§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 3.43 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Mr. W. F. Deedes)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
This Bill falls into two main Parts. The purpose of Part I, the more substantial part, is to bring to an end within a measurable term of years requisitioning for housing purposes. Part II deals with the new arrangements which we propose to make to finance the cost of prefabricated temporary houses. In Clauses 16 and 17 there are also certain provisions for Scotland, and my right hon. and gallant Friend the Joint Undersecretary of State for Scotland will intervene in the course of the debate to deal with those.
It may be for the convenience of the House if I deal first with Part II of the Bill—that is, the payments for temporary houses—and then come back to our proposals with regard to requisitioned houses. In 1944, under the provisions of the Housing (Temporary Accommodation) Act, the Government made available 125,000 prefabricated temporary houses to the local authorities in England and Wales. It was provided that the capital issues to pay for.those houses in any one year should be repaid by 10 equal instalments of principal and interest at 2½per cent.
As it turned out, the cost was mainly incurred in three years. Thus, in 1945–46, it amounted to £46 million; in 1946–47, it was £88 million; and in 1947–48 it was £57 million. Small issues for delayed payments to contractors and the cost of some replacements have continued to the current year. The effect of this financial arrangement has been to require annual repayments falling due rather like this: next financial year, £23,690,000; in 1956–57, £18,300,000; and in 1957–58, £8,190,000—thereafter tailing off into small sums ten years hence.
I think it is clear that the great bulk of temporary housing will remain for longer than ten years. Many of these houses have proved fairly popular and have certainly proved durable, and a 193 great many of them will have to be used, not for ten but for twenty years or more. There is, therefore, a reasonable case for spreading the repayments over a longer period. This could have been done by extending each of the annuities by, say, five years, but that would not have been a very tidy arrangement.
What, in fact, has been done in Part II of the Bill is to consolidate all the annuities and to take a mean date for repayment. By this means the total sum outstanding, which is over £50 million, will be repaid in seven years by an annuity of £8 million. This means that the last charge will be in 1961–62 and not in 1964–65. In a word, one consolidated annuity replaces eleven or more.
I turn now to the first and principal Part of this Bill, in which we are seeking to make a fresh approach to this most difficult and persistent problem of requisitioned houses. As hon. Members know, this requisitioning under emergency powers has been part of our housing system since 1939. Originally, it was made necessary by the Second World War. Its perpetuation has been necessitated by post-war housing difficulties. At this distance from the end of the war, and in the light of current housing progress, the Government feel—and, indeed, I think that this is not in dispute—that the system cannot be allowed to continue indefinitely, to be a permanent element of our housing system.
The Government's object is thus simply stated but, because of the complexity of the problem, the methods of achieving it are not nearly so easy. The House will immediately appreciate that any solution has to reconcile two things. The first is justice for owners of requisitioned houses, and the second is the avoidance of hardship for those living in those houses now and protection of their future interests. In shaping the provisions of the Bill, which has not been easy, my right hon. Friend has had to keep both considerations in the forefront of his mind. I hope that I shall be able to convince the House that he has reconciled both the principles in Part I of the Bill.
Before I outline the Bill's provisions, it might assist hon. Members to get a rather clearer light on them if I say a few words about the background and the extent of this problem which is now confronting us. Defence Regulation 51 of 1939 was 194 designed to deal with families made homeless by enemy action; that is, by bombing or by evacuation. That was supplemented, first in 1943, when the powers were extended to cover the needs of inadequately housed families, and again in 1946, when local authorities were allowed to use all requisitioned properties as a pool of accommodation for this purpose.
At the end of the war 71,493 properties had been requisitioned. After that, 51,941 properties were added, although, I should mention, only 246 of those in the last four years. Since the end of the war 61,491 have been released. The figure that we are left with today—that is, to the end of 1954—is 62,000 holdings.
§ Mr. J. A. Sparks (Acton)
Could the hon. Gentleman tell us, approximately, the number of families involved?
§ Mr. Deedes
I understand that 90,000 families are involved.
Even that figure—and it has fallen by 20,000 in the last two years, from 82,000 to 62,000—has not been achieved without great efforts and a large measure of co-operation by the local authorities concerned. This reduction of 20,000 in the last two years, I should add, is not really an accurate guide to the problem which now faces us. A high proportion of requisitioned property is now concentrated in the hands of fifty authorities. They are the hard core of the problem, and some of them face quite exceptional difficulties.
Out of these 62,000 houses, nearly 50,000 are in London. As, I think, all the London Members will know, the load bears heaviest on London, and that will not surprise anyone who knows what the war inflicted on London. We have recognised throughout that the problem of these London authorities is exceptional and deserving of special sympathy and every consideration, but it leads to this conclusion, that as things are, these authorities—and there are one or two outside London—can foresee no end to this problem for ten to fifteen years. Therefore, there is an overwhelming case for a fresh approach.
§ Mr. Hugh Dalton (Bishop Auckland)
When the hon. Gentleman says "in London" does he mean the London 195 County Council area, or does he include the outer boroughs as well?
§ Mr. Deedes
I refer to Greater London.
There is one other consideration which I should mention here. Since the inception of the system, the Government have paid the entire cost of this service. The gross cost this year was £15,679,000, the net cost, £6,290,000. In a state of emergency that is a perfectly right and proper thing, but in more normal times it is not a good principle that the Government should pay the whole of the cost of a service wholly administered by local authorities. There is no parallel in peacetime for that in the administrative field. In clearing up this situation it has seemed to us that a financial spur is indispensable, and so far it has not existed.
Now I turn to the Bill, and here I should like to say that my own task, and I think I can say the task of the House, too, has been greatly assisted because my right hon. Friend has been at pains to clothe the main provisions in the simplest style. Many people have a great deal at stake in this Bill, and as far as possible my right hon. Friend has tried to make sure that they should be able to see and understand what we are trying to do and how we intend to try to do it. For the benefit of the lawyers there is a long interpretation Clause in which the plain words of the Bill are translated into rather more complicated language. My right hon. Friend has tried to be of service both to the lawyers and to the laymen.
First, let me say one word on the future of requisitioning under emergency powers. The House will have already observed that under Clause 14 powers to requisition additional property for housing purposes are to be repealed forthwith. Last year no houses were requisitioned at all, and in 1953 only seven houses were requisitioned. Therefore, I think I may say that administratively that will not cause any particular difficulty.
Secondly, these 62,000 houses already held by the Government, and the responsibility for them, are transferred to local authorities under the terms of Clauses 1 and 2. Local authorities are given the.right to retain and use these properties for five years ending 31st March, 1960, 196 but no longer. The expense, as well as the properties, is being transferred to local authorities, and as the financial Clause, Clause 10, makes clear, towards this we shall pay 75 per cent, after 31st March, 1956. Until then we shall pay 100 per cent, of the cost, which, in effect, means that the present financial arrangement will continue for just over a year from now.
The House will have observed that this and other financial arrangements are based on the present housing ratio of three to one—that is to say, three parts by the Exchequer and one part by the local authority. As far as the financial provisions of the local authorities go, that is not quite all, because from 1957 any local authority which can satisfy the Minister that the burden of even this one-quarter is putting an unreasonable load on the rates will be eligible for additional assistance.
§ Mr. Deedes
That remains to be determined when the situation arises. I should add that terminal compensation for dilapidations, which is the standing charge at the end of the requisitioning, will be reimbursed wholly by the Exchequer.
§ Mr. Frederick Elwyn Jones (West Ham, South)
Could the hon. Gentleman give us a clue to the kind of tests which are to be applied to determine the moment when this additional assistance will become operative? We are very much in the dark at the moment. It may be difficult to forecast, but we should like some guidance on this point.
§ Mr. Deedes
The hon. and learned Gentleman will appreciate that it is difficult to foreshadow in advance. This provision, with all the provisions in this Bill, has been fully discussed with the local authorities or the local authority associations, and the most I can say at the moment is that they have accepted this provision. They understand its implications and have agreed upon it. The detail of its working out, I think, must wait until nearer the time.
§ Mr. Herbert Butler (Hackney, South)
Surely, in the discussions with the local 197 authorities, the total loss to the Exchequer has become known. The 25 per cent, which the local authorities will have to contribute under the new arrangement must be known. Therefore, the responsibility of the local authorities can be quite easily ascertained—whether it is a 5d., 6d., 7d. or 8d. rate. Why cannot we have the figure which is considered reasonable and the figure which may be considered unreasonable?
§ Mr. Deedes
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will await what my right hon. Friend has to say about local authorities later in the debate. The short answer to the hon. Gentleman is that there are many uncertain factors, many obviously depending on the rate at which these houses can be disposed of, before which it is impossible to give an accurate answer.
§ Mr. C. W. Gibson (Clapham)
I understood that the Minister was dealing with the payment by the Treasury in the case of excessive losses. He was asked to say how that was to be judged. Are we to take it from what he has said that no formula has been worked out? We know that the local authorities, at any rate, do not know of any formula at present. Are we to be told on what formula those excessive losses will be worked out?
§ Mr. Deedes
Obviously, no commitment of this kind can be undertaken with out having a good look at what might be involved. It is, therefore, quite true that there has been a broad approach to the problem. If I may suggest it, if the hon. Member will wait to hear what my right hon. Friend has to say this evening, in particular about the local authorities, he will be—
§ Mr. Deedes
I should add that terminal compensation for dilapidations will be wholly reimbursed by the Exchequer and will not be part of the local authority's cost.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham, North)
Will the hon. Gentleman try to help the House? He tells us that he knows the answer, because he has said that his right hon. Friend will give such information later; but his right hon. Friend will be winding up the debate later this evening. 198 If the hon. Gentleman knows the answer, why cannot he give it to us now?
§ Mr. Deedes
I am not withholding any information which I expect my right hon. Friend to give later. I have said that we cannot give these provisions in detail, because they obviously depend on circumstances which may arise when the provisions come into operation. I think that is clearly understood by local authorities— by bodies to whom we have spoken— and they are the people mainly concerned.
§ Mrs. Lena Jeger (Holborn and St. Pancras, South)
Is it not a fact that local authority representatives have been pressing the Minister for a formula? Are not their representatives opposed to the matter being left entirely within the Minister's discretion? Is it not misleading to say that local authorities accept this rather vague situation?
§ Mr. Deedes
I was careful to say "the local government associations." Those are the bodies with which we have conducted our negotiations. We have discussed the likelihood of these provisions being needed. Perhaps I may now get on with the remaining parts of the Bill.
The remaining Clauses of Part I are concerned almost entirely with the methods of eliminating this pool of 62,000 houses before 1960 without hardship to the occupants. I think it will be accepted by anyone who studies the problem that there is no single method by which this can be achieved. Some half-a-dozen methods are being employed and I should like to say something about each one.
The first, and perhaps the most obvious, which is covered by Clause 3, is that when a house falls vacant it shall be released. Any exception to that rule must have the Minister's consent. The second, and perhaps the most important, is offered by Clause 4. It would obviously be a major contribution towards reducing this pool of 62,000 requisitioned houses if owners who did not wish to occupy or sell the houses were prepared to give the present occupants a statutory tenancy.
It is impossible accurately to compute how many there might be in this class, and I think any guess might mislead the House. A major difficulty in all this work has been that the 62,000 houses cover a great diversity of circumstances. They defy statistical analysis. I will only say 199 that we think this could make a major contribution, and we believe that it will. In effect, the owners will be invited to accept the present occupants as statutory tenants and to grant them rent-controlled tenancies. Where such an agreement is reached, houses will cease to be requisitioned.
§ Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)
Before the hon. Gentleman goes to the next point, may I ask whether I am right in thinking that there is no means whatever of obliging an owner to grant a statutory tenancy if he does not wish to do so?
§ Mr. Deedes
I have not quite finished Perhaps the hon. and learned Gentleman will allow me to finish this point.
I think we should look at this, first of all, from the owner's point of view and then from the tenant's point of view to see what the precise result will be.
§ Mr. Percy Shurmer (Birmingham, Sparkbrook)
Why not the other way round? The hon. Gentleman would do away with the Bill if he looked at it from the tenant's point of view. He would not then ask the House to pass the Bill.
§ Mr. Deedes
Take it either way. Take it, first, from the tenant's point of view, if hon. Members like. The tenant will pay no more than he is paying now, for 10 years, subject to any change which a local authority may feel it proper to make in the rent—any change such as it can now make for any council tenant. The local authority will make up the difference, and that will rank for Exchequer grant. The owner will get the rent which he is receiving now, which is compensation rental, plus the statutory repairs deduction, because he will become responsible for the repairs and maintenance of the house; and this will become the standard rent. As a result, he will lose his right to vacant possession, and for this he will be compensated.
§ Mr. Shurmer
Does the hon. Member believe that landlords are as kind as that? If he knows anything about town and city landlords he will know that all they are out for is to get the house vacant and then to sell it to the highest bidder.
§ Mr. Deedes
If the hon. Member is fortunate enough to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, no doubt he will develop that point later.
200 We hope that the granting of these tenancies will make an impression on the problem, but, of course, we cannot depend entirely on this method so, in addition, two other alternatives are proposed, which will be found in Clause 11.
§ Mr. Sparks rose—
§ Mr. Deedes
I have given way a good deal and I should be grateful if the hon. Member would permit me to get on with my speech. A great many hon. Members want to take part in the debate.
The first of these two alternatives empowers the local authority to obtain leases of requisitioned houses for a term of ten years or so by negotiation with the owners. I think it is worth mentioning here that for this purpose local authorities will not be confined to requisitioned houses. If they need to, they can negotiate for any other house. Either way, the effect is a lease between willing parties in place of a house now held on requisition. The Exchequer will pay 75 per cent, of the cost of any annual deficit for ten years.
If neither of these methods provides enough houses to accommodate those in requisitioned houses, there is a third possibility, which is that local authorities may purchase.
§ Mr. Deedes
Since there are known to be owners who are willing to sell, compulsory purchase powers should not be needed in this instance. Again, in that case, three-quarters of any deficit will be borne by the Exchequer for twenty years.
We feel that all these methods are fair to owners and offer the fullest safeguards to tenants, whose position is assured for at least ten years. But among the owners of these requisitioned houses there are cases—and I think that no hon. Member in any part of the House will deny this—
§ Mr. Dalton
I want to get one point clear. The hon. Gentleman has said that the position of tenants is assured for ten years. Does not this Bill deal only with five years in respect of their security?
§ Mr. Deedes
The provisions which I have just outlined cover a period of ten years—that is, the powers and the financial provisions for a lease or for the sale of a house. If the right hon. Gentleman will look again at the Clause he will see that that is so.
§ Mr. Mitchison
This is an important matter. All these provisions depend upon the consent of the owner. If the owner does not consent, is riot this the position: that in 1960 the occupant, the licensee— for he is not a tenant—is turned out on the road without any provision whatever being made for him in the Bill?
§ Mr. Deedes
I have a little more to say about that and I think I can answer the hon. and learned Gentleman later in my remarks.
I was speaking of the owners of requisitioned houses among whom, I think it is accepted, there are some cases of very real hardship. I do not suppose that there is any hon. Member who has not at one time or another encountered one or more such cases, and I therefore need not elaborate the kind of difficult circumstances which arise for these owners, and particularly for the owner of only one house.
For these people we have thought it right that there should be two other provisions. In the first place, under Clause 5 we give the owners the same rights as those given to the owners of rent restricted houses—rights to apply to the courts for vacant possession. That means that the courts will determine the relative hardship between owner and occupier. There will not be many of those cases and it should not be difficult for local authorities to find alternative accommodation for the few involved.
Then there are owners who do not want to live in their own houses, but are in urgent need of their capital value. We all know of cases no less deserving of sympathy in this category. A second provision is included in Clause 6, whereby the Minister can require the local authority to release or to buy a house at market value with vacant possession. I stress that this is not likely to be a large group, but within it there are known to be some extremely hard cases.
There is one other provision in Clause 7 in respect of owners. That is designed to meet the needs of those who wish to modernise or convert a house by means of an improvement grant. That provision is in the interests of property.
§ Mr. Derek Walker-Smith (Hertford)
Would my hon. Friend bear this consideration in mind in relation to the procedure under Clause 6? That appears to 202 be a purely administrative decision. Would it not be possible to consider whether there ought to be either a right of an aggrieved applicant to go to the courts or at any rate to have a review by some non-Ministerial body, where the Minister is not prepared to accept the allegation of hardship?
§ Mr. Deedes
I take the point made by my hon. Friend, which I think hon. Members would wish to consider in Committee.
I am giving an outline of the instruments which we are proposing to bring to bear on the task of restoring these 62,000 houses to normal conditions. Perhaps I might sum up what we have tried to do in Part I of the Bill.
§ Mr. Deedes
I think I am right in saying that the point made by the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) was whether or not this depended on the consent of the owner in making the necessary arrangements with the tenant. These arrangements are triangular because the local authority is brought in as well and, of course, they are subject to consent. The whole object is to achieve tenancies by consent in place of by requisition. That is the essence of the contract.
§ Mr. Mitchison
May I make the point quite clear to the hon. Gentleman? All these arrangements depend on the owner's consent. Am I right in thinking that if the owner does not consent to anything the occupant would be turned out on to the street in 1960, without any provision being made by this Bill to accommodate him?
§ Mr. Deedes
No. In coming to that conclusion the hon. and learned Member omits from his calculations the very great number of steps which will be taken between now and 1960, partly in a field I have not even mentioned. For example, normal provisions now being made to allocate part of every waiting list to a number of people in requisitioned houses. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] By the time 1960 is reached those provisions should 203 have rendered the situation suggested by the hon. and learned Member quite impossible. The last resort is the purchase of the house.
We have tried to liquidate a debt incurred in the Second World War. Like many debts associated with that event, it has proved much easier to incur it than to repay it. As it stands it is a source of some hardship to owners and of much uncertainty and anxiety to a great many tenants or licensees of requisitioned houses. To do nothing more than we are doing now, by accepting palliatives—and they are nothing more—of current administrative action would mean that it would become harder and harder for the local authorities concerned. It would be tantamount to accepting the problem as a permanent one. That, we think, is intolerable. We cannot and ought not to regard this as a bad debt.
It is perfectly true that local authorities will incur added responsibility, but, in the long run, we think that their task will be made a great deal easier by these measures. I think they accept that. The local authority associations have been consulted throughout. My right hon. Friend can say more about that later in the debate. They have contributed to these proposals and my right hon. Friend is very grateful to them for all they have done. The main provisions of the Bill have been framed with their agreement.
Equipped with these new provisions, we shall make a new attack on this problem together. We think we can solve it. We are asking the House to approve the terms of this new partnership agreement and so enable us to repay in justice and equity something which stands at the head of the debit column of the housing account.
§ Mr. Lewis
The hon. Gentleman will remember that the predecessor of his right hon. Friend, with a great nourish, instituted a great attack on the slums. Is the hon. Gentleman aware that most of these requisitioned houses are in London and other populated areas, where there are the majority of slums? Will he say to what extent this Bill will interfere with local authorities carrying out proposals to deal with slum properties? He did not mention that aspect of the matter at all.
§ Mr. Deedes
In so far as the Bill has any bearing on the problem mentioned by the hon. Member, it must assist in its solution.'
§ 4.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Dalton (Bishop Auckland)
I beg to move, to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:this House declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill which contemplates the eviction of occupants of requisitioned houses in 1960 without providing for their rehousing and, while protecting landlords from special hardship, gives no similar protection to occupiers.This, surely, is a quite unnecessary Bill. Over the greater part of the country it will not operate at all, because over the greater part of the country there are no requisitioned houses, or very few, remaining. On the other hand, where it does operate—principally in the London area—it will undoubtedly cause new hardships and throw new burdens on local authorities, the precise amount of which the Parliamentary Secretary has by no means clearly defined. The size of the problem the hon. Gentleman has stated to be now 62,000 houses, housing 90,000 families. Scotland is in on this and, therefore, can be included—
§ Mr. Dalton
That is my point, and I am obliged to the hon. Member for strengthening my argument.
Taking the whole country, including Scotland, out of the 62,000 remaining requisitioned houses we are told that 50,000 are in London, including Greater London. Outside London the Bill will operate principally in Birmingham, Liverpool and, I think, in Bristol. Over Great Britain as a whole there are62,000, of which 50,000 are in London and I would guess that most of the remainder are in three or four major cities of which I have named three. Therefore, over the whole of the rest of the country, including Scotland, the Bill will not operate at all. Clearly, for the rest of the country this is an unnecessary Bill.
On the other hand, where it will operate it will cause great hardship because, in the judgment of many persons with practical experience of these matters, five years is much too short a time in these very difficult areas to wind up the whole of the requisitioning arrangements.
205 Before coming to my general argument, I wish to make one further statistical point. After all, the position does not remain stationary from year to year. The Parliamentary Secretary has told us that in the last two years 20,000 houses have been derequisitioned. Therefore, two years ago there were 82,000 requisitioned houses. A quarter of them have been disposed of in two years, and therefore, even without the Bill, the process of derequisitioning is going forward gradually and steadily.
§ Mr. Deedes indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Dalton
The hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but surely he is not saying that without the Bill there would be no further derequisitioning. Evidently, from the figures he has given, derequisitioning is going forward. What those of us who support the Amendment object to is trying to force the thing to a final and premature conclusion within five years in these difficult areas.
We should have preferred an approach in which, instead of taking a figure of five years and making it a national figure, the matter was handled on the basis of the different areas of the country according to the needs and conditions in each area. Over the greater part of the country, as I have indicated, the Government could get a legal and final end of requisitioning in much less a period than five years, in many cases within one year where requisitioning has practically gone down the wind already.
But in the areas where requisitioning is still a serious problem, it would have been much better had the Government, instead of fixing one uniform term of five years for the whole country, made arrangements whereby a different period might be fixed for different areas according to the local needs before bringing these arrangements to an end.
Many of my hon. Friends will, no doubt, speak, if they are fortunate enough to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, of their own local experience of these problems, and I will not attempt to summarise what they may wish to say; but the Minister, who will wind up the debate, is himself a London Member and will, I am sure, listen with particular interest and sympathy to what is said about the London aspects of the problem.
206 The Parliamentary Secretary truly said that requisitioning is historically due to the blitz. A large number of people are in requisitioned premises because their homes became war casualties. They were under the Luftwaffe and they were in the track of that storm, and they should, therefore, be treated with exceptional sympathy and patience in their troubles which were no part of their responsibility.
The Amendment makes a further point, namely, that this Billcontemplates the eviction of occupants of requisitioned houses in 1960 without providing for their rehousing and, while protecting landlords from special hardship, gives no similar protection to occupiers.I think it is common ground, among all who have had experience of these hardships in their constituencies, that there is a genuine grievance on the part of the small man who owns only one house. I am not concerned with the professional landlord who lives by collecting rents from others, and much less with the large and impersonal company which does that. But the individual who owns his house is undoubtedly in many cases suffering a great grievance, which we should seek to abate and remove.
That individual may wish to get back into his house but cannot get back into it, or he may wish to change his place of residence or work and would dearly like to sell the house which is his to buy another house somewhere else. For the person who owns one house in which he himself desires to live there is great sympathy, and we shall be very happy in the further proceedings on the Bill to make sure that safeguards for him are just and adequate.
But what about the safeguards for the occupiers of these houses? Very often there is a tragic conflict of vital interests. A family living in such a house might have nowhere else to live if it is pushed out, while another person, perhaps with a family, is eager to get back the possession of his house or to get the money to buy a house nearer his work in another area.
I did not follow the Parliamentary Secretary's argument about what would happen under the Bill. I say, "under the Bill" because at the end of his speech the hon. Gentleman spoke about other provisions that might be made in some 207 other form somewhere else. I did not follow the hon. Gentleman's answer to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison), who asked whether it was not the case that under the Bill an occupant of a requisitioned house will have no assurance after 1960 that he will be able to continue to live where he is now living. I am sceptical whether many landlords will make their existing tenants in requisitioned houses statutory tenants under rent control.
I share the scepticism of my hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Shurmer). But suppose that some cases are to be dealt with in that way and by the other provisions in Clauses 5 and 6. It is still true that under the Bill there is no assurance that any tenant of a requisitioned house will not be put out on the street in 1960; I do not think that that can be denied. If that is really so, our argument appears to be very strong in support of the Amendment.
I should be very interested to hear, when the Minister replies to the debate, whether I have not correctly stated, and whether my hon. and learned Friend before me did not correctly state, the position as it will be in1960. There is no legal assurance for these people, and I would guess that a high proportion of them will be entirely without any right to continue to live anywhere in 1960.
§ Mr. Dalton
Many of these people are the children of men who died for their country. Let time run not only in favour of property rights. Let it run sometimes also in favour of those who fought in the war or who, being civilians, suffered from enemy action in the war.
§ Sir W. Darling
The right hon. Gentleman surely would agree that the owners of houses which have been requisitioned for 15 years also served in the war, and their fathers served, too.
§ Mr. Dalton
The hon. Member will have heard me say that I have the greatest sympathy for the small man who has one house, and that I am eager to see him get it back again without injustice to others; but it would be a grievous injustice in 208 many cases if, in 1960, these families are turned out from the places which they now occupy. If the Minister can say anything which alters my interpretation of the Bill, I shall be interested to hear it.
