HC Deb 09 April 1964 vol 692 cc1278-99
Mr. Corfield

I beg to move Amendment No. 12, in page 5, line 36. after "satisfied", insert: after consultation with the authority". This Amendment could be discussed conveniently with Amendment No. 13, in page 6, line 5, Amendment No. 14, also in line 5, and Amendments Nos. 177 in Clause 95, page 100, line 2, No. 178, in line 21, and No. 179, in line 22.

Mr. Speaker

If the House so pleases.

Mr. Corfield

The latter Amendments—Nos. 177 to 179 inclusive—are the Scottish equivalents of the English Amendments which appear next on the Order Paper. The purpose of the Amendment that I have moved is to make it clear that the Housing Corporation should consult the relevant local authority before using its powers of compulsory acquisition under subsection (1). The object of the other two English Amendments is to give the local authority the right to be heard by the Minister of it should so wish, when it has declined to acquire land on behalf of a housing society and the Housing Corporation seeks to acquire the land compulsorily.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made: In page 6, line 3, leave out "and".

In line 5, at end insert: and as if in Part I of Schedule 1 to that Act (procedure for authorising compulsory purchases) references to an owner of any land comprised on the compulsory purchase order included references to the local authority in whose area the land is situated".—[Mr. Corfield.]

Mr. Graham Page

I beg to move Amendment No. 15, in page 6, line 5, at the end to insert: Provided nevertheless that a dwellinghouse, to the tenancy of which the Increase of Rent and Mortgage Interest (Restrictions) Act 1920 applies immediately prior to the corporation acquiring the interest of the landlord therein, shall be valued for the purpose of the compensation payable upon the acquisition of it by virtue of this section as if the said Act no longer applied thereto. I wish that I could sweep as majestically through this Amendment as my hon. Friend has just done through about a dozen previous ones, and get it on the Statute Book in the same way. I must be a little more laboured in explaining my Amendment than my hon. Friend has been so far.

The Clause deals with the powers of the Corporation—the statutory body created under the Bill—to acquire land. It gives the Corporation power to acquire land compulsorily—in one case directly and in another case through the local authority. If we turn back to Clause 3(7) we find that when the Corporation has acquired the land, if that land comprises a controlled dwelling house, that dwelling house is no longer controlled. The mere fact of the Corporation becoming the landlord decontrols it.

After acquisition—whether it be voluntary or compulsory—the Corporation will have power to increase the rent of what was previously a controlled dwelling, or to evict the tenant. One might say, "Of course, the Corporation which we have created by Statute, with our blessing, would not do such a dreadful thing." If that is so, what is the purpose of Clause 3(7)? The Housing Corporation is given the power to do it, and we must assume that the subsection has some purpose. It at any rate confers on the Corporation certain rights of value.

The Corporation will not pay for those rights. If it is acquiring a controlled property it will pay for it as a controlled property. It will not pay for the enhanced value arising from its becoming decontrolled in the hands of the Corporation. In fact, it will be receiving a sort of statutory bargain. That might be right in the case of elected local authorities. We have recognised for many years that it may be considered right for them to get a bargain in this way. But there can be no justification for this Corporation, created under the Bill, obtaining a windfall in this way.

6.45 p.m.

As I see it, the Corporation is unlikely to acquire single dwellings here and there. There would seem to be no point in that. It will probably acquire a block of dwel- lings or a terrace of dwellings—all similar houses, some controlled and some decontrolled. It is mere chance what Price the Corporation will pay. It will be a small price for a controlled property and a higher price for a decontrolled property, but once property gets into the Corporation's hands the value will be the same, because the control will have gone.

There is a substantial difference in value between the controlled and uncontrolled property of the small type which one imagines the Corporation will purchase. When this occurs there is bound to be a grave feeling of unfairness among the several owners of the properties. This all comes about by the rule that in assessing compensation we look not at the purposes for which the property is being acquired but at the value immediately before the moment of acquisition. When, at the moment of acquisition, the value of the property is enhanced, I submit that we should not extend to a statutory corporation the powers that we recognise in respect of local authorities. We are creating a sort of betterment in value, by Statute, which the Corporation will enjoy. If anyone should benefit it should be the deprived owners, and not the Corporation.

