§ [Queen's Recommendation signified]
§ Considered in Committee under Standing Order No. 88 (Money Committees).
§ [SIR ROBERT GRIMSTON in the Chair]
§ Motion made, and Question proposed,
§ That, for the purposes of any Act of this Session to set up a new body to assist housing societies to provide housing accommodation and to amend in other respects the law relating to housing, it is expedient to authorise payments out of the Consolidated Fund and out of money provided by Parliament, payments into the Exchequer and the borrowing of money, under the following heads.
§ (1) The issue out of the Consolidated Fund of such sums as may be required—
§ (a) for the purpose of making advances not exceeding one hundred million pounds to the body set up under the new Act;
§ (b) for the purpose of making advances under, and subject to the limits in, section 18(1) of the Scottish Act of 1962 to the Scottish Special Housing Association to assist them to act as agents of the said body,
§ and the borrowing in any manner authorised under the National Loans Act 1939 and payment into the Exchequer of any money needed for providing or replacing such sums and the repayment into the Exchequer, with interest, of any such sums and their re-issue out of the Consolidated Fund.
§ (2) The payment out of money provided by Parliament of remuneration and other sums payable to, or in respect of the services of, members of the said body.
§ B. The payment out of money provided by Parliament of sums becoming so payable in consequence of amending existing enactments as follows—
§ 1. Amendments of the law relating to improvement grants or standard grants which increase expenses incurred by local authorities in making those grants and correspondingly increase Exchequer contributions to those expenses under section 36 of the Act of 1958 or section 116 of the Scottish Act of 1950.
§ 3. The substitution for the annual sums payable by way of contributions or payments under sections 105 and 121 of the Scottish Act of 1950 and section 14 of the Scottish Act of 1962 of annual sums equal to three-eighths of the loan charges referable to the expenditure likely to be incurred by—
- (a) local authorities in connection with approved improvement proposals;
- (b) housing associations and development corporations in connection with arrangements with local authorities for the provision of dwellings by means of the conversion of houses or other buildings or for the improvement of dwellings;
- (c) housing associations in connection with arrangements with the Secretary of State for the provision of housing accommodation by the conversion or improvement of existing houses or by the conversion of other buildings.
§ 4. The application to the Commission for the New Towns and development corporations of section 9 of the Act of 1958, section 13 of the Act of 1959 and section 105 of the Act of 1950 (Exchequer contributions to local authorities in respect of the provision or improvement of dwellings by those local authorities).
§ 6. The increase by £5 of the annual payments of £3 and £7 5s. payable to local authorities under section 13(2)(b) of the Act of 1958 and section 4(2)(b) of the Housing (Repairs and Rents) (Scotland) Act 1954 (Exchequer contributions for local authorities buying or holding unfit houses for temporary accommodation).
§ 7. An amendment of the provisions of Part I of the Scottish Act of 1962 relating to the payment of Exchequer subsidies in respect of new houses provided by the Scottish Special Housing Association, being an amendment providing for the payment, under and in accordance with the provisions of the said Part I, of an annual Exchequer subsidy in respect of each new house provided by the said Association in accordance with approved proposals, being a house provided in the district of any local authority in accordance with arrangements made with the approval of the Secretary of State as being desirable by reason of special circumstances for the provision of housing accommodation in any area for persons coming to that area in order to meet the urgent needs of industry.
§ 8. An amendment of section 10 of the Scottish Act of 1957 enabling a local authority to include in a town development scheme under that section proposals for the carrying out of development in conjunction with any housing accommodation already provided in their district in pursuance of arrangements such as are mentioned in section 8(1) of that Act and thus increasing expenditure incurred by local authorities in 610 connection with such schemes and correspondingly increasing Exchequer contributions to such expenditure under section 14 of the said Act.
§ C. The issue out of the Consolidated Fund of such sums: as may be required for the purpose of making advances under, and subject to the limits in, section 18(1) of the Scottish Act of 1962 to the Scottish Special Housing Association to assist them to acquire land compulsorily—
§ (a) for the provision of new houses, or of housing accommodation by the said Association,
§ (b) at this request of the body set up under the new Act, for selling it or teasing it to a housing society, and the bon owing in any manner authorised under the National Loans Act 1939 and payment into the Exchequer of any money needed for providing or replacing such sums and the repayment into the Exchequer, with interest, of any such sums and their re-issue out of the Consolidated Fund.