Additional financial burdens are to be imposed on local authorities. It is said that a spur is required—that was the phrase used—arid that the form it will take will be that the local authorities will have to carry certain costs which in the past have been carried by the Treasury. But the Parliamentary Secretary was not at all exact or clear as to how that will work out. It has been necessary for many authorities within the Greater London area to have special assistance by way of rate relief—I think of West Ham and East Ham and there are others—because for a variety of reasons they are in a state of municipal poverty. They have great burdens upon them which they find it very difficult to meet.
We certainly are entitled, before consenting to the Second Reading of this Bill, to have information that is a good deal more detailed. The Parliamentary Secretary hinted that the Minister would be able to say more about this. Whatever may be the inconvenience, from the point of view of the debate, in having to wait until the end to hear what is to be done for local authorities, it is better to hear it at the end than not to hear it at all. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will be able to fill out that part of his speech rather more fully, because the Bill will be of great concern to hon. Members who represent the constituencies in question and to the communities which they represent here. Many of these are very heavily overburdened.
There is a further point about the burdens on local authorities on which I should be grateful if the Minister can say something. It relates to Clause 1 (3), in which it is laid down thatAny agreement made in respect of a requisitioned house on behalf of the Minister, and in force immediately before the commencement of this Act, shall continue in force and have effect thereafter as if made on behalf of the local authority.That may be very onerous indeed on the local authority.
I should be glad if the Minister could tell us whether there are any, but there may be agreements entered into with regard to many requisitioned properties for payments at the end of the term which 209 would be much heavier than what the local authority would otherwise be required to pay. If there are such agreements, the least that the Minister can do is to take up any excess payments that may arise and meet them from Exchequer funds.
There is a further reference in the Bill to the purchase of houses by the local authority. We on this side of the House are generally in favour of the extension of municipal estates. We think that there are great advantages to any local authority in considerably increasing its estates and becoming the owner of rented properties in its area. That helps in many ways. It gives the local authority more elbow room and a more varied estate, with a wider range of sizes and types of houses, so that voluntary transfers between families can come about more easily.
§ Mr. Dalton
There may be a lot of argument about that. But the hon. Gentleman does not propose to bring in a Measure to institute rent control for houses owned by a local authority, does he? Is that part of the new Conservative programme?
§ Mr. Walker-Smith
The right hon. Gentleman was in the House when the 1936 Housing Act was passed, which limited the rents which could be charged by the local authority to its housing tenants, not under the operation of the Rent Restrictions Acts, but by a specific statutory provision. The right hon. Gentleman was a Minister when that statutory provision was repealed by the Housing Act, 1949, which was introduced by the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan).
§ Mr. Dalton
These are very interesting excursions into history. I merely wanted to make sure that the chairman of the 1922 Committee was speaking with full authority when he said that it was a pity that local authority housing properties were free of any of the provisions for rent control.
§ Mr. Walker-Smith
The right hon. Gentleman must do himself justice, apart from me. I did not say anything about it being a pity. I pointed out that they were not subject to the Rent Restrictions Acts and, therefore, any extension of 210 local authority tenancies in that way meant the diminution of rent restriction.
§ Mr. Dalton
That may well be so, but George Bernard Shaw once said that he was in favour of houses being owned by public bodies, because then as a ratepayer or taxpayer he had some voice as to what was done with the rent he paid, whereas in the case of private property he had none. That argument is still not without weight. The hon. Gentleman was a little premature in raising the point, because it is bound to lead one to wonder whether the 1922 Committee is not urging a reform of the law in this respect. Perhaps we shall hear more about that in the debate.
I was saying, when the hon. Gentleman intervened, that, in general, we are favourable to an increase in municipal housing properties, but we are not quite clear as to how that will operate under the Bill. It looks as though compulsory acquisition is not so much to be applied here by a local authority to an unwilling landlord, as by a Minister to an unwilling authority. The Financial and Explanatory Memorandum on the Bill states:The Bill provides that a requisitioned dwelling shall be released earlier than that date …"—That is, at the end of five years—(d) When the owner is suffering severe hardship and the Minister directs the local authority to release (or alternatively to purchase) the house…This looks as if compulsion to purchase is to be applied in some cases by the Minister to local authorities. I should like that more fully explained by the Minister when he replies to the debate.
I have tried to keep in touch with current opinion on this subject and I have had sent to me a paper called "The Surveyor and Municipal and County Engineer." It is a very reputable and authoritative paper. I should like to read to the House some comments on the Bill which appeared in the issue of 12th February. The paper states:The Bill has nothing whatever to do with the protection of the families living in requisitioned houses. It is solely concerned to secure to landlords the value of their premises with vacant possession. The cost will be considerable, and will be thrown on the rates. The Ministry state that representatives of local authority associations have been fully consulted and that the main provisions of the Bill, including its financial provisions, were framed 211 in agreement with those representatives. The payment of subsidies to landlords because their tenants cannot pay without severe hardship is unforgiveable. When money cannot be found for roads and other urgent public services, this payment of subsidies where no need is shown displays an irresponsible attitude to public funds, the very charge made in the Crichel Down report.I have read this passage because I am sure that the Minister will have read it too and will wish to reply to it.
§ Mr. Dalton
The editor, I expect.
The references to Crichel Down are perhaps debatable, but I agree with the earlier sentences which I quoted. They seem to me a very pungent summary of the Bill. I read the passage to get it on the record and to get the Minister to reply, as I am sure he will wish to do.
It is still my hope that, when the Minister has listened to the remainder of the debate, including what I am sure will be some very well-informed comments from the point of view of the principal local authorities concerned, he will agree with what I said in my opening sentences. He will agree that this is an unnecessary Bill, that it approaches the problem in the wrong way and that it would be much better to take area by area and make special arrangements for each, including a considerably longer period than five years for the London area. I hope that in the light of our discussion the Minister will take the Bill back, think again and bring in a better Bill.
§ 4.39 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Jenkins (Dulwich)
I rise because I think it fair to say that my constituency has more requisitioned families in it than any other in the country. The Borough of Camberwell has the second largest number of these families, Wandsworth having the largest. I feel, therefore, that I have special attachment to the subject because so many of my constituents have come to see me or have written to me about it. I welcome the Bill and the way in which it has been drafted, but I hope that Amendments will be made to it during the course of its journey through Committee. Furthermore, I hope that before the debate is over the Minister will tell us what he 212 means by Clause 10 (2), to which I shall refer in a moment or two.
Having read the Bill, and knowing a fair amount about the problems of both the tenant and the landlord of requisitioned houses, I consider that a fair bargain has been made to both sides. There are few tenants living in requisitioned properties in London who really want to stay there. Since they know that it is of a temporary nature and that they cannot look forward to such property being their permanent home, they want to get out of it and into a permanent house.
I would respectfully suggest that this is the right time to do something because, unless something is done by some Government at some time, this position will be perpetuated. I assure the House that large numbers of such tenants are in a continual state of trepidation, wondering what will happen to themselves and their families; and the younger the parents are the more worried they are.
The Bill enables a landlord who wishes to do so to live in his own house at the earliest possible time. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned ex-Service men. Large numbers who were called up had bought their houses with the assistance of a building society, their families were sent to the country under evacuation schemes, and their houses were taken over. Hundreds of thousands of other people were compulsorily evacuated from London to the country and as their houses became empty these also were taken over. Therefore, there are 50,000 houses in London and Greater London which were taken over by virtue of those two facts. It is with those people who wish to get their houses back in order to live in them that I am concerned.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Lipton
Has the hon. Gentleman any idea how many of those 50,000 houses are required by owners who want to live in them? Is he aware that the number is small in relation to the total number of houses?
§ Mr. Jenkins
I do not know the answer to that question but, speaking from my own experience, there are large numbers of them. Those who have come to see me and written to me are of that description, and I have not had any approach from landlords who own large numbers of these houses.
§ Mr. Albert Evans (Islington, South-West)
For the information of the hon. Gentleman, and for the clarification of hon. Members generally, I have in my hand a document from the owners of requisitioned houses, who put the figure of single owners at between 4,000 and 5,000.
§ Mr. Jenkins
I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for that information.
Now may I turn to another angle. The transfer to local authorities by the Government of the right to determine all points with regard to requisitioned property in the future is important. Up to now, many local authorities have been backward in releasing property in cases of great hardship, although they could have done so. Camber well Borough Council is one of those. Even in proved cases of hardship, the council has been backward in this respect, and only by constant pressure have any properties been released.
This was because until a year or two ago it was the policy of the council not to release to owners any properties whatever. Therefore, the transfer of the powers not only of management, but of responsibility for the property, is not only a good safeguard from the point of view of property owners and tenants but it is also of great advantage to the taxpayer.
Although the problem occurs principally in Greater London, it is a national problem, and always has been since requisitioning started, so it should be a national charge. The right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) said that the people of London and Greater London and of the big cities were bombed during the war, whereas the rest of the country was not bombed, so the cost of maintaining these people in requisitioned property as the result of their homes being bombed should be a national charge. Yet, some time or other, this must cease and the question is, when? The Government have specified a limit of 1960 and this is wise because, unless local authorities are forced to do something, in a large number of cases nothing will be done.
When the war was over the Government of the day continued to give powers to local authorities to requisition and those powers were withdrawn only a short time ago. It is now certain that no more 214 properties will be requisitioned. I want to answer one point made by the right hon. Gentleman about the five years. There is provision in the Bill, though perhaps indirectly, for specific powers to be given to local authorities, particularly as regards London and Greater London, to take three certain steps. I will not bore the House with these because no doubt other hon. Members will deal with them in detail. The House must realise that five years is not a long time having regard to one fact. Here I am not attempting to make a party point, although it may appear so.
During the last three and a quarter years nearly 1 million people have been rehoused in new permanent housing whereas, if the maximum figure for building had remained at 200,000 houses a year, they would never have been provided with new permanent houses. I am not suggesting that if the right hon. Gentleman and his friends had been in power three and a quarter years ago they would not have exceeded 200,000 houses a year, but I am saying that if the maximum of 200,000 houses had not been relaxed there would have been 1 million fewer people in permanent houses today. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] I will not weary the House with the way it is worked out, but it can be shown in simple figures.
If that be so, then at the present rate of building there will probably -be 1£million more people in permanent houses in the next five years than there would have been if the ceiling had remained at 200,000. The effect of this will be that with the increase of building throughout the country, and with perhaps even a progressive rate, five years will be about the right time to give the local authorities in which to hand back to the owners these requisitioned houses, because the additional new permanent housing available will take up the slack represented by these requisitioned houses.
One further comment on that point. Hon. Members perhaps do not appreciate that to derequisition a house does not reduce the family unit at all Somebody goes into the house out of which somebody comes and, therefore, there is no reduction in the number of family units, but only a transfer of one family unit to another place.
§ Mr. Julius Silverman (Birmingham, Erdington)
The hon. Member was 215 dealing with total figures for the whole country. How does that apply to places with very large registers? For instance, in the City of Birmingham there are 60,000 people on the register of whom more than 30,000 are lodger applicants with families. How is this problem to be met over the next five years by dealing with total figures for the whole country?
§ Mr. Jenkins
I am obliged to the hon. Member. That brings me to my last two points and I will deal with that one first.
Because of the grave circumstances in my own constituency—and I know that other hon. Members are concerned with the very great problems in Birmingham and West Ham—I ask the Minister to make some special provision for those areas with the largest number of requisitioned properties and with very little land upon which to build. Special attention should be given to these areas which were the most heavily bombed during the war and which should now have the most pleasant and agreeable treatment. I have no doubt whatever that the general outline of the Bill is the correct one, but some concessions should be made to those places most hardly hit in the war.
§ Mr. Graeme Finlay (Epping)
Is my hon. Friend aware that new towns are being. created around the perimeter of Greater London to help places like West Ham and that a substantial amount of taxpayers' money is going into those new towns?
§ Mr. Jenkins
I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention. I am aware of that, but I still maintain that it does not follow that the people from the most badly bombed areas will find accommodation in the new towns. As and when the Minister has the opportunity to think about certain proposals that may be made to him when the Bill is dealt with in Committee, I hope that he will pay special attention to these areas.
I should like to call the Minister's attention to Clause 10 (2), which says:If the Minister is satisfied in the case of any local authority that the additional burden placed on their rates in consequence of the provisions of this Part of this Act … is greater than is reasonable, he may, with the consent of the Treasury, make to them a special grant in respect of that year of such amount as he may …216 I want to give one instance of the effect of the Bill, if local authorities for four years have to pay the 25 per cent, of the total amount. The Borough of Camber-well's deficiency for 1953–54 in respect of this service, and for which it got a total reimbursement, was £181,500 gross. The net amount was £163,000. The 25 per cent, which it will be called upon to pay the year after next will amount to £41,000, which is approximately equivalent to a 6d. rate.
I make this plea to the Minister, who is not only the Minister of Housing, but also the Minister of Local Government. At present, rates are soaring and local authorities are hard put to it to get enough money to pay for the services which they should render to their ratepayers. This additional burden of 6d. on one borough —it may be much more in other London boroughs—is an unconscionable burden which my own borough should not be called upon to pay.
The Minister should relieve the minds of local authorities, who will have to administer this Act, by telling the House at the earliest possible moment what amount of money he is prepared to accept in respect of this 25 per cent. If25 per cent, is not reasonable in Clause 10 (2), if it represents a 6d. rate, or a 6d. rate, what formula will he adopt? What is in his mind? Is he considering a rate-poundage basis, or a hereditament basis, or what? It would be very advantageous to the many thousands of local authorities involved in this, if they knew in advance, today if possible, what, in fact, was their liability.
Notwithstanding some of the suggestions I have made this afternoon from the experience I have accumulated in my own division, and which, with the utmost respect, I ask the Minister to consider, I welcome the Bill and hope that the Minister may be able to make some concessions in the debates in Committee.
§ Mr. B. T. Parkin (Paddington, North)
As the hon. Member is more likely to get a reply than we are, and as he has spoken feelingly about the fact that this problem was created by the war, does he not believe that, since this is a national problem created by the war, the whole of the burden should be carried by the Treasury? If so, what need is there for the Bill?
§ Mr. Jenkins
I did not want to detain the House by dealing with that point.
Requisitioning has to end some time. Local authorities are only the agents of the Minister at the moment, managers on behalf of the Minister. They are to have the authority handed back to them and it is an obvious principle of government in its relation to local authorities that the local authorities, if they have the responsibility, should pay for it. Unless they have the incentive, the local authorities would not be sure to carry out the terms of the Bill. It is for that reason that I think that the local authorities should pay and, in fact, they have agreed to pay 25 per cent.
§ 4.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Herbert Butler (Hackney, South)
The hon. Member for Dulwich (Mr. Robert Jenkins) would probably have been assisted if he could have secured from the Parliamentary Secretary some indication of the point at which the Minister would regard the expenditure of local authorities as unreasonable. I am sure that, if he had not been satisfied with that, we should probably have found him with us in the Division Lobby tonight.
I can quite understand him generalising about the situation and saying that he feels that his own local authority of Camberwell does not always apply its mind to a reasonable interpretation of the necessities of handing back requisitioned houses. I want to turn this debate away from that sort of generalisation and deal with realities. It is all very well talking about 50,000 or 60,000 houses, or 82,000 units. I want to express the problem in terms of the day-to-day existence of people in the boroughs which were bombed.
I rise to oppose the Bill and to support the Amendment. My main opposition to the Bill is that it seeks to pass on to local authorities a problem which manifestly belongs to the national Government. It is a matter for the central Government to attempt to repair the ravages of war; it should not pass the responsibility on "to the local authority.
I cannot conceive of a more vicious and atrocious proposal than that contained in the Bill. I am not arguing that my constituency had bigger bombs than any other; those days have gone, and 218 we have ceased to talk about the people who suffered during the war. However, in this proposal we can see the Government's mind working. Here we are dealing with people who have suffered misery, had their homes destroyed, and lost what were termed their "chattels," which means, in effect, the things which they had built around themselves in the course of their lives, and which had become very dear to them.
We are now telling those people that, because of new zoning arrangements and new standards of housing, rows and rows of houses in industrial and dock areas and areas interspersed with commerce which were destroyed, can never again be replaced in such numbers in those areas. We are telling them that not only must they suffer as a consequence of the bombing but that they are now to be tortured further.
I have been the chairman of a housing committee for a number of years. We have often heard the argument that if we wished to take over the railways we should remember the poor woman sitting burning the midnight oil to keep the accounts of her husband who was engaged in transport or some other industry. The same sort of arguments are being advanced in this case.
What we have to consider are the facts of the situation. In my borough at the moment there are 3,370 requisitioned properties. At the monthly meetings of the housing committee we consider requests from ex-owner-occupiers who plead that it is a greater hardship to keep them out of their property than it is to turn the licensees out. The 14 persons on the committee are ordinary, humane individuals who understand the circumstances, and they try to do what is best in the interests of everybody concerned.
The number of applications received at the monthly meeting ranges between three and six; throughout the years that I have been connected with the committee I have never known a greater number. Therefore, to base the Bill upon the argument that the owners of requisitioned property today are, in the main, people who possess only one house is absolute nonsense.
I wish to give some figures relating to my local authority. I do not want it to be felt that I am basing my arguments solely upon the circumstances in my 219 borough, but surely we cannot understand the problem as a whole unless we appreciate the points which arise in various areas. Of 43,600 residential hereditaments in my borough, nearly 27,000 were damaged by bombing, many of them several times. Four thousand of them were either so badly damaged that they had to be demolished or were totally destroyed; they were, therefore, entirely demolished as a consequence of the war. This meant a loss in rateable value between 1939 and 1945 of £109,000.
Arising out of that loss of houses and rateable value, the right hon. Gentleman now brings in a Bill which imposes a further obligation upon us. That loss was a result of war. Surely we do not pay for wars by "passing the buck" to the most luckless section of the community. On the contrary, we say that in a period of emergency, danger, trial, and tribulation help should come from the whole of the community to lighten and lessen the burdens of those who suffered.
It is sometimes said that we remember nice things and fortunately forget bad. There is a danger in forgetting the bad things, because we are apt to forget the responsibility which falls upon us in connection with them. Hon. Members who were connected with Civil Defence during the war—I was a chief warden—will know that we operated a mutual aid scheme. On Government instructions, dangerous areas were evacuated, and people were often housed by neighbouring boroughs which had habitable property left by owners. When my borough was attacked, inhabitants were at times housed in other Metropolitan boroughs under this scheme. However, on balance my borough took in more people than it sent out.
We had a classic example of something approaching social equality being achieved. A man was bombed out of a little slum dwelling at Hackney Wick. We managed to get him a flat at Dolphin Square. That did not last long. Suddenly the Ministry discovered where Dolphin Square was and said that the man had better return to the salubrious district of Hackney Wick.
The fact that we assisted other boroughs under the mutual aid system brings to light and heightens the financial inequali- 220 ties implicit in the provisions of the Bill, for we shall have to pay more money because we took more people in.
When considering the proposition before the House, we should ask our selves whether the hard hit local authorities have attempted to meet their responsibilities in relation to the derequisitioning of the property which was made available. I believe that there is no basis for the charge which has been levelled against local authorities. I have had something to do with successive Ministries on these matters. Since 1947, my borough has derequisitioned more than 700 units of accommodation, which is about 100 per annum, but the Bill means that we shall now have to release units at the rate of 700 per annum. How is that possible?
This is at a time—I want to give the facts so that the situation can be under stood—when we are faced with the appeal from the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor to enter upon "Operation Rescue." My borough has 2,660 unfit houses to be dealt with during the next 15 to 20 years. We have 489 slum properties earmarked by the medical officer of health to be dealt with in the next five years. We have 8,000 basement dwellings, a large number of which were, and are, totally unfit for habitation.
These figures are in front of the Minister of Housing and Local Government, but we are told to release our requisitioned properties. We have 6,000 families waiting for accommodation, and of them 2,380 are in category A. The right hon. Gentleman intervened to say that we had the new towns. Since 1952, my borough has had the advantage of securing about 200 tenancies in the new towns and we still have a waiting list of over 6,000 families. That is the position in one London borough.
I assure hon. Gentlemen opposite that my local authority has been as energetic in tackling its housing programme under the present Government as it was under the Labour Government. We take the view that this is not a matter of party politics. Our view is that we must pro vide accommodation for our people. We believe that the Tory Party has hampered us by what it has done. There have been many points of disagreement with the proposals put before us. Nevertheless, we have accepted our responsibility as a housing authority and gone ahead 221 with our job. Since the end of the war we have managed to build 1,800 houses.
As well as the arithmetical problem, there is also a great human problem. I am sure that the Minister is not quite heartless, but I imagine that he approaches the problem with very little knowledge of local government activities. However, that is not necessarily something which detracts from his general usefulness.
The Minister has produced a Bill. What does it say, when we sum it up? We can apply to it the term, "Chuck 'em out." It says that we must buy the properties or get the landlords to accept the occupants as statutory tenants. On the question of purchase, I would inform the Minister that we have been in negotiation with his Ministry for eight months about the purchase of five specimen properties under the Housing Act, 1936. It has taken us eight months to get a decision from his Ministry.
The Minister has utilised the time of expensive town clerks, borough treasurers, and other officials of the local authority, who have been trying to ascertain from him the basis on which he will assist us so that we can buy the houses and fix rents which are within the financial capacity of those who are badly in need. It has taken us eight months to get a decision on those five houses. Even then, the decision is unsatisfactory. I am sure that it will not meet the requirements of our population. We are told that we can purchase. Then, while this "speedy" rate of acquisition is proceeding, any properties falling vacant cannot be re-occupied until we get the sanction of the Ministry.
Apparently the Minister does not know what happens. The local authority is continually seeking to utilise to the full requisitioned property and any municipal property which it had. It often removes people from under-accommodated property so that it can house people from overcrowded property. However, the Bill says that when property becomes vacant the Minister is to authorise the local authority. From our knowledge of the Minister and his predecessor, Molotov has nothing on them when it comes to saying "No." Whatever suggestion we have submitted in connection with requisitioned property, the answer has been "No."
222 It is a fact that licensees are removed for a variety of reasons, and that, in accordance with the appeal of the Ministers, we have utilised the accommodation to the full. To me Clause 4 is a "peach." It represents the height of super-optimism. Apparently the news has not yet reached Whitehall that everywhere property owners are keeping houses empty so that they can sell at enhanced prices.
Anyone who has had to deal with requisitioned property knows that owners often go to the county court judge and apply for possession of part of a house on the ground that the licensee is a nuisance. The judge has to decide whether it is a greater hardship to leave the occupant in possession or to turn the property over to the owner. As soon as possession is secured, the owner offers it for sale with vacant possession, yet the Minister says that we should appeal to the owners to accept the licensees as statutory tenants. I do not know how far he thinks he should go.
I am grateful for having had the opportunity to contribute to the debate. It appears to me that the Parliamentary Secretary rested his case—and I rather fancy that the Minister will add to it—on the fact that the Bill has come before the House after consultation and agreement with the local authorities. Sometimes it is difficult to define, what is agreement. If, for example, a local authority association is called into consultation and asked for its observations, usually the observations are submitted, and eventually the Minister says, "Unless you take this you will get nothing" or "If you take this, will you do that?" It is a question of negotiation. I should like the Minister to tell us exactly how the negotiations were conducted.
It is computed by the borough treasurer of Hackney that under the formula laid down in the Bill we shall lose about £30,500, which is equivalent to a 5d. rate. This is a bad Bill, which ought never to have been brought before the House. As the Amendment says, it gives protection and extra rents to land lords, and no protection to the tenants.
My final words to the Minister are that he should remember that he is the Minister of Housing and Local Government and that he is neither the agent 223 of the Property Owners' Protection Association nor of the requisitioned property owners. I hope that he will have enough sense to realise that the interests of the citizens of this country are bound up with the retention of this property until such time as there is a reasonable chance of the occupants being reasonably housed elsewhere.
§ 5.18 p.m.
§ Sir Austin Hudson (Lewisham, North)
Naturally I have some sympathy with what has been said by the hon. Member for Hackney, South (Mr. H. Butler), be cause he represents part of the Borough of Hackney, and I represented another part in this House for 21 years—from 1924 to 1945—including the time when bombing was taking place. Therefore, I can confirm the accuracy of what he said about the difficulties that our people had there at that time.
I want to speak now of the Borough of Lewisham, part of which I have represented for some years. I understand that there are there 3,471 families in requisitioned properties. That number is a little higher than the figure for the Borough of Hackney, though there is not a great deal of difference.
As has been said by previous speakers, these houses were taken over as a war emergency measure. In Lewisham, I have found that many of the. properties quite unsuitable for the purposes for which they are being used. That is particularly apparent in that part of London. There are a number of rather large houses in the Black heath area—not necessarily in the Black heath ward—which were meant for one family and which now have a number of families living in them. These properties are large, cold, damp, and badly lighted. Most of them have deplorable sanitary arrangements.
I have had two sorts of complaints from my constituents, about one of which we have not heard much during this debate. It comes from tenants in the type of house I have just described who are unable to obtain other accommodation, because they are told that there are others who are in more difficult circumstances than they are; that if the number of rooms are counted—and so on—their accommodation may be considered to be suit able. Yet the house is usually very old-fashioned and most inconvenient.
224 I have also had a number of complaints from the owners of houses who wish to get their properties back. There appear to be four chief reasons. Sometimes the complainant is a person who is retired and wishes to get his house back in order to settle down in his retirement. Another complaint comes from people who wish to live near their work.
