HC Deb 13 April 1948 vol 449 cc783-4
32. Mr. N. Macpherson

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland on what grounds he has issued instructions to local authorities that authority for expenditure on reconditioning farm buildings in excess of £100 as against £500 hitherto is now to be obtained from the Ministry of Works in Edinburgh; and what is the average period of time required for the issuing of such licences in Edinburgh.

Mr. Woodburn

There has been no change in the procedure under which licences for work on farm buildings costing more than £100 are issued by the Ministry of Works. It was recently decided, however, that for simplicity and speed, applications for work costing over £100 on farm houses as well as on farm buildings, which are more closely related to the demands of the agricultural programme than to housing needs, should both be dealt with by the Ministry of Works. The time taken by the Ministry of Works to deal with applications naturally varies with the nature of the case, but I am assured that there is no undue delay in disposing of applications.

Mr. Macpherson

The right hon. Gentleman talks of simplicity and speed, but is it not a fact that these demands in any case have to go through the local authority, and can he assure the House that this has speeded up the procedure and not done the opposite?

Mr. Woodburn

That is my information.

Colonel Gomme-Duncan

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Ministry of Works in Edinburgh is one of the worst bottlenecks in the matter of houses in Scotland, whether new or reconditioned, and will he do something to ginger up his right hon. Friend?

Mr. Woodburn

That is not my experience. My experience of the Ministry of Works in Edinburgh is that they are most co-operative, and do everything possible to help the Scottish Department.

Mr. McKinlay

Is not this one occasion where the dual responsibility for housing in Scotland could be readily shed, and housing made the sole responsibility of the Scottish Office?

Mr. Woodburn

That is a rather different Question. It is not a question of responsibility for housing, which is still ours; it is a question of the issue of licences.