§ D. The payment out of money provided by Parliament—
§ (a) of periodical sums in respect of houses in the construction of which aluminium alloy was used, being houses—
- (i) provided by a local authority or by a development corporation, and
- (ii) completed in any of the years 1947 to 1951,
§ (b) of expenses incurred in and in connection with the demolition of any such houses,
§ (c) of sums in respect of the repair of houses in the construction of which aluminium alloy was used, being houses falling within paragraphs (a)(i) and (a)(ii) above, not exceeding £200 for any one house.
§ E. The payment out of money provided by Parliament—
- (a) of any increase attributable to the new Act in the sums payable by way of Rate-Deficiency Grant or Exchequer Equalisation Grant under the enactments relating to local government in England and Wales or in Scotland;
- (b) of any increase attributable to the new Act in the sums payable out of money provided by Parliament in consequence of the extension of Section 175 of the Act of 1957 or Section 170 of the Scottish Act of 1950 regarding Ministers' default powers;
- (c) of any administrative expenses incurred by any Minister under the new Act.
§ F. The payment into the Exchequer of any sums falling to be so paid in consequence of any of the provisions of the new Act.
In this Resolution—
the Scottish Act of 1950" means the Housing (Scotland) Act 1950;
the Act of 1957" means the housing Act 1957;
the Scottish Act of 1957" means the Housing and Town Development (Scotland) Act 1957;
the Act of 1958" means the Housing (Financial Provisions) Act 1958;
the Act of 1959" means the House Purchase and Housing Act 1959;
the Scottish Act of 1962" means the Housing (Scotland) Act 1962.—[Mr. Green.]
§ 10.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham)
I want to raise three points. I want to know whether Amendments of a certain type would, in the Government's view, be in order on the Money Resolution as now drafted. The first type is any Amendments to increase the amount of grant and help provided for in Parts II and III. My reading of the Money Resolution is that Amendments of that kind would be in order. I hope that the Government will be able to confirm that.
My other two points relate to matters raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) with regard to any Amendments that might be raised about the 15-year life question. I think that the Government will agree, whatever views have been expressed on that, that it would be desirable that we should be able to discuss it more fully in Committee. I hope that we shall not then be told that to extend the provisions of improvement grants to properties with less than fifteen years' life would be out of order under the Money Resolution.
The other point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn can be described in a convenient shorthand as Amendments to Part II of Schedule II of the 1957 Act or extension of the 55 to 65 bracket. I do not think that Amendments of that kind would be outside the Long Title of the Bill. Indeed, in view of some of the miscellaneous matter in Part V, I do not think it could be objected to on that ground. My own feeling is that the Money Resolution is so drafted that such Amendments would not be in order. If I am right about that, will the Government consider doing what they can do but what we cannot do here and now—that is, at some later stage arranging for Amendments of the Money Resolution? This again is a matter which we cannot fully discuss on Second Reading but which it would 612 be desirable to discuss and weigh in Committee. It would be regrettable if we could not do so merely because of the drafting of the Money Resolution. I will summarise my questions. Can the Government confirm my view that on the first two points I mentioned Amendments of that type would be in order? Secondly, if I am right in thinking that on the last point Amendments would not be in order, will they consider at an appropriate stage trying to amend the Money Resolution so that this matter could be discussed in Committee?
§ Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)
Like the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart), I want to be quite clear whether certain Amendments I have in mind are within the Money Resolution. They deal with two points. One concerns compensation on the new compulsory acquisition powers of the Housing Corporation. The other concerns possible guarantees which the Housing Corporation might give.
