HC Deb 30 March 1955 vol 539 cc387-437
Mr. Hugh Dalton (Bishop Auckland)

I beg to move, in page 2, line 2, at the end, to insert:

(3) Notwithstanding anything in the last foregoing subsection, if in the case of any local authority it appears to the Minister that, in view of the large number of requisitioned houses in respect of which the authority have the right to possession under this section, or because of difficulties in or about the application of section four of this Act or in the negotiation of leases under section eleven of this Act, or because of other exceptional circumstances, it is not reasonably practicable or desirable for that authority to complete the release or acquisition of all such requisitioned houses by the thirty-first day of March nineteen hundred and sixty, he may direct that in relation to that authority the last foregoing subsection shall have effect as if for that date there were substituted such later date (not being a date after the thirty-first day of March nineteen hundred and sixty-five) as he may consider appropriate:

Provided that no payment or contribution shall be made to a local authority under section nine, section ten or section eleven of this Act in respect of any matter arising or continuing after the thirty-first day of March nineteen hundred and sixty and that any expenditure incurred after that date by a local authority in exercising their functions (including their powers and duties) under this Act shall not be taken into account in computing the expenditure of the authority for the purposes of section four of the Local Government Act, 1948.

This Amendment again raises the issue which my hon. Friends feel to be the most important in the Bill—the period within which requisitioning is to finish and derequisitioning is to be completed. Both on the Floor of the House on Second Reading and upstairs in Committee we have argued that the Bill, which contains a five-year period without any qualification or easement at all, is much too rigid.

As has been said previously, it is not as though this Bill applied, in effect, equally to the whole country; in effect, it applies only to certain areas where there are still a large number of requisitioned premises. Most of all, it applies to London, to the London County Council area and the boroughs of Greater London, to the City of Birmingham and one or two other areas of major authorities. Only in those areas has the Bill any real application. On the other hand, in those areas it is felt, particularly by those who represent some of the constituencies concerned, that five years is altogether too short a time to complete the derequisitioning process.

Earlier, we proposed an Amendment which would have extended the period by five years. We are anxious however to feel our way to some agreement. The hon. Member for Dulwich (Mr. Robert Jenkins) took a very active part in the discussion upstairs. We have, therefore, tried to help him and the Minister by adopting, in this Amendment, very nearly the same proposal as in an Amendment which the hon. Member for Dulwich moved in the Standing Committee. In other words, we are not proposing a flat increase over the whole of the country of five years in the period, but we are proposing that for particular local authority areas where difficulties may appear it should be possible for the time to be extended for any period up to five years.

The argument is familiar and I do not propose to dwell upon it in great detail but, in my opinion, if the Minister were to accept the suggestion first made by the hon. Member for Dulwich—the hon. Member now seems preoccupied and is not paying attention. I should be glad to have his ear, because in the Standing Committee he played a very active part in proposing substantially what is in this Amendment. He said, very properly, that in his constituency it would be most unpopular if it were attempted to bring all requisitioning to an end within a flat period of five years. We would not like to incommode the hon. Member in any way and, therefore, we have tried, in this Amendment, to help him and to help the Minister to find an intermediate way between the crude five- year period of the Bill and the equally crude—although as we think, better—plan for the extension to ten years over the whole country.

The hon. Member for Dulwich will agree, following the suggestion he made upstairs, that we have put forward a carefully considered Amendment which would leave the Minister full discretion in regard to particular local authority areas. Where it was found in any particular area, such as Camberwell, which the hon. Member for Dulwich now partly represents, that that was not the best proposition, the Minister could retain a discretion up to five more years. I trust that the hon. Member for Dulwich will give his support to this Amendment.

Mr. C. W. Gibson (Clapham)

I wish to support this Amendment. While not repeating the things which were said upstairs, nevertheless I would emphasise the fact—because it is a fact—that this Clause is completely impossible to work in London if the period is only up to 1960. If the Minister does not see his way clear to accept this Amendment, or to agree to a similar Amendment, as the local government Press has been saying, he will find himself in very great difficulty.

About 50,000 of the total number of houses in London are still under requisition. London has an enormous waiting list of people who badly need houses. London County Council itself has an urgent waiting list of nearly 50,000 families. All the boroughs also have urgent waiting lists. They have sorted out applications into urgent and non-urgent cases and have decided only to house those who, for all sorts of reasons, are on the urgent lists. If all the families in requisitioned houses were transferred to the new accommodation which will be built in London in the next five years, there would not be enough accommodation to house them.

Secondly, and most seriously and shamefully, all those at present on the waiting list would have to wait several years more before their turn came. I am quite sure that neither the Minister nor anyone on the Government side of the Committee wishes to see that if it can be avoided. But, if this Clause is left as it is, that will be the inevitable result of trying to force the borough councils of London to complete de-requisitioning by 1960. This is a borough council matter, not a county council matter, in London. Powers ought to be taken to deal with the position under this Bill.

I wish to quote what the " Municipal Review " said only last week in an article dealing with this Bill—that it …seems likely to test severely the administrative capacity of many housing authorities, mainly in the Greater London area. The article went on to say: If, as seems likely, some of them, with the best will in the world are unable to do so. what will happen to the families living in the houses not then dealt with? That is exactly the point which some of us have been flogging for several weeks. Unless the Minister takes power to extend beyond 1960 retention of houses under requisition, councils will find themselves at the end of that period with very large numbers of families for whom they cannot find houses. Those families will then become illegal tenants and have to be turned out, unless other accommodation can be found for them. It is inconceivable that they would be turned out. I do not think anyone would suggest that they ought to be turned out, but most of them are in requisitioned houses and, if that accommodation were their normal accommodation, they would not be regarded as urgent cases.

4.0 p.m.

In so far as those people are rehoused, all the urgent cases—those in which there are health reasons or bad overcrowding, or where people live in houses which have been condemned as unfit—will be pushed back, not a few weeks, but several years. It is important, therefore, to take provision to retain the power to hold requisitioned houses for some years beyond 1960.

That same article in the " Municipal Review," after calling attention to the difficulties which the 1960 date in the Bill would create, said: Would it not be as well for the Minister to seek power, in the present Bill, to extend the time limit for individual local authorities if good cause is shown?

That is exactly the point on which we have been hammering away at the Minister for two months and which, in Standing Committee, I thought he had agreed to meet.

When we were discussing the similar Amendment in Committee, together with the Amendment of the hon. Member for Dulwich (Mr. Robert Jenkins), I certainly was given the impression that the Minister would consider what could be done to try to meet this admitted practical difficulty for every one of the local housing authorities, not only in London, but in Birmingham, Liverpool and one or two other places which have a large number of requisitioned houses. But nothing has been done and the Minister has not tabled any Amendments today to meet this difficulty. I hope, therefore, that the Committee will agree to accept the Amendment.

All of us on this side, and probably the whole Committee, would agree that it is much better for the housing authorities to own outright the houses which they manage rather than to manage them under requisitioning powers. We want to get rid of the requisitioning of houses, but, in doing so, we must not create severe hardship for the many thousands of families who, at any rate in London, are still compelled to live in them. In view of the opinion of all parties in London and the opinions of the experts who write in the municipal Press about this matter, the suggestion of postponing the date until 1965 is one which the Minister ought to accept, particularly as we do not propose to continue any additional charge on the Treasury.

Unfortunately, owing to the tightly drawn way in which the Money Resolution has been worded, it is impossible, under the Bill, to continue the Treasury payments, and for the years after 1960 the total net loss on each house would have to be borne by the borough or town council concerned. As far as I am aware, no objection has been expressed to that if we could get some provision of the kind we suggest which would ease the derequisitioning of houses.

I detest this Bill. It is an entirely wrong way of trying to deal with the problem. In the main, it is an effort to try to help property owners—as we were told in Standing Committee—and even investment companies. The people of whom we ought to be thinking most are the families who live in these requisitioned houses, all of whom have been put into them by local housing authorities because of housing difficulties or because they were bombed out or for some other reason. I therefore hope that the Committee will accept the Amendment, and make it possible not only for the Clause to work but to ease the difficulties with which the housing authorities will be faced.

Mr. Percy Shurmer (Birmingham, Sparkbrook)

Through unforeseen circumstances, I was unable to serve on the Standing Committee. Nevertheless I hope that the Minister will think again about this matter. As I have said in the House before, we in Birmingham are not in such a serious position in the matter of requisitioned houses as the Greater London area, but we still have 2,200 families in requisitioned properties.

Birmingham has nearly 60,000 people on its register, 50,000 of whom are living in rooms. I suppose that we have the greatest slum clearance programme of any town or city. We have to set aside a number of houses in the city in the slum clearance and redevelopment areas for houses which become derelict and unfit for human habitation. This takes away a number of houses from the ordinary applicants. We also have, as in other areas, a number of tuberculosis and other sick cases which take preference over the ordinary applicant. Therefore, a number of houses each year are allocated to certain cases apart from ordinary applicants.

There is not the slightest doubt that the tenant in the kind of house which is requisitioned is not the type of tenant who would be prepared to purchase the house. The owners of these houses are not the type of owners who are prepared to accept the present licensees as tenants of their houses. They are out to sell them and to get the biggest bargain. As I have said before, I could take the Minister or any hon. Member of the House along roads in Birmingham where houses which have been derequisitioned for over nine months, under the voluntary agreement with the previous Minister, are still standing idle even though thousands of people are living in rooms.

This is hampering Birmingham, and it means that, apart from the provision for sick cases and the slum clearance and demolition areas, we have to find accommodation for those who are already in the requisitioned houses. The people who have left requisitioned houses which were derequisitioned voluntarily have gone into municipal houses, thereby taking away houses from those who have been waiting a long time in the queue, while those derequisitioned houses are standing idle awaiting the highest bidder.

I urge the Minister to realise that the great housing problem in our towns and cities is no easy matter. Every Member of Parliament and councillor in our cities is visited by people who are constantly begging for something to be done, because they have been on the register for four, five or six years, but the Minister is going to leave them on the register much longer and thereby cause more dissatisfaction.

No one wants requisitioning for requisitioning's sake. In fact, Birmingham would like the chance to take over these houses by compulsory purchase. Nevertheless, I hope that the Minister will understand our argument and will allow a further extension, which would ease the whole of the housing problem. In that way, he would cause much less dissatisfaction among the ordinary applicants for housing.

Mr. Robert Jenkins (Dulwich)

The right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) stated the truth when he said that I was in support of the general principle underlying the Amendment. I should like to read to the Committee the Amendment which I put down in Standing Committee and which, quite properly, was ruled out of order. It will indicate to hon. Members exactly what I have in mind about this whole question.

