellings to spend some small sum, say £5 or £10, on urgent repairs, such as blocking broken windows or covering roofs pending sanction of proper repairs by the local authorities, since, if the weather be adverse, far greater damage may be caused by the inevitable delay in obtaining permission to proceed with repairs?
Mr. M. MacDonald
I am afraid that the arrangement suggested by my hon. and gallant Friend would only lead to greater competition for the services of local builders, and would therefore be likely to lead to a net delay in the work being done. Under the Housing (Emergency Powers) Act, 1939, local authorities are empowered to finance repairs which they are satisfied are necessary and which have been carried out under arrangements made by them or with their prior 1436 approval. In such cases the cost forms a charge on the property, but no payment is required from the owner until after the war. Unless, therefore, an owner is prepared to meet the cost of repairs himself he should consult the local authority before taking action. Such consultation should not involve any appreciable or avoidable delay.
§ Sir J. Lucas
Cannot men be authorised to buy a bit of wood, cardboard or material for temporary repairs right away? It is all very well to say that delay does not matter, but in bad weather it does matter.
I do not think there is any delay if a person gets in touch with his local authority at once. The whole of the building labour required is employed steadily on this work, and local authorities must be the effective co-ordinating bodies.
§ Sir J. Lucas
Cannot a man pay for the material himself and do the work himself and get the money back later after he has done his quick repair?
I think that would lead to increased competition for this labour and material and in the long run would cause greater delay.
§ Mr. Thorne
There are thousands of damaged windows in London, particularly in the East End. Cannot the Minister advise people as to the best way to get glass to replace them?
It is not our policy to replace the glass in these windows under present conditions. There are substitutes which are being used and which are much more effective for short-term purposes, and they are nearly or equally as effective in keeping out wind and rain.
§ Mr. Thorne
But many people have to board up their windows and have only artificial light for day as well as night.
§ Mr. Benjamin Smith
Could not the Minister expedite the replacing of roofs, because furniture inside damaged houses is rapidly deteriorating through the weather?
Certainly, Sir. We are doing all we can, and we appreciate 1437 that the question of roofing is as important as any. But the real trouble in London is the shortage of skilled labour, and we are taking every step possible to increase the supply.
§ Mr. Bellenger
Is the Minister aware that local authorities are not carrying out this work expeditiously and that it is not entirely necessary to have skilled labour to board up windows? Will he make arrangements whereby owners who can provide for themselves, as they often can, can be reimbursed afterwards by the local authorities?
That is the position in effect now where owners are ready to bear the cost themselves in the first instance.
§ Commander Sir Archibald Southby
Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that where small householders have to board up their windows with opaque material they are subjected to heavy costs for artificial light which, in many cases, they are unable to bear? Will he see that they are provided with the less opaque material which is now being used?
The question of light is a very difficult one. The ideal, of course, would be to put the glass back into all these windows—and there are very adequate supplies of glass—but the objections while the bombardment continues are perfectly obvious. The authorities concerned have done their best to provide the best substitutes, from the point of view of lighting as well as other considerations, but admittedly they are not as satisfactory as glass.