At present I am concerned with the case of a schoolmaster who is actually living in the ground floor of his own house. The top floor is requisitioned. The property is close to his school. He has a grown-up son coming back from the university, and he has no room to accommodate him, so that he now wishes to obtain complete possession of his own property. There are also cases of young people whose families are increasing and have outgrown the accommodation pro vided for them; and there are cases of families in which the children are growing up, where separate bedroom accommodation is now necessary for the boys and girls. Such cases in all London Metropolitan boroughs are dealt with perfectly fairly by a committee, but I am afraid that usually such people meet with a refusal.
To the best of my knowledge, I have had no representations for a Bill of this kind from big property owners, such as housing trusts or the Churches. I should like to give one rather amusing instance, because I have been attacked before now when I have said that property owners are very often owners on a small scale. When the Housing Repairs and Rents Act had been passed, I thought that I should have an enormous number of complaints from tenants. As a matter of fact, I have received no complaints from tenants to date.
But I did have a complaint from two owners, a husband and a wife, who were old-age pensioners. When they left me, the man said, "Thank you very much, but my tenants are awfully nice people, and I do not think that I shall do anything about it at all." I thought that, on the whole, they represented the best kind of landlord. I hope that as a result of this speech I shall not receive an influx of complaints about that Act.
I am rather surprised to see the reasoned Amendment on the Order Paper. As I understand it, the Bill was agreed to by the Metropolitan Boroughs 225 Standing Joint Committee, which has a Labour majority. Two days ago, the Lewisham representative, who is a Conservative, told me that the committee had agreed to it, and I confirmed that last night when I saw the leader of the council. I asked him if it were the fact that that committee had agreed, and he told me that that was so.
§ Mr. A. Evans
The hon. Member is correct in saying that the Metropolitan Boroughs Standing Joint Committee agreed in principle to the proposals. But I think he will find that, having had a chance to study the proposals contained in the Bill, the authorities will not stand by that commitment, and that most of them will be opposed to the provisions in the Bill.
§ Sir A. Hudson
The committee would seem to be a very extraordinary body if it agreed to this, and then, when the Bill was printed, disagreed. That would seem rather like what sometimes happens in this House.
§ Sir A. Hudson
The hon. and learned Member for West Ham, South (Mr. Elwyn Jones) complained that the rate in his area would be excessive. But in the London County Council area we operate the rate equalisation system, so that rate-payers should not be much worse off.
Most of the complaints voiced by hon. Members opposite seemed to be about the finances of this Bill—the 25 per cent, as against the 75 per cent. Most hon. Members opposite have said that their boroughs would experience difficulty in finding the money. But the leaders of the party opposite thought so little of that argument that they have not even put it in their reasoned Amendment.
I cannot believe that the Metropolitan Boroughs Standing Joint Committee, with its big Labour majority, would pay no heed to the needs of the tenants, I think that when it gave general approval to this Bill it felt that the needs of the tenants were amply covered. If the Bill had intended that the tenant should have no such protection all that was needed was Clause 1, because all the other Clauses are directed to ensuring that the tenants obtain a fair deal. I am now of course referring to Part 1 of the Bill.
226 My own experience is that the majority of tenants long to get premises of their own which are less overcrowded than their present accommodation, and more comfortable. Incidentally, I think that they would have a much better chance— we cannot debate this now but we shall have to do so sooner or later—were not so many council houses occupied by tenants who are must better off than the people for whom they were originally built, and who would otherwise be able to occupy them. That matter is being discussed by the London County Council and by many borough councils— [Interruption.] There are many borough councils with Labour majorities who operate this differential rate: it is by no means a Tory idea—and all the authorities appreciate that it is a very difficult question.
The present system of derequisitioning is to earmark council houses. This idea of earmarking council houses for dispossessed people is not a new one, and it is a method which will have to be stepped up. Again, owners are to be asked to accept the present tenants as rent-controlled tenants. I do not agree that no one will do that. In many cases I think that owners will do so. I have heard of cases where houses in parts of Marylebone and Kensington have been requisitioned and the owners do not want them derequisitioned. They are only too delighted to keep on the tenants as statutory tenants, if the property is being used properly. They also receive compensation of a kind, 75 per cent, being paid by the Treasury as a kind of sop to them for giving up vacant possession, and if they have subsidised the rents, 75 per cent, of the subsidy is to be made to the owner.
§ Mr. Sparks
The hon. Member is mixing up the Treasury contributions to local authorities for leases and purchases with compensation paid to owners, which is quite different.
§ Sir A. Hudson
If the hon. Member reads the Clause he will see that compensation is to be given, and that 75 per cent, will come by way of Treasury grant.
Clause 11 deals with the renting or buying of suitable property by the local council; it need not be the same requisitioned property. If the council rents it, it can keep it for 10 years, during which 227 time it will receive the same contribution of 75 per cent. If it buys the property, compensation is paid for 20 years. That seems to be fair.
Again and again the Bill says that if tenants cannot be removed from requisitioned houses without suffering hardship the Minister must be consulted. I am sure that no hon. Member is going to pass any Bill which will turn somebody out into the street. I have never seen it done in my 30 years in Parliament, and I do not expect to see it now.
I believe that the provisions of the Bill will solve the problems of the tenants. If, a year before 1960, it is found that the intentions of the Bill are not working out, I have little doubt that a deputation composed of hon. Members on both sides of the House whose constituents are suffering hardship will ask the Minister to take action before anything drastic happens.
We, must remember that many owners are only property owners in a small way. Four Clauses deal with owners. Houses that fall vacant become derequisitioned. That is sensible. No hardship is caused to the tenant; some family will go into the vacant property, and that family will leave a vacant house for somebody else. Clause 5 deals with hardship, and maintains the position which exists in regard to rent-controlled property. If an owner can show greater hardship than his tenant he can get back his house if he takes the matter to a county court.
Clause 6 deals with cases of severe hardship, and I am not so sure about that one. The matter is obviously one of those which will have to be discussed during the Committee stage. When I read the Clause, I thought that it referred to persons who were going bankrupt. The question of severe hardship must be an awfully difficult one for anybody to decide, and I hope that the question will be fully discussed during the Committee stage.
I commend Clause 7. If the owner agrees to take back the house for modernisation and conversion he can have it at once, but he must let it to tenants approved by the local authority. They will be the same kind of people as those who vacate the premises. I have seen properties of that kind which could be made comfortable for many families but 228 which, at the moment, are requisitioned, are deteriorating very rapidly, and will fall down if something is not done to them.
§ Mr. R. J. Mellish (Bermondsey)
If these properties are in a bad way, why does not the Tory-controlled Lewisham Borough Council repair them?
§ Sir A. Hudson
Some of these big houses are almost impossible to repair. They require rebuilding. They are enormous places, with very high ceilings, and they have no electricity, no proper sanitation, and no heating. If we do not have a Bill of this kind I do not know how we shall be able to deal with that form of property. We cannot go on for ever under a system of requisitioning, and we are trying to build a sufficient number of houses to cater for the people who have to leave the derequisitioned houses.
§ Mr. Parkin
The hon. Member has spoken very optimistically of what will happen when houses become vacant. Has he any idea what is already happening every day to London properties which become available with vacant possession? Will he say something about that, because it would be nice to have some view ex pressed by an hon. Member opposite as to the desirability of some degree of compulsion being placed upon landlords. He would help to satisfy the inquiries which have been made, without result, by some of my hon. Friends to the Minister. What is the opinion of hon. Members opposite upon the exercising of pressure upon landlords to agree to the offers made to them?
§ Sir A. Hudson
It is entirely up to the landlord, but if he likes to sell the house to another family why should he not do so?
Why should the family have to be nominated by the local authority? It is not as if the house is to be left empty. If the house was to be pulled down there would be something in the argument of hon. Members opposite, but, as it is, somebody is going to live in it. I suggest that the people who have to leave should be put into a house in one of the large housing estates, outside which we see large, shiny, black cars. So long as someone moves into the house the position is satisfactory. In my view the Bill is a fair one. As far as I know it is 229 agreed to by the Metropolitan boroughs, and I hope that we shall press on with it, and thus deal with another very difficult problem.
§ 5.36 p.m.
§ Mr. C. W. Key (Poplar)
I promise to speak for only a few minutes, because I think that it is up to all hon. Members who take part in this debate to be as brief as possible in order to give an opportunity to their colleagues—especially those representing affected areas— to speak about what I regard as a most unfair and unjust Bill. For that reason my comments will be of a general and not particular character.
The Bill imposes burdens and hard ships upon the ratepayers of many highly-rated properties; upon the licensees of many requisitioned houses and, most of all, upon those badly and inadequately housed folk who have been on local authority waiting lists for a very long time. The Bill places an additional burden of 25 per cent, upon the rates, but I regard this work as a national responsibility. The requisitioning of houses was a wartime necessity—an essential part of the work which had to be done and financed for the proper carrying out of the national effort. The areas most affected were those which were heavily bombed, or those nearby, to which many of the de-housed people had to be transferred. This was a general aspect of war activity. It was a national service and, as such, it should be nationally financed.
What justification can there be for saying, in effect, to the ratepayers of the affected areas, "You suffered most during the war; your rateable value has been greatly reduced by war destruction. You have the most serious problems of re construction, which will fall very heavily upon your local rates. Now, instead of trying to find ways of giving you greater assistance, we propose to curry favour with the people living in the largely unaffected areas—the greater and luckier body of taxpayers—and we seek now, because we have got a view of the future, to get their support at the forthcoming election by transferring to your local rates 25 per cent, of what should still be a national responsibility."
In areas like my own, the rate increase will be 5d., 6d. or 7d. in the £. It is all very well for hon. Gentlemen opposite to 230 talk about the Metropolitan Boroughs Standing Joint Committee and the local borough councils accepting the proposals in the Bill. Let me be quite frank. A very large number had never seen the Bill, and did not know what was in it, and quite a number of those engaged in the negotiations were very nicely led up the garden by the Minister and his representatives.
They started with the idea that they would have a very heavy burden to bear —60 per cent., I am told, was the first offer. That meant 40 per cent, from the Ministry and 60 per cent, from the local rates. That was the first suggestion which was made. Next, it was switched the other way round—60 per cent, from the Ministry and 40 per cent, from the local rates.
When, ultimately, it became only 25 per cent, from the local rates, they were so overcome by the improvement which had been made that they were prepared to give their approval to the suggestion. That is the suggestion, as far as local authorities in the London area are concerned, and I have full authority from my own people to say that they hate this Bill and that they hope the House will throw it out.
What of the licensees who are now living in the requisitioned houses? Some of them will be rehoused by 1960, but a very large number will not. My own area has the idea of devoting 50 per cent, of all available housing accommodation to the purpose of derequisitioning these houses, and, if it allocates that 50 per cent., three-quarters of the present houses will have to remain requisitioned after 1960.
What is to happen to the licensees in those cases? The licensees remaining in these requisitioned houses in 1960 will automatically become trespassers and liable to eviction, because the houses will have passed from the local authority to the private landlord. It is true that some of the landlords may be willing to accept them as tenants, but the terms upon which they will allow them to remain have to be determined by the landlords.
§ Mr. Key
If the hon. Gentleman him self reads the Bill he will see that in 1960 these people can be charged any exorbitant rent that the landlord chooses to impose. Many of us are only too familiar with some of the tricks of landlords with regard to tenancies under their control. For example, we know of those who put in a few pieces of quite inferior furniture and let the houses at very high rents as furnished premises. None of the houses that are handed over, except those that come under Clause 4, will come under the Rent Restrictions Acts.
§ Mr. Robert Jenkins
Let us suppose that one of these rent-restricted houses becomes vacant, that the landlord takes it over with vacant possession and accepts a tenant to occupy it. The rent is fixed for that house today, and the incoming tenant automatically becomes a statutory tenant. Therefore, I put it to the right hon. Gentleman that, unless the Bill says other than that, then precisely the same position comes into operation after 1960, because the statutory tenancy will still exist.
§ Mr. Key
No, I do not accept that as an interpretation of the Bill at all. I think that the exact opposite of that is really true, particularly as far as tenants who are left in requisitioned houses after 1960 are concerned. Nothing whatever is provided for them in this Bill.
232 Lastly, I want to say a word or two about the people remaining on local council housing lists, because, in my opinion, they will be the worst affected by this Bill. I refer to couples living apart, one with one relative and one with another; a man, his wife and two or three children living in one single room; ex-Service men just coming back into civil life; and newly-married couples just starting out on family life.
These are the people who are likely to suffer most, because if the local authorities try to carry out what this Bill requires them to do, there will not be available the necessary accommodation with which to provide all the people on their waiting lists with houses. If areas such as my own provide as much as 50 per cent, of the available accommodation, they will still have left three-quarters of the requisitioned houses, and, if local authorities are to deal adequately and properly with this problem, then the whole of the new accommodation must be reserved for that purpose.
I say that we have no right to impose upon local authorities an obligation such as that, which is an injustice to the people they represent and to the people whom they are there to serve, and I therefore hope that the Bill will be rejected.
§ 5.49 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton, South-West)
I imagine that tomorrow some of the colleagues of the right hon. Member for Poplar (Mr. Key) on the Metropolitan Boroughs Standing Joint Committee will read his remarks in this debate. I do not know whether they will be more annoyed to read that he has accused them of allowing themselves to be hoodwinked and bamboozled, or more astonished at the ignorance which he revealed of the working of the Rent Restrictions Acts.
In his speech, the right hon. Gentleman, like the hon. Member for Hackney, South (Mr. H. Butler), laid great stress upon the fact that this problem originated in the circumstances of the late war. It would be a mistake, however, to suppose that now, in 1955, the licensee occupants of a great proportion of these requisitioned houses are the direct victims of war circumstances.
The House heard my hon. Friend who moved the Second Reading of the Bill point out that after the end of the war, 233 when the bombs had ceased to fall, a very large number of additional houses— many included in those with which we are dealing—were requisitioned. We are now simply concerned with a part of the housing pool available to local authorities, which they quite consciously, deliberately and rightly use and administer as part of their housing resources. To suggest that, ten or fifteen years after the end of the war, this part of the housing pool should be treated for historical reasons as different, financially and in other ways, from the rest, is an argument which falls to the ground.
The mover of the Amendment said that the Bill was unnecessary. If by that word he means a Bill which will not apply to every local authority—if the word "unnecssary" is used in that peculiar sense—we must admit that the Bill is unnecessary. It is unnecessary in no other sense. The right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) admitted that himself. He said he wanted to see owners of requisitioned property whose hardship was the greater given the same rights as they would have if they were the owners of rent-restricted property. How does he imagine that that could be achieved without legislation? Therefore, in the view of the right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland Clause 5 is entirely unnecessary.
The right hon. Gentleman is not in the House at the moment, but no doubt his hon. and right hon. Friends will speak for him. We did not clearly get from him whether steps ought or ought not now to be taken to bring requisitioning to an end. He said that it ought to be dealt with in a different way in different parts of the country: different periods ought to be prescribed for different parts of the country. But he did not tell us what periods he thought ought to be prescribed, or how, without legislation, those periods could be finally laid down and the matter cleared up.
Before we turn to the allegations of the Amendment about what will happen in 1960, the House ought to get an estimate of the proportions which the problem will be likely to have five years from now. This is bound to be guesswork. We are trying to ascertain how many properties will still be requisitioned in 1960, taking account of any factors attributable to the provisions of the Bill and to other changes 234 in the meantime. Because an estimate is necessary and because we cannot give the number with certainty, that does not discharge the House from attempting to form some idea of the dimensions of the problem at the time.
For our purpose we can fairly take London as a basis, for it is admitted on both sides that the problem is severest in London. If we can satisfy ourselves of the proportions in London, we can deal with the problem elsewhere a fortiori. I have taken two or three samples in the County of London, to see the present rate of derequisitioning, and what might be expected to be the effect of the Bill.
Take, for example, the Borough of Lewisham. The amount of requisitioning in Lewisham is about typical for the County of London as a whole. It has 17 families in requisitioned houses for every 1,000 of its population. Lewisham's figure is approximately in the middle between boroughs which are better off, with eight or nine families per 1,000, and those which are worse off, with 26 or 27 families. In the last quarter of 1954, 80 requisitioned premises were derequisitioned by the Lewisham Borough Council. During that quarter it took, on its own initiative, further decisions designed to increase the rate of derequisitioning, but it had already attained a rate of derequisitioning well in excess of 300 houses per annum.
We must now address ourselves to the question, what will be the effect of the provisions of the Bill upon the rate of derequisitioning? Obviously, some contribution will be made by Clauses 5 and 6. Cases of hardship will succeed under Clauses 5 and 6, but they cannot be numerically very great. We can expect from Clause 4, however, rather more than has been anticipated by some hon. Members who have spoken. I do not imagine that it will mostly be the owner of the individual house to which Clause 4 will appeal; but the owners, whether they be companies or individuals, of a consider able number of requisitioned houses will find the terms of Clause 4 by no means unattractive.
After all, they will get the compensation rental, plus the statutory deduction. They will get compensation for loss of vacant possession. They will also get at once the terminal compensation under the 1939 Act, instead of having to wait until the Greek Kalends for de-requisitioning.
235 For a company or owner possessing a number of houses, which, in any case, they will continue to let for income, these terms are not at all unattractive, especially as my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, North (Sir A. Hudson) reminded the House that many owners of requisitioned premises have been unwilling to see them derequisitioned because they find even the compensation rental alone a tolerable return on their capital. Therefore, a considerable value ought to be attributed to Clause 4 in accelerating the rate of derequisitioning. We may add to that that, in the next 12 months, while financial responsibility still lies wholly with the Government, local authorities will have a strong incentive to maximise the number of cases in which they can bring derequisitioning about.
Taking all these factors together and summing them up as the effect of the Bill, I think it is not unfair and not over-optimistic to expect from the Bill some thing like a 50 per cent, increase in the rate of derequisitioning. The effect in Lewisham—to revert to the example which we were examining—will be that the 3,500 families at present housed in requisitioned premises will have fallen to well under 1,000 by 1960, something in the region of 800. They will have been reduced to about a quarter of their present number, assuming only a 50 per cent, increase in the present rate of derequisitioning—
§ Mr. Mellish
Is not the hon. Member ignoring the fact that Lewisham, like many other London boroughs, has no further sites to build on and therefore will have to go in for slum clearance? This means that it cannot rehouse the requisitioned tenants while it has people waiting on its housing list.
§ Mr. Powell
I am merely applying what Lewisham is doing already 10 throw light on the consequences of the Bill, and to arrive at an estimate of the size of the problem in 1960. Let me take another borough in which the problem is almost as severe as it is in Poplar, from which the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken comes.
In Westminster, there are 17 families in requisitioned accommodation for every 1,000 of the population. This is prac- 236 tically the same as in Poplar, where the number is 19 per 1,000. In the first nine months of 1954, 250 families living in requisitioned premises were re-accommodated by the Westminster City Council. If that rate, increased only by 50 per cent., goes on, there will be no requisitioned premises at all in Westminster some time before 1960.
§ Mr. J. Silverman
If the hon. Member's figures are typical, and his argument is correct, does not that prove that the Bill is completely unnecessary, because derequisitioning is already proceeding?
§ Mr. Powell
It may be proved that the problem in 1960 is not as exaggerated as hon. Members opposite have tried to argue, but that is far from suggesting that there will be no problem to be dealt with in 1960, and far from suggesting that a modest acceleration in the rate of derequisitioning over the next five years is either uncalled for or impracticable.
§ Mr. Powell
I do not have to give the right hon. Gentleman the number of families in the borough. He would not know this, of course, but the formula happens not to be the number of families in requisitioned accommodation compared with the number of families in the borough. The formula which was adopted by the Working Party on Requisitioned Premises, and which is now universally treated as a fair formula for gauging the intensity of this problem is to compare the number of families in requisitioned property with the population of the borough.
The number of families in requisitioned property in Poplar on 30th September, 1954—this was in HANSARD yesterday— was 1,258 and the population of Poplar is approximately 73,000; so the right hon. Gentleman will be able to satisfy himself that there are approximately 18 to 19 families per 1,000 of population in requisitioned premises in Poplar. Therefore, the two cases which I have investigated —the Borough of Lewisham where the figure is 15 and the City of Westminster where the figure is 17—are not very different from that of his own borough.
237 I am not claiming that there are no extreme cases and that there are no boroughs where the rate of derequisitioning is far lower or where the number of families per 1,000 of population is much higher.
§ Mr. Powell
If the hon. and learned Gentleman will permit me to develop my speech, I will try to do so. I am engaged at the moment in selecting, as best I can, the representative, average boroughs in regard to this problem.
§ Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham, East)
The hon. Member has told us what will happen on the basis of these representative boroughs if the rate of derequisitioning increased by 50 per cent. If he looks at the figures for London as a whole, and makes the same calculation at the end of five years, he will see that there will still be some 25,000 families, about half the present number, left unprovided for.
§ Mr. Powell
The hon. Member has anticipated the conclusion at which I was about to arrive. If the present rate of derequisitioning is accelerated, as I have argued, and if the hon. Member will accept my estimate for this purpose, by 50 per cent., we shall be left with under 20,000, about 18,000, families in 10,000 houses in the County of London. If the hon. Gentleman had not risen to make that intervention, that was precisely the deduction which I was about to draw and to buttress with the few cases which I have mentioned.
So the size of the problem in the County of London is likely to be that we shall have something under 20,000 families in 1960. Some hon. Members may think that below, some may think it above, the probable figure; but, at any rate, there will be about 20,000 families still in requisitioned premises in 1960.
§ Mr. Powell
That is the next question —what is to happen? The Amendment says that the occupants of the requisitioned houses are to be evicted. That is what the Amendment thinks will happen to the families still in requisitioned premises in 1960. I have noticed that, in their speeches hon. Members opposite, 238 often take a very low view of the intelligence, competence and sense of duty of local authorities. They are asking the House to believe that local authorities which have the power to purchase these premises, or other premises in substitution for them, will deliberately neglect to do so, that over the five coming years they will make no preparations whatsoever for this eventuality, and that they will, in complete disregard of their statutory housing obligations, leave these people to become trespassers in 1960.
They have the powers to deal with it. They have additional powers conferred by the Bill. They have been given by this Bill the same financial assistance that they have in all their other housing operations. Yet hon. Members opposite are asking the House and the country to believe that the local authorities concerned will fall down on this part of their job.
§ Mr. A. Evans
Does the hon. Member agree that if the occupants are not out of these requisitioned premises by 1960, they will, in fact, become trespassers?
§ Mr. Powell
Yes, that is undoubtedly the case under this Bill. What I also say is equally undoubtedly the case, that no local authority in London or elsewhere will allow that situation to arise when they have the power, as a last resort, to purchase these properties or other properties in lieu, and thus give people security of tenure, as great a security of tenure as has any other council tenant.
§ Mr. Powell
I certainly did not hear my hon. Friend say any such thing, but we can consult the record when it is available. The hon. Gentleman says, "Where will the premises be for acquisition." Well, here they are: they are the very premises in which these families will be accommodated in 1960. It has always seemed to me to be a very unsatisfactory situation for tenants that thousands of families should be housed by local authorities in premises for which the local authorities have no financial responsi- 239 bility, and which the local authorities have therefore, no incentive to put into a proper condition for lengthy occupation.
§ Mr. James MacColl (Widnes)
The hon. Member said that local authorities would have the power to purchase houses at the end of the five years. When he used the word "power," did he mean that they will have power compulsorily to acquire them, or to buy them in a free market, when the owner of the house knows that he is going to have trespassers in his property and can get them evicted?
§ Mr. Powell
I meant acquire compulsorily. They can do so at the end of the five years, and, indeed, at any time that they believe this to be necessary in the meantime.
§ Mr. Powell
The Treasury grant applies whenever a house is acquired for re housing persons affected by the Bill.
§ Mr. MacColl
In answer to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison), the Parliamentary Secretary said quite plainly and categorically that there was no compulsory power. Are we to believe the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) or are we to believe the Parliamentary Secretary?
§ Mr. Powell
It is of no use the House attempting to debate what is on the record. We can all satisfy ourselves about that when the record is available.
§ Mr. Douglas Johnston (Paisley)
Before the hon. Member starts on another point, may I ask him to point out the Clause of the Bill which says that there is power of compulsory acquisition?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Charles MacAndrew)
I would remind the House that this is not the Committee stage, but is the Second Reading debate.
§ Mr. Powell
The power, as I am sure the hon. and learned Member will recollect, exists in Part V of the Housing Act, 1936, and the reference to action taken under that Act qualifying for Exchequer contributions will be found in Clause 9 (2) of the Bill.
I repeat that the burden of this Amendment is, in effect, an attack upon the 240 competence and the sense of duty of the local authorities concerned. This is an attack which all who know the way in which local housing authorities act will immediately repudiate. It is said that those housing authorities will so neglect to perform their duties, will so neglect their residual powers of compulsory acquisition that the tenants for whose housing they are responsible will be left stranded in 1960.
Hon. Members opposite may believe that, but few others will. Certainly, the Labour Party, which has a majority on the Metropolitan Boroughs Standing Joint Committee, did not take that view. Unless we take the low view of them held by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Poplar they did, knowing what they were doing, welcome these as sound proposals, with sound financial conditions attached and recommended them.