My Amendment in Standing Committee proposed the following insertion in page 2, at the end of line 2: Provided that if in the case of any local authority it appears to the Minister that, in view of the large number of requisitioned houses in respect of which the authority have the right to possession under this section, or of other exceptional circumstances it is not reasonably practicable for that authority to complete the release or acquisition of all such houses by that date, he may direct that as respects that authority this subsection shall have effect as if for the thirty-first day of March nineteen hundred and sixty there were substituted such later date as he considers appropriate. The reason why I tabled that Amendment was that there are many local authorities, particularly in London and, as has been mentioned today already, cities and towns like Birmingham, Liverpool, and even Southend-on-Sea, which have far more requisitioned property than the local authorities of some other places, as set out in the document issued by the Ministry, such as Dagenham, with only 127 families affected, and Esher, with 142. The problem for the vast majority of local authorities is very much smaller than that of the local authorities in London and the Greater London area and the like. The latter are the local authorities of areas that were the most severely bombed. The local authorities whose problem is comparatively as great are those of the areas which were reception areas, the authorities which had to receive large numbers of families sent to them.

It was because of these facts that I put down in Standing Committee my Amendment, which was out of order because of the very narrow way in which the Money Resolution had been drawn. I should like now to put to my right hon. Friend how important it is that leeway should be given to local authorities in the London area. The London and Greater London areas, as I said on Second Reading and repeated in Standing Committee, are the areas which suffered most from bombing and, in consequence, have the greatest number of requisitioned properties. I must say to my right hon. Friend that it will be impossible for local authorities in the London and Greater London areas to carry out the provisions of the Bill unless an extension of time in which to do so is given to them.

Naturally, I do not wish to embarrass my right hon. Friend, but he did indicate in Committee that he was sympathetic to this point of view. I hope that today he will be able to give the local authorities in the London and Greater London areas and the reception areas, which suffer from requisitioning to a very much larger degree than most of the housing authorities, some hope of being able to carry out the provisions of the Bill, with which I personally entirely agree.

I do not want to detain the Committee with all the arguments which have been put forward already, on Second Reading and in Standing Committee. I would simply say to my right hon. Friend that, if he wishes the Bill to work smoothly and easily in areas such as Birmingham and London, it would be advisable for him to accept an Amendment of this kind. I know that my right hon. Friend has had conversations about the Bill on many occasions with those local authorities, and I am sure that such an Amendment would enable the Bill to be operated more smoothly. I am sure derequisitioning will take place as my right hon. Friend desires, but I think he must give way to some extent on the time factor.

4.15 p.m.

Mr. Percy Daises (East Ham, North)

I agree with about three parts of what the hon. Member for Dulwich (Mr. Robert Jenkins) has said and I agree with the whole of what my hon. Friend the Member for Clapham (Mr. Gibson) said. My borough council has asked me to support the principle of the Amendment. After the 1945 Election it was quite common for hon. Members to have a cock-eyed sort of competition as to who was representing the most bombed area. I do not want to join in such a competition. We have got over that stage. However, in common with the London boroughs about the docks, the borough I have the honour to represent certainly had its fair share of bombing. The hon. Member for Dulwich is quite right in stating that after that extensive bombing there was a great amount of requisitioning.

The case I want to put to the Minister is, I admit, a constituency case, or a borough case. I think he should give to my people some indication of what they should do to carry out the principles of the Bill if he sticks to the time-limit of 1960. My borough cannot solve this housing problem within the present time-limit. As long as the docks remain prosperous, as long as the heavy industries around my constituency remain prosperous, then, as fast as we move our people out, either in a dribble to a new town, or through the outbuilding scheme we have in operation, as fast do they and will they move in again. If the Minister sticks to his present time-limit he will present us with a serious problem in 1960, and I think he should " come clean " and tell us what we are to do.

What are we to do in 1960? Is he suggesting—it seems that messages are passing to and fro between the Front Benches. I should like to have the Minister's attention when this paper chase is over. Are we, in 1960, to deal with the people in requisitioned houses by put- ting them at the front of our housing queue? Are we to give them preference over people whose need of houses is, perhaps, far greater than theirs? Or are we to have half-way houses for sorting out the queue? The Minister should tell my borough council precisely what he thinks it is to do about the problem.

I appeal to the Minister. Can he vary the rule? The problem varies in different areas. I do not question that the Bill can be applied in some areas where the number of requisitioned properties is small, but in a borough like mine, where our housing problem is constant, it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to apply the Bill. There seems to be no solution to the problem at all. Perhaps we could vary the time-limit, as prescribed in the Bill, between one district and another. I appeal to the Minister to consider this matter from a practical standpoint. In boroughs like mine something has to be done to help us. I strongly support the Amendment.

Mr. W. E. Wheeldon (Birmingham, Small Heath)

I want to support the Amendment, and base my argument upon our experiences in Birmingham. Every local authority having requisitioned houses is watching the progress of the Bill, and of this Clause in particular, most anxiously. The Minister will, I am sure, readily admit that the concern does not arise from any fractious opposition. It arises from knowledge of the present housing difficulties of the local authorities. They are difficulties which are not likely to be swept away at any early date. The local authorities are doing their best in extremely difficult circumstances.

In Birmingham, for example, there are at present 50,000 families without a house. In addition, new applicants are coming on to the list at the rate of 200 families every week. Yet that is not the whole problem. We have in Birmingham such special cases as add to the housing problems that every local housing authority has to meet. About 600 families are evicted every year in Birmingham as a result of county court decisions. In addition, we have special cases which the medical officer of health said must be rehoused immediately, for example, T.B. cases.

Then there are those houses which, by reason of the medical officer's representations, must be demolished almost imme- diately and for the tenants of which new housing accommodation must be found. There are also slum clearance cases and, on top of all, there is the appalling fact that, despite the admitted gross overcrowding in Birmingham, we cannot take any action to abate it for the simple reason that we have not the housing accommodation to utilise on behalf of these overcrowded people.

The conclusion, therefore, is that the effective application rate in the City of Birmingham is more than twice as high as is the rate at which houses are becoming available. It means that, unless this Clause is amended, by 1960 our housing position in Birmingham, despite every effort by the Corporation, will probably be worse than it is today—and we are now building up to the full extent of the labour and sites available. On top of that, under the provisions of the Bill we shall have the special addition arising from the derequisitioning of houses. We have 2,000 families living in requisitioned houses in Birmingham.

How can we deal with the proposals in the Bill? We cannot do it except at the expense of the people who are already on the housing register. Some of them have been on the register for eight, ten and, in some cases, twelve years. Is it fair that these people should be required to give up their positions on the housing list to meet the claims which inevitably will arise under the Bill? If we make them do that, we shall be departing from what everyone accepts as the proper basis for housing allocation, which is the need for the allocation. That is why I suggest that local authorities are expressing very great concern about the Clause.

The Minister said on Second Reading that he was concerned about hardship. So are we on this side of the Committee. We do not want either owners or tenants to be in a state of undue hardship, but there should be a proper balance of the hardship. It seems to us that more concern is felt about the hardship to those who own the requisitioned property than about the hardship to all those who will be displaced. Even if he accepts the Amendment, the Minister will have the power to make the effective date 31st March, 1960. He can do that in respect of any authority in whose area the problem is comparatively small. Conditions in the areas of local authorities differ a great deal. In London the problem is immense, and ours in Birmingham is quite large.

It seems to us unfair that there should be a blanket proposal under which precisely the same conditions are to apply in varying circumstances throughout the country. If the Minister accepts the Amendment he will have discretion. He can say in respect of one authority that the date shall be 31st March, 1960, and in respect of another authority twelve months or two years or anything up to five years later. In addition, every local authority will have to prove its case. It will be considered by the Minister and he, in his discretion, can say whether the case is proved or not.

Surely, that is fair. It takes into consideration not merely the demands of owners of properties but also the proper requests of local authorities acting on behalf of the tenants and the citizens generally within their areas. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will consider the Amendment favourably and that the Committee will accept it.

Mr. Victor Collins (Shoreditch and Finsbury)

When we discussed the Bill in Committee there was a good deal of common ground between us. One thing that became perfectly clear was that the problem of derequisitioning is not acute in more that 50 of the 1,500 local authority areas. The Minister himself said that he recognised that and, indeed, that if it were not the case we would need to have only a one Clause Bill. I should have thought that those remarks of his were unanswerably in favour of the Amendment. Indeed, in Committee the words which the right hon. Gentleman used about the Bill when he was dealing with an Amendment in the name of his hon. Friend the Member for Dulwich (Mr. Robert Jenkins), which was not moved, were, in fact, accepting in advance the kind of Amendment which we are now moving.

The Minister even said that he would assist his hon. Friend to find a form of words which would be in order, in accordance with the Financial Resolution, to meet this point. We have endeavoured to assist the Minister in finding a form of words, and we have used many of the words which the hon. Member for Dulwich used in his abortive Amendment. It is very difficult, therefore, to imagine that the Minister will not now accept this Amendment.

In rejecting our proposal that the period should be ten years instead of five, the right hon. Gentleman said that in some of the London boroughs the problem would not be solved in ten years. He said that if it was to be solved in the ordinary way through the waiting list it might well be fifteen years before local authorities in London, which were badly placed in this respect, could hope to move people out of requisitioned properties without giving them any special priority in respect of allocation of accommodation. The Minister admitted that, unless we are to add to the length of our waiting lists in the London boroughs, it might well be fifteen years before we could successfully deal with the problem. It therefore seems unanswerable that there must be some discretion after 1960 so that the period can be prolonged in special circumstances.

During our discussions in Committee upstairs we, on this side of the Committee, referred to the fact that this was a human problem of which the Minister did not seem sufficiently aware. The right hon. Gentleman replied that he had many requisitioned houses in his own constituency and he had visited requisitioned houses in all parts of the country.

The right hon. Gentleman assured me—and I represent the boroughs of Shore-ditch and Finsbury—that he knew all about conditions in Finsbury because for some months he had lived in Finsbury Park—which is some miles distant from Finsbury. Sadler's Wells is in my constituency, but one would hardly expect to acquire an expert knowledge of vodka by visiting the Russian ballet at Sadler's Wells. I suggest, therefore, that the opinion of the people of Finsbury is better conveyed by Finsbury Borough Council.

A few days ago, the Council passed a unanimous resolution in the course of which it said: …it is mindful of the serious position of all London authorities if the Bill becomes law in its present form in view of the acute housing problem in the Metropolis and the added responsibility of rehousing persons displaced from slum clearance areas, and urges Her Majesty's Government to amend the Bill (1) to extend the time specified for relinquishing requisitioned properties from five to 10 years from the date of the passing of the Act.…

4.30 p.m.

The figures speak for themselves. In my constituency there are about 1,800 families, out of a total of 26,000 families, living in requisitioned property. That means 70 families per 1,000. I understand that the working party which considered this problem made progressive suggestions on figures as low as five per 1,000. Here we are dealing with a problem where there are 70 families per 1,000 of the population living in requisitioned property. I have no doubt that some of my hon. Friends from London could quote even larger percentages, but, anyway, those I have quoted are large enough.

