HC Deb 22 July 1943 vol 391 cc1062-4
38. Mr. Sorensen

asked the Minister of Health when he will be in a position to report on his consultations with local authorities respecting the shortage of housing accommodation and the requisitioning of empty houses and other means of meeting the increasing demand for accommodation?

33. Squadron-Leader Fleming

asked the Minister of Health whether he proposes, in view of the increasing rents of flats and houses, to widen the scope of the Rent Restrictions Acts?

40. Lady Apsley

asked the Minister of Health what bodies were represented at the recent conference of local authorities; what recommendations were made in the Report submitted by the conference to the Minister; whether the Report will be published; and what decisions have been taken on the recommendations?

Mr. E. Brown

The conference of local authorities which I arranged last month in view of the representations received from individual local authorities as to the increasing housing difficulties was composed of representatives of the Association of Municipal Corporations, the London County Council, the Metropolitan Boroughs Standing Joint Committee, the Urban District Councils Association and the Rural District Councils Association.

The Report which this conference has sent to me as a result of a careful examination of the position stressed the need for immediate action and made specific recommendations. These dealt with the repair of houses, both to prevent further deterioration and to make additional accommodation available, and also with the more extended use of the requisitioning powers conferred by Defence Regulation and the establishment of an inter-Departmental Committee to review the whole field of rent restriction. Copies of the Report have been placed in the Library and will be issued to the Press to-day. The Report has been considered by the Government, who accept the principle that after the demands for building for war purposes have been met, housing should have the first call on immobile building labour. I am in consultation with the Ministry of Labour and National Service and with the Ministry of Works as to the best method of giving effect to this principle. In view of the present situation, the Government have authorised me to delegate to local authorities power to requisition empty houses for the purpose of improving the conditions of families at present inadequately housed. Detailed instructions on the latter points will be issued to local authorities at an early date.

The Government have also decided that an inter-Departmental Committee on rent restriction should be set up by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and myself, and there will be a further announcement as to the constitu- tion of this Committee after the necessary consultations have taken place. I should like to take this opportunity of expressing my appreciation of the valuable assistance which has been given to me by the representatives of local authorities in the consideration of this very difficult problem.

Sir Percy Harris

Will this Report be printed and available in the Vote Office, or is it to be only in the Library? It seems to me that a Report of such importance should be printed.

Mr. Brown

I will certainly consider that. It is a valuable Report. I will have it circulated in full, as I should like to meet the convenience of the House.

Mr. Sorensen

May I ask the Minister what further action is to be taken in order to meet the increasing urgency of the housing situation? Is he satisfied that the recommendations in that Report will go a long way towards meeting the situation?

Mr. Brown

Perhaps the hon. Member will read the Report. I do not want to debate it now, but I can assure my hon Friend that it covers the immediate possibilities.

Mr. Walter Edwards

Is the Minister aware that his Department has recently refused the Metropolitan Borough of Stepney permission to repair 5o war-damaged houses and flats, and in view of the fact that the matter is one of extreme urgency, will he reconsider the position now and grant that permission?

Mr. Brown

In the light of this decision we shall consider with the Departments concerned the best way of giving effect to the principle set out in my answer.

Sir William Davison

Will the same facilities for materials be given to builders engaged by private owners as to local authorities?

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