This Bill ends a situation which every one really feels to be unsatisfactory. It will convert what always was a make-shift, one way or another, into the provision of permanent homes for the people who are at present in requisitioned property. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bishop Auckland said that it was impossible to wind up requisitioning in the next five years in the way which the Bill envisages. I have heard that word "impossible" "before. I remember the right hon. Gentleman and hon. Members opposite saying that it was impossible to build more than 200,000 houses a year. It is just because it has been possible to do so, that we have every confidence that this problem also will be dealt with—and dealt with satisfactorily to the tenants as well as to the country—in the next five years.
§ 6.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Percy Shurmer (Birmingham, Sparkbrook)
I should like to follow the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) in his remarks about requisitioning. He started by saying that he did not think it necessary to continue requisitioning. He also spoke of hon. Members on this side saying that people are in requisitioned houses because they were bombed out during the war. In the opinion of myself and many others, the housing problem of today was brought about by neglect in the inter-war years as well as by wartime bombing. Another cause of the trouble is the planning of 241 the Labour Government in the first five years after the war, which has brought about continued full employment and enabled more people to get married. As long as houses are standing idle and thousands of people require them, those houses should be requisitioned for people to live in.
§ Mr. Powell
The hon. Member is agreeing with me that the houses are now part of the general housing pool for dealing with the general housing problem.
§ Mr. Shurmer
I was a member of the Birmingham City Council until 1949, and we requisitioned a number of houses. Is it right that, while thousands of people— many of them ex-Servicemen—are living in rooms, or a room—and in some cases man and wife are parted—houses should stand empty? When the Parliamentary Secretary and hon. Members opposite say that local authorities are very pleased with the Bill, I just cannot understand it. I do not think that the Birmingham local authority is very well pleased.
When the Parliamentary Secretary opened this debate—and I take this opportunity to thank him very much for allowing so many of us to interrupt him; he was very good about that—he spoke of owners being prepared to allow a sitting tenant to become the tenant of the house under rent control. Either he glossed over the fact, or knows little about it, because in many large cities at present—and certainly in Birmingham—owners who, through derequisitioning, can get possession of their houses, and owners of other houses, are even offering money to tenants to get them out so that the houses can be sold at very high prices. The hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West would be astounded were I to tell him some of the ways and means which owners of property are using to get people out of the houses for that purpose.
I agree that London is the most seriously affected city, but Birmingham, too, is affected. It was bombed very badly during the war. I think it is second in the list of heavily bombed cities outside London. There are still more than 1,900 families living in requisitioned houses in Birmingham, even though we are de requisitioning about 200 houses a year. If this Measure is passed it will greatly aggravate Birmingham's housing problem 242 and will also slow up slum clearance. Like some of the other great cities, we are also getting to the end of our tether in house building. We cannot find sites. We shall probably be meeting the Minister about that quite soon. The Minister, who visited Birmingham not long ago, was able to see the house-building difficulties.
Birmingham has at present over 60,000 people on its housing register. A great proportion are still living in rooms, and the number of families affected grows every month. An hon. Member opposite said that this Government had never done anything to turn people into the street. This Government did nothing to help people when the Housing Repairs and Rents Bill was going through Parliament. They ignored our pleas for protection to be given to people living in rooms, who are being turned out and the judge can do nothing but give possession.
Compulsory derequisitioning will in crease the difficulties of the housing authorities. As has been said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Poplar (Mr. Key), the chances of people who have been on the housing register for as long as five, six and seven years will be reduced. On their due date they will find that there has been either an eviction or a derequisitioning. That will increase the number of people for whom houses must be found, and those on the register who were due for a house will lose their place in the housing queue.
It may be agreed that it still costs the Exchequer £4 or £5 million to subsidise these houses, but we should not and can not measure the lives and happiness of people in terms of a few pounds, shillings and pence. The Bill provides for local authorities to purchase houses when the owners so desire. I appreciate that there may be cases where the local authority may feel it undesirable to purchase property, but I wonder whether the Exchequer will make a grant towards the purchase of this property when local authorities wish to purchase it.
I believe that this Bill will do harm. It will interfere with the work of the housing authorities in dealing with cases which are already on the local authorities' registers, and many houses which are de requisitioned will be left vacant for considerable periods. In my constituency, the former Minister of Housing and Local Government did not direct that there 243 should be compulsory derequisitioning but he requested the local authority to derequisition.
I can show the present Minister a number of houses which, having been derequisitioned, have been vacant for six, nine, and in some cases twelve months, and they used to house two families and, in some cases, three families. Today, they are vacant and are waiting for someone to purchase them at the highest price. That is wrong. Just imagine that situation in a city where 60,000 people are on the housing list. The families from those houses had to jump the queue and take municipal houses in advance of people who were already on the register.
I do not wish to detain the House much longer; some hon. Members have already taken up too much time by interruption. I hope the Minister will have second thoughts. I hope he will recognise the damage that he is doing, will accept the Amendment, and will take the Bill back. I feel confident that local authorities would thank him for helping them by taking the Bill back. I am sure that my local authority has not agreed to the Bill. I believe that the Minister has had a deputation from the City of Birmingham on the subject of derequisitioning; if not, he is to have. I can show him the head lines of a Birmingham newspaper—and not a Labour newspaper—condemning de requisitioning because of the difficulty it would cause the housing management committee in that city.
§ Mr. T. L. Iremonger (Ilford, North)
The hon. Gentleman has omitted to men tion—as he might well do because of its insignificance—the paper called the "Town Crier."
§ Mr. Shurmer
The hon. Gentleman has lost his way. The "Town Crier" stopped publication two years ago.
If the Minister will withdraw his Bill, I am sure that he will earn the gratitude of many families in large towns and cities who, otherwise, will be prevented from getting houses to which they are entitled, through the necessity to house other people from derequisitioned property.
§ 6.24 p.m.
§ Mr. T. L. Iremonger (Ilford, North)
I want to make only a very brief and modest contribution to this debate. But I do want to try to do two things. First, I want to welcome the Bill in general. It has been rightly called a "bare measure of tardy justice." That is the phrase used by "The Times." Hon. Members opposite may prefer the editorial columns of "The Surveyor" just at present, but I feel that in this case "The Times" has hit the nail on the head.
We have to recognise that the requisitioning of property and the continuance of property in a requisitioned state is a temporary and undesirable state of affairs. It cannot go on for ever. If we contemplate its going on for ever, or even for a very long time with no determined effort to check it, we accept the revolutionary doctrine that the central Government should be a housing authority.
Secondly, I want to address my attention to the astonishing Amendment which I find on the Order Paper. It refers to the Bill asa Bill which contemplates the eviction of occupants of requisitioned houses in 1960 without providing for their rehousing …Now, I bring to this Bill a mind unencumbered by the experience which encumbers the minds of other hon. Members, many of whom have made notable contributions to this debate, and it struck me that, on the face of it, there were two quite astonishing things about the juxtaposition of this Bill and this Amendment. It seemed to me surprising that this Amendment should completely ignore the provisions in the Bill for ensuring that those people who are now in requisitioned premises should not be homeless in 1960.
It seems to me that there is a provision in Clause 4 whereby owners might offer tenancies to tenants at restricted rents. It seems to me, secondly, that in Clause 11 there is a provision whereby local authorities might themselves take leases of the houses and let them to tenants of whom they approve. It seems to me, thirdly, that in Clause 11 there is a provision whereby a local authority might itself purchase houses at vacant possession prices and accommodate therein the tenants who had been occupying those houses when requisitioned.
It may be debatable whether or not these Clauses are well conceived, but what 245 cannot be open to debate is the fact that they are in the Bill. Therefore, it is astonishing to find on the Order Paper an Amendment in the name of right hon. and hon. Members opposite, who have presumably read the Bill, saying that this Billcontemplates the eviction of occupants…without providing for their rehousing.What astonishes me even more is this. If hon. Members opposite do, in fact, recognise that there are these provisions in the Bill, what they are saying is this, "We know there are provisions in the Bill which put certain responsibilities on the local authorities, but we do not believe the local authorities will carry them out." If the Bill does provide for the rehousing of tenants at present in requisitioned properties, then the Amendment is an insult to the capacity, integrity and humanity of local authorities throughout the kingdom.
It is on these two grounds that I want to draw attention to the patent prima facie absurdity of this Amendment. I do not know whether it is more deplorable that it should have escaped the attention of hon. Members opposite that there are these provisions, or that they should think that local authorities are unfit to carry them out. Not only does this Bill put upon local authorities certain responsibilities but it appeals for its effectiveness to the ultimate sanction, which is public opinion, which, in turn, is responsible for the election of local authorities. I therefore submit that this Amendment is mischievous, insulting and ill-conceived, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will be heartened by the encouragement which we give him on this side of the House to proceed with a timely and well-conceived Measure.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Julius Silverman (Birmingham, Erdington)
I do not desire to follow the arguments of the hon. Member for Ilford, North (Mr. Iremonger) except to say this: it has already been pointed out several times that the provisions of Clauses 4 and 11 are subject entirely to the landlord's consent. The local authority can ask the landlord to grant a statutory tenancy if he is agreeable. The local authority can go to the landlord and ask him to grant a lease, providing that he is willing.
§ Mr. Silverman
The local authority can invite the landlord to sell the house, but cannot compel him.
§ Mr. Silverman
I do not agree with the hon. Member; the authority cannot compel him to sell and there is no provision to that effect in the Bill.
§ Mr. Speaker
I cannot have two hon. Members on their feet at the same time. Unless the hon. Member who is addressing the House gives way, no other hon. Member has a right to interrupt him.
§ Mr. Hay
I was drawing the hon. Member's attention and that of the House to Part V of the Housing Act, 1936, which, in terms, gave local authorities power to acquire existing houses for carrying out their housing functions. As my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) emphasised, they can do so compulsorily; that is a power here and now.
§ Mr. Silverman
I am sorry, but as far as I recall the 1936 Housing Act there are two powers—power to acquire land compulsorily for the purposes of building new houses and power to buy houses by negotiation. I do not know of any local authority which has ever exercised a power under the 1936 Act to go to an owner and buy his house compulsorily.
§ Mr. Silverman
I have already studied both of these Acts. I think the hon. Member will recollect that when we discussed the Housing Repairs and Rents Act we minutely examined the provisions of both the 1936 and the 1949 Act. I persist in saying that there is no such pro vision for compulsory purchase. Certainly, if there is, it is never exercised, and I should have thought that was sufficient proof. All that this Bill does is 247 to enable local authorities to invite the landlord to sell. There is nothing in the Bill which suggests compulsory powers. If such a right were to be given, presumably it would be specifically mentioned, and it is not.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) specifically asked this question: if the land lord does not consent to one of these courses of action, what will happen to the tenant in 1960? The answer is that he will be a trespasser and can be turned out. It is true that the local authority can then make provision for him out of its pool of houses and, as a consequence, he as an individual will not suffer, but people who are waiting on the housing lists will suffer.
§ Mr. Iremonger
I thank the hon. Member for giving way so courteously and I am sorry to interrupt him after he has given way several times. He was commenting on the point which I made in my speech. He said, quite rightly, that the provision for allowing the tenancies to continue depended on the landlord's consent, but I submit to the House that he has overlooked the point which I made with reference to Clause 11 in which it is laid down that local authorities may, in the open market at vacant possession prices, purchase other houses wherein they may accommodate tenants who have been turned out.
It is necessary to have the three stages in mind whereby these arrangements can be made—first, to persuade an owner to accept a tenant; secondly, to obtain a lease and accommodate tenants in a leased house; and, thirdly, to buy a house on the open market. If local authorities apply all three stages they are bound at some time to reach a satisfactory conclusion.
§ Mr. Silverman
What the hon. Gentle man has just said amounts to a complete withdrawal of his argument. He now adds that it is possible for a local authority to buy other houses. Of course it is; that has always been so, if the authority is prepared to buy at the ridiculous scarcity values existing at present. Of course authorities can buy houses at prices which give enormous profits to owners. That has always been possible. But that will not solve the problem of these tenants.
248 I want the House to consider what the position will be in such a city as Birmingham. The problem in Birmingham may not be as bad as that in London but perhaps I may show how bad it is likely to be. There are now almost 1,900 requisitioned houses in Birmingham. It means that under the provisions of the Bill they will have to be derequisitioned at a rate of 400 per annum.
At present, about 3,000 municipal houses a year are being built in Birmingham. Of these, about 2,000 are required for slum clearance, for other priority considerations such as evictions or tuberculosis cases, demolitions or such special cases as that; which means that the general pool for lettings of houses, together with re-lets, will be about 1,500 per annum.
Thus, almost one out of every four of the inadequate number of houses at present being provided for tenants on the register—60,000 in all, with more than 30,000 lodger applicants, with families-will be taken for the purposes of providing accommodation for tenants of derequisitioned houses.
This is an extremely serious problem for a city like Birmingham, with an in creasing population and with a steadily diminishing area of land available for building—an area which will have disappeared completely within the next three or four years. It means that many of the applicants on Birmingham's housing register will have to wait many more years because of this piece of legislation.
I think that the terms of the Amendment are entirely justified. This is entirely a landlords' Measure which provides in every respect for the needs of the land lord. It provides no security whatever for the tenant and it makes no provision not only for the present tenants of these houses but also for the inflated registers of many of the large cities, containing the names of thousands of people who are waiting for houses and at whose expense this Bill will be carried out.
§ 6.40 p.m.
Mr. James Mclnnes (Glasgow, Central)
I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Erdington (Mr. J. Silverman) will forgive me if I do not follow him in his argument and that my English colleagues will forgive me if I take up six or seven minutes to deal specifically with 249 Clause 16, which concerns itself with the proposals of the Government for Scotland.
Since the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland is here, I wish to ask him the reason for the insertion of this Clause in the Bill. I may be told that the Public Accounts Committee recommended to the Treasury that Government advances to the Scottish Special Housing Association should be subject to statutory limitation so that Parliament could exercise control. But I think I would be right in asserting that in making that recommendation the Committee did not lay down any specific period to which the statutory limitation referred.
If the answer is that the Government has been guided by the recommendation of the Public Accounts Committee, I want to be assured that this Clause has not been inserted with some other motive. Perhaps I might not be very short of the mark if I suggested that one of the reasons for the inclusion of the Clause is a desire on the part of the present Government to lessen, if not entirely to abolish, the activities of the Scottish Special Housing Association.
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman will remember that at the beginning of last year he received representations from the Scottish National Building Trades Federation and the Federation of Civil Engineering Contractors, Scottish Section, who expressed a desire that the activities of this Government-sponsored body, with its direct labour department, should be considerably reduced. In answering Questions in this House in April last year, the right hon. and gallant Gentleman indicated quite clearly that he was cognisant of those representations and assured us that there would be no lessening of the activities of the Scottish Special Housing Association.
I want to give one or two figures which would appear to indicate that there has been a considerable lessening of the activities of this Government-sponsored body. Since 1952, the number of houses under construction has decreased each year. In the direct labour department the number of houses under construction has decreased in the last three years. The number of employees in the employment of that department has gone down from a little over 2,000 to about 1,300. The proposals in the Bill seek to limit the financial advances made by the Secretary 250 of State for Scotland to the Scottish Special Housing Association to a sum not exceeding £75 million.
I ask the Joint Under-Secretary what period had he in mind when he included that sum in the present Bill? Was it to cover a period of three, four, five, or seven years? From an analysis I have made from the annual report of that body I find that the total capital expenditure, which fairly represents the total advances made by the Government, in 1953 stood at £42 million. In 1954, it went up to £50 million and it is safe to assume from those figures that next month the total capital expenditure will exceed £60 million. Those figures reveal that in a period of less than two years we shall have reached the figure of £75 million. What, therefore, is the purpose of including a provision of this kind in this Bill?
If the Scottish Special Housing Association is to plan properly ahead it will have to be given some assurance, probably at the end of next year, that a further sum is to be guaranteed to it. Do I understand that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will be coming to Parliament next year and asking for an additional £25 million for this organisation? If that is the purpose he has in mind it would seem to be a stupid procedure and a waste of Parliamentary time. Surely he could have included a provision in the Bill which would have carried the Association over the next six, seven, or eight years instead of placing it almost on an annual basis.
Has the Joint Under-Secretary included this figure in the Bill to placate the building trade employers and civil engineers who made those representations to him? Incidentally, those representations were made through the Tory Central Office. The employers' organisations desire very much that this Government-sponsored body should go out of existence altogether. I hope that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will always remember the words he used in a letter to the Tory Central Office. They were:It is essential that the Government should have some independent means of checking prices such as is provided by the Scottish Special Housing Association which worked in the closest co-operation with my Department. It will be appreciated that Scotland derives great advantage from the Scottish Special Housing Association in that it provides houses 251 for the local authorities in hard hit areas with out any charge on local rates. A widespread attitude of hostility by the employers in Scot land to the Association might well result in the loss of this additional Exchequer help to Scotland, a prospect which is not to be con templated lightly.I hope that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will very adequately and fully explain why he has taken the opportunity of this Bill to make the provision instead of in other Scottish housing Bills which already have been dealt with. The Public Accounts Committee recommendation was made as far back as 1953. This proposal could have been included in at least two Scottish housing Bills since then. I am told that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman did not want to include it because those Bills were of a controversial nature—as if this Bill is not of a controversial nature.
Quite sincerely, I wonder what is the purpose of taking the opportunity of including a Clause of this kind, which has absolutely no connection with requisitioning and things of that kind, in this Bill. It seems a very sudden move on the part of the Government to lose the Clause, as it were, in the complexities and intricacies of the Bill as a whole. I hope that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will be honest and tell us precisely what he had in mind when he included the Clause in the Bill.
§ 6.48 p.m.
The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Commander T. D. Galbraith)
Perhaps it would be for the convenience of the House if I intervened at this stage to deal briefly with the Scottish aspect of this Bill, and also with the observations of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. McInnes) when I deal with Clause 16.
In opening the debate this afternoon, my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government explained that the main purpose of the Bill was to provide for the transfer of requisitioned houses to local authorities for a limited period of five years, after which their right to hold these houses would cease. The provision effecting this transfer and making other related arrangements are contained in Part I of the Bill. The House will have noted from Clause 252 20 that Part I, with the exception of Clause 14, does not apply to Scotland. The reason is that the number of houses now under requisition in Scotland no longer presents a problem of any magnitude.
In the immediate post-war years considerable use was made of powers under Defence Regulation 51 to take possession of properties for housing purposes. The peak of requisitioning was reached in 1949, when 2,354 properties, containing 3,565 separate dwellings, were under requisition. In that year, the then Secretary of State for Scotland, who at that time was the right hon. Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn), in view of the powers which had been conferred on local authorities by the Housing (Scotland) Act, 1949, decided not to authorise further requisitioning for housing purposes, except in the most exceptional circumstances, and also that the process of unwinding the requisitioning scheme should be begun by the return of properties to owners.
Since then, no properties have been requisitioned for housing purposes, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has been pressing local authorities to release to owners properties which they have held on requisition. The result is that the problem has practically disappeared. At the moment, only 74 houses in Scotland are under requisition, and I expect that by the autumn of this year all but a mere handful of this residue will have been released. In these circum stances, my right hon. Friend felt that it was unnecessary to apply to Scotland the new powers contained in Clauses 1 to 14 of the Bill.
I do not want, however, to disguise the fact that there may be a small number of houses in remote areas, where alternative accommodation is difficult to come by, which will remain under requisition after the date when the Bill reaches the Statute Book. Until that small hard core has also been released, which, I hope, may be possible by the end of this year or early in 1956, the power of the Secretary of State under Defence Regulation 51 to hold requisitioned properties for housing purposes must be preserved. That is achieved in Clause 14 (2) of the Bill.
I should like to take this opportunity of thanking the local authorities for the very effective co-operation which they have given to my Department in an effort to 253 solve this difficult problem. When building materials were scarce and the number of new houses which could be built was, therefore, limited, the Department of Health for Scotland made special allocations of houses to some of the local authorities to assist them to rehouse families who were occupying requisitioned premises. Apart from that, how ever, the local authorities by themselves have made very special efforts to hasten the return of requisitioned houses to their owners, and it is right that I should acknowledge that in this House.
The other provisions in the Bill which apply to Scotland are contained in Part II, in Clauses 15,16, and 17. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary referred to the object of Clause 15, which deals with the period of the repayment of sums issued from the Consolidated Fund to meet the cost of the temporary housing scheme under the 1944 Act. The Clause, in effect, deals with a purely accounting technicality, and I want to make it abundantly clear that the change relates solely to the central arrangements for repayment of the sums which have been issued from the Consolidated Fund to meet the cost of the manufacture and erection of the temporary houses. The existing financial arrangements between the Exchequer and the local authorities in connection with the temporary housing scheme remain unaltered by the Clause.
Now, I come to Clause 16, with which the hon. Member for Glasgow, Central, was concerned. As the hon. Member said, the Clause imposes a statutory limitation on the amount of the advances made from the Consolidated Fund to the Scottish Special Housing Association. I assure the hon. Member that the limitation is included in the Bill following the recommendations contained in the Report of the Public Accounts Committee.
The Scottsh Special Housing Association's operations have all along been subject to effective administrative control by my Department, which has to determine the size of the building programme and the areas where the houses are to be built. The cost of the houses which are to be built on any site has been subject to the Department's approval in the same way as the cost of local authority houses.
In its Report for 1952–53, the Public Accounts Committee drew attention to the absence of any statutory limit to the 254 advances which could be made to the Association out of the Consolidated Fund, and recommended that a limit should be imposed so that, as the hon. Member rightly said, there might be Parliamentary, as distinct from Depart mental, control over the Association's operations. The limit imposed by the Clause is £75 million, which covers the advances which have been made hitherto, amounting to £52 million. When the balance of £23 million which remains is approaching exhaustion, I have no doubt that Parliament will be asked to consider the extent to which the limit should be raised to permit the Association to continue with its work.
§ Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)
That may be so, but does not the Clause put it in such a difficult form that a new Act of Parliament will be needed to increase the amount? Would it not have been sufficient to make provision for it to be done by Statutory Instrument, so that it would come before Parliament in that way and not as a Bill, for which it might be difficult to find time? It would have been better to do it administratively and to get the consent of Parliament to alter the sum in the same way as is done under many other Acts of Parliament.
I will give attention to that point, but I think the right hon. Member will approve of there being Parliamentary control, as there is in every other case of expenditure by Government bodies.
§ Mr. Thomas Fraser (Hamilton)
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman said that he will consider the point made by my right hon. Friend, but if we pass the Money Resolution tonight will it not be too late to give further thought to it if an alteration is necessary to provide for the kind of arrangement which my right hon. Friend suggests?
It may be that the hon. Member is right—I am not commenting upon that; but surely, opportunities will be found for doing as I have suggested, so that Parliament is invited to consider the extent to which the limit which is now imposed should be raised.
I know that hon. Members on both sides of the House are very interested in the contribution which the Scottish Special Housing Association has made 255 to the solution of the housing problem in Scotland, and I am glad to tell the House that since the war the Association has provided some 30,000 houses. These have been built in the areas of greatest need. In addition, many thousand houses have been provided to meet the needs of miners who have been transferred from dying to expanding coalfields.
I want to make it perfectly clear that what is proposed in Clause 16 is not to be interpreted as involving a limitation of the Scottish Special Housing Association's housing programme, which will continue at its present level in the meantime. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Central drew my attention to a number of facts which seemed to him to indicate that there was an intention to reduce the Association's activities. The simple explanation is that the reduction in the number of men employed from 2,000 to 1,500 on the direct labour side arises through the cessation of traditional building and the turnover by the Association to the building of the no-fines types of house, with all the mechanical equipment which that involves, which has resulted in fewer people being required to be employed on the job.
Clause 17 provides for the extension to schools and other educational buildings of the power to relax building regulations. This gives effect to a recommendation of the Select Committee on Estimates in its Report for 1952–53. Educational building work in England and Wales has long had statutory ex emption from the local by-laws, and in Scotland the Secretary of State has had powers for many years to relax the building regulations in the case of housing. These regulations include not only local building by-laws, which I am glad to say are in most towns in Scotland drawn in accordance with modern ideas, but also statutory provisions which go back as far as 1892. It is these provisions which are found to be acting as a very serious obstruction to the introduction of modern ideas and methods.
The need to comply with these regulations makes the development of some new methods of school construction virtually impossible at present, or so costly as to make it difficult for education authorities to provide schools by these new methods at reasonable cost. The Guest Committee 256 on Building Legislation is examining the whole question of bringing these statutory provisions up to date, but the completion of the Committee's Report and the passing of any legislation that may follow will necessarily take considerable time. The substantial expansion of the school-building programme which is now in progress means that we must make some interim measure of relief available.
The Clause will not give overall exemption from by-laws with regard to all new schools, nor does it in any way compel education authorities to reduce their standards of construction. It will, how ever, enable education authorities to adopt methods of construction which it would have been difficult or impossible to use under existing regulations. I assure the House that approval will not be given to any proposals which do not fully safe guard educational standards and, what is more important, the safety and health of the pupils and staffs.
Surely Clause 17 is de signed for the specific purpose which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman says he is attempting to avoid, that is, to reduce standards. That is what has been holding up approval by his own Department and education authorities. After hearing the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, I am more convinced than ever that Clauses 16 and 17 ought to form part of another Bill.