When the Minister pins his hopes on the ability of local authorities to obtain leases from landlords—and he is pinning his main hopes on that, I am sure—we feel that the owners will only be interested in selling at a profit. We believe that if the Bill is left as it is now with this rigid date of 1960 and no longer, then he is creating considerable difficulties for local authorities. He is gambling on the grant of leases and he is laying up trouble for the future.

In the London boroughs we are suffering from the physical difficulty of space. Every new housing scheme means a net loss of dwelling accommodation. The more successful we are the worse the problem becomes. In proportion to their population, the boroughs I represent have the best housing records in London, but as they proceed with construction their problem becomes worse. We have not got the space. We cannot expand, as my hon. Friend suggested, into the estates outside the area to relieve this pressure, and unless the Minister changes his mind about these requisitioned properties he will add acutely to the difficulties of local authorities who are struggling against problems which are almost overwhelming, and he will add to the sufferings of the people who already have too much to bear.

Mr. Albert Evans (Islington, South-West)

The Minister owes an explanation to the Committee, especially to those hon. Members who were on the Standing Committee. I am amazed that, so far, the right hon. Gentleman has made no attempt to intervene in this debate to explain what the position is. I know that I shall be repeating words that have already been used during the last half-hour, but I think it is essential that the Minister should " come clean " with hon. Members on this particular matter.

I will put on record again what he said in Standing Committee, because I take exception to the attitude of the right hon. Gentleman in that Committee and the complete silence he is now adopting. He has made no attempt to intervene upon a point which, I should have thought, was a point of honour with him. He gave an assurance to the Members of the Standing Committee and he now sits silent, making no attempt to get up and clarify the situation.

The Minister said in Standing Committee, in so many words, that he would consider this matter again. He said: If. therefore, hon. Members opposite would be willing not to press their request for a general five-year extension, and not to oppose the Motion he would certainly look into it and find a form of words that would meet our requirements.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton, South-West)

What happened next?

Mr. Evans

If the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) will contain himself just for a moment, I may be able to find what the Minister said next. At a later point in the debate he said: There seems to me to be quite a fairish body of agreement —and to be fair to him he added these words: I have not yet accepted that this is necessary—and a feeling on both sides of the Committee that possibly something more might be needed on these lines —that is, extend the period beyond 1960.

Then the hon. Gentleman the Member for Dulwich (Mr. Robert Jenkins) said that the Minister had his complete confidence and that he had made a promise. He also said this: If the Minister gives an undertaking that on the Report stage he will do something, I think it is a little unfair to the Minister himself for Members opposite not to accept his undertaking. Apparently the Minister deceived the hon. Member for Dulwich. He accepted the right hon. Gentleman's undertaking as a genuine one, and so did the rest of us.

But the Minister has not seen fit to honour the undertaking he gave to put something on the Order Paper. I know he did make the condition that he would bring in a new form of words to meet our point if we did not press the matter to a Division. Is he attempting to withdraw from his undertaking on that technicality? Is the position he is adopting that because we pressed the matter to a Division he is absolved from doing what he told us he would do? Is the Minister trying to get out of an undertaking upon such a flimsy point'?

Before the vote was taken in the Standing Committee, the Minister said: I tell the Committee frankly that I am not in a position to say exactly what the time limits should be and what is the best way to bring the financial position into order."[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee A,8th March, 1955; c. 54–68.] Even at that late stage he confessed that he was not sure what the exact time should be. I hope that the Minister will not now tell us that he will put this matter right in another place, because if he gave, as I think he did, an undertaking to hon. Members it seems to me he should honour that undertaking in this House and not in another place.

Of course, it may be that the Minister, after all, intends to meet our point in another place, and give us what we want, but there is another point involved, and it is that if the Minister led the Standing Committee to think that he had changed his mind and had accepted the arguments and was prepared to bring in a form of words to amend this Bill, then it is incumbent upon him to come to this Committee and put the matter right.

Mr. Herbert Butler (Hackney, South)

I thought that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Dulwich (Mr. Robert Jenkins) had convinced the Minister in Committee that the claim submitted and backed by the local authorities' associations for an extension of time, where necessary, was a sound one. It appeared to me that the Minister indicated to the Committee that he was convinced, though he said he was afraid that, if an extension of time were given to 1965, the pressure which he thought this Measure would exert upon local authorities would be lessened. His objection, if I understood it aright, was that 1965 would leave local authorities with no inclination to get rid of the requisitioned property.

The Minister also gave clearly to the Committee his view that local authorities in some cases were not allocating sufficient of their new properties to take people out of requisitioned premises.

The Minister of Housing and Local Government (Mr. Duncan Sandys)

When did I say that?

Mr. Butler

The right hon. Gentleman said, at column 44: Because I recognise the problem which confronts local authorities, particularly in the Greater London area, I have been very careful in any remarks I have made not to put any additional pressure upon them to allocate more council houses than they are doing at the moment.

Mr. Sandys

That is the opposite of what the hon. Gentleman said a moment ago.

Mr. Butler

The statement is there: I have been very careful in any remarks I have made not to put any additional pressure upon them…. I should have thought that was quite clear, and while the cause of the hilarity may be obscure to me, hon. Gentlemen opposite may be such keen humorists that they can appreciate some points which to me are not humorous.

Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)

If my hon. Friend will allow me to interrupt, is not what he has in mind at column 41, where the right hon. Gentleman said: I have not the same feeling of confidence that if we extend this period for five years, all local authorities will try to wind up this problem with the same intensity as they would, if the period were as stated in the Bill."? The Minister wanted to squeeze them a bit.

Mr. Sandys

The point which the hon. Gentleman made was that I wished to bring pressure on the local authorities to allocate an additional number of houses for the purpose of accommodating people who are now living in requisitioned houses, which they would have to release as a result of the Bill. I claim that there is nothing in anything I have said throughout the proceedings on this Bill—

Mr. Butler

That is what the Bill does.

Mr. Sandys

—including the quotation read by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison), which bears out that suggestion.

Mr. Butler

The Bill itself does that. Whatever the Minister thinks I am entitled to think he meant by it when he said it, is beside the point. I am not concerned with what interpretation the Minister requires me to put upon his statement; I am concerned with the statement speaking for itself, and hon. Gentlemen opposite who consider this to be a " Crazy Gang " show—

Mr. John Hay (Henley)

My right hon. Friend was quite definite about it when he said, in the middle of column 44: Therefore, I have not attempted to bring pressure to bear on local authorities to increase these allocations, although I hope and expect that they will continue to provide at least as many council houses for this purpose as they have done in the past."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee A,3rd March, 1955; c. 41–44.) That denies completely what the hon. Gentleman has said.

4.45 p.m.

Mr. Butler

I was assiduous in my attendance at the Committee. There is no necessity to read out the whole of its proceedings, neither is there any need for me, with my elementary school education, to attempt to teach the hon. Gentleman the meaning of words. I let them speak for themselves and the Minister is entitled to make his case.

I was proceeding to state what, in my view, was the conception of the Minister, namely, (a)that he did not trust the local authorities to carry out the Bill if it became an Act of Parliament and (b)that he said that in his view local authorities should allocate part of their permanent accommodation to the relief of this problem. I say that it is unfair to people in my own borough in particular, where we have 6,000 people on the waiting list for housing accommodation. In many cases those people have been living in exceedingly bad circumstances, and, as has been emphasised time and again, those in requisitioned property are the members of our community who suffered most during the war. It is no good hon. Gentlemen saying that there are people living in requisitioned property who have motor cars, as we often read in the Press. Much of that property is of inferior quality. They are not living there because they want to do so; they are forced to live there because there is nowhere else for them to live.

The suggestions made in the Bill have been considered by the local authorities, including those who were in support of the pink document referred to in the course of the Bill. After reading the Bill, they have seen the iniquities contained in it, and from their experience and from their consideration of the Clauses of the Bill, and the proposals it involves, they know that in their areas—the areas which have been badly hit—it is impossible inside five years to solve the problem of the release of requisitioned property, whether by purchase, by acquisition of the lease, or by making statutory tenants of the existing licensees.

We know it is a fact. The Minister's lack of geographical knowledge of London is equalled only by his lack of knowledge of local government activities. If the right hon. Gentleman did not know that Finsbury Park was not in Finsbury, how could he know the problem of the local authorities? The Minister is asking us to do an impossible job. There are 3,300 families packed into these places and the Minister says, " Get rid of them in five years." That is approximately 700 a year. I do not want to make a Second Reading speech on this Amendment—

Mr. Hay

The hon. Gentleman has done nothing else so far.

Mr. Butler

Then maybe I can amend it to the satisfaction of the hon. Gentleman; anyway, I will try.

Anyone connected with a Metropolitan borough placed in the position of my own, would realise that it is impossible. We cannot build more than 200 or 300 houses per annum. We have not got the room, as my hon. Friends have pointed out. We have not got the facilities. The policy of the Government, of allowing the building industry to have a " free for all," will mean that it will be even more difficult to get builders to build municipal houses.

Therefore, the problem is being aggravated, and I say that the Minister gave a clear undertaking to his hon. Friend the Member for Dulwich. Throughout the stages of the Bill we have looked at all the Amendment Papers and we have found nothing from the Minister to indicate that he has any intention of doing the things which he indicated to the Committee. The question was asked what happened after the Minister gave this undertaking or promise. A Division was called—

Mr. Hay

A technicality.

Mr. Butler

Does that mean, according to the hon. Gentleman, that if the Minister has promised to do something in the interests of the community and the country—

Mr. Hay

On a condition.

Mr. Butler

—and if, then, he attaches a condition that I have to play marbles with him, like Lady Docker, the country, which should have something beneficial as a result, is to be denied it because of that obligation? Is that the hon. Gentleman's conception of Government responsibility? Surely, the over-riding factor in all these matters must be whether it is desirable and in the interests of the people, and not whether Charlie Brown gave Jack Jones an undertaking to bet two to one on Chelsea winning yesterday. That is not the proposition. A promise was given by the Minister to this House that the local authorities which suffered badly were entitled to receive serious consideration.

I therefore ask the Minister to consider the matter again. I can assure him that the local authorities are anxious to do the best they can for their people. We are anxious to do the best we can for our people, and we will attempt to operate this Bill, but we are entitled to expect that the Government and the Minister will have some regard for the difficulties under which our people are living.

Mrs. Lena Jeger (Holborn and St. Pancras, South)

I do not think it is so very important that the Minister, during the proceedings of the Standing Committee, said that he was not going to bring extra pressure to bear on local authorities to allocate normal housing to people coming from requisitioned properties, because, whatever his words were, the fact is that this Bill must inevitably do just that. The whole purpose of the Bill is to get people out of requisitioned properties, and those people have to go somewhere. I am sure that even hon. Gentlemen opposite would not expect them to be left with nowhere to go, and, therefore, I do not see that this undertaking has any great importance, because unless we are successful in dividing the House against the Third Reading of the Bill, the hardship which we have envisaged is bound to occur.

