HC Deb 03 December 1946 vol 431 cc189-90
18. Mrs. Jean Mann

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is aware of the increasing practice of the sale of small one and two apartment houses, hitherto rented; and what steps he is taking with regard to the extortionate prices demanded for all houses for sale with vacant possession.

Mr. Buchanan

Yes, Sir. I trust that the publicity given to this matter will serve to warn would-be purchasers of modest means who may not fully realise the liabilities attached to the ownership of tenement property. Besides liability for owners rates, these include responsibility for the maintenance of the structure such as repairs to the roof, the common stair and courtyards. If hon. Members will let me have any details in their possession showing the extent of the problem my right hon. Friend will consider what action can usefully be taken. Apart from this I hope that having regard to the clamant need for housing accommodation at the present time prompt steps will be taken by the citizens to draw the attention of the local authority to any houses being deliberately kept vacant for possible sale so that their suitability for requisitioning can be considered.

Major Lloyd

On a point of Order. May I ask, respectfully, what that answer has to do with Question No. 17?

Mr. Speaker

Question No. 17 was not asked. The Question asked was No. 18.

Mrs. Mann

Since Scotland was so successful in introducing the Rent Tribunals Act. may I ask whether Scotland cannot now lead the way with an Act to control the selling price of all these houses with vacant possession, or to suggest that the local authority might acquire compulsorily all such houses, and either let or resell them on a needs basis?

Mr. Buchanan

This problem is in some respects so urgent that to wait for legislation would be wrong. The fact is that no house should remain vacant at all, and requisitioning is the first effective remedy to deal with the problem. As to my hon. Friend's question whether legislation can be introduced, either for Scotland or for England, that is another issue. If she has any evidence, my right hon. Friend will gladly consider it, but meantime the effective thing is to step in at once by considering immediate requisitioning.

Mr. Hector Hughes

Can my hon. Friend take immediate steps to control the extortionate prices being demanded for these houses with vacant possession? Does he realise that this practice is causing a great deal of hardship in Scotland?

Mr. Buchanan

As I have replied already, that would need legislation. The first effective beginning is to stop a single house remaining vacant. The immediate power available is to effect requisitioning to see that the houses are used for families in dire need.