HC Deb 13 April 1948 vol 449 cc792-4
51. Mr. Janner

asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury how many applications for war damage were received after the expiration of the statutory time limit; and in how many of these cases was the application allowed.

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Glenvil Hall)

The War Damage Commission advise me that no detailed figures are available. Three and a half million notifications have been accepted of which several hundred thousand were received out of time. Until a year ago no notification was rejected because it was late. Since then the Commission have, in the public interest, felt bound to become increasingly critical of new notifications which are now only accepted in very exceptional circumstances.

Mr. Janner

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the average layman has considerable difficulty in understanding the regulations, and that in spite of the various instructions that have been given there are still many who have not submitted their claims who ought to be considered?

Mr. Glenvil Hall

They have had ample time. It is getting on for three years since the last bomb fell. We cannot accept notifications indefinitely right down the years.

Mrs. Leah Manning

Will my right hon. Friend look again at cases where bona fide claims have been accepted by local authorities?

Mr. Glenvil Hall

That is a matter which is being considered. It is fraught with difficulty, but we are going into it.

Lieut.-Commander Braithwaite

Was there any definite date announced after which claims would not be entertained? Could the right hon. Gentleman say what it was?

Mr. Glenvil Hall

The date was 30 days after the incident took place. We have been accepting notifications right up to now where a good claim has been established.

Mr. Oliver Stanley

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Commission treat these exceptional circumstances in a very rigid way? I have recently had one or two claims which were obviously bona fide in regard to which I could not feel that justice was being done.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

The right hon. Gentleman himself helped to put through the Act under which the War Damage Commission operate.

Mr. Stanley

Has not the right hon. Gentleman just made it plain that the Commission are not prevented by the Act from doing this—that they have discretion to do so?

Mr. Glenvil Hall

Within the four corners of the Act and so far as they are able the war Damage Commission quite definitely act with discretion. They have done a great deal to help these late claimants.

Mr. Solley

Is my right hon. Friend aware that most of these cases in which the application has been put in after the statutory time are cases of persons of poor means who have been unable to afford expert or professional advice, and that the present discretion of the War Damage Commission is exercised most rigidly? I have had six cases in my constituency refused in the last three months, each of which is a bona fide case. Will my right hon. Friend do something about it?

Mrs. Middleton

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in the case of the majority of these late war damage claims the local authorities concerned had already notified the War Damage Commission of the damage? Where that has occurred, and it can be verified by the local authority, will my right lion. Friend see that those claims are honoured?

Mr. Glenvil Hall

It is not for me to see that any claim is honoured. It is the Commission's job to sift the claims, and to accept those which, under the Act, are acceptable.

52. Mr. Skinnard

asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury whether his attention has been called to the hardship suffered by many small building contractors who, having submitted specifications and estimates to the War Damage Commission, receive only an assurance that, the proper cost will be paid and are unaware of what this is until an inspection after completion of the work; and whether, for the guidance of such contractors a list of permissible charges will be issued.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

The War Damage Commission advise me that they are at present making over 10,000 payments a week, the great proportion of which relate to works done by small builders, and they have no evidence that their procedure causes any hardship to these builders. Proper cost is dependent upon variable factors such as the cost of materials and the level of wages, and these in conjunction with the nature of the work make it impossible to issue a list of permissible charges.

Mr. Skinnard

Will my right hon. Friend not agree that in a large majority of cases recently, the disallowance on completed work has averaged £10 against the estimates of such small builders, and these niggling reductions would be obviated were such general guidance available from the War Damage Commission?

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