I make no apology for asking the Minister to look at our Amendment again against the broader background of the whole housing position in London. The right hon. Gentleman must know—I am sure he does—that the London County Council alone, leaving out the Metropolitan boroughs, has a waiting list of 165,000, and it is increasing each year by 30,000. Of the people on that waiting list, 50,000 are in the classification of A priority of urgency. These are the figures which we have in mind when we come to the Minister and ask him, not unreasonably, to give us a little longer than the five years arbitrarily set down in the Bill in which to deal with this enormous problem.

In London, the next five years will be a period of especial difficulty. Recently, the Minister has given his agreement to the main provisions of the County of London Development Plan, though with certain modifications which were not always helpful, but to which it would be out of order to refer. I should like to remind the Minister that, in the plan which he has now agreed, the slum clearance will lay on us the necessity of finding new homes for over 18,000 families in London. For schools alone—and I am speaking only of the next five years—we are having to displace 4,330 families, and the Minister has agreed that we should do this. For open spaces, and the Minister has said that our provisions for open spaces were a little limited, 3,300 families will have to be found new homes. For road improvements, public buildings and other miscellaneous reasons, nearly 10,000 families will have to be displaced in the next five years. A few days ago, in the House, the Minister asked local authorities to give a little more kindly consideration to the plight of the discharged ex-Service man who applies for housing accommodation, and that is another obligation which we are now having to meet more fully.

I should like the Committee to know, because I do not think it is sufficiently appreciated, that of the children now in the care of the L.C.C., over 1,100 are in that position purely by reason of housing conditions; that is to say, 1,100 children are being brought up in institutions and in foster homes, not because of broken marriages, not because they are delinquents, but purely on grounds of housing standards, An attempt is to be made to allocate a certain proportion of lettings to these cases in order that the families may be brought together again. I am sure that that is an object with which hon. Members on both sides of the Committee would agree. The L.C.C. is also allocating 5 per cent. of the lettings to homeless families in institutions. All these commitments are adding up to a sum of enormous and forbidding proportions.

To meet these commitments alone, over 50,000 houses will be required before 1960, and I am leaving out of account the emergencies and the dangerous structures, which amount to 100 a year in London. There is also an attempt being made, which I am glad to see the Minister is encouraging, for the modernisation and improvement of the older tenement blocks. Every time a local council effects improvements, it loses on the average about 25 per cent. of the accommodation, because when bathrooms are put into what were previously living rooms, and an effort made to get a little elbow room, the number of rooms is thereby reduced. Every time the council tries to improve the standard, it thereby reduces the number of homes in any particular block.

While all these great problems are before us, at the same time there are the plans for the new towns and the expanded towns which have still a long way to go. In asking for further time, I think we are justified because, after the passage of a further period, we should be able to look a little more hopefully towards the expanded towns than we can now, because certainly progress there has been very slow. As if all these problems and commitments were not enough, the Minister, by fixiing this arbitrary period of 1960, is making a requirement that by that time 55,000 families must be somewhere else, or, if they are still where they are, then, by the kindness and consent of the landlords, we must make other arrangements for them. It is still a mystery to most of us on this side of the Committee why the Minister expects the landlords to meet him halfway over this, but that is another question.

In this Amendment, we are more than justified in asking for a little leeway, and I very much hope that, after what has been said in the Committee today, the right hon. Gentleman will feel that it is only fair to the people of London—and I beg the pardon of my hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Shurmer) —that he should try to help the local authorities in these areas by giving this extra elbow room. It is little enough that we are asking, and it will be most unreasonable if it is not given to us.

In calling attention to these commitments, I have not referred in any way to the gravity of the housing list situation, and it is the people on the waiting lists who will inevitably suffer if the Minister forces through this programme at this speed, because it will have to be carried out at a tempo which is beyond the resources of the local authorities. To be at the top of the housing list in a central London borough imelies that a family has been living in conditions of indescribable misery. As the Committee knows, every local authority has its points scheme, by means of which it tries, by a process of arithmetic, to reduce the needs of the families to mathematical formulae, and those who live close to this problem know that the arithmetic has broken down, and that we are dealing with a problem of human misery which defies computation. In the light of our knowledge, and of the special difficulties in the next five years, I hope the Minister will feel able to meet us on this very reasonable and very fair Amendment.

5.0 p.m

Mr. J. A. Sparks (Acton)

I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will realise now, if he had not already done so, that we are today dealing with certain areas where the housing problem can be said to be the most acute. Because the housing problem there is the most acute by comparison with other parts of the country, and in some cases it appears to be almost insoluble, we find ourselves face to face with difficulties arising from the provisions of the Bill.

What is the right hon. Gentleman asking local authorities to do in the period of five years? Many of the local authorities have no land whatever upon which to develop housing schemes and already have slum clearance problems and development areas with which to deal. The right hon. Gentleman is asking them to make arrangements within five years for the disposal of 90,000 families.

The Minister proposes in the Bill that the 90,000 families shall be disposed of in this way. First, where a requisitioned dwelling falls vacant for any reason, it should cease to be requisitioned and be no longer available for other families. The second provision is for the owner to go to the courts. The owner may be successful in getting an order for possession, and by that means the requisitioned house will be released, and something will have to be done for the licensee because he will then be displaced. The third provision is for the owner to appeal to the Minister on grounds of hardship, and the Minister may decide that the requisitioned house shall cease to be requisitioned, and then some arrangement will have to be made for the licensee to be accommodated elsewhere. Fourthly, the right hon. Gentleman is proposing that, where necessary and where possible, local authorities shall take out leases on dwellings in any case where an owner declines to take over the existing licensee as a statutory tenant. Only in the last resort will the Minister permit a local authority compulsorily to acquire a requisitioned dwelling.

The right hon. Gentleman is trying to press all that into a period of five years. I think he must have conic to the conclusion now that it is physically impossible to achieve that in many areas. There may be some smaller areas where there will not be much of a problem left by 31st March, 1960, but I am sure he will find that in the great majority of areas the problem will by no means have been solved by that time.

As it stands, the Bill means that any requisitioned house not otherwise disposed of by 31st March, 1960, will then cease to be requisitioned. Licensees still in them will then be trespassers, and they will have to go because in law they have no right to be there. The owner who goes to court for an order for possession will get his order because the licensees will be trespassers and will have no right to be there.

This predicament was put to the right hon. Gentleman in the Standing Committee, but, with all respect to him, he evaded the seriousness of the issue. He believes he will solve the problem within five years. If he does so, then there will, of course, be no problem on 1st April, 1960. However, the fact remains that there will be a problem at that time, and the local authorities and the occupants of the requisitioned dwellings will want to know precisely what their position will be on 1st April, 1960. Will they be trespassers liable to be made homeless? What exactly is to happen to them? The right hon. Gentleman will be well advised to make provision for any residue still not dealt with by 31st March, 1960. If he does not, he will cause a tremendous amount of anguish and anxiety to many people who have already suffered very badly during the war. He is in honour and duty bound to make some provision for them so that they may have security of tenure after 31st March, 1960.

The Amendment gives the right hon. Gentleman a certain amount of flexibility. It is true that we include a deadline date five years later, 31st March, 1965. I believe that to be the weakness of our proposition, because I do not believe that even by that time the whole problem will have been cleared up. At any rate, it gives the right hon. Gentleman an intervening period of five years in which he can decide—power is given to him to do so—whether the problem is so serious in an area that he ought to extend the period by one, two, three or five years in accordance with its intensity. I should have thought that was a very reasonable proposition to make. If the right hon. Gentleman is not prepared to do anything about an extension, it will create a tremendous amount of confusion and a good deal of unnecessary suffering on the part of a large number of people who do not deserve such treatment.

There is a case for an extension even beyond our suggested date of 31st March, 1965, because the right hon. Gentleman proposes, where all other means fail, to permit local authorities to take out upon existing requisitioned properties leases for a period up to a maximum of 10 years. If local authorities do that, what will happen when the leases expire? Surely the licensees will be trespassers in precisely the same way as they will be on 1st April, 1960. That is an additional reason for an extension beyond the date mentioned in the Amendment. The acquisition of leases, presumably by agreement—there is no power of compulsion—in respect of a wide range of requisitioned properties is no solution at all. It is merely a deferment of the problem.

The Amendment is a reasonable one. It is far better than the proposal to extend the period from 31st March, 1960, by one year or two years. If we put any hard-and-fast date other than 1965 in the Bill we shall not find the whole problem resolved by such time. Therefore, I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman on this matter. He cannot expect a final solution by 31st March, 1960, as I am sure he knows by now. He would be doing the right thing by the local authorities and by the occupants of requisitioned dwellings, as well as by the people on the housing list whose need is far more urgent than that of the great majority of requisitioned families, if he accepted the principle of my Amendment. It would give him a flexible period of five years after the terminal date, which he could use as he thought fit and proper to deal with the problem in areas where it has been found impossible to provide a solution within the five-year period now in the Bill.

Mr. Sandys

I apologise to the Committee if I did not intervene as soon as some hon. Members would have liked, but I wanted to listen to the speeches in support of the Amendment before making my comments upon it. The hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks) has spoken once again with his usual fluency. I am only sorry that there are not the same Press facilities to record his words.

The hon. Member, and others who have taken part in this debate—the hon. Member for Clapham (Mr. Gibson), the hon. Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Shurmer), the hon. Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Dames) and others—all reverted to the argument, which they must realise by now is fallacious—but perhaps it is the only one which is politically interesting—that the Bill result in prejudicing the prospects of people who are on the housing lists.

Mr. Shurmer

It is bound to do so.

Mr. Sandys

I have listened to the arguments that have been presented, so perhaps the hon. Member will be good enough to listen to mine. I have given my reply to this point on the Second Reading, and on more than one occasion during the Committee, and I will try to repeat it. It is sometimes necessary to repeat one's replies to an argument when the argument has been repeated.

It is alleged that the Amendment would be helpful to local authorities. It is a strangely-worded Amendment, and I think it would do local authorities very much more harm than good. Leaving that point aside for the moment, let me deal precisely with the suggestion that the operation of the Bill will prejudice the prospects of people on the waiting lists for houses.

If hon. Members have copies of the Bill with them, they will see that the Clauses concerned with the release of houses are grouped together and are Clauses 3 to 8. We are not concerned very much with Clause 8 because it deals only with the prevention of release of parts of requisitioned houses. We are really concerned with Clauses 3 to 7. I will run quickly through them in order to remind hon. Members what they provide.

Clause 3 provides for the release of dwellings falling vacant. The release of a dwelling which has become vacant cannot prejudice the prospects of somebody on the housing list, because if it is vacant it will not make it more difficult for that person to get a council house. I think everybody agrees that we are not keeping requisitioned houses for all time as part of the general housing pool. When a house becomes vacant and is then released, the prospects of somebody on the local authority housing list getting a council house are not thereby prejudiced.