The hon. Member is of a very suspicious turn of mind. I can only explain the truth and the facts. If he is so suspicious and he cannot accept that, there is nothing I can do about it. The fact is that Clause 17 is introduced into the Bill because it is essential that we should get on with school building. In that connection, I remind the hon. Member that the programme is very nearly twice as big in value as it was last year.
It is quite obvious that Scotland's interest in the Bill is considerably less than that of England and Wales, but the pro visions as they apply to Scotland are useful provisions. I hope, therefore, that the House will approve them. I commend them to the House.
§ 7.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederick Elwyn Jones (West Ham, South)
I find it a somewhat sombre thought that, whereas in the whole of Scotland there are only 73 requisitioned 257 premises, in my unfortunate constituency of West Ham there are 2,300. Nevertheless, I shall try not to make the amount of time I shall take equally disproportionate. We have heard from the Government benches about four or five speeches. None of them has left us on this side of the House one jot happier about the fate of the licensees of requisitioned houses as from 1st April, 1960. We want some specific answers from the Government Front Bench to some specific questions.
Are they saying, as some hon. Gentle men opposite have said, that the Government propose to encourage local authorities to use compulsory powers as from 1st April, 1960, to acquire houses, if it be necessary even requisitioned houses? That is a specific question to which we want a direct answer. There is a great deal of doubt among the lawyers as to what are the precise powers of local authorities under the various Acts to which references have been made. What is clear from the Bill, at any rate, is that it certainly gives no compulsory power to the local authority.
Clause 4 is perfectly clear. It states:Any local authority, shall, if so required by the Minister, serve on the owners of such requisitioned dwellings as he may specify … a notice inviting those owners to accord to the licensees of the dwellings the status of statutory tenants …That is how it stands. How different are the provisions of Clause 4 from the pro visions of Clause 6, where it is said thatIf the Minister is satisfied, on representations made to him by the owner of any requisitioned house … that the owner will suffer severe hardship unless he is enabled either to obtain vacant possession of the house or to dispose of his interest therein … the Minister may give directions to the local authority requiring them … to release the house to the owner …The contrast is all too vivid.
If the answer is that we do not need to put in this Bill the fact that local authorities have all the necessary compulsory powers and we shall authorise and en courage them to use those compulsory powers, let it be said from the Front Bench opposite. I noticed that the Parliamentary Secretary was extremely non committal about it. If he cares to answer that specific question now I am willing to sit down, but I expect that he will not happily accept that invitation. He is a new Minister and, if I may say so, a most 258 competent one, and I do not want to harass him about this matter, but we shall wait with great interest the words of the Minister on this subject at the end of the debate.
There is another big imponderable which has put the House in great difficulty in discussing the Bill at all. It is the question of financial provisions. It is no use saying to West Ham, "You have powers already under other Acts to acquire houses compulsorily." There are two difficulties. The first is the simple physical fact that there are no houses to acquire, a physical fact which escaped all the intellectual ingenuity of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell). There is also the simple financial fact that there is not the money in the "kitty," if I may use a non-Parliamentary expression. It is no use putting a series of 25 per cent, obligations on an impoverished community like West Ham which has one of the highest rates in the country. It cannot be done.
It is not a question of our suggesting that local authorities are lacking in humanity. It is nothing of the kind. Of course they are not. The local councillors have these desperate problems on their doorsteps every day of their lives and we unfortunate Members of Parliament get the backwash of them every time we go to our constituencies.
West Ham is admittedly exceptional and I am not seeking to draw a general picture from its problem, but it is more general than the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West has con ceded. Nevertheless, I am concerned with the fact that to the specific area of West Ham the all-important question is: what formula will be applied by the Minister in interpreting Clause 10 (2), which states:If the Minister is satisfied in the case of any local authority that the additional burden placed on their rates in consequence of the provisions of this Part of this Act … is greater than is reasonable, he may … make to them a special grant …"?What is the test?
Is the test the size of the problem? Is it the impoverishment of the local authority? We really should not have been left in the dark about this in the course of the debate. We all observed it and I must make this comment—that it was most unsatisfactory for the Minister to be appearing to encourage the Parliamentary Secretary to avoid dealing with this pro- 259 blem by saying, "I will deal with all this at the end of the debate." That was of no assistance to us in considering this matter and so we are in the dark as to what is financially involved. What I suspect it will involve is a wholly inadequate financial provision for these unfortunate blitzed areas, which will once more be left to "hold the baby"—again I am using an unparliamentary expression.
During the war, blitzed areas such as West Ham had the great privilege of visits by the Prime Minister. They were the most vital areas as far as the morale of the people of Britain was concerned. They were hailed as heroes of the resistance of the people of Britain—they were the personification of it. If their morale had cracked we should have been in dangerous straits as a little island.
These areas, which we represent in the House in this debate and whose cause we are seeking to advocate, if we were to have another war, would be the blitzed areas again. They are the key centres of the economic and industrial life of Britain. And how shabbily they have been treated since the war. From time to time the West Ham authority has been given special grants, but those grants are coming to an end, the last one is being made this year. And, unless the interpretation of Clause 10 (2) is to be generous, once more the nation will be passing on to a little local community of hard-pressed people responsibilities which the nation, through the Exchequer, ought to carry.
I say, further, that the effect of this Bill on an area like West Ham will be merely to perpetuate the slums. For what is the local authority to do? First, it has no means to acquire an unlimited number of houses; secondly, there are not the houses there. So what is it to do with these 2,300 families, a large proportion of whom will still be on their hands as licensees on 1st April, 1960? In my submission, the optimism of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West about the high percentage of those now in requisitioned premises who will have acquired the status of statutory tenants by 1960, is greatly exaggerated.
In my view, there is no foundation for it and, therefore, it means that if the West Ham authority by 1st April, 1960, has to house these thousands of families 260 living in requisitioned premises the first to suffer will be those now on the priority list. There are about 13,000 families on the West Ham priority list at present and there are thousands and thousands of others on the general list with no hope of being rehoused. Many are in squalid, miserable homes, breeding disease and ill-health and being denied all that we have sought to achieve in this House in the last fifteen years in the way of bringing decent social conditions to our people.
Those problems will be accentuated by this Bill, not relieved. What is used to rehouse the inhabitants of the requisitioned premises must be denied to those who are living in slum conditions. What are the Government going to do to help these people? How does this Bill help the areas most affected? It will make a great political demonstration in Bourne mouth and Sussex. This will be yet another blow struck for the freedom of the property owner. The Tory Party has been described as the party of landlords and the landladies and this Bill is, in deed, a manifestation of that old and, we were hoping, somewhat qualified tradition; but here it comes once again.
If the Bill is intended to deal with the question of requisitioning where it is most acute, then it does not tackle it, and I ask the Government to look at it again unless they are to be accused of the most appalling cynicism when they call for a crusade to clear the slums. Do they really mean that, because this Bill will perpetuate the slums in areas where the biggest concentration of them exists?
§ 7.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Doughty (Surrey, East)
The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for West Ham, South (Mr. Elwyn Jones) referred to an area where this problem is admittedly most acute, but he did not refer to Clause 3 (2) of the Bill, which was presumably inserted specially for that type of area. By that provision, the Minister has power, upon representations made to him before the five years are up, to retain under requisition houses in any area. So if there be an area where the local authority cannot deal with the situation within five years, it can be dealt with by retaining requisition, which only goes to show that the Bill covers all possible cases.
§ Mr. Lewis
Is not the hon. and learned Gentleman aware of the fact that even before this Bill is passed the Minister— in the case of West Ham, which my hon. and learned Friend was quoting—will not even now grant requisitioning powers? So if he will not do it now, how does the hon. Member think it will be done in five years from now?
§ Mr. Doughty
It is not a question of granting new powers but of retaining premises already requisitioned. The hon. Gentleman need not be so worried about the feelings of the Minister, who is well capable of looking after West Ham—and East Ham as well.
This Bill is welcome because, unfortunately, if requisitioning were allowed to go on for too long a period it might become part of our national existence, which would be a bad principle. It is now 10 years since the end of the war and since the houses of these people were taken, contrary to their wishes—often causing great hardship to people who had saved up to buy those houses—and they were denied all access to their own property. Is it to be said that the extension of that practice is to be encouraged by the House? I think not.
Requisitioning may have been vitally necessary in 1945 when there was no building going on, when a great deal of property had been destroyed, and when the problem was probably more acute than it had ever been in this country. But those days are over, and this Bill must be read in conjunction with the building progress that has been made since the war and, may I add, particularly since 1951. There are still five years to go before the guillotine falls and in that time there cannot be fewer than l½ million new dwellings built.
§ Mr. Doughty
Will they not help to solve the problem which this Bill may raise? [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Hon. Members opposite say "No," but do they imagine that a million or a million and a half houses will remain unoccupied?
§ Mr. Doughty
Have hon. Gentlemen opposite not heard of the new towns 262 built for the purpose of housing people in London and other big cities? Have they not been to see people from their own constituencies who have gone there? I am sure that hon. Gentlemen opposite cannot be as blind as all that.
§ Mr. Doughty
I am sorry that hon. Gentlemen opposite are so disappointed at seeing so many houses being built. I can well understand their disappointment, owing to their failure to build houses themselves.
The Bill will ease a great hardship for many people. If one looks at the provisions made for those at present in occupation of other people's property by reason of reacquisition, one sees that they are considerable. I have examined them carefully. I see that there is power to negotiate with the owners of that property to accept the occupiers as tenants under a statutory tenancy. Whether that will be a success remains to be seen. As long as we continue to subsidise people in other people's houses by making the landlords charge what are really only pre war rents, it is not likely that the Clause will have very wide application.
The Clause which deals with the purchase of houses at present occupied is the crux of the Bill. It is all wrong that for 10 years people's property should be occupied by others against the owners' will. It is right that those who continue to live in that property should negotiate with the owners for its sale on the basis of vacant occupation—not at any inflated value but at a fair market value. If that is done, and there are five years in which to do it, it will be the proper way to settle the problem.
I should like the Minister, when he replies, to deal fully with that aspect, and say how he proposes that these negotiations should be carried out. Will it be done by ordinary notice to treat, or will the matter go to arbitration in order that 263 a settlement is arrived at as to what is a fair market value for the freehold of the property? If that were done tomorrow in regard to these houses the question would be solved. If these occupiers desire to remain in the houses, and the local councils desire them to remain there, that is an end to the whole question. That, as I say, is the real crux of the whole Bill.
I am surprised to see that an Amendment has been put down for the rejection of this very excellent Bill, which personally I commend to the House. It says:That this House declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill which contemplates the eviction of occupants of requisitioned houses in 1960 without providing for their rehousing and, while protecting landlords from special hard ship, gives no similar protection to occupiers.The Amendment is entirely incorrect and untrue.
§ Mr. Doughty
It is untrue, because the Bill, both in regard to the letting of houses and in regard to the purchasing of them, provides for the occupants' rehousing.
§ Mr. Doughty
This has to be combined with the fact that the needed houses are now being built, so that the need for requisitioning has already gone. I commend this Bill to the House and 1 personally will give it every support.
§ 7.23 p.m.
§ Mrs. Lena Jeger (Holborn and St. Pancras, South)
While I do not consider that the financial provisions of this Bill are its most important part, I must refer again to the vagueness of Clause 10 (2) and press this point on the Minister, because as a member of two local authorities I am not entirely unaware of the negotiations that have been taking place. As I understand the representatives of the local authority associations suggested to the Minister that the discretionary grants payable by the Minister should not be left entirely to his discretion but should be based on a formula. The Associations 264 have sent proposals for such a formula, and the Minister stated that, whilst he could not give any undertaking about the Government's administration of an Act which had not been presented to Parliament, nevertheless he considered that the proposals were not unreasonable.
It is extraordinary that local authorities cannot be told about a formula because it has not been put before Parliament, and Parliament cannot be told about it because it has not been communicated to the local authorities. We are in a most extraordinary position, and I hope that before this debate concludes this will be cleared up. It would have been for the convenience of the House if information about the formula had been given to us at the beginning of our discussions today.
I promised to be very brief, but I must say I think the hon. and learned Gentle man the Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty) must get a little clearer his facts about the sad story of the owner-occupier. Those are the cases which always get the maximum publicity and which, of course, appeal to the feelings of us all. But the Requisitioned Property Owners' Association does not claim that more than 10 per cent, of the people who own requisitioned property fall into this category. By far the largest number are not owned by people who are willing to live in them themselves. The local authority with which I have long been connected has taken a most sympathetic and helpful attitude wherever possible about de requisitioning in cases of genuine hardship of an owner who wants to take over possession himself. The fact that 61,000 properties have been derequisitioned suggests that local authorities have not been unreasonable.
The difficulty in central London is far more with the owner of streets and streets of houses, with the speculator and with the investment trust. We have some experience of what happens when houses are derequisitioned. We have heard some very rosy prophecies from hon. Members opposite about the kindness and good ness with which landlords will consider the needs of tenants when this Bill be comes law. In my experience—and may I be forgiven for saying that I have been chairman of a housing committee in St. Pancras and am a member of the housing committee of the London County Council—what happens when places are derequisitioned falls under two heads.
265 We have derequisitioned several houses where the Minister has told us that we could not spend the money which we thought was necessary for repairs. He said, "You cannot spend this public money on repairs, you must derequisition the house." We have done that, and I could take hon. Members opposite round St. Pancras and show them these houses still standing empty and unrepaired. I, for one, would like the powers of requisitioning not brought to an end but extended and strengthened, because it is a bitter injustice to the people of this country, particularly to the people of London, that there should be empty properties while there is such human misery in homelessness.
The second result of derequisitioning has been not that the poor war widow or the wounded ex-Service man about whom we have heard so much, enters rightly into the occupation of his or her own hearth and home, but that the speculators, who own the majority of this property, put a piece of lino and a table and a chair in each of the rooms and let these houses not as units of accommodation but room by room as furnished accommodation for two or three guineas a week. That is what we are to encourage even further. That is what this Bill enables owners of hundreds and hundreds of houses in London to do.
Why hon. Members opposite should imagine that, instead of letting these houses with bits of furniture at the rate of two or three guineas per room per week, the landlords are to keep on the council tenants as statutory tenants at controlled rents I simply cannot under stand. It must be due to their lack of experience of landlords in London.
Then there is the matter of going to court on this subject, and we shall have to ask the Minister to consult his colleagues in the Government on the question of legal aid for these people. At present, there is no legal aid in the county courts and the police courts, which means that the tenants, who are usually the poorer people, in these circumstances are at a disadvantage.
What is also not clear in Clause 6 is what is to happen to the tenant when the court has to give possession to the landlord. Is there a statutory duty on the local authority to rehouse, or is it just a question of the local authority in 266 its kindness and goodness trying to put these people somewhere at the expense of another desperate family? We must have a clear answer to that and I would recommend the Minister to see his right hon. Friend the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance about these cases, because there will be a need for vast increases in Part III accommodation under the National Assistance Act.
Many of us have been rather local in our speeches and I hope that the House will forgive any parochialism that is creeping into this debate, but I feel that it is our duty to put the cases of our constituencies even at the risk of seeming repetitious to hon. Members opposite. Perhaps I may for a moment mention Holborn, which I have the honour to represent.
During the war, at least 650 homes were lost in the little Borough of Holborn. Since the war, 266 have been built. We have not yet come near to making good the losses of the war. Now we are told that we must derequisition 924 units which are an essential part of our housing accommodation. Some hon. Members opposite have said that there is all this wonderful new building going on. May I tell the House to how many new dwellings the Minister has consented in Holborn? He has approved the erection of 14 new flats in Holborn.
§ Mrs. Jeger
We are negotiating and hoping for another 50, but the present situation is that we have been given per mission for 14 new flats to be built in Holborn.
§ Sir F. Markham
The Minister has so far approved every application that has been put up by Holborn.
§ Mrs. Jeger
That is not true, certainly not of past or present Ministers. We are hoping that there will be further development in this area, but we must ask the Minister for special consideration. Sites are running out and there is very little land and we cannot, faced with this derequisitioning Bill, possibly build accommodation for 924 families.
The answer comes from the other side, "What about the new towns and out county housing estates?" I know there is no lack of courage opposite and per- 267 haps if I went with the Minister, he would agree to go to Covent Garden and tell some of the Covent Garden porters who live in Holborn that they should live in Boreham Wood, or Harlow. We have to recognise that many people are tied to central London, to these boroughs about which we have been talking, by their jobs and by the vital contribution they make through their work to the community. That makes it impossible for these other remedies to take effect.
In St. Pancras we have been a little more fortunate in that we have by now just about overtaken our war damage, but we are left with 7,000 desperate applications in our housing list. We have tried to acquire some requisitioned houses, but it takes at least six months in each case, or even more, and 1 hope that if the Minister wants local authorities to be encouraged in this activity, he will try to speed up the machinery to do it.
What the Bill really says to us is that for years and years there must be a stand still on our waiting lists. We have got to turn all our new accommodation to meeting this problem. We are put in a position where we will never be able to get people out of damp basements, often where we have children coming into dangerous con tact with tuberculosis. All we get is a Bill which is completely a landlord's Bill. If one reads it carefully, and I have tried to read very carefully, always it is a question of whether or not the landlord agrees to keeping the tenant, agrees to sell his house, agrees to leave his house. The local authority, with the best will in the world, has no powers of compulsion and will certainly not be able to deal with the problem.
We are throwing back on to the families involved our own bankruptcy in dealing with the problem. The Bill is a completely unnecessary Bill, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) made clear. Two years ago we had a Working Party Report in which it was recommended that local authorities which had more than two families per 1,000 of the population in requisitioned premises should be asked to make the maximum possible reductions year by year.
The fact that 61,000 premises have been de-requisitioned shows that local authorities were trying to carry out the 268 spirit of that recommendation. I am sure that if we could have carried on in that way, with local authorities being helpful in cases of genuine hardship, we would have dealt with the problem in a much more humane, fair and just manner.
§ 7.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Ian Orr-Ewing (Hendon, North)
I am sure that the House will have listened with care to the very persuasive and effective speech which has just been made by the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mrs. L. Jeger). I thought that she was not quite right when she said that a large housing programme would not have its effect on the boroughs in London and in outer London. There is bound to be movement. While it is true that a number of people are tied to their jobs there will be movement of children to different areas as they grow up, and there they will follow their occupations.
Certainly there must be a greater movement to the expanded towns and the new towns which are being constructed for that very purpose. A difference will be made by the fact that by the time the guillotine falls by 1960 there should be another 1¾ million new houses, and there is bound to be a movement in our population which will be wholly helpful.
§ Mr. Sparks
Can the hon. Member tell us how that will affect the boroughs that have no land on which, to build?
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
I am glad the hon. Gentleman mentioned that, because it will be the whole purport of my speech later, if he will bide his time and wait in patience.
I rather hope that we shall hear from the benches opposite the extent of the housing programme which they would undertake. Are they still wedded to their 200,000 houses a year, which was their maximum at the last General Election, or do they now recognise the fact that we can, under a Conservative Government, get 350,000 new houses each year? By 1960 that will make a difference of ¾ million new houses. Under the Conservative programme, we shall get 1¾ million and under the Socialist programme only 1 million, according to the programme the party opposite put forward at the last Election. That must make a very big difference to the movement of the population.
269 I represent a borough which has some very special problems: I am sure that is so in many of the boroughs in Greater London. During the war the Borough of Hendon was a reception area, and many people moved into that borough during these serious times. We now have more than 800 requisitioned houses. The difficulty of the borough in honouring the provisions of the Bill is that it has obligations first and foremost to the very long queue of Hendonians who are waiting to be rehoused in Hendon.
There are more than 4,000 Hendon people who have been waiting, the great majority since before the war, for houses in Hendon. There are an additional 800 in requisitioned property, and more than 90 per cent, of those 800 are not Hendonians. They came to the Hendon reception area from other boroughs, the majority from south-east London. There is a real difficulty there, and I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will give some attention to this matter, because not only must we house the people in our own queue, but also the people from the requisitioned property. But we in Hendon are surrounded by the Green Belt, and, therefore, we are woefully short of land on which to carry out this programme.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
I have also lived near there for some time. Surely the hon. Gentleman does not think it would be right to build on parks or open spaces which the Abercrombie Plan reserved for recreation and other purposes. We should be letting down future generations if we built on these valuable open spaces.
We are also deterred by the fact—I do not complain, but it is an additional problem—that we have an L.C.C. housing estate right in the middle of Hendon, and the L.C.C. has decided that it cannot house the sons and daughters of tenants on its estates. We have the Burnt Oak Estate, with some 12,000 electors, an estate which was built in the period between 1929 and 1933. It thus happens that the sons and daughters of the tenants are reaching the age when they marry and have children, and they want houses of their own. That is an additional demand on the small amount of housing space in the Borough of Hendon.
270 I hope that the Minister will examine these problems most sympathetically, particularly the cases of boroughs which are prevented from building out because of the Green Belt, and which are beset with the following four factors in this tremendous problem. They have long waiting lists; and a large number of requisitioned houses; L.C.C. out-county estates for which they have to accept responsibility; and a number of Regular Service men coming out of married quarters in depots in the area and joining the queue for houses.
I believe that this Bill is a step in the right direction. I have always found in my monthly "surgeries" that on the whole people living in requisitioned property take a very objective view of this matter and realise that the time has to come when the property has to be returned to its owners. We need to pay special attention to their difficulties because, in many cases, the land is just not there to meet the needs of such boroughs as Hendon.
§ 7.43 p.m.
§ Sir Leslie Plummer (Deptford)
The hon. Member for Hendon, North (Mr. C. I. Orr-Ewing) said one thing with which I heartily agree. He did not want to see a situation arising in his borough in which the parks and open spaces were built over in order to provide sites for houses. The reason why I agree with the hon. Gentleman is that in Deptford we have no parks or open spaces that are worthy of consideration as building sites.
In fact, in the whole of the borough we have no full-sized football pitch on which young men, or even children, can play a proper game of football. We are a typical south-east London riverside constituency which has particular problems, with which I want to deal tonight, following the example of many hon. Members who have made constituency speeches in this debate.
§ Sir L. Plummer
I do not live in the borough.
There were 2,000 houses completely destroyed in Deptford as a result of enemy action, and of the remaining 14,000 houses scarcely one remained unscathed. About £4¼ million has been spent on war damage repairs to these 271 14,000 houses. That should be an argument for believing that there are vacant spaces in Deptford, but there are not. The pre-war density of 50 houses to the acre has gone, and we are now down to half that figure—27 per acre.
Having suffered that frightful holocaust, what has the borough done? It has built 516 houses and flats since the war. It has some 450 huts and factory-manufactured houses, and, in addition, it has 1,382 requisitioned premises of one kind and another, housing about 2,000 families. It has nearly 3,000 applicants on its waiting list.
There is no room at all in the borough for any big housing expansion. In fact, if all the housing sites that are likely to be available in Deptford between now and 1960 were used solely for the purpose of rehousing the people who live in requisitioned property, provision would be found for about 500 people. Yet we have 3,000 on our waiting list, 2,000 families in requisitioned houses, and 450 people living in squalid huts and pre-fabricated houses, to which, I am sorry to say, the Parliamentary Secretary gave a testimonial. I should like to see those huts and prefabs pulled down long before 1960.
The problem is clear. Many of our larger requisitioned houses, have as many as four families living in them, while in one I think there are eight. Yet the Bill ensures that no owner will have to take back, against his will, only part of his house, so that, if we are to derequisition one house, we have to find accommodation not for one family, but, in cases such as I have described, for four families. Trying to deal with that situation in the conditions I have mentioned is like trying to fill a colander full of water. It just cannot be done; it is an impossibility.
Every time that we in Deptford try to build new blocks of flats, we have to rehouse more people than are supplied by the units of accommodation that we build. There is a big housing estate scheme in Clyde Street, where, in order to house 40 families in the flats now being built there, we have to find alternative accommodation for 48 families before we start. The result is that it is an almost impossible situation in which to try to 272 obtain a significant accretion of new houses for the people in the borough.
Deptford has already had its own policy of derequisitioning. From what we have heard from some hon. Members opposite, it would appear that borough councils have been tardy in dealing with derequisitioning. It is not so at all in Deptford. In recent years, we have released about 82 dwelling houses containing 140 families. It is not an easy job to do that when there are 3,000 families knocking on the door of the housing officer every week, every month, every quarter, and every year, asking for the accommodation which they are seeking.
We did not start this business of requisitioning in Deptford. We did not seek to do it. It was the Coalition Government which came along and said that it was necessary, in the interests of the war effort, that we should do it. I am not denying that Deptford Borough Council were enthusiastic about it, because they were looking for accommodation for many of their people. Nor was accommodation difficult to find, because, at that time, there was a queue of landlords and estate agents at the town hall, begging to have their properties requisitioned.
I am satisfied, from all the correspondence I receive and from talking to the people who come to see me, that today the overwhelming majority of people in Deptford whose property is requisitioned are perfectly happy to leave the situation where it is. The people who are the clamorous and vocal minority, who threaten to put up independent Conservative candidates in some of the marginal Tory constituencies in south London are those who want to secure vacant possession of their houses and to sell them on the market at a high valuation.
Other hon. Members have dealt with the question of cost. Boroughs which, like mine, have suffered desperately from enemy action are now being asked to accept a burden which places like Black-pool, Bournemouth, Berwick-on-Tweed, and Warwick are not called upon to bear. The areas which suffered the most war damage will find that their burdens are the greatest. Let me look at the cost to Deptford.
