HC Deb 23 October 1945 vol 414 cc1841-5
1. Lieut.-Commander Clark Hutchison

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether it is intended to introduce legislation in the present Session to raise the maximum value of a house for the purposes of the Small Dwellings Acquisition (Scotland) Act.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Buchanan)

Yes, Sir.

4 . Major McCallum

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what percentage of grants under the Rural Workers Housing Act were made in Argyll between 1929 and 1939, to persons in respect of dwellings in which they themselves dwell as owners or by feu.

Mr. Buchanan

I am informed that the proportion is roughly 50 per cent.

Major McCallum

How do those figures tie up with the statement that this reconditioning was done almost completely for houses tied to farms?

5. William Darling

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he is in a position to make a statement on the findings of the Scottish Housing Advisory Committee on owner-occupied houses and sub-divided houses, respectively, and the desirability of encouraging house building from non-Governmental sources.

Mr. Buchanan

The Committee's report on the provision of houses for owner- occupation has been received and will be published in due course. Their report on the modernisation of houses, including houses suitable for sub-division, has not yet been submitted. The Government's policy with regard to private enterprise building was fully dealt with in the course of the Debate on 17th October.

W. Darling

Can the Minister say when he is likely to deal with the first two parts of the Question, in view of the urgency of the housing problem?

Mr. Buchanan

The hon. Gentleman has been informed that one of the Committees has not yet reported. The other Committee has reported, and I have given instructions that the report is to be printed; as soon as it is printed it will be available to hon. Members.

Mr. McKie

On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. May I, with great respect, call your attention to the present seating arrangements on this side of the House? We are a very small Opposition—

Mr. Speaker

Now is not the time to raise that matter.

Mr. Hector Hughes

What steps does the Minister propose to take to facilitate the purchase of houses in Scotland by their occupiers?

Mr. Buchanan

I think my hon. Friend had better wait and see the Report.

7. Mr. Timmons

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he can make any statement about the emergency houses in Lanarkshire and particularly Bellshill; and can he also give details of the cost of trying to make these houses habitable.

8. Mr. McAllister

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland, in view of the distress and inconvenience caused to the tenants of emergency houses at Westburn, Cambuslang, what steps he proposes to take to remedy this matter.

Mr. Buchanan

I am aware of the difficulties which have arisen in connection with these emergency houses. Various measures for improvement were undertaken last year at a cost of some £80 per house, and in the spring of this year further measures costing some £227 per house were put in hand. I am assured by my technical officers that when these further repairs have been completed the houses will be rendered reasonably satisfactory. Meantime every effort is being made to speed up the work. I have asked for a full report on the position when the work is finally completed. Claims by the tenants for rebate of rents and compensation for damage to household effects are at present being considered.

Mr. Timmons

Does the Minister still persist in going ahead with houses which, in the opinion of the experts, can never be habitable?

Mr. Buchanan

One of my difficulties is to decide between expert and expert. My experts tell me that the houses will be rendered reasonably habitable. I thought I would try to take a balanced view between two sets of experts, and I consulted one or two of the tenants living in the houses. I must say that the balance of the argument, although not strong, is that the houses will be reasonably fit for human habitation.

Mr. Kirk wood

Are not these houses something that we have inherited from Tory rule?

Mr. Buchanan

In reply to my hon. Friend, I visited Clydebank on Saturday and there, in very slight conversation, I found that the people, although not happy about them, did not describe them as unfit for habitation.

Mr. Stephen

Is it intended to initiate a prosecution against the building contractors who are responsible for those houses?

Mr. Buchanan

I dealt with this question very fully in the Debate the other night and answered criticisms on it. If my hon. Friend wishes to raise the matter again, it would be better to do so on an occasion when it could be debated fully. It is not easy to answer questions on the subject briefly.

Mr. Timmons

Is the Minister aware that his statement will give some satisfaction to the tenants of these houses who have been subject to intolerable delays by previous administrations, and will he bear in mind the urgency of the compensation question?

Mr. Buchanan

I agree that these people have been subject to terrible inconvenience and almost intolerable conditions. I think that in the next few weeks I shall be in a position to secure, not a final agreement, but at least a mitigation of the tenants' conditions.

Mr. Hector Hughes

Will the Minister extend his inquiries in this matter to the city of Aberdeen?

Mr. Buchanan

The city of Aberdeen, luckily for it, is not affected by these houses.

10. Mr. McGovern

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what is the number of applications made to the Glasgow Corporation for houses; the number of houses in course of erection; the number approved; and the number to be erected during each year for the next five years in the Glasgow area.

Mr. Buchanan

Approximately 70,000 applications for houses have been made to Glasgow Corporation. A total of 1,836 permanent houses have been approved this year and the Corporation have been allocated 2,500 temporary houses. Of these,726 permanent and 155 temporary houses are under construction. The Corporation's programme for the next five years is 5,000 permanent and 1,500 temporary houses during the first year; 7,000 permanent and 1,000 temporaries during the second year, and thereafter 10,000 permanent houses annually. In addition, the Corporation have requisitioned 518 properties, providing accommodation for 654 families.

13. Mr. Hoy

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many large houses are standing furnished but unoccupied in Edinburgh; and to what extent have the Edinburgh Corporation used their powers of requisitioning in helping to provide accommodation for this winter.

Mr. Buchanan

The information asked for in the first part of the Question is not available, but I am informed that the corporation are making a survey of the unoccupied houses in the city. A total of 45 properties have been requisitioned, including 37 which have been reconstructed to provide 45 separate dwellings for the inadequately housed.

Mr. Hoy

In view of the extremely bad housing conditions which exist in Leith, will the Minister urge upon the corporation the necessity of taking immediate action to relieve this problem?

Mr. Buchanan

I cannot interfere with the normal working of the Edinburgh Town Council, but my hon. Friend may take it that nothing will be put in the way of the Council in requisitioning property, provided it is in order to house people who are at present either homeless or inadequately housed.

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