HC Deb 03 June 1957 vol 571 cc1026-9
Mr. T. Fraser

I beg to move, in page 17, line 21, at the end to insert: (c) the amount of the improvement grant authorised by section one hundred and twelve of the principal Act and made in respect of the dwelling and the date on which it was so made. The Amendment deals with the registers of rents or dwellings which have been provided or improved with the assistance of improvement grants. We have never had any justification of the Clause at any time up to now, and we are getting near the end of House of Commons consideration of the Bill. We do not know why the Clause is in the Bill at all, but it provides that the rents of these houses, built or improved with improvement grants, will be recorded in a register maintained by the local authority and open for inspection.

If the rent of a house is to be made available for inspection, including the amount to which the rent is limited and the increase in the amount of the rent—provided by the original Act under which the improvements were made possible—it would seem not unreasonable that the amount of grant paid from public funds in respect of the house and the date on which it was paid should also be included in the register kept by the local authority. If nosey-parkers want to find out what Mrs. Jones is paying rent for a house improved with the aid of an improvement grant, they might well like to know what the landlord received in value from the Exchequer and from the local authority to bring about the improvement of the house.

It would be desirable to know when the grant was made because if it was made at a certain time the increase in rent would be 6 per cent. of the landlord's expenditure and if it was made at a certain other time the increase would be 8 per cent. of the expenditure. It would be Worth while having this information included in a public record made available in the local authority office, just as other matters set out in the Clause are to be made available, though we repeat that we have no idea why the Clause is in the Bill at all.

Mr. Ross

I beg to second the Amendment.

We galloped through the proceedings in the Scottish Standing Committee at such a pace that we omitted to deal with this Clause. In future Scottish legislation we shall see that that does not happen again.

I hope that the Joint Under-Secretary will not tell my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) that this matter could be quite well covered by the words in subsection (1, d): ''such other information as may be prescribed in the regulations. The point has been very well made in relation to this improvement grant and this register that the most important thing to record is the actual amount of the grant and the date, because the rent chargeable is to a considerable extent dependent upon the amount of the grant. The Joint Under-Secretary should not tell us that this information might come under the phrase "such other information" in the Clause. He should tell us that it will, and then we shall all go home perfectly happy.

Mr. J. N. Browne

I think that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) will go home happy when he has heard my explanation.

The reason for this Clause was that under the Valuation and Rating (Scotland) Act, 1956—the Sorn Act—where a house is subject to an improvement grant, the new rent consequent on taking off owner's rates had to be recorded in the Register of Sasines. It was pointed out that it would be a very large job for the local authorities to amend all the rents of improved houses in that register, so an opportunity was taken to alter the system to a more convenient arrangement.

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the full information, including the amount of grant and the date on which the work was completed, will continue to be in the Register of Sasines in Edinburgh—is the hon. Gentleman worried?

Mr. Fraser

The amount of the increase in rent is related to the amount of the grant. If we make available to the nosey-parker in every local office in the country the increase in rent paid by Mrs. Jones, how can that information be made available unless there is also made available the amount of grant, and why cannot that be included in the register?

Mr. Browne

I am coming to that. I wanted to make it clear that the information which it was asked should be made available in the local authority register is already available. The purpose of this Clause, therefore, is to relieve the local authorities from amending the Register of Sasines.

Local authorities already keep a condition of grant register, and under this Clause they will either have to amend their present register, which does not take account of the alteration of Sorn rentals, or they will have to set up a new register of rents. Their present register includes the amount of improvement grant, so that if they work on their present register, the information which the hon. Gentleman seeks is already there. If, however, they decide to set up a new register of rents, we do not want to require them to duplicate the information in the second register because their present register includes it.

Whatever course the local authority decides to take, the information about the extent of the improvement grant and the date on which the work was completed will be available to anybody who asks for it. This point will, if necessary, be dealt with in the regulations that can be prescribed under paragraph (d) of Clause 21 (1). I repeat that the information which the hon. Gentleman seeks to include is already available in the local authority offices, and will continue to be available.

Mr. T. Fraser

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Speaker

I do not know whether it is possible to take the next three Amendments together?

Mr. Ross

I think that we should be kind to the Solicitor-General, Mr. Speaker, and, therefore, I do not propose to move my Amendment in page 18, line 27, to leave out subsection (4).

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman. I think that we have met his main point in the next two Amendments.

I beg to move, in page 18, line 30, to leave out from "for" to first "and" in line 33, and to insert: early entry on land)". This is a tidying up Amendment, to which I can speak if necessary.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In page 18, line 35, leave out from "provision" to "with" in line 36.—[The Solicitor-General for Scotland.]