In the year ended 31st March, 1954, our requisitioned houses were cost- 273 ing roughly £51,000 a year. For the period ending 31st March this year the cost will be about £35,000, and it is estimated that the cost next year will be about £32,000. That is a drop of about £19,000. We increased the rents at the urgent request of the Minister as the result of the Working Party's Report, although it was not a popular thing to do, politically, in Deptford. The borough council did it, and the Exchequer will benefit by a saving of £19,000, up to the time that it washes its hands of the matter.
I am not saying that the borough council will not get benefit as from 1st April, 1957, but we are already putting quite a burden on the people of Deptford. When the terms of the Bill are implemented, 25 per cent, of the cost will be borne by the borough council. We shall have to find £8,000 a year, which is equivalent to a 3⅓d. rate. That is not all. Some hon. Members have talked as if that is the maximum cost to a borough, but it does not include leasing, purchasing, or paying compensation to owners. The very minimum that it will cost is 3⅓d.
We have heard rumours that there is to be a formula which will ensure that some borough councils will not have to pay more than a few coppers, but what is 3⅓d. but a few coppers? What could be appreciably smaller than those few coppers. This is a very dangerous matter, and I recommend to the representatives of local authorities, when they go into the jungle with this Government, not to be misled. The formula will say that the Minister shall decide, in his discretion, whether there is likely to be an unbearable burden upon any local authority. On this side of the House we are not prepared to give that discretion to the Minister, because we do not trust his discretion.
If he wants, and must have a formula why does he not go back to the formula of what we know as the Addison Act of 1919? Houses were then built on the basis that the Government provided the whole annual loss on the houses with the exception of a 1d. rate. I do not know whether that would work now, but it is far more equitable. A borough knows what is to happen. It is better than hinting that there will be a formula which will only cost a few coppers and then saying, "We shall have a formula at some other time."
274 On the basis of the 1954 figures, Dept-ford would have to levy a 5¼d. rate. This and other comparative figures are subject to alteration but as a comparative guide it would cost St. Marylebone a 1⅛d. rate and Westminster a 1⅛d. rate.
Finally, I would ask the Minister whether Clause 3 (2) really means, as was suggested by some hon. Members on the benches opposite, that the Minister may permit authorities to continue with requisitioning after the Bill comes into force, and after 1960? I am not saying that it does. There was an hon. Member on the Government benches who took a belated interest in the Bill, although he had only been in the House for about an hour, and who said that the Bill made it clear that requisitioning could be carried on. If it is true that requisitioning is to continue, what did the Parliamentary Secretary mean when he said that the Bill was to bring requisitioning to an end? If it does mean that what have we been arguing about all today? If it does not mean that, as I suspect it does not, would it not be a good idea,, instead of giving a brief at the last moment to hon. Gentlemen who have not been very prominent in their attendance, for the Parliamentary Secretary to see that his supporters are given some easy guides to the Bills which the Government produce? Those hon. Members would then not add more confusion to that which the Government supply.
§ 7.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Higgs (Bromsgrove)
Nobody will criticise hon. Members, and particularly hon. Members on the Opposition side, for calling attention to the problems of the areas which they represent, but it is right that one should take also a broad view of the whole problem with which the Bill seeks to deal. I make no secret of the fact that the requisitioning of property is not a problem in my constituency. I live under the shadow of an authority about which a great deal has been said earlier in the debate. It is the Birmingham City Council, about whose area I shall have a few remarks to make.
It often happens in a debate like this that hon. Members criticise a Bill and ask for more details about it without saying what they would do if they had the responsibility of introducing a Measure to deal with the problem. Even the Amendment gives no hint of what the Opposition would do if they were in power. 275 That is a question which we are entitled to ask them to answer. The Amendment criticises the Bill for protecting landlords while not protecting occupiers and that is all. We are entitled to have some elucidation on this point. Are we to understand that the Opposition, if they had had responsibility, would have introduced a Measure somewhat similar in terms to the present Bill, but with greater protection to occupiers and licensees of requisitioned property? If the Opposition would do that, there is not very much separating us from them.
My hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) said that we have confidence in the local authorities, although many of them are Socialist-controlled, that they will do their job. Hon. Members on the Opposition side believe that they will not do it. That is the only difference between us.
§ Mr. Sparks
I am sure that the hon. Member does not want to misrepresent the desire of local authorities to co-operate in the derequisitioning of these dwellings. He must see that it is a sheer physical impossibility for a large number of these authorities to do what we are now asking them to do. It is absolutely impossible.
§ Mr. Higgs
That intervention is like all the hon. Member's interventions, a very thoughtful one, but it does not help me to find out what hon. Members opposite would do about this problem, if it is different from what we are suggesting in the Bill. If they would keep things as they are, it makes nonsense of some of the criticisms which hon. Members have made.
They talk about insecurity, and about those who are now licensees becoming insecure in their tenure as a result of this Bill. On that basis they are at the moment as precarious and as insecure as it is possible for them to be. If we do not trust the local authorities, then they have exactly the same security as a lodger, and no more. They can be pitched out without even the formality of a notice to quit. Is that the situation which hon. Members opposite seek to perpetuate, or would they perhaps arrive at some other solution? If so, what is that solution? They ought to tell us.
§ Mr. A. Evans
The two things which would clearly be done by a Government 276 that faced up to this problem fairly would be, first, to allow a longer time for local authorities to deal with this problem, and to arrange that time in relation to the size of.the problem for each year, and, secondly, to see that the financial burden was not placed unfairly on the local authorities for what, after all, is a national problem.
§ Mr. Higgs
I am sure that my right hon. Friend, who is to wind up the debate, will be grateful for that intervention. It does not bear much relation to the Amendment and I hope that the hon. Member will compose his differences with his right hon. Friends before his right hon. Friend winds up for the Opposition. If it is not that they seek to perpetuate the insecurity of the licensees who now occupy requisitioned premises, perhaps they will bear in mind the premises themselves.
Surely, of all the properties in the country which are neglected, and which have been neglected in times past, these properties are the very ones where the explanation stands out for all to see. These properties are, to borrow a metaphor from an hon. Member opposite, "nobody's baby." These houses, at the moment, are ones on which we cannot expect the local authorities to spend money for repairs and improvements. No one would say that so long as they remain requisitioned the owners ought to improve and repair them. It is neither in the interests of the occupiers of these premises nor in the interests of the premises them-selves that the present state of affairs should continue. Nor is it really in the interests of good government.
I thought we had reached something approaching agreement that as time goes on we ought, subject by subject, so to dispose matters that where necessary temporary legislation was replaced by permanent legislation, or done away with. I do not think that anybody has quarrelled with that general principle. War-time emergency legislation ought to go, and where there is a case for any pro-vision to go on perpetually, then it ought to foe set out in an honest-to-goodness statute. That, after all, is precisely what this Bill does with regard to requisitioning.
It does no more and no less. It merely says that the wartime expedient of requisitioning ought to go; that the local authority ought to make up its mind 277 either to make a permanent compulsory order for the purchase of the property, and keep it on a permanent basis, or give it up. That is the choice which the local authority is given, and that is the choice which, in many respects, my right hon. Friends in different Departments have been endeavouring to make in the past three years with their emergency legislation.
The hands of the local authority, in making up its mind and carrying its decision into effect, are helped in more than one way by the provisions of this Bill. For instance, it is true that one can say that there is no compulsion upon the owner who, under Clause 4, is approached by the local authority to take on the licensee who is now living in his requisitioned house as a tenant, or that the local authority should step out and the owner should become the landlord again, and the licensee should become the tenant on a protective basis.
It can be said that few owners will accept such a bargain. They all want, on taking possession, to sell and make a profit. But the local authorities can give the owner a very strong hint. They can say, "We offer you an opportunity of taking on the licensee as your tenant and of having your property back, but we would remind you that we have the power of compulsory purchase. Of course, you can, if you like, say 'No,' but then you may lose your property." That is a very strong argument to use. It is like the sergeant-major's volunteer; it gives the owner very little option.
§ Mr. Sparks
If the hon. Member is saying that that is the policy put forward from the Box opposite, I shall be very interested to hear that confirmed by the Minister.
§ Mr. Higgs
I am not saying that it is anything other than a provision in the Bill. I am only pointing out what is in the Bill. Whether the hon. Gentleman likes to say that it is incidental, I do not know, but under the Bill one can offer the owner the opportunity of having his house back and of taking on the licensee as tenant. I think that under the Housing Act, 1936, that point has already been dealt with. The local authority has power to requisition. I have not heard any suggestion that we should repeal the 1936 Act. If the hon. Gentleman cares to suggest it, no doubt it will be considered.
§ Mr. Higgs
A good deal has been said about the rights and interests of those who are occupying these houses at present, and a good deal has been said about what is to happen to them. I do not dissociate myself in any way at all from the interests of people who, in times of difficulty, had to accept accommodation which probably they did not want. They would probably much rather have had other accommodation if it had been available. But that can be carried too far.
At least in the case of Birmingham, and my constituency is adjacent to that city, people are by no means reluctant to accept accommodation in the adjoining country areas. It may be true to say of some London boroughs that there are people living in requisitioned accommodation in those boroughs to whom it would be a hardship if they were offered houses in the out-of-town estates or new towns. These are the special problems of London, about which I am not particularly qualified to speak.
I can, however, say from my own experience that when one analyses the housing lists of the three local authorities in my constituency, one finds among them, either openly or to some extent concealed, a large proportion of people who are rightly the housing problem of Birmingham itself. There is no unwilling-ness on the part of the citizens of Birmingham to live even in disused bus bodies in my constituency.
Let us be quite clear about this. It may be, if a house is derequisitioned, that the occupier now living in the house may have to leave if the local authority decide compulsorily to purchase. But that house has become available for somebody else when the family which is now in it leaves, and it is not necessarily true to say, as hon. Members opposite have suggested, that all these houses are snapped up for sale with vacant possession. The hon. Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Shurmer) and another hon. Member made the point that these houses were empty when they were derequisitioned. Hon. Members opposite cannot have it both ways. They cannot say, on the one hand, that there is a queue of people waiting to buy houses with vacant possession and, on the other, that the houses are standing empty.
§ Mr. Higgs
Local authorities can acquire them at the market value. They will never have to pay more than that, and they will have the best evidence in the world that the market value is exceedingly low.
If housing authorities really want to acquire properties on a permanent and fair basis and make proper houses of them as part of a long-term housing plan, this Bill will provide another opportunity. One has to consider the Bill, not in isolation but in conjunction with, say, Part I of the Housing Repairs and Rent Act, under which slum schemes are being worked out by every local authority.
There is another aspect of the Bill as it affects the owner. It may be that hon. Members opposite would like a good deal more property to be publicly owned, but I believe that even they, in their wildest moments of Leftism, would never say that the houses and their owners should be chosen by chance. I have heard a number of proposals put forward for the nationalisation of land and property, but never a suggestion that it should be done by ballot. That is what happens here if the present situation is perpetuated. The owners of houses now requisitioned were not chosen by any means which had regard to the desirability of the property, or the desirability of its being publicly owned, but simply by lot or accident during the war, when conditions upset any sort of planning.
§ Mr. Higgs
No, in many cases the houses were chosen because they happened to be empty at the time—and in many cases they were empty because the owner was serving with the Armed Forces.
If we are to have property taken into public ownership—and I hope we shall 280 hear a little more about that from hon. Members opposite—let it at least be done by some fair method and not just by accident or chance. It is just to avoid that kind of thing being perpetuated that this Bill rightly forces upon local authorities the decision either to continue permanently that public ownership of a house by making a compulsory purchase order —and justifying that order—or to de-requisition the house and allow it to return to the owner, who has the best right to it.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Mr. B. T. Parkin (Paddington, North)
If the Minister wants to have any self-confidence left at all when replying to the debate I can well understand his prudence in absenting himself from the Chamber during nearly all the debate.
Some of us on this side have listened with careful attention to the speeches made from the back benches opposite, because we need some assurance that there are people who believe in the principles which appear to be embodied in this Bill. This is a wanton, unnecessary and cynical Bill. It seems so bad that it cannot be true. It is like the Housing Repairs and Rent Act. Nobody believed that that Measure could be as bad as it seemed. We had to wait twelve months to learn by experience that it was, in fact, increasing the prosperity of the wealthier landlords, and doing nothing to help the poorer landlords to meet such difficulties as exist in my constituency.
There was a moment during the Parliamentary Secretary's speech when I thought he was about to speak about something other than the rights of land-lords. His voice became almost reverent for a moment when he said that the object of the Bill was to liquidate the debt incurred in the Second World War. I thought, "Surely this means the 8,000 people in my constituency who live in requisitioned property because their homes were destroyed." But no—it did not mean that.
The hon. Gentleman went on to explain that he was protecting the rights of the owners. There was not a reference to those other people. It is not the fault of those 8,000 people that they are living in requisitioned houses. It is not their fault that the number of properties destroyed 281 around Paddington Station is equal to the number requisitioned. But because Paddington Station is there, it is a national responsibility and we all owe a home to those people.
Various consoling arguments have been advanced by hon. Members opposite. They say, "Do not worry. As people move out of these properties others will move in. Those properties will not be wasted. The local authority can always acquire them if it raises the money. You are making a lot of trouble about nothing." We have not heard from those hon. Members any suggestion that there is any social responsibility at all attached to housing. I say that there is a 100 per cent, over-riding responsibility on the shoulders of the nation to rehouse those who lost their homes as a result of the war. We believe that that responsibility extends very much further. The hon. Member for Bromsgrove (Mr. Higgs) ex-pressed the hope that some of us might say so, and I say it now. That is the difference between us in approach—an absolute, irreconcilable difference.
As hon. Gentlemen opposite very kindly and nicely expounded their views the criterion always came down to "what can you pay?"; "pay a fair market price"; "buy with vacant possession." No further priority was mentioned. We completely disagree with hon. Members opposite about the spirit of the Bill.
The Parliamentary Secretary used another phrase. He said that it is necessary to give a financial spur to local authorities. That is what is running through the minds of hon. Members opposite all the time—that we must have a spur for local authorities. What am I to say to railway men from Paddington? Am I to say, "The view of Her Majesty's Government is that you have to have a financial spur, so you had better either go on strike or take on a job less socially useful so that you can pay the price of furnished accommodation in Paddington"?
What is the financial spur to the local authority? Does it really help the Borough of Paddington to be faced with a Measure like this, which will double its housing rates next year? To what does that spur authorities, except to spur on those who have to pay most of the rates to carry on the "chuck 'em out" process 282 which has already been described as the purpose of the Bill?
A spur would be a financial incentive —a reward—an inducement to make or save some money. What is the spur in having to do something which will cost more money? In Paddington, a great deal has been spent on requisitioned houses. There are about 2,400 families and nearly 700 requisitioned properties, and the total number of units of accommodation controlled by the council at present is very small indeed. It is only between one-quarter and one-third of the accommodation occupied by the number of families in requisitioned properties.
This is a problem which a borough like Paddington can hardly face at all in the circumstances created by this Bill. It has done its best to reduce the numbers; it has reduced them from 2,800 to 2,400, and I do not apologise for repeating the circumstances of my own borough. Every hon. Member who speaks for London will give slightly different figures, but they add up to the same pattern and problem. The cost of these requisitioned proper ties in Paddington is equal to 2s. 8½d. in the £ on the rates; 25 per cent, of that would double the expenditure on housing next year. That is not an incentive. It is not a financial spur.
We have a waiting list of 4,000 now, but we can only complete between 200 and 300 units of accommodation each year. So we can throw away the waiting list and devote the next ten years to rehousing those people from requisitioned properties, provided we can find some more sites. At present, we can only find sites for a dozen or so at a time. If any messages do get to the Minister before he returns to the Chamber, I should like to know whether he will tell us if there is any information about the subject of the high flats which it was proposed to build in Paddington, and about the decision on the question of high density, on which the borough council has been kept waiting for months.
Without slum clearance we cannot get sites, and we must have sites if we are to build these high flats. We must be allowed to get on with the programme and not be bedevilled by a sudden crisis precipitated by a Bill of this kind which will double our expenditure on the rates 283 and which will make it impossible to reduce the waiting lists.
The hon. Member for Bromsgrove asked presumably the next speaker from these benches to say what we would do. Of course, the answer is to acquire these properties. They should have been acquired a long time ago. There are no other properties to acquire in a place like Paddington. We must secure possession of those which we have got. We must extend the principle of municipal ownership, as we believe in extending that principle in the case of housing to let.
We demand an answer tonight from the Minister which, if it is to satisfy the problem of the London boroughs, can only be one answer. It must be an answer which will admit that if the Minister intends to give this property back to the owners and enable them to have their share of the reward, as has happened with the rest of the landlords, the road hauliers and so on, it must be done from the Chancellor's fund and not from the rate fund.
Therefore, the Minister should tell us that he accepts responsibility, that he will do all the things which his back benchers have been saying on his behalf during his absence, that it will be easy to acquire properties, that there will be a considerable Treasury grant and that it will all be made completely painless.
It is too much to expect that the Minister will come back from wherever he has been to in the mood of a good Samaritan. I do not expect him to do exactly what the good Samaritan did, but he might get near it. He might say, "Give us a couple of coppers,and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I came again, I will repay thee.In other words, the Minister should give us tonight an assurance of the smallest possible token contribution from the boroughs; he should tell us what is really meant by "a financial spur" and give the boroughs a chance to expand their control over housing in order to speed up their own housing programmes, instead of being dismayed by the introduction of this Bill.
§ 8.25 p.m.
§ Major Sir Frank Markham (Buckingham)
As my hon. Friend the Member for Bromsgrove (Mr. Higgs) mentioned, most speakers on the benches opposite have been playing at "constituencyeer- 284 ing"—if there is such a word. Hon. Members opposite have paraded their knowledge of their constituencies before this House; I make no apology for not following in their footsteps but, instead, directing attention to the Bill as a whole.
It is high time we recognised that the major principle behind this Bill is to stop new requisitioning in the first place. I think that if we were to ask any body of citizens in this country whether they thought that new requisitioning was fair or unfair, there would be a unanimous vote that it was unfair.
§ Sir F. Markham
Yes. I wish the hon. Member had read the Bill before he came here. If he had done so, he would have realised that part of the object of the Bill is to make quite certain that there shall be no new requisitioning.
§ Sir F. Markham
The hon. Gentleman reinforces my point that he has not read the Bill. The first three lines of the Financial and Explanatory Memorandum state that the power of the Minister to requisition in future is repealed. The first thing that this Bill does is to prevent any future requisitioning.
§ Sir F. Markham
I will come to that in a minute, but will the hon. Gentleman agree that the first point which is made in the Financial and Explanatory Memorandum is that the power of the Minister to requisition premises for housing purposes is repealed? Are hon. Members in agreement on that point?
§ Sir F. Markham
I am glad that there is something in the Bill which hon. Members opposite recognise is good. What we say is that this power ought to have been relinquished much earlier. If this Bill 285 has no other purpose than to take away a very essential power in wartime, but one which has been continued too long since the war, then by unanimous opinion in this House it is a good one. But hon. Members opposite must be consistent—
§ Mr. M. Stewart
Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman arguing that if one agrees that the first four lines of a Bill contain something of merit, one is, therefore, obliged to describe the Bill as a good Bill?
§ Sir F. Markham
No, but the hon. Gentleman will surely agree with me that the speech which preceded mine condemned the whole Bill without exception. Now it appears that on Clause 14 the whole House, including the Labour Party both inside and outside the House, agrees with the Government. I am very glad to have that confirmation.
§ Sir F. Markham
Hon. Members, with their constant interruptions, make it very difficult for me to deliver my speech.
§ Sir F. Markham
I hope they will bear with me as I bore with them—perhaps with inner impatience, but with outer patience.
Having established the first point, by unanimous agreement of all parties, that the Bill stops further requisitioning—and I am sure that you, too, agree with me there, Mr. Deputy-Speaker—we come to the second point: that the broad system of requisitioning which is established will, with very few exceptions, be ended in five years' time—with very few exceptions. There is agreement on that point.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Rhys Hopkin Morris)
I must remind the hon. and gallant Member for Buckingham (Sir F. Markham) that this is not the Committee stage of the Bill but the Second Reading.
§ Sir F. Markham
Thank you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, for safeguarding my privileges.
The second important point in the Bill is to end requisitioning, by and large, within five years. I am convinced that the majority of thought in the country is in favour of that. The average Englishman, Welshman, Scot, Northern Irishman, has a very great sense of justice, and it is manifestly unjust that, ten or fifteen years after the war, there should be this difference between one kind of property and another. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] If hon. Members wish to interrupt, will they stand up and make their interruptions and not mutter them?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
If the hon. and gallant Member would direct his remarks to me, the position might be easier.
§ Sir F. Markham
Of course I will, Mr. Deputy-Speaker.
I would remind the House that the second point in the Bill is to end the major part of requisitioning by 31st March, 1960. The exceptions to that are given in Clause 3 (2), which I think covers most of the difficult situations which hon. Members have mentioned in their constituency speeches. In the exceptional cases about which we have heard, Clause 3 (2) can be invoked, and the position then is that the Minister, in consultation with the local authority, has a discretion.
§ Sir F. Markham
I go further on this point and say that I am quite certain that any impartial Member of the House would agree that the Bill is overdue. Some of us have very few requisitioning problems in our constituencies and others have a great many. The probability is that had the party opposite been returned to power at the last election, it would have had to bring in a Bill like this to meet this very point. Indeed, the hon. Member for Islington, South-West (Mr. A. Evans) agrees that his party would have produced a Bill of this kind. He gave two changes from the present Bill— 287 first, that the time would have been lengthened, possibly by another five years, and, secondly, that there would have been amendments to the financial conditions. I think I am quoting him correctly.
§ Mr. A. Evans
What I said was that if and when we were in power again we should have to deal with requisitioned property. But I do not support the Bill.
§ Sir F. Markham
I am obliged to the hon. Member, because his intervention shows that I have made my second point. Not only is the whole House in agreement that there should be no further requisitioning, but hon. Members are also agreed that existing requisitioning should come to an end within the measurable future. That is agreed by the whole House, and this Bill does those two things.
§ Sir F. Markham
I am sorry that the Labour Party is again divided. I thought there was a temporary unity, at any rate.
§ Dr. Morgan
The hon. and gallant Member should not be flippant, but should try to make a decent speech.
§ Sir F. Markham
If hon. Members would let me get on with my speech instead of interrupting me so much, I might be able to meet all their requirements.
May I turn from the main Clauses, with which I am in hearty agreement, to the terms of the Amendment? In the many years during which I have been interested in politics and the many years during which I have been in the House, I have never seen such a misleading Amendment on the Order Paper of the House as that which appears today.
§ Sir F. Markham
The Amendment reads:That this House declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill which contemplates the eviction of occupants of requisitioned houses in 1960 without providing for their rehousing and, while protecting landlords from special hardship, gives no similar protection to occupiers.Everyone knows that that is just a farrago of nonsense. It does not tie up 288 with the majority of the speeches which have been made by hon. Members opposite and it does not even tie up with the two points which I have established and with which hon. Members have agreed— first, that derequisitioning is essential and, secondly, that there should be no more requisitioning in the future.
Yet the Opposition have put down an Amendment which entirely ignores the terrific pace at which new houses are being built under the present Government. I could sympathise with the Opposition if we were building only 200,000 houses a year, but we are building 350,000 a year. Since the war 2 million houses have been built and in the course of the next few years 3 million will have been built.
That is the majestic march of events under this Government, which the Opposition will not recognise. It is not the greatest thing we have done, but surely one of the most magnificent achievements of this Government is the success of its housing programme. Everyone must admit that we have not only achieved the target of 300,000 houses a year which we set at the last General Election, but have gone beyond it to 350,000. We have astonished ourselves and I think that the whole country is delighted by what we have been able to achieve.
Had the party opposite been in power we might well have achieved only 200,000 houses a year and that with incredible difficulty. We might not yet have been thinking of hospitals and schools, but be limping along in that crippled, half-active Socialist State which the party opposite was trying to achieve. Instead, we have let the builders get on with the job and have given them every encouragement—
§ Sir F. Markham
The Amendment specifically says that we have not provided for the rehousing of occupants of requisitioned houses. I submit that we are providing for the rehousing of those people. Therefore, with great deference, I suggest that I am in order.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The hon. and gallant Member was in order in that part of his remarks, but he was extending his argument to hospitals and various other things.
§ Sir F. Markham
Thank you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I realise where I have been in error and I will not offend again. 1 will keep to the part of the Amendment dealing with housing.
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks) is temporarily absent. Earlier in the debate he made a point, in an interruption, that in constituencies such as his the problem of providing for new housing was almost impossible because they have no vacant areas. We sympathise with him, but we are doing more than just expressing sympathy. As hon. Members know, it was the Government of the party opposite that began work on the problem of the new towns and extended towns. I do not think that any hon. Member opposite would object when I say that this Government have carried on the programme hon. Members opposite initiated with great verve and skill. No one can grumble at the development of new towns which is going on today.
The hon. Member for Acton said that it was impossible to master this problem in his constituency. In the last three and a half years my constituency has taken 400 families from the hon. Member's constituency and rehoused them 50 miles away. In these difficult London areas, which were overbuilt a generation ago, the problem is not so much that of rehousing within the boroughs concerned but of decanting to the new towns and extended towns. The new towns and the extended towns have been a great success. I look foward to an acceleration of that programme in the future.