This is not a case of the neglect of a house, which has become unfit and where, in the local authority's taking it over, there is some element of punishment on the owner for allowing it to become unfit. That does not apply in this case. The Corporation can acquire property simply because it considers that that property, together with other property in the area, is appropriate for a housing association. The house could be perfectly fit but a controlled house. Immediately the Corporation acquired it, it would become a decontrolled house and that much more valuable in the Corporation's hands. If my Amendment were accepted, this would be recognised in the compensation and the owner would receive appropriate compensation for it.

Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham, West)

I apologise for the fact that I have not perhaps been very greatly interested in this particular—and, no doubt, from the Minister's point of view important—Measure. One reason was that it did not seem to me very likely that it would have much application north of the Thames, and certainly not in the County Borough of Oldham.

I want to raise the question of this Amendment. I know the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) and I know his ability. I know that he has achieved some success of a type which is a tribute to the work that he has done so when I say that he steps in where angels fear to tread, I hope that he will not feel that that has some subdued connotation about it.

In the Borough of Oldham in the last few days this issue of compensation has become of some importance. I have often said that in many spheres of activity one of the troubles about this House is that it is apt to have rather a metropolitan mind, and it is not easy to get over to it the position of the northern county boroughs and for it to keep them in mind when we have legislation.

The County Borough of Oldham occupies a total area of less than 10 square miles. It has a population now of 114,000, which is less than it was many years ago. Whether the mills are dark and Satanic or not, they occupy a great deal of ground. There is no land for building and there has not been for a very long time.

I do not propose to weary the House with figures. We have built since the war several thousand houses. The housing associations in the County Borough of Oldham have up to now bought none. Perhaps I ought, having said that, to give the brief figures that I have.

We have less than 10 square miles, £12 million of local authority debt, practically no land for building, and we have to clear the sites every time we build, whether it is done by a housing association or by a local authority. The right hon. Gentleman knows that we pay him tribute. We have not got very much out of him, but we have always had a careful hearing, and he knows the facts. My hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Mapp) has been singularly active in this capacity. He was a member of the Committee and he has taken a very active part in raising this question. But in the last few days the chairman of the housing authority—

Mr. Speaker

I am not quite following this. I thought that this Amendment related to compensation paid by this Corporation which comes into existence under the Bill.

Mr. Hale

It is compensation to be paid by the Corporation, but under the provisions of the Bill the Minister can give directions to the local county borough councils to acquire land on behalf of the Corporation but remain in possession of some of it, and this Amendment directly affects the cost.

I do not propose to keep the House long, although it is a matter that I find sometimes difficult to speak upon without a certain emotion. The chairman of the housing committee referred to our most recent clearance scheme in the constituency of my hon. Friend—an overcrowded area in which we are clearing 28 acres. Oldham Council had to face the miserable situation and decide whether to wait until there was reasonable compensation or go forward at whatever the cost. It decided to go forward at whatever the cost.

The product of a penny rate before the recent evaluation was £5,000 a year and whatever the increase the potential revenue can be computed on that. It has 114,000 population and less than 10 square miles of area, including the whole of the industrial premises. We decided clearance of what is known as St. Mary's Ward with the co-operation of the right hon. Gentleman, who has certainly been as helpful as his political philosophy permits and always as courteous as his nature demands. I have a great regard for the right hon. Gentleman and I certainly do not mean that phrase to mean anything other than what I have said. I have always found him courteous, friendly and co-operative in spite of the fact that I believe that his political views about housing limit the sort of thing that I would like to see.

There are 28 acres and we had to apply for a loan of £275,000 for the site value when cleared. How is it to be paid? The chairman of the housing committee said—and we have a good Liberal paper which commented on it—most of these buildings are valueless; 95 per cent. of the buildings. There is some building compensation in it although I have left out of my figures one important building which is a place of worship where another £40,000 will be involved. Five good houses have to go in order to have a site on which we can operate. These 28 acres will cost over £10,000 an acre, or £2 1s. 6d. a yard.