Mr. A. Evans

Does not the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that the release of even one requisitioned dwelling reduces the pool of houses for the local authority by that one?

5.15 p.m.

Mr. Sandys

I thought it was generally accepted, not at the beginning but in the course of the Committee debate, that we did not regard requisitioned houses as a part of the permanent housing pool of local authorities. If that be so, the argument that I am putting is perfectly sound and valid. I am coming in a moment to the later Clauses in which I think hon. Members opposite are more interested, but I had thought there would be no disagreement on this first point. Release of a vacant requisitioned house cannot prejudice the prospects of people on the housing list of obtaining a council house.

Mr. Shurmer

Does the right hon. Gentleman mean that the tenants of requisitioned properties find themselves accommodation instead of the local authority doing so?

Mr. Sandys

I think hon. Members accept my point.

Mr. Shurmer

How often do they do it?

Mr. Sandys

I am talking of houses that become vacant. If the tenants do not find themselves other accommodation, the houses do not become vacant.

Clause 4 deals with the acceptance of the licensee as statutory tenant by the owner. Clearly that provision will not prejudice the prospects of anybody on the housing list, for the simple reason that the licensee will remain living in the same house. Clause 5 deals with application to the court for release for the owner's occupation. This is about the only Clause where one might, by some stretch of argument, maintain that the Clause could result in the local authority having to house in a new council house somebody who had been displaced as the result of a decision of the court.

Mr. Walter Edwards (Stepney)

I was hoping to make a speech on a point, but if we can get it clear now we shall probably save time. The case where the owner of the property takes over requisitioned premises will obviously make some sort of drain on the housing list. Does not the right hon. Gentleman know that, quite apart from the owner of the property having obtained an order to have his property returned to him, the right hon. Gentleman's own Department is, at the present time, stopping local authorities carrying out what they call " extensive " repairs to requisitioned properties? The result is that local authorities are being forced, in addition to their other commitments, to do something about people living in houses where extensive repairs should be carried out.

In Stepney we are not able, I assure the right hon. Gentleman, to carry out extensive repairs, and we have either to leave the tenants as licensees in requisitioned houses in bad property which needs repair, or else they have to take precedence over people on the housing list.

Mr. Sandys

The remarks of the hon. Member will be more relevant to Clause 7, which deals with that point. I was speaking of the possibility that it might become necessary under Clause 5 for a local authority to provide accommodation for a family which had been required by the court to leave its house. In all the speeches that were made on Second Reading, particularly from the party opposite, it was made clear that cases where the owner acquired the house for his own occupation were not at all numerous. Therefore, the size of the problem is not very considerable.

None the less, in Committee upstairs we discussed the problem in some detail, and I gave an undertaking to accept Amendments which should, I think, completely remove the possibility that this difficulty will arise. There are two Amendments in particular. First, I would draw attention to the fact that the court can decide to displace the licensee only if it is satisfied that his hardship is less great than the hardship which is caused to the owner by the latter being prevented from getting his house back. That is a very considerable safeguard. Even supposing it did result in what some hon. Members have suggested, at any rate the effect is to relieve greater hardship at the expense of some other hardship.

Mr. Julius Silverman (Birmingham, Erdington)

On a point of order. All this has nothing to do with the Amendment. As far as I understand the position, the Amendment will not affect the operation of Clause 5 one way or another. Surely this is entirely out of order.

The Chairman

I thought that it was all right.

Mr. Sandys

This is probably the main discussion at this stage. All the arguments advanced in support of the Amendment were, in the main, to the effect that, unless the Bill is amended in the way suggested, people would be thrown out of their houses and, as a result, would have to be accommodated by the local authorities at the expense of other people on the waiting lists. I was attempting to deal with that argument. I think that arguments advanced on those lines in support of the Amendment were relevant. Therefore, I assume that my reply also is relevant. I am trying to help hon. Members opposite.

My point is that, quite apart from the question of hardship, which is relevant to this issue in references to the courts. there are two Amendments on the Paper which hon. Members know that I propose to advise the Committee to accept. One, which is in my own name, is designed to enable the Minister to require local authorities—they will very likely do it themselves without any requiring—to establish a pool of vacant requisitioned houses: in other words, not to release houses when they become vacant, but to retain a pool so as to have vacant premises available to accommodate families who may be displaced as a result of a decision of the courts under Clause 5.

In addition, in response to a suggestion made in an Amendment by an hon. Member opposite, which is now on the Paper in a revised form, I propose to accept the suggestion that it should be a direction to the court that, in considering the question of hardship, it shall not assume that in the allocation of council houses the licensee will be given preference by the local authority over other persons whose need is greater than his. I think that that last provision absolutely knocks the bottom out of any suggestion that the Bill will prejudice the prospects of people on the waiting lists.

Mr. H. Butler

Surely the right hon. Gentleman is aware that if people are evicted the local authorities automatically house them? Because of the social responsibility they have eviction lists. People evicted through no fault of their own must be put somewhere. Therefore, what the right hon. Gentleman says does not solve the problem.

Mr. Sandys

The point is that, in all probability, in 99 cases out of 100 the owner will already have a roof over his head before he goes to court. Therefore, if in fact the licensee is likely to be left high and dry on the street, I have little doubt that, in assessing the relative hardship, the court would come to the conclusion that his hardship was greater than that of the owner.

By accepting that Amendment, I am ensuring that the courts shall not assume that the licensee will be made to jump the queue and be given preference over other people on the housing list.

Mr. Gibson

The suggestion for the building up of a pool of requisitioned house accommodation sounds feasible, but surely that will cease in 1960, because the Bill says that a local authority …may retain possession of the house until the thirty-first day of March, nineteen hundred and sixty, and no longer. Will not the pool then disappear?

Mr. Sandys

I think that it will disappear long before then.

Mr. Sparks

The right hon. Gentleman is too optimistic.

Mr. Sandys

The pool is at the discretion of the Minister. I think that the need for it will disappear long before 1960. It is desired to insure against a considerable number of applications to the courts immediately after the passage of the Bill. The majority of cases, so far as they exist, exist already. They have been building up over the last 15 years. There is a certain bank of them. No doubt they will go to the courts, but they will work themselves off in the process of the courts, I imagine, in the next six months or so. After that, I do not conceive that it is likely that many new cases of serious hardship among owners wishing to regain possession of their houses for their own occupation are likely to arise, for the simple reason that any owner who has acquired his house after the Queen's Speech does not come within the terms of the Clause.

It is not very likely that many owners who do not now wish to regain possession of their houses for their own occupation will be able to make out a case of hardship in a year or two's time. That is why the main problem under Clause 5 is likely to arise in the months immediately following the passage of the Bill.

Mr. Mitchison

The right hon. Gentleman said that Clause 5 was the only one which should affect the housing situation generally—

Mr. Sandys

I am coming to Clause 6.

Mr. Mitchison

Clause 6 is an iniquitous piece of bureaucratic oppression. It will have an iniquitous effect if it is put into operation.

Mr. Sandys

When I come to Clause 6 I will point out that it is quite irrelevant to the argument. As the hon. and learned Gentleman knows, I gave an undertaking in Committee upstairs that I would accept an Amendment which would have the effect of giving a local authority the option of deciding whether to release a house or to purchase it. If it decides to purchase it, clearly the licensee will remain in that house. Obviously it cannot then be argued that, as a result of the local authority purchasing the house, anybody on the housing list will have his prospects prejudiced.

There again, under Clause 6, clearly nobody on the housing list can have his prospects prejudiced.

Mr. Mitchison

The right hon. Gentleman will not expect us to agree with that.

Mr. Sandys

Will the hon. and learned Gentleman explain what he has in mind?

Mr. Mitchison

What I have in mind is that Clause 6 provides in effect that the Minister can have a licensee turned out in order to meet the severe financial hardship of the landlord. It is true that there is an alternative of buying the house but, one way or the other, the only object of the Clause is apparently to meet the severe financial hardship of the landlord. What with the landlord and the local authority, I refuse to accept the proposition that that will not affect the position of the licensee and the housing position in the borough concerned.

5.30 p.m.

Mr. Sandys

I cannot see how the hon. and learned Gentleman can argue in that fashion—he has such a clear mind. I cannot believe he has convinced himself, for the simple reason that we have assumed—and the party opposite made the point again and again—that all local authorities are wise and humane and indulgent towards the licensee.

I am not disputing that point. It is part of the common basis on which we have been discussing this matter. But if that be so, it is quite clear that, when given the option of either buying or releasing a house, if it would result in the licensee needing alternative accommodation, or having to be put in a house ahead of someone else on the housing list, presumably the local authority would decide to buy the house.

Mr. Shurmer

Compulsory purchase?

Mr. Sandys

No. It would have to make an offer to the owner to buy the house. If the hon. Member will read the Bill, he will find that it is all there.

Mr. Shurmer

Would the right hon, Gentleman give way? I am sorry to interrupt again—

Mr. Sandys

We have discussed this at such length that I do not think I need to explain the Bill to the hon. Member. If he will read it—

Mr. Shurmer

If the Minister knew some of the landlords in Birmingham and the prices they are asking he would realise the position.

Mr. Sandys

What they have to ask is clearly defined; there is no doubt about that. It will be on the same basis as fot compulsory purchase. The offer that the local authority will be required to make will be on the same basis as if it were for compulsory purchase. It is up to the owner not to accept the offer if he does not wish to do so. In each case, if the local authority decide not to release the house, the licensee remains where he is.

Mr. Shurmer

After 1960?

Mr. Sandys

We are talking about between now and 1960.

Mr. Shurmer

Would the right hon. Gentleman—

Mr. Sandys

I am sorry I cannot—

Mr. Shurmer

This is a serious matter for the Birmingham local authority.

Mr. Sandys

I am sorry, I cannot give way again. I have dealt fully, perhaps more than fully, with the point—which I felt was the crux of the argument, and that is why I have gone into so much detail about it—that this would result in prejudicing people on the housing lists.

Now I turn to the precise wording of the Amendment. Were I to accept this Amendment, which I do not feel able to do, I do not believe that a single local authority would avail itself of the facilities which the Amendment provides. I do not believe that one single local authority would do so.

Mr. Shurmer

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way just this once? He has made the statement that he does not think one local authority would avail itself of the facilities provided by the Amendment in order to extend the time. Will he deny that the Birmingham City Council has already written to him asking him to extend the period because of the difficulties in which it will be involved in finding accommodation for people already in requisitioned houses?

Mr. Sandys

I gave way because I thought that the hon. Member would be helpful to me. I do not suppose that Birmingham had anything to do with the drafting of this Amendment.

