HC Deb 19 March 1956 vol 550 cc823-4
38. Mr. Sydney Irving

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government if he is aware of the concern which has arisen as a consequence of his ruling that the members of the Dartford Rural District Council who are tenants of council houses were debarred from voting in connection with local council house rents when he gave approval to other members of the same council who are owner-occupiers to vote on the charges for emptying cesspools in which they have an interest; and if he will issue further instructions to clarify the position.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Mr. J. Enoch Powell)

As regards the first case mentioned, I would refer the hon. Member to my right hon. Friend's reply to the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) on 28th February, 1956.

In the second case mentioned, my right hon. Friend took the view that the degree of pecuniary interest involved was not enough to justify refusing the application.

Mr. Irving

Whilst thanking the hon. Gentleman for that reply, may I ask if he is aware that the degrees of difference in these cases are too subtle for ordinary people to determine, and that all that happens, it appears, is a capricious exercise of the discretion of the Minister, which can only cast doubt on his impartiality in this matter? Will the hon. Gentleman review the whole situation?

Mr. Powell

The decision in the latter case is covered by precedent and the situation in regard to councillors who are council tenants was dealt with fully in the reply of my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Mitchison

Will the hon. Gentleman and his right hon. Friend consider sympathetically extending a little what was said in the statement, and extending it to cases where—as here—a substantial number of councillors are involved, although they do not actually quite amount to a majority?