An hon. Gentleman who represents a constituency which is not this sort of constituency says, "Let us put the price up". I know that there are always widows who own houses—there are always widows in every political sphere. May I tell him this? About six weeks ago I called on one of my constituents in the urban district of Chadderton, which is adjoining and which has much the same layout. They bought a house because they were living in one room, and because they could not qualify for a council house, or perhaps because they had found nothing else suitable. They bought the house and said, "We will give it to the council if they will let us have a council house.".

7.0 p.m.

The husband cannot get upstairs. The wife has both hands and feet in plaster, but she keeps busy about her duties, and is happy. The astonishing thing is that when I visit them I come out of the house happier than when I went in. A woman next door, who is 66 years of age, has a total income of £3 5s. 0d. a week and does not qualify for National Assistance. She has to pay rent out of that.

Here we have an Amendment in which it is proposed to put up the compensation paid for every house pulled down. As I said, we have built some thousands of houses in Oldham, but we have pulled down nearly half as many. There have been 2,000 demolished already. We know that we have 10,000 houses to pull down and the hon. Gentleman is saying that the compensation should be increased. It is true that most of these houses were built in 1875 and their capital value was paid off in 1900. It is suggested that for anyone who has been drawing rent from them for years, because someone is drawing a controlled rent, there should be a special provision to get extra compensation if the property falls within the Clause and is in an area to which the provisions in the Clause relate.

Who is to pay? Who is to finance this? Heaven knows how we are to finance these over-crowded boroughs in the North. Here there is a £12½ million debt. Housing charges are running at about £400,000 a year—I speak from memory. Now it is suggested that the figure be increased. I am not sure whether I should be in order in quoting from the local paper, but I quote from memory. It said that for 28 acres of festering slum in St. Mary's ward something like £320,000 must be paid. That works out at £11,500 an acre. That is not quite a fair figure because—and the local paper is being perfectly fair—they have included some buildings in respect of which compensation is properly to be paid in order to clear the area. But it is £10,000 an acre for land which the chairman of the housing committee said ought, at the maximum, to be valued at £200 an acre. The hon. Member would increase the compensation for the people who own this property. May we be told who is to pay? How is it to be paid with the present rate of interest charges and so on? It is adding to the burden of an authority with a magnificent record in almost every social sphere of activity; in the provision of accommodation for the aged, and special schools; in the provision of its own institutions for mental health, which are the envy and admiration of the world. Oldham has tried. With a limited budget year by year the local authority has had to cut down everything. It has had to face miserable problems because there is no productivity which could provide a new town out of an old one.

The hon. Member proposes that we should impose new and heavier burdens in the interests of a fairly large class of people. Some of them may have difficulties and I sympathise with them. Many, particularly the owners of working-class houses in Oldham, are multiple landlords. Multiple companies have been formed to acquire property that no one particularly wanted in order to exploit the tenants. Heaven forgive us in this House if we pay extra compensation to those companies which have done everything they could to stop the development of the town, and if we propose to hold up development in order to consider propositions of that kind.

Mr. Norman Cole (Bedfordshire, South)

We have listened with great sympathy and interest to the problems outlined by the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) and which may to some extent be familiar to some hon. Members. May I say, with respect, to the hon. Gentleman that I do not think the Amendment which we are discussing is applicable to the conditions which he has been describing. My hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) said that he was not speaking of unfit houses but of clean houses which were in a proper state for habitation. He was merely seeking to ensure that if, by a legal transfer to the Corporation of the ownership of a house, an immediate asset was created, in justice that asset should belong to the property or its former owner and not necessarily to the Corporation. What the hon. Member for Oldham said will happen—that the Corporation would arrange with a local authority to acquire properly under various public health acts—would not happen. Only the minimum property site value would be paid, not any enhanced value such as is envisaged in the Clause. We are here discussing something different. Even the rubric to Clause 4 says, Compulsory purchase by Corporation of land. I am sure that we have been impressed by what was said by the hon. Member for Oldham, West, but the Amendment does not relate to it. I agree with my hon. Friend entirely. If this Amendment is not accepted, we shall put the clock back to pre-1959 before the town and country planning legislation in which this House said that never in the future—if property was acquired at leasehold value, or the land on which the property stood was acquired at a similar value and was enhanced because of freedoms allowed to the acquiring authority and because of betterment—should the value be transferable to the new owners. We said all that in the town and country planning legislation, and I served on the Standing Committee which considered that Measure.

