HC Deb 25 July 1963 vol 681 cc1839-42

Lords Amendment: In line 32, leave out from "maintain" to end of line 15 on page 30 and insert: in such form and manner as they think appropriate records showing the need for the time being of Greater London with respect to housing accommodation. (2) Any application for housing accommodation maintained by a housing authority in Greater London—

  1. (a) if the applicant is resident in a London borough, whether or not the accommodation is sought in that borough, shall be made to the council of that borough; or
  2. (b) in any other case, shall be made to the Greater London Council who may, if they think fit, transmit the application to such of the London borough councils as they think appropriate,
and shall include information on such matters as the Greater London Council may require for the purposes of their functions under subsection (1) of this section. (3) Each London borough council shall establish and maintain a register of all applications duly made to them under subsection (2,a) or transmitted to them under subsection (2,b) of this section which are for the time being outstanding, and shall furnish to the Greater London Council such particulars in such form as the Greater London Council may require for the purposes of their functions under subsection (1) of this section—
  1. (a) of any such application as aforesaid; and
  2. (b) of the steps taken by the borough council to satisfy the needs of persons requir ing housing accommodation maintained by that borough council.
(4) Subsections (2) and (3) of this section shall apply to the City as if it were a London borough and the Common Council were the council of that London borough.

Sir K. Joseph

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.

It was a strong recommendation of the Royal Commission that the G.L.C. and the London boroughs should co-ordinate their arrangements for housing information for Londoners. There are several major defects in the knowledge that the authorities of London, both outer and inner, have about housing need. First, housing applications may be duplicated. Secondly, some boroughs only register applications after residents have lived in the borough for a certain number of years.

On the first point, that of the duplication effect, this causes the housing lists to be overstated and the housing need to be understated. There are numerous other defects in assessing accurately the housing need and in the Clause as origin ally drafted there were complicated provisions. The boroughs and the G.L.C. should be able to know the necessary information on which to judge what their housing programmes should be.

In Committee, my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary undertook to take the Clause back and simplify it after having expert consultation. That consultation has taken place, with representatives of the Metropolitan Boroughs Standing Joint Committee, the Association of Municipal Corporations, the Urban District Councils Association and the L.C.C. The Amendment has been accepted by all of those representatives, but not formally by their associations. It is designed to simplify the arrangements for the collection and use of housing information for the G.L.C. and the boroughs.

Mr. Arthur Skeffington (Hayes and Harlington)

The Amendment represents a considerable improvement on the Clause as originally drafted. Hon. Members who were unfortunate enough to have been members of the Committee will recall the discussion we had on this aspect on 9th February, when it was pointed out that the Clause as drafted was extremely rigid and that it would involve on the Greater London Council, and on the new London boroughs, a heavy administrative task in relation to the effect necessary to get the requisite information in the form precisely described.

I recall the undertaking given by the Parliamentary Secretary. Shortly after that a working party was set up to investigate the matter. The result of its efforts, and the Amendment, will enable the picture of housing need for the whole London area to be assessed and it will mean that, as a result of the various parties getting together—the G.L.C. and the boroughs—there will be a suitable transfer of information over stated periods rather than thousands of individual applications having to be forwarded. The revised formula is a great improvement on the original.

The new arrangement will be more practical and less complicated to operate and I imagine that it goes some way to meet the recommendation of the Royal Commission in paragraph 797 with regard not only to obtaining accurate information, but to the necessity to see that there is some degree of assessing housing need on a common basis. This has for long been the desire of the Minister's Central Housing Advisory Committee and it seems anomalous that in certain cases one's chance of getting a council house may depend on the prevailing conditions in the borough in which one is living.

If one is an ex-Service man, or has lived in the borough for a certain length of time, one may be given a number of points on the waiting list denied in another. I hope that not only will common standards be observed but that the practice of closing lists, which has a dispiriting effect on those who are in need of houses, will be discontinued.

Since the Amendment represents a considerable improvement on the original drafting, and having expressed my gratitude to the Parliamentary Secretary for discharging his undertaking, I give my support to the Amendment.

Dr. Alan Glyn

I welcome this Amendment because it provides a practical improvement in dealing with duplication of the housing lists. I hope, as the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington) has said, that it will lead to a common system of allocation of points and so obviate such wide differences in various areas and that we shall be able to know the exact housing requirements in London. As things are at present, with one list from the borough and another from the central authority, it is quite impossible to know those requirements. This Amendment will enable us to make a proper assessment of our Metropolitan housing needs.

Question put and agreed to.