HC Deb 25 October 1960 vol 627 cc2138-41
30. Mr. Pavitt

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs how many local authorities have acted on the advice contained in paragraph 8 of Circular No. 45/60.

34. Mr. Mellish

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs the number of applications submitted to his Department for compulsory purchase orders by councils in London and Middlesex, as a consequence of his suggestion to local authorities to make such applications where they consider landlords are asking unfair rent of their tenants.

35. Mr. K. Robinson

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs what response he has had to his circular No. 45/60 of 18th August on the subject of the Rent Act, 1957, which was addressed to housing authorities in Greater London; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. H. Brooke

Three metropolitan borough councils and one Middlesex borough council have taken action and, in all, have submitted five compulsory purchase orders, two of which have subsequently been withdrawn following further negotiations between the tenants and their landlords.

Mr. Pavitt

Does the Minister think that number is adequate in view of the large number of letters about specific cases sent by hon. Members on this side of the House? Can the Minister say how long it takes from the intimation of a compulsory purchase order until the confirmation? What advice does he give to local authorities in the meantime so far as tenants confronted with eviction are concerned?

Mr. Brooke

I cannot say whether the number is adequate. The local authorities are free to submit all the compulsory purchase orders they think fit. There is a further Question on the Order Paper about the length of time.

Mr. Mellish

That is the whole point. Local authorities are entirely free. Does the Minister believe that Tory borough councils in London and Middlesex will put compulsory purchase orders on private property when they have declared themselves against such a principle?

Mr. Brooke

I am certainly aware that all Tory borough councils will do their duty in every circumstance.

Mr. Robinson

Is not the Minister aware that many Tory borough councils have already expressed their intention to make no submissions to him for compulsory purchase orders and is it not perfectly clear that this circular is a useless bit of window dressing which does nothing to assist in the solution of the problem?

Mr. Brooke

The circular has been very successful in its effect already. As I have said, in two cases agreement has been reached between tenant and landlord—[HON. MEMBERS: "TWO?"]—yes two out of five. No local authority has informed me that it does not intend to take any action in any circumstances.

Mr. Robert Jenkins

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, as a result of the circular he sent out, a number of Tory borough councils have intimated to landlords that they were considering making compulsory purchase orders? Further, is he aware that one London borough has in fact intimated to landlords that it proposed to do so and as a result one of the worst type of landlords in London has capitulated, in Chelsea, to the tenants?

Mr. Brooke

I am much obliged to my hon. Friend. I think the effect of this circular has been very salutary. It is most significant that, although the circular came out two months ago, only five compulsory purchase orders have so far been submitted.

31. Mr. Pavitt

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs if he will now amplify his statement contained in paragraph 7 of Circular 45/60; and what proportion of the burden of dealing with swindlers in the housing market is to be borne by local authorities.

Mr. H. Brooke

The circular seems to have been well understood, and I have nothing to add to it. As for the burden, that depends upon the price local authorities have to pay if they buy property, and upon the rents they charge. No grant is payable.

Mr. Pavitt

Can the Minister amplify his phrase regarding swindlers? Does he class as swindlers people who buy property for the sole purpose of selling it again quickly at a large profit?

Mr. Brooke

I do not think I can define the word "swindlers" any better than a dictionary can. What I am concerned about is enabling local authorities to take appropriate action, and that they have been doing in those cases where they thought fit. They have been perfectly free to act as they thought right.

Mr. Brockway

Why has the Minister limited the dispatch of this circular to the Greater London area? Is he aware that in many other boroughs there is a need almost as great as that in London? Is he aware that in Slough there are between 400 and 500 cases in which rents have been increased by 100 per cent., including those of old-age pensioners? Will he take some action on behalf of those people as well as those in London?

Mr. Brooke

It is not a question of whether rents have been increased, but of whether the landlord is asking extortionate rents. I addressed the circular to the London and Greater London local authorities because hardly any complaints had been received at that time from the rest of England and Wales, but I have said in public that if any other local authority finds cases in which it thinks it ought to submit compulsory purchase orders they will be carefully considered.