My hon. Friend is trying to insert the same kind of provisions in this Bill. We are not dealing with local authorities in this Amendment, but with housing societies which will let houses at £4 to £7 a week. They may charge £4 to £7 a week on a house which they have acquired. They may take over a house which has had a limited rent and, quite properly, if the market will stand it, charge a rent of £4 a week. In my view that is quite wrong. This Amendment amounts to no more than an extension in this Bill of what we already decided, in respect of the 1959 legislation, was no more and no less than justice. In many cases housing societies will not acquire houses, because that is not their function. They wish to acquire land and they will acquire houses merely because one happens to stand on a large piece of land or because a number of houses have to be demolished in order that use may be made of the site. But the moment the property belongs to them it is derestricted, and has a market value far greater than under the 1920 Act, and they will be able to charge on the capital value. All this should not be done at the expense of the present owner.

Mr. J. Silverman

He does not lose anything by it. He gets the existing market value, at which he could sell to a sitting tenant.

Mr. Cole

If the hon. Gentleman thinks that, all I can say is that he and those who agree with him must think that everything which we tried to say in the 1959 Act about market value, or future market value if local authorities change their minds about the use of an acquired site, was nugatory and a waste of time. I do not think so. I think that the 1959 Act brought a great measure of justice and whatever may have happened since has no connection with it. The Act was overdue and represented the culmination of efforts to bring justice in respect of this whole matter.

A man may suddenly find he has an asset. Something may have had a sentimental value to him, perhaps a picture, and it is discovered that it has a value of £20,000. Suppose I bought a picture for £100. What sort of thoughts would the former owner have about me if I said to him, "You did not think it was worth more than £100. I have sold it for £20,000, but you should be perfectly happy." I like to take the other point of view. A man has a house, part of a large site that a housing society wishes to buy. It buys the site and finds that there is one house which is still subject to the provisions of the 1920 Act. The housing society then says, "We shall buy at the rent values of the 1920 Act." The moment it has acquired under Clause 4 it will have all the accretion of value rent-wise and capital-wise that goes with the house and the piece of land on which it stands. It is right that that position should be remedied.

If this Clause is imported into the Bill I believe it will stop much of the acrimony, the delay, the arguments and sense of injustice which many experience. It will enable the housing society for a comparatively small sum of money to get on with its job. A man who feels he is having a raw deal will fight to the last ditch, whereas if he thinks he is getting justice he will be prepared to sit at a table and negotiate. Since the 1959 Act, the various negotiations between local authorities and owners of property have been on a much happier, easier and better basis than they were. What is more important, there has been a sense—whether we all agree with the prices or not—that justice is available to all. That was not the position before the 1959 Act.

This provision will apply only to areas which local authorities wish to acquire nevertheless, it will relieve the nagging thought of injustice and harsh treatment of housing societies. We should start this project on a reasonable and proper course; not with something which rankles because of injustice.

Sir Stephen McAdden (Southend, East)

I would not have intervened but for the fact that the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale), speaking under the stress of great emotion, was in my view a little unjust to my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) through not understanding the purpose of the Amendment he moved.

I am quite sure that the hon. Member for Odham, West would not have been so unjust as to attack my hon. Friend if he had followed what my hon. Friend said. I do not know whether the hon. Member for Odham, West was in the House at the time. Although I sympathise with his feelings, I see nothing in the Amendment which would make any difference to the situation to which he sought to draw attention. The Amendment is devoted solely to the question of acquisition of property by a housing cor- poration and has nothing to do with the acquisition of property by a local authority for its own purposes. It deals solely with housing corporations to be set up under the Bill.

In those circumstances, my hon. Friend says that it is desirable that we should not give housing corporations powers to acquire properties at present controlled without their paying an equitable rate of compensation such as would be paid in similar circumstances between different people who seek to acquire property. My hon. Friend was saying that if a housing association wishes to acquire a parcel of land on which one or more controlled properties are situated, in view of the fact that it is a housing association and not a local authority it should be authorised not to pay an amount of compensation greater than if it were a controlled tenancy which could not command a proper market price because of that fact. He was perfectly reasonable. He was not trying to inflict unfair burdens on Oldham and should not be accused of so doing.

