§ 38. Mr. McGovern
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is aware that a growing number of small tenement flats are being offered for sale at extortionate prices by house factors and property owners; and if he will introduce legislation to put a stop to these practices which are causing great public resentment in Glasgow.
There are practical difficulties in dealing with this problem either by controlling the selling price of houses or by the exercise of requisitioning powers. In my view, the solution Lies partly in the exercise by local authorities of their powers to acquire and improve houses with the aid of grants under the Act of 1949, but mainly in the provision of more houses to let.
§ Mrs. Mann
Is my right hon. Friend aware that a great number of these houses are on the records of the medical officer of health as houses ready for demolition, and that they are being sold? Therefore, it would not be feasible for the local authority to acquire houses which are ready for demolition.
While I have a great deal of sympathy with the point made by 900 my hon. Friend, I should think that with that particular type of house there would not be a rush of people anxious to buy.
§ Mr. McGovern
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Glasgow newspapers are packed with advertisements by Tory property-owners advertising these houses and demanding extortionate sums for them; and in view of the fact that the Government refuse to allow houses to be built for sale, why should they allow these flats to be sold at these extortionate rates?
I am indebted to my hon. Friend for bringing this to my attention, and I have looked at a number of these advertisements. I repeat that if the local authority are satisfied that it is a reasonable proposition to acquire them and thus provide them for the community, they are in fact blocking the rather profiteering proprietors.
§ Mrs. Cullen
Is my right hon. Friend aware that property-owners in the City of Glasgow are prepared to leave houses untenanted rather than let them, and that this is causing great hardship?
§ Mr. Rankin
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the local authorities feel that under the Housing Act, 1948, their powers of requisition have been somewhat restricted in dealing with these houses?
I think that probably my hon. Friend is referring to the fact that the power is limited and requisitioning facilities have disappeared, but I am still inclined to think that acquisition is a more valuable recourse of the local authority than requisition.
§ Mr. Carmichael
Will my right hon. Friend be quite clear as to what he means by acquisition? Does it mean power to requisition the property or to purchase the property? I want to be quite clear as to what is meant by acquisition, so that the tenant can be safeguarded against the landlord.
I mean the process with which my hon. Friend is very familiar as a result of his extensive and distinguished appearance on local authorities—acquisition by purchase and the power which local authorities have for that purpose.
§ Mr. McGovern
Surely if the local authority fail to do it, it is up to the Secretary of State either to see that they do it or to do it himself?
§ Mr. William Ross
Does the Secretary of State realise that the only thing to do is to restore to the local authorities the power of requisitioning these properties? Will he consider doing that?
It was the Ministry that had the power to requisition, not the local authority. Extension of that power would, of course, have to be provided for by this House, and I should think that is rather a questionable assumption.
§ Mr. McInnes
Would not my right hon. Friend consider, in view of the hardship that is being created, particularly in Glasgow, the introduction of legislation to give local authorities the power to requisition?
I shall be glad to consider every aspect of this subject, but the question of the introduction of legislation would be more properly addressed to the Leader of the House.