HC Deb 06 March 1962 vol 655 cc198-200
20. Mr. Fank Allaun

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs if he is satisfied with the fact that out of 129,334 dwellings improved with grants in the last twelve months only 25,462 were private landlords' houses; and what steps he proposes to secure the installation of more baths, inside toilets and hot water systems, other than by further monetary incentives to landlords.

Dr. Hill

As the hon. Member may know, the number of dwellings improved with grant is now between three and four times the annual rate prior to the House Purchase and Housing Act, 1959. In 1958, about 31,000 private dwellings were improved with grant. Last year, the figure was almost 86,000, and private landlords alone improved over 25,000. These results are encouraging and I see no immediate need for further measures to stimulate improvements beyond those which have been introduced in the Housing Act, 1961.

Mr. Allaun

Compared with the millions of houses, that is a flea-bite. Is it not evident that the generous grants to landlords have failed, that the publicity about these grants has failed, and that bigger bribes still to landlords will equally fail? Will the Minister, therefore, consider the proposal of the men who know, the 2,000 who attended the public health inspectors' conference, their idea being that where a house is suitable it should be compulsory on the landlord to use the grant?

Dr. Hill

At this stage, no. I regard the progress which is being made as steady. I should like to see more. There are many problems involved in compulsion—the landlord's financial capacity, the tenant's financial capacity to pay increased rent, the loss of a room in adding a bathroom, and so on. The difficulties are many. I do not exclude further measures at a future time, but for the moment I want to see the result particularly of the permitted increase in rent from 8 per cent. to 12½ per cent. under the Housing Act, 1961.

Mrs. Slater

Does the Minister mean that people who live in these houses without bathrooms and inside toilets are to be condemned at the pleasure of the landlord to go on living in these terrible conditions? Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that if these improvements were made in these houses it would probably save some of them from becoming slums in ten years' time and, therefore, save the need for the building of a large number of council houses later?

Dr. Hill

What I mean is that I want more and more improvements in privately-owned property, in landlords' property and in all kinds of property. I am not prepared at this stage to go to compulsion in order to secure that end.