Clause 4 gives the Housing Corporation new powers of compulsory acquisition. Indeed, Clause 93 gives the same sort of extended powers for the Scottish Special Housing Association. There are some other extended powers of compulsory purchase in Clause 55 for local authorities. Generally speaking, the acquiring authority in those cases would have to find money to the amount which the property if sold in the open market by a willing seller would be expected to realise. As my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary will know, there are exceptions to the open market value in compensation on compulsory purchase. If in a clearance area property is declared to be unfit under Section 4 of the 1957 Housing Act the unfortunate owner may get only the site value. I am sure that hon. Members know cases where houses still have a reasonable life and value but are acquired at more site value.
This has nothing to do with land prices but with the owner being compensated for the bricks and mortar in which he has been living and in which he might go on living for a number of years hence. Sometimes he is left with no house but a large mortgage to pay off. There are severe cases of hardship where property has been acquired at 613 site value and where the owner has been left to pay off a heavy mortgage.
If we are extending compulsory purchase powers under the Bill is it not time to remedy this sort of injustice? As we are advancing £100 million under the Bill to the Housing Corporation, would not an Amendment be in order to say that the Corporation should not purchase compulsorily under the unjust provisions of the 1957 Act, that it should be precluded from purchasing compulsorily at site value and that, whatever the property may be, it should be valued in the normal way and not under this fictitious valuation of the 1957 Act? Does my right hon. Friend consider that an Amendment along these lines would come within the Money Resolution?
My second point is that it was said during the Second Reading debate by my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mr. G. Johnson Smith) that the Government may be positively discouraging the private developers of houses to let by supporting the housing societies as a sort of competing agency. My right hon. Friend was asked whether the Government intend to assist these private developers of houses to let, not necessarily by making grants or loans but by backing the borrowings of private developers by means of a guarantee from the Housing Corporation. This sort of scheme has proved successful in America. My right hon. Friend will know that it has been put to him by British private developers who would be prepared to go ahead with building houses to let if they could raise the finance with a guarantee behind them. This system is not unknown in this country, for it happens in commercial transactions with the Export Credits Guarantee Department.
Whether an Amendment of this sort would come within the Money Resolution I am not sure, but I apprehend that as we are concerned with £100 million for the Housing Corporation, once that has been raised the Corporation can within reason do what it likes with the money without making any difference to the supply of money from the Exchequer. I cannot ask my right hon. Friend whether Amendments of this sort—about compensation and guarantees—are, or will be, in order at a later stage of the Bill, but I can ask him, if they will not 614 be in order, to give an assurance that the Money Resolution will be amended at a later stage so that we may fully discuss this topic because the two points I have raised will, if included in the Bill, greatly assist the Government in enforcing the provisions of the Measure.
§ Mr. W. A. Wilkins (Bristol, South)
Just before the end of the Second Reading debate I tried to elucidate from the Parliamentary Secretary the Government's intentions in regard to Clause 4, which provides for the compulsory purchase of land for use by housing societies. This Money Resolution proposes that certain moneys shall be provided… for the purposes of any Act of this Session to set up a new body to assist housing societies to provide housing accommodation …I call attention to the following:A. (1) The issue out of the Consolidated Fund of such sums as may be required—(a) for the purpose, of making advances not exceeding one hundred million pounds to the body set up under the new Act;What is envisaged in this provision? Is it intended only for the purpose of making advances to these societies or to the Housing Corporation simply for the physical building of the houses? Is it expected that any of this money will be used for purchasing the land that may be required? The first prerequisite to building a house is obtaining the land. Whether the work be done by private enterprise, local authorities, the new housing societies or the Housing Corporation, the land must first be obtained.
I am tempted to ask these questions because of what the Minister said on 18th November when, in a moment of his wildest extravagances of fantasy, he started questioning this side of the House as to what we would do about land purchase. The right hon. Gentleman said:I hope that it will be made plain at what price Socialist policy would have compulsory enfranchisement set. Near market value? That would be a disappointment to many people wooed by Socialist propagandists. Far below market value? That would be a taste of Socialist confiscation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th November, 1963; Vol. 684, c. 654.]The responsible Minister having interrogated us in that way, we have the right to ask him what sort of values he will 615 agree to in regard to this Corporation or the housing societies.
