HC Deb 12 December 1961 vol 651 cc207-8
30. Mr. Fletcher

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs whether he will introduce legislation as a matter of urgency to give local authorities extended powers to deal with the growing problem of homeless families.

Dr. Hill

Local authorities already possess adequate powers to deal with this problem, including the power to acquire empty premises by agreement or compulsorily. Accordingly, powers to requisition empty premises are unnecessary. Power to requisition occupied property would be pointless.

Mr. Fletcher

May we take it from that reply that the right hon. Gentleman will support any application by any local authority to acquire by requisition any empty property for housing the increasing number of homeless families in London?

Dr. Hill

I have made it abundantly plain to the London County Council that if compulsory purchase orders are made on empty property, with the purpose which the hon. Gentleman has in mind, I will expedite with all possible speed the consideration of those orders. I should add that over the past six months during which this problem has been causing considerable concern I have had no such applications.

Mr. M. Stewart

Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that, however much he expedites consideration of compulsory purchase orders, compulsory purchase is still a slow process—too slow in this emergency—and that it is from that fact that the need for requisitioning powers arises?

Dr. Hill

The post-war requisitioning powers took on average about six weeks, while compulsory purchase may be assumed to take 12 to 13 weeks. The difference in time between the two procedures is due to the fact that there is a proper right of appeal by the owner against what is proposed.

Mr. Speaker

Questions to the Prime Minister.

Mr. Dance

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I have had Question No. 33 on the Order Paper for early answer for the past four weeks. As the Minister of Housing and Local Government now goes to the bottom of the list, how can I possibly get my Question answered?

Mr. Speaker

I express sympathy with the hon. Gentleman but I cannot deal with it or with a point of order now.