Mr. Shurmer

The City of Birmingham wrote to the right hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Sandys

Were I to accept this Amendment in its present form, or anything like its present form, I do not believe that a single local authority would feel able to avail itself of the facilities which the Amendment provides. It would not be necessary to do so.

The Financial Resolution is very much wider than hon. Members opposite appear to have noticed. One effect of this Amendment would be that all local authorities would have to bear 100 per cent. of any current costs in respect of requisitioned houses at the end of 1960. That is no great hardship, because they are getting this extension. I quite understand that. In addition, local authorities would have to pay the whole of any terminal compensation, that is to say, compensation for dilapidations at the end of the period, for any of those houses, which at present is paid for 100 per cent. by the Exchequer. There are considerable sums of money involved.

I do not know whether hon. Members opposite have observed that, in addition, local authorities would not only not be entitled to receive any grants in respect of leases or purchases after 1960 but, were this Amendment accepted, they would lose the compensation for leases and purchases which had already begun to operate before 1960.

One must assume that a local authority applying for an extension has a considerable number of requisitioned houses in its area and has probably already negotiated a substantial number of leases and purchases before 1960, and that there is a certain balance left to deal with. But, were this Amendment accepted, the 20-year grant on leases, which may have started only one or two years before 1960, would come to an end completely. Any grant towards the capital purchase sum for houses bought before 1960 would also come to an end.

In addition, the one let-out provided by the Bill, the discretionary grant which enables the Minister to make good anything which otherwise would not be permitted under the Financial Resolution, is deliberately excluded by the Amendment. Local authorities would get nothing after 1960, and they would lose benefits that they were beginning to obtain before then. I do not believe local authorities would jump at this proposal.

Mr. Mitchison

Unlike the city of Birmingham, I have seen this Amendment before, and I have no quarrel at all about the description of its effects given by the right hon. Gentleman. But he should remember the position of the Opposition in matters of this sort.

This is an exceedingly complicated Money Resolution. Its meaning has puzzled people much better versed in Money Resolutions than I am. It even puzzled the right hon. Gentleman, because during the meetings of the Committee he did not know what he could do under this Money Resolution. An Amendment from his hon. Friend the Member for Dulwich (Mr. Robert Jenkins) which otherwise he would have accepted—as we understood it—could not even be considered, because it was out of order.

As an Opposition, we regard it as our function to put up things for consideration, to make sure that they are in order for consideration, and to leave the Government—who have introduced a restrictive and complicated Money Resolution—to put right the money side of it, as only they can do.

Mr. Sandys

Then do I understand that hon. Members opposite do not really want their Amendment?

Mr. Mitchison

I can assure the right hon. Gentleman we would much rather the proviso was out. But were the proviso not there, the Amendment would be out of order and could not be discussed.

Mr. Sandys

Hon. Members have it so firmly in their heads that this is such a very tight Money Resolution that they have not availed themselves of its possibilities, which are more considerable than they seem to imagine.

Mr. C. W. Key (Poplar)

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way to me? l have not interrupted before. If that be so, and since he said in Committee that he felt a case had been made out for the extension of the time, will the Minister now say that he is prepared—leaving out all these provisos and everything else—to extend the time?

Mr. Sandys

I thought that before referring to that I should address myself to the Amendment which has been moved. The right hon. Gentleman shrugs his shoulders, but I think it was only courteous for me to address myself to the proposition put to the Committee by the party opposite, instead of brushing it aside and taking for granted that it was not satisfactory.

The right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton)—as did others—complained that we have a very rigid date and that the Bill provided no easement in difficult cases. During the Committee stage the Opposition originally asked for a general all-round extension of five years, but, in the course of the debate which took place upstairs, I think it was evident that what everyone who supported that Amendment had in mind was that there might be typical cases where an extension would be desirable.

Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham, North)

Like West Ham.

Mr. Sandys

I am not dealing specifically with the hon. Gentleman's constituency.

The hon. Member for Hackney, South (Mr. H. Butler) said that he thought, from what I had said during the Committee stage, that I was convinced of the necessity for this extension in particular cases. But I could not have made my position clearer than I then did, and I will read again to the Committee what I said. It was: I wish to make clear that my opinion, which remains unchanged, is that no extension of any kind is necessary. It should be perfectly possible, without undue strain upon the staffs of local authorities, to complete the necessary procedure for leases and purchases within the five-year period laid down in the Bill—and probably long before that. Hon. Members opposite may think it nonsense, but all that I was making clear was that I had not said that I was convinced by the arguments of hon. Members opposite. It may be unfortunate, but that is what I said. I went on to say: Nevertheless, I always like if possible "— I will leave out a few irrelevant words to proceed in these matters by agreement. If, therefore, hon. Members opposite would be willing not to press their request for a general five-year extension, and not to oppose the Motion, That the Clause stand part of the Bill, I, for my part, for the sake of agreement "— I would draw the attention of the Committee to that— would be prepared to consider introducing…at Report stage an Amendment on the lines of the Amendment on the Order Paper "— and I went on to say— with the inclusion…of some reasonable time-limit to the period for which the Minister would be empowered to extend requisitioning in the area concerned.

Mr. Mitchison

Will the right hon. Gentleman also read the words referring to the Financial Resolution?

Mr. Sandys

The hon. and learned Gentleman can himself read them out if he thinks they are relevant.

Mr. Mitchison

I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. The words are: redrafted in such a way as to bring it into order and not to conflict with the Financial Resolution….'—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee A,8th March, 1955; c. 54.] The right hon. Gentleman required time to consider how, and to what extent, he could do it.

Mr. Sandys

The Amendment was not in order. I did not say that I required time, but only that the Amendment required alteration if it was to be brought within the rules of order. I said that if the party opposite could accept that solution of the problem, and did not oppose the Clause, I would put down an Amendment on Report. The party opposite did not, in fact, accept that proposal and persisted in their opposition to the Clause.

5.45 p.m.

I am prepared once again to make an offer, not because I think it is necessary, but solely for the sake of agreement and good will. If hon. Members opposite decide not to divide on the Third Reading of the Bill, I will renew my offer. I suggest that the period of extension in cases of difficulty should be one of two years, which is considerably longer than I originally had in mind. As I say, I think it is quite unnecessary, but if it relieves anxiety among hon. Members opposite and among certain local authorities which are said to be concerned about it—of which I have no evidence—I am prepared to do that.

Mr. Lindgren

In order to get it quite clear, would the right hon. Gentleman's offer include Government contributions on deficiencies? Does it mean that during the extra two years those authorities who have sought such contributions, or which, in the Minister's view, require them, would be subject to the same conditions as under the existing five years?

Mr. Sandys

I will naturally consider that. The simplest way of dealing with it would be to draft the Amendment—which might have to be moved in another place—in such a way as to enable the discretionary grant to be continued after 1960. That can perfectly well be done within the scope of the Financial Resolution, and it would then leave it completely open to the Minister, who, after all, is responsible to Parliament, to make up the grant to such an extent as may be thought necessary.

Mr. Mitchison

What about the other grants?

Mr. Gibson

Under the present arrangements, 75 per cent. of the net annual grant should be borne by the Treasury. If this proposal were adopted, would that stop? If it would not, then how is it that the proposal is in order while the proposal put forward by the hon. Member for Dulwich (Mr. Robert Jenkins) is out of order?

Mr. Sandys

They are two quite different points. The hon. Gentleman's proposal affected equalisation grants, but had nothing to do with grants under this Bill.

Any grants in operation for lease or purchase before the end of 1960 will continue, and it was quite unnecessary under this Amendment to prevent them from continuing. So far as any expenses beyond 1960 are concerned, they can be dealt with, and, naturally, I give the Committee the assurance that they will be dealt with in a proper and generous way by means of the discretionary grant which is not limited under the Bill. It can cope with anything which the House may decide is required. I think that the whole position is completely safeguarded in that way.

I am not pressing hon. Members opposite to accept this proposal. I realise that they will wish to record their view that an additional five years is the right figure, and, for that reason, they will no doubt wish to divide in favour of the Amendment, unsatisfactory though its provisions are.

Mr. Shurmer

Upon the question of the general principle of an extension of two years, until 1962-if a local authority came forward and proved that, owing to unforeseen circumstances, it was unable to complete its task within that time, would the Minister consider still further extending the period on behalf of that local authority? He could do so; his offer is flexible.

Mr. Sandys

Two years means two years. My firm belief is that local authorities will complete this work quite comfortably within five years.

Mr. Shurmer

We shall see.

Mr. Sandys

I am trying to meet the anxieties expressed by hon. Members opposite, that in some cases local authorities might find that they were unable to complete the task within five years. My view is that an extra two years will be more than sufficient to take care of the more extreme cases. I expect that hon. Members opposite will wish to record their views now, but I would ask them to consider, between now and the Third Reading, whether they will not accept the offer I have made, for the sake of agreement.

Mr. Mitchison

I feel in considerable difficulty about an offer of this kind. As an offer made without a tie it would be a reasonable compromise, but the Minister is asking us not to accept what he apparently thinks would be right-and what we think would be right as far as it goes—unless we are prepared not to vote against the Third Reading of the Bill. Surely we may have other objections to the Bill which we are entitled, and, indeed, bound to express by going into the Division Lobby when the Question, That the Bill be now read the Third time, is put.

It is rather immoral—in a Parliamentary sense only, I agree, but still immoral—for a Minister upon the Government Front Bench to make an offer and to tie up that offer with the condition that we shall not vote against the Third Reading of the Bill. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not make that a condition of his offer. We should have no objection to his expressing a wish in the matter, but, to start with, we do not know what he will do about the remainder of the Bill, or how many contentious Amendments he will agree to. Surely he is not going to tell us that he will not accept any until he has heard what we say about them?

Mr. Sandys

I think that the hon. and learned Gentleman has misunderstood me. I was not asking anyone to express a view about this flatter now. By the time we reach the Third Reading hon. Members will see which Amendments have been accepted and which have not. They will be able to look at the Bill as a whole. I made my suggestion because I thought that it might be helpful but, if it is not, I ask hon. Members opposite to disregard it.

Mr. Mitchison

Then it is not conditional upon our not voting against the Third Reading?

Mr. Sandys

I am not asking hon. Members opposite to accept my suggestion. I regard this as a totally unnecessary Amendment, but if an extension of two years would please them and would result in our being able to agree upon the Bill in its final form—it has been much amended, and, in the view of hon. Members opposite, it has been much improved — I am prepared to make this proposal, purely for the sake of agreement. If it does not secure agreement, however, I do not wish to proceed with an Amendment which I regard as basically unnecessary.

Mr. W. Edwards

Is the Minister's offer to extend the period to 1962 conditional upon hon. Members upon this side of the Committee not voting against the Third Reading? Is the right hon. Gentleman going to say that if we vote against the Bill upon Third Reading the period in question will revert to 1960, and he will not be prepared to extend it to 1962?

Hon. Members


Mr. Sandys

I have made myself quite clear.

