HC Deb 05 November 1946 vol 428 cc1188-90
5. Mr. Ronald Chamberlain

asked the Minister of Works why it has been found impracticable to require the exhibition in public places of all licences granted for the execution of building work.

Mr. Tomlinson

It is not possible to state shortly all the difficulties and objections to the proposal. Some of the difficulties are: The method of displaying and inspecting the licence, the confusion and distress likely to be caused by reports from common informers of the work being done where no licence is required, and the difficulty of enforcing in the courts any condition requiring the licensee to exhibit the licence. I am considering other alternatives which may meet the object which this proposal is intended to achieve.

Mr. Chamberlain

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that this matter of black market building is so serious that he ought to try to overcome these technical difficulties?

Mr. Tomlinson

Yes, Sir. I would point out that for months we have been trying to find a method of overcoming these difficulties, but they seem to be insuperable so far as posting notices of licences is concerned.

Mrs. Castle

Would not one of the ways of overcoming the difficulty be to make all repair work subject to licence, thus making it possible to insist on the display of a licence in every case?

15. Mr. Piratin

asked the Minister of Works how many allegations of black-market building were investigated by his Department in July, August and September; how many cases arising from these investigations were referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions; and the number of prosecutions which were made.

Mr. Tomlinson

During July, August and September, 2,679 allegations of contravention of Defence Regulation 56A were investigated. The investigations are not all complete but during this period 71 cases were referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Crown Office. In the same period there were 48 prosecutions, the majority in cases investigated before July.

Mr. Piratin

If one is to take the figures which the Minister has just given as being appropriate for the period, because there may be a continuity, is the Minister satisfied with the fact that of 2,679 allegations only 71 have been referred to the Public Prosecutor?

Mr. Tomlinson

No, Sir, I am not satisfied. At the moment we are discussing with local authorities the possibility of their having power of prosecution themselves.

Mrs. Leah Manning

Can the Minister say whether, when the material is sent to the Public Prosecutor, any steps are taken to prevent a continuation of building by the same contractor on the same site?

Mr. Tomlinson

Yes, Sir. When inquiries are being made, in most instances a stop is put to the licence under which the work is being carried out.

Mr. Hector Hughes

Can the Minister say in how many of the 48 cases where there was a prosecution a conviction was secured; and will he take steps to secure power to have the sentences in such cases increased?

Mr. Tomlinson

I ought to point out that it is not for the Minister to determine what the sentences should be. In the 48 cases where proceedings were taken, 47 convictions were secured.

Mr. Bowles

Is the Minister aware that a mere fine is no deterrent and that imprisonment is the only remedy?

Mr. Tomlinson

It was for that reason that on the last occasion when an order was brought before the House it was made possible to take away a builder's licence.

Mr. Hector Hughes

May I make it clear that I did not wish to suggest that the Minister could have these sentences increased but that he should give power to increase them in future cases?