I apologise for unnecessarily being the means of calling you to your feet earlier, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but if I was led astray it was through provocation by the party opposite. I hope hon. Members opposite will not disagree that this is a good Bill, a Bill they would have introduced, because something had to be done about this problem. It is sheer dishonesty to put down an Amendment such as they have put down and then vote for it.
§ 8.40 p.m.
§ Mr. C. W. Gibson (Clapham)
I want at once to tell the hon. and gallant Member for Buckingham (Sir F. Markham) that I think this is a rotten Bill and that I am opposed to it in every respect. The Bill is unfair to the tenant, nobody wants it, nobody has asked for it, and it passes on to the local authorities a big financial 290 burden which at the moment the Treasury is bearing. From my point of view, therefore, everything in the Bill is wrong.
The hon. Member for Lewisham, North (Sir A. Hudson) was at pains to explain who, he thought, was in favour of the Bill. He said that none of the large property owners had asked for it, because they were doing very well on their present rents from the Treasury. Certainly none of the tenants have asked for the Bill. None of the borough councils have asked for it. Therefore, why are we having it?
I suspect that the birthplace of the Bill is the Treasury, in Whitehall. For years past, the Treasury has been struggling to get what it calls the burden—now £4½ million—of the cost of requisitioned premises pushed off its own shoulders, in the hope that some of it will come off the shoulders also of the well-to-do and will find its way on to the shoulders of the poorer people. That is all wrong. It is bad finance in any case, and it is especially wrong when the whole reason for the requisitioning problem is that we tried to do something for the people during the war and we are still in difficulties because of the war.
Hon. Members opposite forget that London had 80,000 houses completely destroyed during the war, and that we are only just catching up with that loss. In the meantime, many more houses have fallen into decay and have become slums. We are a long way from solving the housing problem, not only in the London boroughs, but in Birmingham and other places also.
The properties which were requisitioned have been extremely useful to local authorities in easing some of the most difficult and painful housing tragedies with which they have had to deal. The fact that, in spite of the efforts which have been made during the last 18 months to derequisition a large number of these houses, 30,000 of them are still requisitioned in London, housing 53,000 families, is a sign of the intensity of the housing problem, which hon. Members opposite seem completely to forget. They are much more concerned about the interests of the owners of properties than about the human problems that we all deal with when we meet our constituents, and which we hear about when people come to us about housing problems.
291 The London County Council still has a waiting list of about 160,000 families, over 50,000 of whom are in the A category, which is the category of worst-hit families, who ought to be rehoused tomorrow, if only we could find the houses. The "Evening News" tonight is perfectly correct when it says, in an article headed "Housing Crisis in London," that if the London County Council is able to build every house it wants to build and can build under its organisation up to 1960, we shall still be 10,000 houses short in respect of families in London, ignoring altogether the 30,667 requisitioned houses.
What is the sense of saying that the Bill is an attempt to solve the housing problem? It is nothing of the sort. It will intensify the problem in the London area, and I am very sorry that the Minister has brought it forward. I know that in the borough which I have the honour partially to represent, the right hon. Gentleman has made some inquiries. In Wandsworth, we have the worst problem of requisitioned houses, not merely in the whole of London, but in the whole country. The Minister represents a part of that area. Some of the requisitioned houses are in his constituency. I hope that the tenants who will be thrown out will remember it.
In Wandsworth we had 6,780 requisitioned units, as they are called, 18 months ago. I want to make this point because the political control of the council happens to be one with which I disagree. The council has made a valiant effort to get rid of requisitioned premises. How far has it succeeded? At the beginning of this year the council sent to 2,031 owners invitations to take over houses in accordance with the terms of this Bill. I do not know whether the council had any pre-knowledge of the provisions of the Bill.
The council invited the owners to take over the houses and accept the sitting tenants as statutory tenants. Not a single one of those owners replied to say that he agreed. There have been a few cases where the owner and the licensee have got together and made an agreement for the licensee to pay an increased rent. The council has derequisitioned such houses. But where, as the Bill lays down, the borough council invited owners of these properties to take them back and 292 receive the compensation which is now laid down in the Bill, taking the tenant as a statutory tenant paying the same rent, but with the difference between the licensee rent and the proper rent under the Rent Restrictions Acts guaranteed, not one of the house owners accepted the offer of the borough council.
What is the sense, therefore, of trying to tell the House and the country that if we pass the Bill quickly, to provide that between now and 1960 borough councils can make arrangements for the landlords to take over the houses and accept the tenants as statutory tenants, everything in the garden will be lovely? The owners do not want that. Two houses in my constituency have stood empty for 12 months since they were derequisitioned. The landlords do not want them because it would cost more to make them fit to live in than anybody is prepared to spend. The only reason why the borough council does not pull them down is that the houses on either side might become unsafe if that were done.
It is against all experience as well as common sense to expect that these tens of thousands of houses which have been requisitioned since the war will be taken over under the terms of the Bill. The experience of my own borough council during the last week or two has proved that. Therefore, that part of the Bill, just as much as the financial Clauses, is absolute nonsense.
Why should the borough council pay 25 per cent, of the financial deficit? At present the whole financial loss is borne by the State, because the emergency was a national emergency. It was one for which none of us was responsible or could avoid, as I know. Seventy "doodle-bugs" dropped within half a mile of the house in which I lived. Hon. Members have asked what we on this side of the House have done. We had a working party which made certain proposals, under which there has been a slow but steady derequisitioning. There is no doubt that but for the extreme housing conditions in London we should have got rid of more derequisitioned houses than we have been able to do.
We want properties for rental to be owned by the local authorities. Hon. Gentlemen opposite tried to make a fuss about what we on this side of the House stand for. We have shouted from the 293 housetops that if we win the next Election we shall give local authorities power to buy up vast areas of local property and to extend the principle of public ownership. We propose to do, in fact, what the London County Council has been doing in the last few months on a voluntary basis. It has bought three or four very large estates belonging to people like the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and this week it has announced an ambitious and imaginative scheme for re-development. Birmingham has done the same sort of thing in its area.
I say, therefore, that we do not need this pettifogging, rather mean Bill to enable local authorities to get on with the housing of their people and to get rid of the slums. Derequisitioning must be done slowly, and there must be no injustice to the sitting tenant. No one on the other side of the House has replied to the point made earlier in the debate as to what is to happen after 31st March, 1960.
The Bill is quite clear. It says that no requisitioning shall be allowed after that date; and, presumably, the inevitable is bound to happen. Thousands of tenants still in requisitioned properties will then be illegally in those houses, and will be turned out. They will be without the benefits of the Rent Restrictions Acts. I hope that the Minister will say something about that aspect, because it is going to be a tremendous bone of contention in the next few months, particularly in London.
I do not want to use up all the time that is left, but I urge the Minister to do something about the Clause which deals with excessive expenditure, and tell us on what formula he is going to discuss it. I find that in the Borough of Wandsworth, as the Bill stands at the moment, the cost will be a 4½d. rate. I am sure that the local ratepayers' association in Streatham will have something to say about the Minister of Housing and Local Government imposing an extra rate charge on them, because they are already grumbling about the level of their rates.
It is proposed that we in Wandsworth should pay 4½d. in the £ extra, but for what purpose? It is to relieve the Treasury of part of a charge. In Lambeth, I understand, it will mean a 4d. rate, and already in that borough the burden is reaching breaking point. One hon. Member told us how, in Camberwell, 294 it will mean a 6d. rate, and Poplar is grumbling about the inevitable increase in the rate charged for housing purposes. Before the Bill becomes law, the borough councils are entitled to know clearly and categorically on what basis the calculations are to be made in connection with heavy expenditure which would justify the Minister making additional grants.
It would be much better, however, if the Minister took the Bill back and buried it. Let us have another look at the proposals of the Working Party on Requisitioned Houses and see if we cannot get, in consultation with the boroughs which have the worst problem, some organised plan for getting rid of this issue without punishing the tenants and without adding the problem to the already heavy burden on the shoulders of the local ratepayers, who in the main are people in the back streets.
Unfortunately, owing to the way in which the Government Whip acted on Friday, I did not have a chance to say anything about the rate burden throughout the country. It is clear that there is a growing volume of opinion, not only among the people in the ordinary weekly-rented property, but among shopkeepers and businessmen of all kinds, protesting against the burden of the rates and against being saddled with a heavy charge merely because industry is excused 75 per cent, of its rate charges.
Now, apparently, they are to be charged another 4d., 5d., or 6d. in the £ rate, merely to enable the Treasury to dodge a charge which is properly a Treasury charge, and which was justified by the national circumstances at the time. But those circumstances do not entitle the Government to come along with this proposition for the purpose of passing over to the ratepayers 25 per cent, of the cost of the derequisitioned houses. This Bill is not wanted, it has not been asked for, and, so far as I can see, nobody will give it a blessing.
§ 8.56 p.m.
§ Mr. H. A. Price (Lewisham, West)
The hon. Member for Clapham (Mr. Gibson) began by calling this a rotten Bill. In my view, it is a fine and courageous Bill and I have already written to my right hon. Friend to tell him so. It is another example, of which we have seen many during the past three years, of the way in which this Government have taken hold of knotty problems, 295 however difficult and unpopular it might have been to do so. [An HON. MEMBER: "Class legislation."] I am glad to learn that the Urban District Councils' Association and the Metropolitan Boroughs Standing Joint Committee have both agreed at least to accept and operate the Bill. I have not been surprised to find it opposed by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. There is a saying that sparrows have no rights when the hawks are about. To the Socialist hawk the landlord is a sparrow—
§ Mr. Price
He has no rights whatever.
If hon. Gentlemen opposite care to take a walk up Ludgate Hill, and then take the first turning on the left, they will find, surmounting a building known as the Old Bailey, the figure of Justice, holding a pair of scales. If they examine the pair of scales they will find that the pans are level. That is justice, and what this Bill does, is to try to hold the scales of justice level as between the tenant and the owner of requisitioned properties. It must not be forgotten that until now only the tenant has received justice, but the landlord is just as much entitled to it as the tenant. That is what this Bill, among other things, seeks to achieve.
This Bill is overdue. The requisitioning of private property was agreed to during the war, but it is an infringement upon personal liberty which should be countenanced in this country only during time of war. It is wrong that it should be perpetuated in time of peace one day longer than is absolutely necessary, and it has lasted too long already although, of course, there are special problems in certain areas, about which I shall say a word in a moment.
It has been said during the course of the debate that we are concerned only with the landlords in the sense that we are concerned with the owners of large blocks of properties, but that is not true. We are concerned with those landlords who intended to be owner-occupiers, but had their houses taken away from them during the war for various reasons, and who now want them back. It has been argued that these people can have their houses back by application to the local authorities and I have heard hon. Gentlemen opposite 296 say that local authorities administer that power wisely. Hon. Gentlemen opposite are as much entitled to their opinion as I am to mine, but I beg to differ. I am a member of a local authority with a Conservative majority but, nevertheless, I often find cause to quarrel with its attitude towards applications for the derequisitioning of properties owned by people who want to live in them and who, in my contention, have the right to do so. It is high time that this right was restored.
§ Mr. Price
That is always a condition upon which local authorities now insist. There is nothing new in that.
Another point which I wish to make is that the application of the powers of derequisitioning as at present administered by local authorities is uneven. Different local authorities take different attitudes and that is wrong. Whatever policy is adopted, it should be even and equal throughout the country—and let us not forget that the Bill applies to the whole country and not just to London. The owners of requisitioned properties should not be at the mercy of inequality of justice which is being inflicted upon them at the moment.
§ Mr. Price
It has many times been implied by hon. Members opposite that every family now living in a requisitioned property will have to be evicted during the next five years. That is just not true. If it were, I agree that the problem would then be insuperable. The Bill contains provisions for families now living in requisitioned properties to remain in those requisitioned properties on certain conditions. It cannot be necessary for me, at this time of night, to detail those conditions.
I hope that hon. Members will not mind if I make a point which has been made already. It is that during the next five years there will be provided 750,000 houses over and above the number being provided during the administration of the late Government. It needs less than 10 297 per cent. of those additional houses to accommodate all the families now living in requisitioned properties. The trouble is, of course, that they are not in the right places and I will come to that point in a moment. I deliberately leave it until the end.
There are one or two points in the Bill which need clarification and I should like to put them to the Minister. The first comes in Clause 4 (4), which deals with the position where the owner of requisitioned property agrees to take over a sitting licensee as his tenant. It says that the tenant shall continue to pay the same contribution that he had been paying to the local authority and that the local authority should make up to the owner the difference between that and the statutory rent, but only for the period up to April, 1965. What happens after that is left undefined and I suggest that we ought to have some guidance. What happens at the end of that period? Does the tenant have to pay his statutory rent, or is the position dealt with in some other way?
The second point is the position, to which reference has not yet been made, of leasehold property which has been under requisition. Many of these properties have been under requisition for 14 or 15 years. Leasehold properties which had leases with only twenty-five to thirty years to run at the beginning of that period now have leases with only ten or fifteen years to run and have considerably depreciated in value. I hope that my right hon. Friend will realise that this is a different problem from that concerning the owners of freehold properties. The owner of leasehold property is entitled to some compensation for the loss of value of his leasehold interest.
My last point is that hon. Members sitting for London constituencies have referred to the particular problems of London and as a Member for Lewisham I appreciate their difficulty. Lewisham has nearly 3,500 families in requisitioned premises. If they are all to be rehoused in other properties in the next five years, that is a rate of 700 families a year; a quite impossible task. I know that that is not the problem for I believe that the majority will remain where they are, but that makes no difference to my point.
I think it is quite wrong that this problem, and the housing problem generally in London, should continue to be dealt 298 with on a borough council basis. In my view, it is quite incapable of solution in that way. I do not believe that the housing lists in London have any relevance at all at the moment. I, like many other hon. Members, have a surgery on Saturday morning, and I can say that three out of four families who come to see me about housing are on both the borough council and the L.C.C. housing lists.
Therefore, throughout London, we have this duplication of function, and I suggest that it is wrong, uneconomic, unwise and inefficient. I have suggested before, and I repeat it now, that the responsibility for housing in London should be handled by one body; if necessary, by a special body set up for the purpose, or, perhaps, an existing body could be used. This duplication of function should not be continued any longer. One body should be responsible for housing throughout London, for the expanded towns, the new towns and also for dealing with this problem of rehousing those families who will be as it were dehoused as a result of this Bill. I am quite sure that the Bill will work well. I welcome it, and I wish that I had the time to say more about it.
§ 9.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Douglas Johnston (Paisley)
I am sure that hon. Members on all sides of the House have listened with sympathy to the cases of hardship suffered by owners of property who have had their property requisitioned—some of them for many years—and of which they are not yet in occupation.
It is clear from what has been said, and from what the Parliamentary Secretary told us, that the number of such persons, in relation to the whole number of persons who had their property requisitioned, is very small indeed, and that such persons who desire to go back to their property or who desire to sell it are obviously, in most cases, now accommodated by the local authority, or, as the Parliamentary Secretary anticipates, will be accommodated under Clauses 5 and 6 of the Bill.
Therefore, it is clear that if one takes out what may be termed the hardship cases—the cases of the owner-occupiers who desire to go back or sell their property—we are left with the majority of the owners of requisitioned property. I 299 suggest that they probably number about 50,000 persons out of a total of, approximately, 55,000 owners of requisitioned property.
Various computations have been made as to how many houses will remain requisitioned on 1st April, 1960. The hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell), by a series of calculations, some of which, I thought, were based on the imponderables, came to the conclusion that, on 1st April, 1960, the best we could hope for was that 20,000 families would still be in requisitioned property. Let us take that as being right. The interests of those 20,000 families on 1st April, 1960, have to be balanced against the interests of the owners of those 20,000 houses, or a rather less number of houses.
I am quite sure that, if the Minister or his Parliamentary Secretary were to balance the rights of those two classes of persons as at that date, they would clearly come to the conclusion that the interests of the persons who were about to be evicted from the property were much greater than those of the landlords. One is a right of property; the other is a human right—the right to have a roof over one's head. I am sure, when I say that the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary would take that view, that it would also be the view of hon. Members on all sides of the House.
I am sure that no hon. Members on the Government side would care, as individuals, to cause persons with no other place to live to be thrust out of their houses, in order that the owners of the houses, who, ex hypothesi, have no interest in the property other than a money interest, should profit from the freeing of occupancy.
That being so, what is the justification for the Bill? If the figure which I am accepting from the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West is right, an enormous problem will arise on 1st April, 1960. The hon. Member suggested that the problem would be solved by compulsory purchase under, Part V of the 1936 Act, and that any local authority in possession of requisitioned property on 1st April, 1960, and continuing to require that property, would purchase it under that Act.
I would ask the Minister whether that is his policy. Is the hon. Member for 300 Wolverhampton, South-West, right in thinking that that is the policy of Her Majesty's Government? We know that the hon. Member is a great force in the hierarchy of the Conservative Party, and that he thinks much and gives vent to many pamphlets. I regret that he is not here at the moment to hear the high praise that I am paying him.
I take it from what the hon. Member said that Government policy is that Part V of the 1936 Act is to be used from 1st April, 1960. If that is so, of course, it resolves the problem. If that is the way in which the problem is to be resolved at that date, would it not be easier to resolve it now, and to proceed under Part V powers from this date? The Minister could recoup local authorities, under the special powers which he would require to take for all his purposes under Part V.
Perhaps that is not the policy of the Government, and the Minister does not intend to proceed under Part V at all. If compulsory purchase powers are not to be used on 1st April, 1960, what is the answer? Some hon. Members have suggested that so many houses will be built between now and April, 1960, that there will be no problem. There are two answers to that suggestion. The first is that the computation of 20,000 which I have just given was made on the assumption that the present rate of house-building is at least maintained, if not increased substantially, between now and that date. The second answer is that in many boroughs, as has been made abundantly clear by many London Members, there is simply no room for any more houses. The only way in which persons who are now in requisitioned property can be housed is in that requisitioned property.
The Minister is unwise to put forward this terminal date of 1st April, 1960. In all probability he will have to come to the House and ask for an extension of it. The Minister will be able to say after the passage of the Bill, "The responsibility is not mine. I am no longer responsible for requisitioned property, beyond paying a certain percentage of the cost. That responsibility is on the local authority." At least one reason for the Bill is to do away with the odium which is on those in the Minister's party who hold requisitioned property, and to pass 301 that odium on to the local authorities. Indeed, I suggest that the Short Title of the Bill might be amended to read, "Requisitioned houses; the passing of the buck"; or "The transfer of owner-occupier odium." That is a terminal situation, but what is the situation going to be in the meantime?
As I understood the Parliamentary Secretary, he was well satisfied with all the steps which the local authorities had taken so far to house those persons who are now housed in requisitioned property. If that is so, then what is the excuse for the gradual reduction of the grants made in respect of requisitioned property?
It seems to me—and I think that it has been suggested by two hon. Members, one on each side of the House— that the purpose of this reduction is to squeeze the local authorities, to cause them to give up the houses sooner than they would otherwise do. If that is so, would it not be more honest for the Minister to say so, to say that he was dissatisfied with the local authorities, rather than to have the financial scheme provided in the Bill?
I suggest that these financial provisions are altogether wrong. It has been said repeatedly from both sides of the House that the only reason for requisitioning was the blitz. That is exemplified by the fact that the major number of requisitioned houses are in London, which suffered so severely, whereas there are so few in Scotland, which suffered very little war damage at all.
If that is so—and I think no one can deny it—then is it not clear that the liability is a national one and that it should be met from national resources, rather than from the local authority? Various hon. Members have shown how hard it will bear upon individual local authorities. The hardness with which it will bear depends very much upon the local authority. One local authority will suffer perhaps a 1d. increase in its rates, whereas others will suffer 5d. or 6d., and, as one hon. Member said, that sounds very little until one looks at the existing local rate.
I suggest that this provision needs to be looked at very carefully indeed, and that it should be departed from altogether. I suggest that so long as requisitioning is necessary, and so long as it 302 arises from a national emergency, it should be met as a national emergency from the Exchequer. After all, when we say, as was said by one hon. Member, that this is a restoration of freedom, it is only a restoration of one small freedom. There is a great deal of requisitioning still going on.
The right hon. Gentleman in his previous office as Minister of Supply had power of requisitioning. He had power to use it in his atomic energy work. The War Department still uses it, and several other Departments use it. All that requisitioning is paid for from the central Exchequer on the ground that the requisitioning is due to national need. I suggest that the housing of these people arises as much from national need as from anything else.
Clause 10 (2), which has been mentioned on numerous occasions, provides that the Minister may vary the contribution according to the means of the local authority. It might be said that the equity is measured by the Ministerial foot. That is inadvisable for two reasons. From the local authorities' point of view it is inadvisable because they do not know what they should do, they do not know what they are to get, they do not know their liability.
It is inadvisable from Parliament's point of view because Parliament is giving power to the Minister, apparently, to be generous or to be mean. Parliament should make up its mind how much it is to compel the Government to contribute. A formula should be adopted to cover Clause 10 (2). I understand that formulas have been discussed and that discussions have gone a good way, so it should be possible for the Minister to arrive at a suitable formula.
May I turn for a moment or two to a closer examination of the Bill? Clause 1 (3) requires a good deal of examination because it does an extraordinary thing; it transfers the whole liability of agreements made between the Minister, or his predecessor, and the owner of the property. Let me give an example of the sort of difficulty that may arise. A mansion house of which I have personal knowledge was requisitioned, first, I think, by the Admiralty. It passed from the Admiralty to the War Office, from the War Office to certain Departments and ultimately 303 was derequisitioned. At one period during, I think, the Admiralty's occupation an agreement had been made between the Admiralty and the owners for reinstatement of the building. That agreement was not known to any of the subsequent Departments who held it and, under this provision, such an agreement would be referred to the local authority.
I am aware that in Clause 18 the terminal compensation is wide enough for compensation to be reimbursed to the local authority even if it is not made under the Compensation (Defence) Act, but that sort of thing might happen. Local authorities would be well advised, if this Bill goes through—or before it goes through—to get a clear undertaking from the Minister that such points are covered.
I think that Clause 3 is misguided. It provides that if a dwelling house falls vacant at any time, then, unless the Minister gives power, the requisition flies off. What will happen is that local authorities who are afraid that the Minister will not give power to continue the requisition will keep the people in the house rather than pass them on, as is usual, to a new house when one is available. As a result one will have the occupants remaining in the house until the very last day rather than getting a new house in their ordinary turn.
Clause 4 (1) contains the extraordinary provision that the local authority may be required by the Minister to make representations to the owner for the acceptance of the licensee as statutory tenant. If the local authority does that, it will only be recouped in part for any loss which it incurs. Therefore, the situation is this, that the local authority has to "carry the can" while the Minister wields the whip.
It is clear from what has been said that no one is very happy about this Bill. The hard cases could have been met by some simple little Bill incorporating Clauses 5 and 6. The other derequisitioning is merely being done so that the owners of property may reap the benefit of being owners of property. As "The Surveyor" said, what is happening is that owners of property will now be in a position to sell their property with vacant possession not later than 1st April, 1960. It must be remembered that many of those owners of property, and particularly the large landlords, were very glad indeed when, during 304 the blitz in 1940 and 1941, the local authorities took the property off their hands and provided them with a rent. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will agree.
I suggest that in those circumstances, the wise thing for the Minister to do would be to say that he will withdraw this Bill and that he will bring in a simple little Bill incorporating Clauses 5 and 6. If he were to do so, we would not proceed with our Amendment. Failing such an assurance from the Minister, we must press our Amendment to a Division.
§ 9.27 p.m.
§ The Minister of Housing and Local Government (Mr. Duncan Sandys)
The hon. and learned Member for Paisley (Mr. D. Johnston) comes from Scotland, where there is virtually no requisitioning problem. I believe there are 80 requisitioned houses—
§ Mr. Sandys
Then, there are fewer than 80 houses which are requisitioned north of the Border, and that is why, no doubt, the hon. and learned Member was able to approach the problem in a more detached atmosphere than many other hon. Members.
A lot of very strange things have been said during this debate—
§ Mr. Sandys
The hon. Member is speaking for himself. I listened to his speech, but I would not necessarily endorse what he said.
§ Mr. Sandys
Some of the things the hon. Gentleman said were somewhat mistaken. However, I will refer to the hon. Member's speech in a few moments.
Two main criticisms have been levelled at the Bill during this debate. The first is that it will place an unfair burden on the local authorities and on the rates; the second is that it will lead to whole sale evictions in 1960. One hon. Member said that this Bill can be summed up in 305 three words—"Chuck 'em out." All I can say is that both these criticisms are based upon a complete misconception. Listening to the debate, I began to wonder how many hon. Members opposite had, in fact, read the Bill. The hon. Member for Hackney, South (Mr. H. Butler) likened me to Molotov. I could not quite make out what the connection was.
§ Mr. Sandys
Malenkov? I do not know.
The hon. Gentleman proceeded to say that he intended to stick to the facts. He very strongly criticised the decision to transfer responsibility to local authorities under the Bill, and he said—these were his words, as far as I could take them down: "It is for the Government to repair the ravages of war. It is for the Government to look after the people who were bombed out."