Mr. Edwards

You have not.

Mr. Lindgren

The statement to which we have just listened is most unsatisfactory in every respect. All the hon. Members who have spoken—including one hon. Member on the Minister's side of the Committee—are men and women who have to deal with this problem every day of their lives in local government. If they do not know the extent of the problem, who does? The Minister, sitting in Whitehall, in the seclusion of his office, may have his own views, and may consider that this task can be completed by 1960, but he has heard the voices of men and women who are doing the job, and yet all he has to say is that he thinks that an extension will not be necessary.

Some of us have been in local government for a long time, dealing with matters affecting the lives of the people. Hon. Members opposite who are solicitors may smile They are dealing with the property on behalf of the landlords, but we are dealing with it on behalf of the people who live in it. The only difference between hon. Members opposite who are solicitors and ourselves is that they receive a fee for their work and we do it for nothing.

Mr. Hay

And a rotten job the hon. Members opposite make of it.

Mr. Lindgren

Oh. The hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Hay) is now saying that hon. Members who bring to the House an experience of local government matters have not made a good job of local government. Although I may be praising myself, I should say that those who are most effective in the House, especially in matters of social legislation, are those who know what it involves and who carry out in the field the job involved.

Lawyers can sit here and gamble with words—there are lawyers on this side of the Committee and they agree with me, but I am dealing with the ones opposite at the moment. According to the Minis- ter, the lawyers upon this side of the Committee could not even word the Amendment in the right way.

Our view is that the Bill deals with people's lives, and we know what that means. Why are we suspicious about the Bill? We believe that the Bill has been introduced for the benefit of the landlords. The tenants do not need the Bill. It gives an advantage to the landlords at the expense of the tenants.

Why are we suspicious about the effect that it will have upon housing generally? When my right hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) and I had the privilege of serving in the Ministry in which the Minister now serves we did all that we could to reduce requisitioning and to encourage local authorities to hand back houses, especially those belonging to owners of one house who wanted to return to them. Local authorities co-operated fully in that aim.

Thousands upon thousands of houses were released to the owners who wanted to re-occupy them, those houses having been let during the war and then requisitioned either during or just subsequent to the war. Every one of the tenants who were moved out, and had previously come from a bombed house, was transferred by the local authority to a council house to the detriment of someone who was already upon the housing list. In carrying out the ordinary day-to-day job of handling derequisitioning for the benefit of the single-house landlord, local authorities therefore endangered the prospects of ordinary applicants who were already upon the housing lists.

It is true that during the Committee stage the Minister offered, when the appropriate time came, to accept certain Amendments to reduce the opportunity —which we feared existed when the Bill was introduced—of owners securing their properties and the tenants concerned being left high and dry by the local authorities—or the landlords obtaining their properties merely for the purpose of reselling them at a profit.

If those Amendments which are on the Order Paper are accepted by the Minister, and I have no reason to doubt that he will accept them, it will make it even more difficult for local authorities to finish this job by 1960. The London boroughs and outer London boroughs in particular, if they are not to prejudice the applicants already on their lists, cannot do the job by 1960. It is an impossibility. That also applies to cities like Birmingham.

6.0 p.m.

We are asking that there should be an opportunity for extension where a local authority satisfies the Minister that it will be necessary. The Minister has given his view, and I will give mine. Whether the Minister accepts the Amendment or not —whether he puts in the two years or not in another place—the problem will still be there in 1960, and there will have to be some amendment at some time. We are asking the Minister now to relieve local authorities of a considerable amount of anxiety as to whether or not, in the light of the circumstances which obtain and the way in which they handle the problem between now and 1960, the Minister will give them an extension.

I accept the Minister's castigation of the wording of the Amendment. If we can deal with this problem in the correct way, surely the matter of words is not one which the Government ought to boggle ever. We are not wedded to the words of the Amendment. We would gladly allow the Minister to take over the whole Amendment and reintroduce it in its correct form in another place.

The Minister has made an offer in regard to the two years. I will certainly discuss that on the appropriate occasion, but I must say that I do not like the Minister, at the outset, offering a concession with the proviso that we do not vote against the Third Reading of the Bill.

Either the Amendment is right or It is wrong. If there is substance in it—and the Minister tends to admit it, by the offer of two years—

Mr. Sandys

No, I do not. It is unnecessary.

Mr. Lindgren

If it is unnecessary, and the Minister takes that view, he should withdraw his offer. We consider that an extension is necessary. We do not say that it is necessary for every authority. We are prepared to make concessions about the selection of authorities, but I do not like accepting the Minister's offer on the basis of conditions about voting at some later stage.

Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)

Legislation by blackmail.

Mr. Lindgren

I shall, of course, discuss the matter with my colleagues in the light of what we shall do later about the Bill, so as to give the Minister an indication of what we propose to do. It is because we believe that this matter will have to be dealt with, either in this Bill or by amendment at some subsequent stage prior to 1960, that we propose to divide the Committee on the Amendment.

Mr. J. Silverman

I do not like the Minister's offer. We on this side of the Committee feel that the Bill is a thoroughly bad Bill. It is a property owners' Bill which will inflict hardship on thousands of families. We were invited by the Minister not to show our disapproval of the whole Bill on Third Reading if there is what amounts to a modest improvement of it by the Minister. Quite frankly, I do not like that at all.

In 1962, the problem will still remain. It may be a slightly diminished problem, but it will still be there, and the Bill will still be a bad Bill. Therefore, I hope that my hon. Friends will not accept the offer. I would also point out that the Minister's offer is a discretionary one. He is proposing to exercise his discretion as to what local authorities receive the benefits of this offer in 1960.

Mr. Harmar Nicholls (Peterborough)

That is what hon. Members opposite are asking for.

Mr. Silverman

I know, but the Minister has said that this Amendment is unnecessary. That throws considerable light upon how that discretion is likely to be used in 1960.

Mr. Sandys

Why I think the Amendment is unnecessary is because I believe that local authorities will have finished the job before March, 1960. [Horn. MEMBERS: " They cannot do it."] I am giving the reason why I consider it unnecessary. Hon. Gentlemen seem to attribute some other motives. The other point which the hon. Gentleman made was that the decision about this extension would be a matter for the discretion of the Minister. That is, of course, the purport of the Amendment of the party opposite.

Mr. Silverman

I agree that it is. That is why I think that this is a very modest Amendment. It is an Amendment which the Minister ought to agree to without any reservation or bargain whatsoever.

The right hon. Gentleman bases the Bill, apparently, on the assumption that the requisitioning of houses will, in fact, disappear by 1960. I should like to ask two questions on that aspect. First, has a single local authority with a substantial number of requisitioned houses indicated to him that it can liquidate its problem of requisitioning by 1960? If so, I will gladly give way to him, so that he can tell me what local authority has stated that it can do so.

Mr. Sandys

As I have said on more than one occasion, the whole of the scheme contained in the Bill in great detail has been approved and drawn up in agreement with all the local authority associations, representing all the local authorities.

Mr. Silverman

It is all very well for the Minister to talk about local authority associations which represent so many hundreds of local authorities. I am dealing with the specific local authorities concerned—fewer than 50—which have a substantial number of requisitioned houses. Has any one of those local authorities indicated to the Minister that it could liquidate this problem by 1960?

Mr. Lewis

The Minister himself represents one part of Wandsworth which, I believe, has the largest number of requisitioned houses in London. Would my hon. Friend ask the Minister whether his local authority has given him an assurance that it can deal with this problem by 1960?

Mr. Silverman

I have asked the right hon. Gentleman a general question which includes his own local authority. The Minister has not indicated one local authority which can liquidate this problem by 1960.

The Minister's argument is apparently based on the sheerest optimism. It is baseless optimism, because he has not shown any reason why this problem should evaporate. If he believes that the problem will have disappeared by 1960, why have the Bill at all? The Amendment deals with one problem with which the Minister has not dealt. What is to happen in 1960 if, notwithstanding the Minister's optimism, there is still a large number of requisitioned houses? What will happen to the tenants of those houses? The Minister has not answered that question. Will they be turned into the streets? If not, the only alternative is that they will be rehoused at the expense of other people on the housing register.

Mr. Hay

They will stay where they are.

Mr. Silverman

They cannot stay where they are. They will be trespassers in 1960. The council can buy only if the owner wants to sell.

Mr. Sandys

Perhaps I can shorten the debate by reminding the hon. Gentleman that under the Bill the council has the right to grant for leasing a house and to grant to help it to buy the house. Not only do councils have the right to buy by agreement, but nothing in the Bill, as I explained at considerable length, both on Second Reading and the Committee stage, deprives them of the right, which they already have, of buying the house by compulsory purchase. I went into that point at considerable length in reply to an Amendment moved by the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) during the Committee stage. I assure hon. Members that that is correct.

If the council cannot make satisfactory arrangements for a lease or purchase or persuading the owners to take on the licensees as statutory tenants, in the last resort the local authority still has the right to buy the house by compulsory purchase. That is why I cannot conceive that local authorities will not be able to complete the job within five years.

Mr. Mitchison

Might I also remind my hon. Friend the Member for Erdington (Mr. J. Silverman) of the Minister's own words? He told us that there was no hope at all— …I make it quite clear, no hope at all—in the majority of the London boroughs where the problem is acute of providing within five years alternative accommodation for all the people now living in these requisitioned houses."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee A,3rd March, 1955; c. 43.] He did not mention Birmingham, unfortunately.

Mr. E. Fernyhough (Jarrow)

I wish that he had done so.

Mr. Silverman

The problem exists in Birmingham, as well as elsewhere. Does the Minister remember the Housing Act, 1936? I very much doubt whether such power of compulsory purchase exists. if it does, it exists subject to the Minister's consent in the case of each individual house.

Mr. H. Nicholls

In the Amendment, and in their speeches, hon. Members opposite are asking that the Minister shall give his consent, and the Minister is explaining very clearly that the Minister of the day will have the power to give consent for the compulsory purchase if it is needed because the owner will not sell.

Mr. Silverman

Suppose the right hon. Gentleman is correct, and that this compulsory purchase power does exist. It is subject to the consent of the Minister, that is consent in the case of each individual house. It will be a lengthy process to get the Minister's consent in each case. Goodness knows how long the procedure will take.

Mr. Nicholls

Even if the procedure is as long-winded as the hon. Member is suggesting, the tenant could not be turned out of the house while that procedure was going on, and I thought that that was the whole burden of the argument.

6.15 p.m.

Mr. Silverman

The tenant can be turned out of the house in 1960 unless there has been compulsory purchase before that.

What I am saying is that this is a slow, laborious, difficult and expensive process, even if it is correct in law, which I very

much doubt. I do not think that local authorities go in for this procedure. I do not know of any local authority which does. Even in those circumstances, the local authorities would have to pay a price based on the scarcity value of the house, with vacant possession.