He is proposing to give the Housing Corporation almost supreme power over local authorities if the local authorities refuse to acquire the land needed by compulsory purchase. The Corporation has the power to do so, provided the Minister approves. What sort of provision is made for that in this Money Resolution? How much does the Minister expect to have to spend on the purchase of land for housing development by the housing societies?
What sort of instructions will he give to Tory-controlled local authorities which, like our Bristol authority just about eighteen months ago, actually sold a very large parcel of corporation land to private developers? What sort of directives will he give to such people to act in conformity with his wishes? Does he intend to take action to compel them, in the interests of the housing societies, either to hold on to the land or to acquire land—and at what price?
He interrogated us about the kind of prices that we would pay, so we should be able to ask him what he has in mind. Is it reasonable prices? Is it market value? It is all very well for the Parliamentary Secretary to talk as he did this evening, but I remember an occasion many years ago in Committee when he applauded the fact that we had reached the stage when we could enforce the market value to be paid for the purchase of land. He was so glad to see it go. Will he afford any assistance now to housing societies to purchase land at reasonable prices? We are entitled to know how much of the money proposed to be allocated here by the Committee is likely to be used or is anticipated may be used in the purchase of land for building these houses.
§ 10.15 p.m.
§ Mrs. Barbara Castle (Blackburn)
I should like to support the representations of my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) to the Minister about the Money Resolution. It would appear that the point he raised about the qualifying period for improvement grants ought to fit quite naturally into Clause 41 and be covered by the Money Resolution to that extent.
616 After all, that Clause provides for reduced grant to be paid for reduced standards of improvement. It would therefore seem right within the general purpose of that Clause to urge that a reduced grant should be paid for full standard improvements where the life of the house would be less than the qualifying period of fifteen years. I hope that we shall have an assurance that such an Amendment will be in order under the Money Resolution.
As for compensation, it is clear from the Parliamentary Secretary's reply on Second Reading that he appreciated the importance of the matter, though I feel that his answer showed that he did not consider it sufficiently to give an answer which was commensurate with its importance. The Long Title of the Bill says that its purpose is:… to amend in other respects the law relating to housing.The proposal which I have put forward certainly does that.
As there is a kind of wider intention implied in the Long Title, may I ask the Minister that all the immediately urgent and relevant problems associated with slum clearance and the improvement drive should be considered at this stage? May I urge the Minister to amend the Money Resolution, if necessary, so that we can discuss this point of compensation?
The Parliamentary Secretary does not seem to have appreciated that in some areas, like my own, even at an increased slum clearance rate of 500 houses a year it would take 20 to 30 years to deal with this problem. We cannot, therefore, blame those persons who feel aggrieved that, having purchased a house, after having made careful inquiries at the time whether it would come under slum clearance orders, they should now find that they are to have their houses cleared and that only site value will be paid. This its an important human problem. I hope that the Minister will give us an opportunity to discuss it.
§ 10.20 p.m.
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Mr. F. V. Corfield)
I am sure that the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) and other hon. Members opposite fully appreciate that matters of compensation which go far wider than the Bill would not come into 617 the Long Title, and I certainly would not advise that they came within the Financial Resolution. The Committee will realise that it is not for me to usurp the function of the Chair.
The Financial Resolution has been drawn deliberately wide within the terms of the Bill, but matters of compensation to which the hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) and my hon. Friend have referred are clearly wider than this. Incidentally, the difficulty of these compensation matters are well set out in a book in the Library called, Corfield on Compensation. These matters quite clearly go much wider than this. They refer to compensation under the Housing Acts, the Town and Country Planning Acts, and certain powers my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport has, and so on.
With regard to the other main points which the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. 618 Stewart) raised, I think the answer is, yes. Certainly the grants can be discussed, but not the proportion falling on the Exchequer. This would be my advice. As to the 15-year period, again I am advised, yes; and that was the intention. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) does not seriously think we can discuss, within the terms either of the Title which in this connection is confined to the housing corporation to help housing societies, the giving of grants or guarantees to private enterprise. I certainly do not think that that, again without usurping the functions of this Chair, comes within the FinancialResolution.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Resolution to be reported.
§ Report to be received Tomorrow.