HC Deb 09 April 1964 vol 692 cc1329-32
Mr. Corfield

I beg to move Amendment No. 36, in page 20, line 24, after "standard", to insert: or, if not, is capable of improvement at reasonable expense to the reduced standard". This Amendment goes with Amendment No. 37 in line 26 and Amendment No. 41 in page 21, line 24. It might be convenient also to consider Amendment No. 42 in page 21, line 26, which is consequential upon it although it is slightly different.

The three Amendments Nos. 36, 37 and 41 are designed to fulfil an undertaking given to the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) in Committee. Their effect is to require the local authorities, on the initiative of tenants occupying dwellings outside improvement areas—that is the Clause 19 case—to enforce the improvement of dwellings to the reduced standard where it is not possible at reasonable expense to improve to the full standard. I think that that had the general consensus of the Committee. Amendment No. 42 is consequential and follows upon it but I shall not try to abbreviate my explanation over-much.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made: In page 20, line 26, after "standard", insert: or, as the case may be, to the reduced standard".

In line 40, at end insert: and the person having control of the dwelling, and every owner, lessee or mortgagee of the dwelling, shall be entitled to be heard when the local authority's proposals are discussed in accordance with the notice".

In page 21, line 9, after "years", insert: (or such other period as may be prescribed)".

In line 18, leave out "of" and insert: (or such other period as may be prescribed) from".

In line 24, after "standard", insert: or, as the case may be, to the reduced standard".—[Sir K. Joseph.]

Mr. Speaker

The next Amendment is in page 21, line 26—

Mr. Millan

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I believe the Joint Parliamentary Secretary said that this Amendment was consequential. It is not, in fact, consequential. It is rather more than that. In fact, I am not sure whether it has been considered.

Mr. Speaker

Whether it has been discussed or not, in view of the hon. Member's intervention let us proceed accordingly.

Sir K. Joseph

I beg to move, in page 21, line 26, at the end to insert: and the novice may require the improvement of the dwelling to the full standard or, as the case may be, to the reduced standard notwithstanding that, the preliminary notice provided for the improvement of the dwelling to the other of the two standards".

This Amendment is consequential.

Notice taken that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and, 40 Members being present—

9.23 p.m.

Mr. Millan

The Minister said that this Amendment is consequential, but it does not seem to me to be consequential at all, The Amendment says that in the case of an improvement of a dwelling outside the improvement area, the immediate improvement notice may be different from the preliminary improvement notice in the sense that if the preliminary notice were for the improvement to the full standard or, as the case may be, to the reduced standard, the immediate notice can be to the alternative standard. In fact, a preliminary notice to the reduced standard can go up to the full standard and a preliminary notice to the full standard can go down to the reduced standard.

This is not quite consequential. This point was raised in Committee on Clause 15. If I may refer to that Clause, it says in subsection (5) that the works specified in the improvement notice shall not be different from what was required in the preliminary notice. But when we come to Clause 19, we are doing exactly the opposite. It seems to me, therefore, that a little explanation is required.

I am not necessarily disagreeing with the Amendment. On the whole, the more flexibility there is in the matter, the better. But it seems rather strange that, whereas in the rather more important part of the Bill in the sense that it will deal with a very much larger number of houses no flexibility at all is required—indeed, flexibility is specifically excluded by Clause 19—we are here introducing an element of flexibility. I regard this as a good thing, and I hope that it means that the Government may, at a later stage, go back on what they have done in Clause 15 and elsewhere before this Clause.

Mr. Corfield

I did not wish to mislead the House. It is true to say that this is a consequential Amendment. The Clause as at present drafted applies only to dwellings which can be improved to the full standard, and we have to introduce this element of alternative standard only because of Amendments we have recently made.

However, the hon. Gentleman is quite right in this. There is a valid distinction between Clause 19 and Clause 15. Under Clause 15, a tenant having consented after discussions on the preliminary notice has given his consent on the basis, first, of cost, which, obviously, depends upon whether the work goes to full standard or to reduced standard, among other things, and, second, on the amount of disturbance and inconvenience which he is prepared to put up with, bearing in mind that, if it goes to full standard, he may, for instance, lose a bedroom for a bathroom or something like that. I think that, after he has once given his consent on a specific basis, it would be wrong to alter the basis thereafter.

Under Clause 19, the whole initiative comes from the tenant himself, and the initiative, basically, is for improvement to such a standard as the building is capable of bearing. Since the initiative comes from the tenant and he has the opportunity to discuss what can be done before any question of compulsory improvement arises, it seems to the Government perfectly logical that we should have this rather more flexible approach in subsection (5), without any necessity to go back to restart negotiations. I hope that this explanation satisfies the hon. Gentleman.

Amendment agreed to.