Everybody knows that local authorities can buy houses, if they so desired, at the present time, but they have to pay enormous prices to do so. The price will be based upon the vacant possession selling value, which in no case will be the real value of the house. The Minister's arguments are insufficient to show that the problem will disappear within the time he proposes. The Bill is, therefore, a bad Bill. I think that the Minister's offer is unacceptable, and I hope that my hon. Friends will divide the Committee.

Mr. M. Turner-Samuels (Gloucester)

I want to make a suggestion. I am sure that the Minister does not want to be stubborn about this matter. As I understand it, he says that he is certain that this provision will not be required after 1960. That is one view. As I understand it, many of the local authorities say it will be necessary to extend the time to 1965. If the Minister is so certain about his view, why not make the date 1965, and, in the Bill, give the House power, by Resolution, to bring the provision to an end at an earlier date, if its usefulness has expired? That would be a proper solution, and if the Minister does not accept that he is being nothing other than recalcitrant.

Question put, That those words be there inserted:-

The Committee divided: Ayes 205, Noes 228.

Division No. 54.] AYES [6.19 p.m.
Adams, Richard Bowles, F. G. Darling, George (Hillsborough)
Allen, Arthur (Bosworth) Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Brook, Dryden (Halifax) Davies, Harold (Leek)
Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven) Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Brown, Thomas (Ince) Deer, G.
Awbery, S. S. Burke, W. A. Delargy, H. J.
Bacon, Miss Alice Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.) Dodds, N. N.
Balfour, A. Callaghan, L. J. Donnelly, D. L.
Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J. Champion, A. J. Driberg, T. E. N.
Benn, Hon. Wedgwood Clunie, J. Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwch)
Benson, G. Coldrick, W. Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.
Beswick, F. Collick, P. H. Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse)
Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale) Collins, V. J. Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)
Bing, C. H. C. Cove, W. G. Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)
Blackburn, F. Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)
Blenkinsop, A. Crossman, R. H. S. Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury)
Blyton, W. R. Cullen, Mrs. A. Fernyhough, E.
Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G. Daises, P. Finch, H. J.
Bowden, M. W. Dalton, Rt. Hon. H. Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.)
Foot, M. M. Logan, D. G. Shackleton, E. A. A.
Forman, J. C. McInnes, J. Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.
Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) McKay, John (Wallsend) Short, E. W.
Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N. McLeavy, F. Shurmer, P. L. E.
Gibson, C. W. MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles) Silverman, Julius (Erdington)
Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C. Mainwaring, W. H. Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)
Grey, C. F. Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Skeffington, A. M.
Griffiths, David (Bother Valley) Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfd, E.) slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke-on-Trent)
Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly) Mann, Mrs. Jean Slater, J. (Durham, Sedgefield)
Griffiths, William (Exchange) Manuel, A. C. Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)
Hale, Leslie Mason, Roy Sorensen, R. W.
Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley) Mayhew, C. P. Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
Hall, John T. (Gateshead, W.) Messer, Sir F. Sparks, J. A.
Hannan, W. Mitchison, G. R. Steele, T.
Hargreaves, A. Moody, A. S. Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)
Harrison, J. (Nottingham, E.) Morgan, Dr. H. B. W. Stross, Dr. Barnett
Hastings, S. Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.) Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.
Hayman, F. H. Morrison,Rt.Hn.Herbert(Lewis'm,S.) Swingler, S. T.
Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis) Moyle, A. Taylor, John (West Lothian)
Herbison, Miss M. Nally, W. Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)
Hobson, C. R. Neal, Harold (Bolsover) Thornton, E.
Holman, P. Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J. Timmons, J.
Houghton, Douglas Midfield, W. H. Turner-Samuels, M.
Hoy, J. H. Oliver, G. H. Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn
Hubbard, T. F. Oswald, T. Viant, S. P.
Hudson, James (Ealing, N.) Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury) Warbey, W. N.
Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey) Palmer, A. M. F. Watkins, T. E.
Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Pannell, Charles Webb, Rt. Hon. M. (Bradford, C.)
Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe) Pargiter, G. A. Weitzman, D.
Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill) Parker, J. Wells, Percy (Faversham)
Irving, W. J. (Wood Green) Paton, J. West, D. G.
Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A. Pearson, A. Wheeldon, W. E.
Janner, B. Pearl, T. F. White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)
Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T. Plummer, Sir Leslie White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)
Jeger, Mrs. Lena Popplewell, E. Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
Johnston, Douglas (Paisley) Porter, C. Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.
Jones, David (Hartlepool) Price, J. T. (Westhoughton) Wilkins, W. A.
Jones, Frederick Elwyn (W. Ham, S.) Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.) Willey, Frederick
Jones, James (Wrexham) Probert, A. R. Williams, David (Heath)
Keenan, W. Proctor, W. T. Williams, Ronald (Wigan)
Kenyon, C. Pryde, D. J. Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)
Key, Rt. Hon. C. W. Rankin, John Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)
King, Dr. H. M. Reid, Thomas (Swindon) Willis, E. G.
Kinley, J. Reid, William (Camlachie) Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Lawson, C. M. Rhodes, H. Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)
Lee, Frederick (Newton) Robens, Rt. Hon. A. Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Lever, Harold (Cheetham) Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Yates, V. F.
Lever, Leslie (Ardwick) Robinson, Kenneth (St. Panoras, N.) Younger, Rt. Hon. K.
Lewis, Arthur Rogers, George (Kensington, N.) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Lindgren, G. S. Ross, William Mr. Wallace sad Mr. James Johnson.
Aitken, W. T. Carr, Robert Foster, John
Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J. Cary, Sir Robert Galbraith, Rt. Hon. T. D. (Pollok)
Armstrong, C. W. Channon, H. Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)
Ashton, H. (Chelmsford) Clarke, Col. Sir Ralph (E. Grinstead) Garner-Evans, E. H.
Assheton, Rt. Hn.R. (Blackburn, W.) Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.) Glover, D.
Baldwin, A. E. Cole, Norman Gomme-Duncan, Col. A.
Banks, Col. C. Conant, Maj. Sir Roger Gower, H. R.
Barlow, Sir John Cooper-Key, E. M. Graham, Sir Fergus
Baxter, Sir Beverley Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne) Gresham Cooke, R.
Beach, Maj. Hicks Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hn. H. F. C. Grimond, J.
Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.) Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)
Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.) Crowder, Sir John (Finchley) Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)
Bennett, Sir William (Woodside) Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood) Hall, John (Wycombe)
Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth) Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.) Hare, Hon. J. H.
Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel Davidson, Viscountess Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.)
Bishop, F. P. Deedes, W. F. Harris, Reader (Heston)
Black, C. W. Digby, S. Wingfield Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)
Boothby, Sir Robert Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. MoA. Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfd)
Bossom, Sir A. C. Donner, Sir P. W. Harvie, Watt, Sir George
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A. Doughty, C. J. A. Hay, John
Boyle, Sir Edward Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond) Head, Rt. Hon. A. H.
Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.) Duncan, Capt. J. A. L. Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel
Braithwaite, Sir Gurney Duthie, W. S. Heath, Edward
Brooman-White, R. C. Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West) Higgs, J. M. C.
Browne, Jack (Govan) Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E. Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton)
Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. C. T. Fell, A. Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)
Bullard, D. G. Finlay, Craeme Hill, John (S. Norfolk)
Bullus, Wing Commander E. E. Fisher, Nigel Hinchingbrooke, Viscount
Burden, F. F. A. Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F. Hirst, Geoffrey
Campbell, Sir David Fletcher-Cooke, C. Holland-Martin, C. J.
Holt, A. F. Maitland, Patrick (Lanark) Shepherd, William
Hope, Lord John Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R. Smithers, Peter (Winchester)
Hopkinson, Rt. Hon. Henry Markham, Major Sir Frank Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)
Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives) Marlowe, A. A. H. Soames, Capt. C.
Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.) Marples, A. E. Spearman, A. C. M.
Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.) Marshall, Douglas (Bodmin) Speir, R. M.
Hughes Hallett, Vioe-Admiral J. Maude, Angus Spence, H. R. (Aberdeenshire, W.)
Hulbert, Wing Cmdr. N. J. Maydon, LL.-Comdr. S. L. C. Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir P. (K'ns'gtn, S.)
Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'gh,W.) Medlicott, Sir Frank Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard
Hutchison, James (Scotstoun) Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R. Stevens, Geoffrey
Hylton-Foster, Sir H. B. H. Morrison, John (Salisbury) Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)
Iremonger, T. L. Nabarro, G. D. N. Steward, William (Woolwich, W.)
Jennings, Sir Roland Heave, Airey Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)
Johnson, Erio (Blackley) Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham) Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.
Jones, A. (Hall Green) Nicholson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.) Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)
Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W. Noble, Comdr. A. H. P. Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)
Kaberry, D. Nugent, G. R. H. Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)
Kerby, Capt. H. B. Oakshott, H. D. Sutcliffe, Sir Harold
Kerr, H. W. Odey, G. W. Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)
Lambert, Hon. G. O'Neill, Hon. Phelim(Co. Antrim, N.) Tooling, W.
Lambton, Viscount Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D. Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)
Lancaster, Col. C. G. Orr, Capt. L. P. S. Thomas, P. J. M (Conway)
Langford-Holt, J. A. Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.) Thompson, Lt-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.)
Leather, E. H. C. Page, R. G. Thorneycroft, Rt. Hn. P. (M'nm'th)
Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H. Peake, Rt. Hon. O. Thornton-Kemsley, Mr. C. N.
Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield) Perkins, Sir Robert Touche, Sir Gordon
Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T. Peto, Brig. C. H. M. Turner, H. F. L.
Linstead, Sir H. N. Peyton, J. W. W. Vane, W. M. F.
Llewellyn, D. T. Plckthorn, K. W. M. Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.
Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.) Pilkington, Capt. R. A. Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Lloyd, George, Maj. Rt. Hon. C. Powell, J. Enoch Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'le'bne)
Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C. Profumo, J. D. Wall, Major Patrick
Longden, Gilbert Raikes, Sir Victor Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)
Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.) Rees-Davies, W. R. Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)
Lucas, P. B. (Brentford) Renton, D. L. M. Watkinson, H. A.
Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Ridsdale, J. E. Wellwood, W.
McCallum, Major D. Roberts, Peter (Heeley) Williams, Rt. Hn. Charles (Torquay)
McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S. Robertson, Sir David Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)
Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry Roper, Sir Harold Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
MoKibbin, A. J. Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard Wills, G.
Mackie, J. H. (Galloway) Russell, R. S. Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Maclay, Rt. Hon. John Ryder, Capt. R. E. D. Wood, Hon. R.
Maclean, Fitzroy (Lancaster) Sandys, Rt. Hon. D. Woollam, John Victor
McLean, Neil (Inverness) Savory, Prof. Sir Douglas TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Macleod, Rt. Hn. lain (Enfield, W.) Schofield, Lt.-Col. W. Sir Cedric Drewe and Mr. Studholme.
MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty) Scott, Sir Donald
Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries) Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.