We can all agree on that, and I believe that we are doing our best to do so by the Bill. But the hon. Member who wished to stick to the facts should be reminded of the facts. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary told the House earlier that at the end of the war about 70,000 properties were held under requisition for housing purposes. Since the war, to help meet the housing shortage, 50,000 other properties have been requisitioned.
In fact, it was only last year, for the first time, that the number of requisitioned houses fell below the number held at the end of the war. In a number of areas, more houses have been requisitioned since the war than were requisitioned during the war. I am meeting the hon. Member's point about looking after those who were bombed out. Such figures as are available seem to suggest that a very high proportion of those who today are living in requisitioned houses are people who have moved into them since the end of the war.
§ Mr. H. Butler rose—306
§ Mr. Sandys
I am not saying that they were improperly taken over. I am saying that this is not primarily a war-time problem with which we are dealing.
All this shows quite clearly, I maintain —and I do not think there is any dispute among local authorities about it —that requisitioned houses have become part and parcel of the ordinary pool of local authority housing accommodation. The only difference is that, instead of being owned by the local authorities, they are owned by private citizens and are compulsorily rented by the State; and instead of being partly paid for by local authorities they are entirely paid for by the Exchequer.
§ Mr. Sandys
Those are the main differences. We consider that both these features are objectionable and must not be allowed to continue indefinitely. The use of war-time powers for peace-time purposes is something which must be brought to an end as quickly as possible.
The right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) said several times that the period of five years was too short, and the hon. Member for Hackney, South said the Bill amounted to "chucking them out." Let us be quite clear about what we are trying to do. We want to bring these war-time arrangements to an end; we want to release these houses and return them to their owners as quickly as possible. I ask the House to recognise that this is the basis of the Bill.
In so far as these houses cannot be released between now and 1960 without causing hardship to the occupants their retention must be regularised by agreement with the owners. That is what we are setting out to do.
§ Mr. Sandys
Perhaps the hon. Member will read the Bill, or, alternatively, will listen to me, and I will try to give the explanation.
§ Mr. Sandys
The hon. Member for Clapham (Mr. Gibson), who, like myself, represents a part of Wandsworth, said that the State should continue to pay 100 per cent, of the net cost. We do not 307 agree. We consider, having regard to the fact that these houses have become part of the general pool of housing accommodation—[An HON. MEMBER: "Not at all."]—that local authorities should bear some share of the cost of these requisitioned dwellings in the same way as they do for council houses. Only in that way will they have a direct interest in keeping down the expenditure.
That, broadly, is what the Bill tries to do. In view of some of the things which have been said during the course of the debate, I should like to emphasise two things which the Bill does not do. The first is that it does not place an unfair burden on local authorities—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Is that denied?
§ Mr. Sandys
The right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland said that it would place an undue financial burden on local authorities. We were told in the course of the debate that it might involve an increase of 4½d. in the rates in Wands-worth—a matter of great interest to me— of 5d. in Hackney, and 10d. in Camberwell.
The right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland and the hon. Member for Clapham particularly asked for some information about the formula for the operation of the discretionary grant in Clause 10. I should like to give this information to the House. The local authority associations with whom I have worked out these proposals suggested the following formula, which I will read to the House. They suggested that provided the Minister is satisfied with the progress made in carrying out the Bill in a particular local authority area, a local authority whose net expenditure under the Billexceeds the equivalent of a 2d. rate should be eligible for a discretionary additional grant…and—[An HON. MEMBER: "Is that a ceiling?"] I think an absolutely firm ceiling would be a great mistake because it would provide no incentive at all. This is what the local authorities associations proposed to me: 308Over and above the first 2d. rate the next 4d. should attract a grant of 75 per cent., the next 6d. a grant of 90 per cent. and. bevond that, 100 per cent.That is what they proposed to me as the formula for the operation of this discretionary grant. Whilst I am not in a position finally to commit myself on this point, I am prepared to say to the House tonight that I consider this formula quite reasonable and does not differ very substantially from what the Government have in mind. Therefore, local authorities can assume that something on these sort of lines will be the formula which we shall adopt. I hope that will go some way to meet the views which have been expressed.
§ Mr. Dalton
Will a formula somewhat on those lines be included in the Bill when we reach Committee stage? If not, how will it be implemented?
§ Mr. Sandys
It will be implemented by good faith. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] As the right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland knows, when a Minister makes a statement such as I have just made, it amounts to almost the same thing as putting it into the Bill. I am certainly prepared to consider whether it would be desirable to put it in the Bill, but I do not think that a formula for a discretionary grant should necessarily go into the Bill. If it did, it would have to be worded rather more fully than I have given it this evening. But I certainly do not reject that possibility.
§ Mr. Gibson rose—
§ Mr. Sandys
I must get on. Several hon. Members have referred to my negotiations with the local authority associations. Some Members have suggested that these consultations were extremely perfunctory. It may interest the House to know that we had no fewer than five meetings, extending over three months, and altogether these meetings lasted for 16 hours. That should dispose of the suggestion that there was insufficient consultation. The right hon. Member for Poplar(Mr. Key) said that I had treated the local authorities roughly and that I had led them up the garden path. All I can say is that that is hardly borne out by the letters of appreciation which I have received from each of the local authority associations since the publication of the Bill.
309 This is to a large extent a London problem and a good deal has naturally been said about the views of the Metropolitan Boroughs Joint Standing Committee, whose attitude is of particular interest because, as my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, North (Sir A. Hudson) pointed out, it is governed by a large Labour majority. It would, therefore, be of interest if I read a passage from the conclusions of this circular, which has gone out to every local authority in London. It is public property, I think, by now.
§ Mr. Sandys
No. I took the trouble to ask whether this was a document which I might quote to the House. This is what it says, in its concluding paragraphs:The new Bill has been drafted after close consultation with the representatives of the local authorities, during which the Minister has paid regard to the observations and views which have been submitted by the Committee's representatives and by representatives of other local authority associations. We consider that the proposals provide a reasonable and workable scheme for bringing the emergency requisitioning procedure to an end with due respect to the housing obligations of the borough councils.The second thing which the Bill does not do is to put anybody's rent up or to make anybody homeless. That last one is the main accusation which has been made against us by the party opposite.
§ Mr. Sandys
Very well; I add that. It will not make anybody homeless in 1960 or thereafter. The Amendment alleges that this isa Bill which contemplates the eviction of occupants of requisitioned houses in 1960 without providing for their rehousing …I propose to devote the rest of my time now to answering that, which I regard as the main charge that has been made against the Government in this debate and in the Amendment.
I cannot conceive of a more reckless disregard for accuracy than that statement. I can only assume that when the Amendment was placed on the Order Paper the right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland and his colleagues had not had time to read the Bill. Judging from some 310 of the speeches which have been made today, that omission had not been made good before the debate started.
I am as keenly aware as any other hon. Member of the practical impossibility of releasing requisitioned houses without making provision for the accommodation of the occupants. The right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland reminded me that I was a London Member, if that was necessary; but not only am I a London Member, I represent the Borough of Wandsworth.
§ Mr. Sandys
A very good part of it. The Council of the Borough of Wandsworth holds more requisitioned houses than any other local authority in the whole country. In framing the Bill, to which I have devoted many hours, I set myself the task of winding up requisitioning in such a way that not one single family would be rendered homeless. I sincerely believe that anyone who understands this problem and has read the Bill will be satisfied on that score.
However, in view of the fact that the Opposition have thought fit to place the Amendment on the Order Paper, I must ask the House to go through the Bill with me in some detail, to see just how the occupants of requisitioned houses will be affected. Between now and 1960 a proportion of these occupants, in the ordinary course of events, will move out of requisitioned dwellings into council houses or other homes which they have found for themselves. That is the normal process which is going on all the time. I think that the party opposite will agree that the allegation in their Amendment clearly does not apply to those people and I need not discuss them.
§ Mr. Sandys
I will go right through the provisions if hon. Members will give me time and not interrupt.
Then there is the occupant whose landlord applies to the courts under Clause 5 for release of his house for his own occupation. I am glad to say that the right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland and other hon. Members have expressed sympathy with the position of these people. The right hon. Member said to me, "Why was it necessary to have compulsion?" I 311 have with me, but have not the time to read them, a whole list of hardship cases of this kind, some of which have been submitted to me by hon. Members opposite. They are cases where the local authority has refused to release the house.
One hon. Member opposite wrote:If the Ministry has any powers of compulsion so as to secure the derequisitioning of this house, I shall be grateful for their being used as rigorously as possible.These applications will only be granted by the court if it is proved that the hardship caused to the owner by being excluded from his house is greater than the hardship caused to the occupants by having to move out. Clearly, therefore, there is no case of injustice. Moreover, the local authority will provide the occupants with alternative accommodation.
§ Mr. Sandys
Let me explain. If the number of owners who want their houses back to live in were numerous the rehousing of the occupants might present great difficulties. But, as we know quite well from the inquiries which we have made and the number of applications which we have received, they are not at all numerous. This fact has been confirmed during today's debate by the hon. and gallant Member for Brixton (Lieut-Colonel Lipton) by the hon. Member for Islington, South-West (Mr. A. Evans) and by the hon. Member for Hackney, South (Mr. H. Butler). Even at a time when these houses were requisitioned only a very small proportion belonged to owner-occupiers, and in the ten or fifteen years which have elapsed since then the majority of these people have gone somewhere else to live and do not now any longer want to move. Some of them, of course, have died.
Apart from any council houses which may be available, other requisitioned dwellings are constantly falling vacant. Requisitioned dwellings which become vacant will normally be released, but local authorities who need some of them to rehouse occupants who have been moved as a result of a decision of a court will be authorised to retain them under Clause 3 of the Bill, to which reference has been made.
There should, therefore, be little or no difficulty at all in providing alterna- 312 tive suitable accommodation for the very small number of families who are going to be involved, and this will usually be done without any resort whatever to the use of council houses. It is quite absurd for the hon. Member for Sparkbrook and others to say that the Bill will block the prospects of people on the housing list and slow down slum clearance.
Incidentally, the hon. Member referred to the criticism in the "Birmingham Mail." I have looked up the leading article, but I have not time now to read it to the House. However, I can say that it ends up in a way most flattering to the Bill.
§ Mr. Sandys
I was concerned with what the "Birmingham Mail" said.
There were other types of hardship cases where the owner suffers financial hardship and urgently needs to sell his house and he cannot get a good and reasonable price unless he gets vacant possession. In such cases the Minister is empowered, under Clause 6, to require the local authority to release the house. However, if it is not possible to provide other suitable accommodation for the occupant, then the local authority may purchase the house instead of releasing it.
§ Mr. Sandys
He may be required by the Minister to purchase the house instead of releasing it. It was precisely to protect the occupants in such cases that we provided this alternative in Clause 6 The right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland will, I think, agree that, here again, there is no justification for the allegation which he has made.
We are left with the case of occupants of requisitioned houses who, by 1960, have not found alternative accommodation elsewhere and whose landlords have not been willing to accept them as statutory tenants. I cannot say how many cases there will be. In many parts of the country there may be no such cases at all. But in framing this Bill we have assumed that in some cases the number will be quite considerable. In such areas the local authorities will be advised to try and rent the houses they need to retain after 1960. Our information is that many 313 owners will be perfectly willing to let their houses to local authorities for a further period of 10 or 15 years and will regard this as a very sound investment.
The occupants of houses which have been rented in this way will, naturally, continue as tenants of the local authority, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman does he not agree that their security of tenure would remain precisely the same as it is today. There, again, is another category of occupants who will not be evicted in 1960, as the Amendment suggests.
Next, I take the case of the occupant whose landlord agrees to convert the requisition into a statutory rent-controlled tenancy. How will he be placed in 1960? So far as his rent is concerned, his position will be exactly the same as it is now. He will pay just as much as the local authority considers reasonable. If that is less than the standard rent then the local authority will make up the difference. As for his security of tenure, it will, of course, be greatly increased: he will have the protection of all the safeguards provided by the Rent Acts. Again, I ask the right hon. Gentleman, does he not agree that occupants in that category will not be evicted in 1960?
In most places it should be possible to accommodate all the occupants of requisitioned houses by one or other of the methods to which I have referred. We realise, however, that there will be areas, particularly in London, where there will still remain a number of occupants who cannot be accommodated in council houses, in rented houses or by means of statutory tenancies. In those areas local authorities will have to buy—and I wish to make this point clear—whatever houses are necessary to provide accommodation for the residents.
§ Under the Housing Act, 1936, local authorities possess powers of compulsory purchase, and in the event of their being unable to purchase sufficient houses by agreement, they will have to use those powers. According to our policy, however, they will use them in the last resort, and in the last resort only. From all the inquiries we have made we know that there will be an ample number of owners who will be prepared freely to offer their houses for sale at a proper price, and we are quite confident that the use of those compulsory powers will not be necessary. I say again to the right hon. Gentleman that those people will not be evicted in 1960.
§ I believe I have covered every conceivable eventuality, and I submit that the allegations contained in the Amendment are unfounded and unjustified. I will not press the point any further at this late stage, though I think that the right hon. Gentleman might well withdraw his charge, because neither he nor his hon. Friends have sustained this allegation in their speeches throughout this debate. Although the criticism which has been put forward has been all too easy to dispose of, I regret it, because it has tended to conceal the fact that there is no dispute between us about the objective. The objective of this Bill is to return these houses to their owners as quickly as possible consistent with the avoidance of hardship to the present occupiers. The Bill will, I am confident, achieve that objective.
§ Question put, That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question: —
§ The House divided: Ayes 298, Noes 253.319
|Division No. 35.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Browne, Jack (Govan)|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Bullard, D. G.|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Bennett, F. M. (Reading, N.)||Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport)||Burden, F. F. A.|
|Amory, Rt. Hn. Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Bennett, Sir William (Woodside)||Butcher, Sir Herbert|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J.||Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A. (SaffronWalden)|
|Arbuthnot, John||Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Campbell, Sir David|
|Armstrong. C. W.||Bishop, F. P.||Carr, Robert|
|Ashton, H. (Chelmsford)||Black, C. W.||Cary, Sir Robert|
|Assheton, Rt. Hn. R. (Blackburn.W.)||Boothby, Sir R. J. G.||Channon, H.|
|Astor, Hon. J. J.||Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A.||Churchill, Rt. Hon. Sir Winston|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Boyle, Sir Edward||Clarke, Col. Sir Ralph (East Grinstead)|
|Baldwin A. E.||Braine, B. R.||Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth.W.)|
|Banks, Col. C.||Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)||Cole, Norman|
|Barber, Anthony||Braithwaite, Sir Gurney||Colegate, Sir Arthur|
|Barlow, Sir John||Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Conant, Maj. Sir Roger|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley||Brooke, Henry (Hampstead)||Cooper, Sqn. Ldr. Albert|
|Beach, MaJ. Hicks||Brooman-White, R. C.||Cooper-Key, E. M.|
|Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Jennings, Sir Roland||Profumo, J. D.|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hn. H. F. C.||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Raikes, Sir Victor|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)||Ramsden, J. E.|
|Crouch, R. F.||Jones, A. (Hall Green)||Rayner, Brig. R.|
|Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)||Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W.||Redmayne, M.|
|Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.)||Kaberry, D.||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Kerby, Capt. H. B.||Remnant, Hon. P.|
|De la Bère, Sir Rupert||Kerr, H. W.||Renton, D. L. M.|
|Deedes, W. F.||Lambert, Hon. G.||Ridsdale, J. E.|
|Digby, S. Wingfield||Lambton, Viscount||Robertson, Sir David|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)|
|Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.||Langford-Holt, J. A.||Robson-Brown, W.|
|Donner Sir P. W.||Leather, E. H. C.||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)|
|Doughty, C. J. A.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Ropner Col. Sir Leonard|
|Drayson, G. B.||Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)||Russell, R. S.|
|Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.||Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T.||Ryder, Cap. R. E. D.|
|Duthie, W. S.||Lindsay, Martin||Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.|
|Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir D. M.||Linstead, Sir H. N.||Savory, Prof. Sir Douglas|
|Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West)||Llewellyn, D. T.||Schofield, Lt.-Col. W.|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. C. (King's Norton)||Scott, Sir Donald|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.|
|Erroll, F. J.||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)||Sharpies, Maj. R. C.|
|Fell, A.||Lloyd-George, Maj. Rt. Hon. G.||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbr'gh, W.)|
|Finlay, Graeme||Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C.||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)|
|Fisher, Nigel||Longden, Gilbert||Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)|
|Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F.||Low, Rt. Hon. A. R. W.||Snadden, W. McN.|
|Fletcher, Sir Walter (Bury)||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)||Soames, Capt. C.|
|Fletcher-Cooke, C.||Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)||Spearman, A. C. M.|
|Ford, Mrs. Patricia||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Speir, R. M.|
|Fort, R.||McAdden, S. J.||Spence, H. R. (Aberdeenshire, W.)|
|Foster, John||McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S.||Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir P. (K'ns'gt'n, S.)|
|Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)||Macdonald, Sir Peter||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard|
|Fraser, Sir Ian (M'cmbe & Lonsdale)||McKibbin, A. J.||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Galbraith, Rt. Hon. T. D. (Pollok)||Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)|
|Gammans, L. D.||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)|
|Gamer-Evans, E. H.||Maclean, Fitzroy (Lancaster)||Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Glover, D.||McLean, Neil (Inverness)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Godber, J. B.||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfleid, W.)||Storey, S.|
|Gomme-Duncan, Col. A.||MacLeod, John (Row A Cromarty)||Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)|
|Gough, C. F. H.||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Studholme, H. G.|
|Gower, H. R.||Maitland, Cdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)||Summers, G. S. (Aylesbury)|
|Graham, Sir Fergus||Maitland, Patrick (Lanark)||Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)|
|Gresham Cooke, R.||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.||Sutdiffe, Sir Harold|
|Grimond, J.||Markham, Major Sir Frank||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)|
|Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Marples, A. E.||Teeling, W.|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Marshall, Douglas (Bodmin)||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. P. L. (Heref'd)|
|Hare, Hon. J. H.||Maude, Angus||Thomas, Leslle (Canterbury).|
|Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.)||Maudllng, R.||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Maydon, Lt. Comdr. S.L.C.||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Medlicott, Sir Frank||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon,W.)|
|Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfd)||Milligan, Rt. Hon. W.R.||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hn. P. (M'nm'th)|
|Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)||Molson, A. H. E.||Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N.|
|Hay, John||Moore, Sir Thomas||Touche, Sir Gordon|
|Head, Rt. Hon. A. H.||Morrison, John (Salisbury)||Turner, H. F. L.|
|Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.||Turton, R. H.|
|Heath, Edward||Nabarro, G. D. N.||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Neave, Airey||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Higgs, J. M. C.||Nicholls, Harmar||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.|
|Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton)||Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)||Vosper, D. F.|
|Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)||Wade, D. W.|
|Hill, John (S. Norfolk)||Nield, Basil (Chester)||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'le'bne)|
|Hirst, Geoffrey||Nugent, G. R. H.||Walker-Smith, D. C.|
|Holland-Martin, C. J.||Nutting, Rt. Hon. Anthony||Wall, Major Patrick|
|Hollis, M. C.||Odey, G. W.||Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)|
|Hope, Lard John||O'Neill, Hon. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)||Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)|
|Hopkinson, Rt. Hon. Henry||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.||Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.|
|Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. F.||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Watkinson, H. A.|
|Horobin, Sir Ian||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)||Webbe, Sir H. (L'nd'n & Westm'r)|
|Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Florence||Osborne, C.||Wellwood, W.|
|Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)||Page, R. G.||Williams, Rt. Hn. Charles (Torquay)|
|Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)||Peake, Rt. Hon. O.||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, H.)||Perkins, Sir Robert||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)||Peto, Brig. C. H. M.||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral J.||Peyton, J. W. W.||Wills, G.|
|Hulbert, Wing Cmdr. N. J.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Hurt, A. R.||Pilkington, Capt. R. A.||Woollam, John Victor|
|Hutchison, James (Scotstoun)||Pitman, I. J.|
|Hyde, Lt.-Col. H. M.||Pitt, Miss E. M.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Hylton-Foster, Sir H. B. H.||Powell, J. Enoch||Mr. Buchan-Hepbun and|
|Iremonger, T. L.||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)||Sir Cedric Drew|
|Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.|
|Acland, Sir Richard||Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil(Colne Valley)||Orbach, M.|
|Adams, Richard||Hall, John T. (Gateshead, W.)||Oswald, T.|
|Albu, A. H.||Hamilton, W. W.||Owen, W. J.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Hannan, W.||Padley, W. E.|
|Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven)||Hardy, E. A.||Paget, R. T.|
|Awbery, S. S.||Hargreaves, A.||Paling, Rt. Hon. w. (Dearne Valley)|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Harrison, J. (Nottingham, E.)||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J.||Hastings, S.||Palmer, A. M. F.|
|Bartley, P.||Hayman, F. H.||Pannell, Charles|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Healey, Denis (Leeds, S.E.)||Pargiter, G. A.|
|Bence, C. R.||Henderson, Rt. Hn.A.(Rwly Regis)||Parker, J.|
|Benn Hon. Wedgwood||Herbison, Miss M.||Parkin, B. T.|
|Beswlok, F.||Hewitson, Capt. M.||Paton, J.|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Hobson, C. R.||Peart, T, F.|
|Bing, G. H. C.||Holman, P.||Plummer, Sir Leslie|
|Blackburn, F.||Holmes, Horace||Popplewell, E.|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Houghton, Douglas||Porter, G.|
|Blyton, W. R.||Hoy, J. H.||Price, J.T. (Westhoughton)|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)||Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)|
|Bowden, H. W.||Hughes Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Proctor, W. T.|
|Bowles, F. G.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Pryde, D. J.|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Rankin, John|
|Brook, Dry den (Halifax)||Hynd. J. B. (Attercliffe)||Reeves, J.|
|Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)||Reid Thomas (Swindon)|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Reid William (Camlachie)|
|Burke, W. A.||Janner, B.||Rhodes, H.|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.)||Jeger, George (Goole)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Callaghan, L. J.||Jeger, Mrs. Lena||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Carmichael J.||Jenkins, R. H. (Stechford)||Ross, William|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Johnson James (Rugby)||Royle, C.|
|Chapman, W. D.||Johnston, Douglas (Paisley)||Shackleton, E. A. A.|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Jones Rt. Hon A Creech||Short, E. W.|
|Clunie, J.||Jones, David (Hartlepool)||Shurmer, P. L. E.|
|Coldrick, W.||Jones, Frederick Elwyn (W.Ham, S.)||Silverman, Julius (Erdington)|
|Collick, P. H.||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)|
|Collins V. J.||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Skeffington, A. M.|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Keenan, W.||Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke-on-Trent)|
|Cove, W. G.||Kenyon, C.||Slater, J. (Durham, Sedgefield)|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Crosland, C. A. R.||Lawson, G. M.||Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.)|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Sorensen, R. W,|
|Cullen, Mrs. A.||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Daines P.||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Sparks, J. A.|
|Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)||Steele, T.|
|Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Lewis, Arthur||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)|
|Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||Lindgren, G. S.||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.||Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)|
|Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||MacColl, J. E.||Stross, Dr. Barnett|
|de Freitas, Geoffrey||McGhee, H. G.||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E,|
|Deer, G.||McGovern, J.||Swingler, S. T.|
|Dodds, N. N.||Mclnnes, J.||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Driberg, T. E. N.||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Taylor, John (West Lothlan)|
|Dugdale, Rt.Hn.John(W.Brmwch)||McLeavy, F.||Thomas George (Cardiff)|
|Ede, R. Hon. J. C.||McNell, R. Hon. H.||Thomas Iorwerth (Rhondda. W.)|
|Edelman, M.||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse)||Mainwaring, W. H.||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Thornton, E|
|Edwards, W.J. (Stepney)||Mallalieu, J.P.W.(Huddersfd, E.)||Tomney, F|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Mann, Mrs. Jean||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Manuel, A. C.||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury)||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Usborne H C.|
|Fernyhough, E.||Mason, Roy||Viant, S. P.|
|Flenburgh, W.||Mayhew, C. P.||Wallace. H. W.|
|Finch, H. J.||Mellish, R. J.||Warbey, W. N.|
|Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.)||Messer, Sir F.||Watkins, T. E.|
|Follick, M.||Mikardo, Ian||Webb, Rt. Hon. M. (Bradford, C.)|
|Foot, M. M.||Mitchison, G. R.||Weitzman, D.|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Monslow, W.||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Freeman, John (Watford)||Moody, A. S.||Wells, William (Walsall)|
|Freeman, Peter (Newport)||Morgan, Dr. H. B. W.||West, D. G.|
|Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.||Morley, R.||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Gibson, C. W.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham,S.)||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|Glanville, James||Mort, D. L.||White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Gooch, E. C.||Moyle, A.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Mulley, F. W.||Wigg, George|
|Greenwood, Anthony||Murray, J. D.||Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.|
|Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.||Nally, W.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Neal, Harold (Bolsover)||Willey, F. T.|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||O'Brien, T.||Williams, Rt. Hon, T. (Don Valley)|
|Hale, Leslie||Oliver, G. H.||Williams W. R. (Droylsden)|
|Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)||Winter-bottom, Richard (Brightside)||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|Willis, E. G.||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)||Wyatt, W. L.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Winterbottom, Ian (Nottingham, C.)||Yates, V. F.||Mr. Pearson and Mr. Arthur Alien|
Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Committed to a Standing Committee, pursuant to Standing Order No. 38 (Committal of Bills).