HC Deb 07 February 1945 vol 407 cc2065-6
35 and 36. Lieut.-Colonel Dower

asked the Minister of Works (1) if he is aware that local authorities are seldom, if at all, granting licences to private builders to carry out essential war damage repairs; and what directions on this point have been issued by his Ministry;

(2) if he is aware there are considerable numbers of small private builders spending nearly all their time applying for licences to carry out essential war damage repairs, which are seldom, if ever, granted by local authorities; and will he take steps to make full use of all such builders.

The Minister of Works (Mr. Duncan Sandys)

Bomb damage repairs is a type of work for which small builders are well suited, and they are being very extensively employed on this task. In areas in which the licensing limit has been reduced to £10, registered builders have been invited to apply for work on war damage repairs under a direct contract either with the local authority or with the Ministry of Works. In the London region, over 6,000 builders have entered into contracts of this kind. There is, however, a considerable amount of work which can best be done by private contract. This includes bomb damage repairs to isolated houses, demolitions and essential maintenance. In the last 2½ months local authorities in Greater London have granted 23,000 licences for this kind of work.

Lieut.-Colonel Dower

Is the Minister aware that several councils in London are of opinion that they themselves should do these bomb damage repairs, and should have the builders working for them and not for the tenant or owner of the house; and is he also aware that other councils are of opinion that only builders who reside in a council's area should be permitted to do work in that area?

Mr. Sandys

Broadly, without going into detail, the view of the Government is that it is more efficient to tackle this job as a whole, and not to encourage individual owners of property in various streets having their own jobs done privately. This makes the people alongside feel that their neighbours are having preferential treatment. However, there are many cases where a house is isolated, or where there is some other special reason why it should be repaired separately. In such cases licences are granted.

44. Lieut.-Colonel Dower

asked the Minister of Works if he is aware that, through difficulty in obtaining licences to carry out first-aid repairs, building materials are being looted from empty bomb-damaged houses which cannot be properly closed up without work being carried out for which no licence is granted; and will he, in consultation with the War Damage Commission, ensure that such loss will qualify for future cost of works payment.

Mr. Sandys

I know of no specific cases where looting has occurred after a licence to repair the property has been refused. However, if my hon. and gallant Friend will send me particulars, I shall be glad to have inquiries made. As regards compensation for looting, I would refer my hon. and gallant Friend to the answer given by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to my hon. Friend the Member for Moss Side (Mr. Rostron Duckworth) on 17th October last, of which I am sending him a copy.

Lieut.-Colonel Dower

Is the Minister aware that there have been many cases. May I put this point? When damage takes place, it is necessary to close up the buildings at once, and will he not consider allowing these immediate first-aid repairs to be carried out without licence?

Mr. Sandys

First-aid repairs are carried out with remarkable rapidity. The repair squads are, in most cases, on the job within an hour, very often within half an hour, and the work is almost always completed in under three days and very often less.

Mr. Evelyn Walkden

Do not the owners and tenants themselves look after their own property as a rule?

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