HC Deb 15 July 1943 vol 391 cc360-1
41. Mr. David Adams

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that members of the Armed Forces are finding it increasingly difficult to obtain suitable housing accommodation for their families; and whether he is prepared to urge local authorities to give all possible preference to these families in the allocation of vacant dwellings on council housing estates?

61. Mr. Keeling

asked the Minister of Health whether he will request local authorities to give priority, in allotting houses or flats, to men discharged from the Services from wounds or sickness if they were living in the area before they joined the Forces?

Mr. E. Brown

I am aware that the effect of the war on the housing situation is increasing the difficulties of all sections of the population in this respect. Local authorities are required by the Housing Acts to give reasonable preference in selecting their tenants to persons who are occupying insanitary or overcrowded houses, have large families or are living under unsatisfactory housing conditions. I am sure that local authorities would consider with special sympathy an application from the family of a serving man or a man discharged from the Services for wounds or sickness which satisfied these conditions, but, having regard to the variety of ways in which vast numbers of people are now directly engaged in the war effort, I do not think it would be in the general interest to give an absolute preference to any particular section. I may add that I am meeting a conference representative of housing authorities to-morrow afternoon to discuss certain recommendations for improving the general housing position.

Mr. Adams

Is the right hon. Gentleman not convinced that special care should be given that members of the Forces shall be able to house their families?

Mr. Brown

I am sure local authorities have this always in mind.

Mr. R. J. Taylor

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his answer means simply nothing? It is impossible for local authorities to satisfy the claimants on account of the shortage of houses, and he is passing the buck.

Mr. Brown

I am doing nothing of the kind. The hon. Member is not paying a compliment to the representatives of all the local authority associations who suggested that they should assist me, when he speaks of passing the buck. We have been making a very serious attempt, despite the fact that we cannot build new houses, to see what other accommodation can be made available.

Mr. Cluse

Will the right hon. Gentleman express an opinion whether a reduction in the number of vacant requisitioned houses will ease the pressure?

Mr. Brown

That is one of the major issues we are discussing.

Miss Rathbone

Is there any way in which the right hon. Gentleman's Department can help in a case such as I sent him recently, where there was gross overcrowding of a soldier's family not due to the woman, and where the local authority after many months has not taken any action? Is there any way of jogging the elbows of local authorities?

Mr. Brown

We always draw the attention of local authorities to any cases brought to our notice by Members or from elsewhere, but it is not for the moment an easy matter to be chairman or member of a local housing committee.