HC Deb 25 January 1945 vol 407 cc959-61
44. Mr. E. J. Williams

asked the Minister of Health, whether he proposes to take steps to prevent companies acquiring properties at inflated prices, over the heads of persons of more modest means, and thereby depriving the latter of the opportunity of acquiring their own homes for occupational purposes.

Mr. Willink

I will ask my hon. Friend to await the reply which I understand will be given later to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Clayton (Mr. H. Thorneycroft).

45. Mr. Harry Thorneycroft

asked the Prime Minister if his attention has been directed to the Motion on the Order Paper in the name of the hon. Member for Clayton, asking for the appointment of a Select Committee to examine the desirability of controlling or regulating the price at which dwelling-houses may be sold; and if he will give time to debate the Motion.

[That in the opinion of this House it is eminently desirable in the public interest that immediate steps should be taken to examine the desirability of controlling or regulating the price at which dwelling-houses may be sold and that for this purpose a Select Committee of this House should be appointed at once to examine the available evidence on the subject and to advise whether control is desirable, and, if so, the form which such control should take.]

The Prime Minister (Mr. Churchill)

In view of the state of public Business, I can hold out no hope of time being found for the discussion of the Motion standing in the name of my hon. Friend. The Government have had this subject under careful consideration for some time, but I am not in a position to make any statement on the subject.

Mr. Thorneycroft

Is the Prime Minister aware that the practice to which this Motion refers is both widespread and increasing, and that with the end of the German war and the return of many men, who have no homes to go to, the position will become still more acute? Is it not worthy of special consideration, in view of these facts?

The Prime Minister

There are many opportunities for discussing this matter in the House, in the ordinary round of the Parliamentary Session. The Government are considering the matter, but we are not convinced, nor likely to be convinced, that a Select Committee would be the best way of dealing with it.

Mr. Woodburn

In view of the difficulties of this question, would not the Government consider setting up a fair prices tribunal, much on the lines of the Fair Rents Tribunal in Scotland, which has already worked very well?

The Prime Minister

I can only say that these matters are constantly under the attention of the War Cabinet and of the Ministers especially concerned. The House may rest assured that the matter is not being left to slide or being overlooked. I am not in a position at present to offer a Select Committee.

Mr. Vernon Bartlett

Can the Prime Minister give any indication of when the Government are likely to reach a decision, because, as he knows much better than I do, all over the country we are getting houses sold at three times their pre-war value?

The Prime Minister

I am not able to give an indication as to when a decision will be reached.

Mr. Kirkwood

Does the Prime Minister not think it is about time that he reversed his decision that, for the duration of the war—

Mr. Speaker

That does not arise out of this Question. This Question deals only with a Select Committee on the price of houses.

Mr. Kirkwood

Surely I have a right to put this question?

Mr. Speaker

A supplementary question can be put only if it is relevant to the original Question.

Mr. Guy

Will the right hon. Gentleman reconsider his decision not to grant a day for this Debate, because since the recent statement of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Minister of Health a large number of these houses have been sold for 200 per cent. or more above their original price?

The Prime Minister

I am afraid I cannot reconsider a decision within a very few moments of its having been announced. We will consider the matter.

Mr. Thorneycroft

In view of the very unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I will raise the matter on the Adjournment.