Mr. Hale

I said in my opening words that I thought it highly unlikely that housing associations would regard Oldham as a fruitful source for their activities, but this is one of the great faults of the Bill. I appreciated that the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) had in mind other areas where often there was mostly land and a few houses. After all, Oldham is not the only overcrowded county borough. There may be other towns which offer a few more opportunities. The Minister has already taken powers and laid down that the local authority has to be consulted and may virtually be instructed to take proceedings to buy on behalf of the Housing Corporation and to hand over to the Corporation the sites required and, if there is anything left over, to keep it for themselves. This will add to the cost of the operation.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I must remind the hon. Member that we are not in Committee and that this is a little hard on the hon. Member for Southend, East (Sir S. McAdden), whose speech it was.

Mr. Hale

I am much obliged, Mr. Speaker, and I shall not do it again.

Sir S. McAdden

I admire the ingenuity of the hon. Member in being able to make a speech on the particular problem of Oldham on this Amendment which, as he admitted, has nothing to do with the problem before the House. I congratulate him on having got away with it so far. I intervened in order that in his enthusiasm and naturally sincere desire he should not be unfair to my hon. Friend by referring to something which has nothing to do with the case he so skilfully and emotionally deployed.

7.15 p.m.

Mr. Corfield

My hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) argued his case persuasively, but he has missed the basic principle, as also did my hon. Friend the Member for Bedfordshire, South (Mr. Cole). I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Bedfordshire, South, however, in that I do not think the Amendment is applicable to the problem which the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) had in mind. He said that my right hon. Friend had powers to direct local authorities to hand over land to housing societies.

That is possibly where the misconception arose because this is not what happens under the Bill. What happens is that the powers of the Corporation to acquire compulsorily arise only where local authorities have refused, or do not wish, to acquire the land themselves. The Corporation can use its powers only when it has asked the local authority to acquire land and the local authority has declined to do so. We have discussed. Amendments which make it clear that, should there he a demand by the local authority for the same land, the local authority is in the same position as the owner and can appear and make its case to the Minister concerned.

My hon. Friend's main argument on the Amendment was that there would be some benefit to the Corporation from acquiring property which was controlled because, as soon as it was acquired, it would cease to be controlled and therefore would be vacant possession value. My hon. Friend said with some force that where there was an element of profit of this sort it ought more rightly to fall to the owner than to the acquiring authority. I remind him that the definition of a housing society and of the Housing Corporation is that it can operate only itself or on behalf of a society. It is non-profit making, so it is not altogether self-evident where the profit arises in this transaction.

Another point which is important is to get this matter in perspective. This is not the kind of property which will be acquired, because it stands to reason that anything which is controlled will be houses built before the war. It is certainly not the intention of the Bill that that sort of property should be acquired for the use of an association. A piece of open ground may have one or two houses on it which happen to be controlled. An association may conceivably put the case that to develop the open land it is necessary to acquire the houses.

Another point to which I draw attention is that as I read Clause 3(7), although the Rent Act does not apply to the Housing Corporation, if a house is sold into private ownership with a tenant in it, it remains controlled. This is not a means by which creeping decontrol operates. I will certainly check that with my legal advisers and write to my hon. Friend if I am wrong.

Mr. Graham Page

This raises a most interesting point. What happens if the Corporation has raised the rent in the meantime and then disposes of the property? What is the standard rent then?

Mr. Corfield

My hon. Friend will appreciate that if it is sold to an owner-occupier it is decontrolled under the Rent Act. If it is sold with a tenant in it, if the Rent Act applies at all it must apply to the original standard rent, whatever it happened to be. I do not know the Rent Act sufficiently well offhand, but I think I am right in saying that it remains based on the 1956 gross value.

To my way of thinking, the real argument against the principle is in part the point raised by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Aston (Mr. J. Silverman), that if the value of a house or a piece of property in the open market is £X there cannot be any case for varying the price depending on who the purchaser happens to be. This is what my hon. Friend the Member for Bedfordshire, South sand. He said that not to put this in would be to go back to pre-1959. On the contrary, I think that he will give me credit for taking some part in the 1959 Act. The one thing that I fought for, in which my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby collaborated so closely, was to do away with a two-tier system. Heaven forbid that I should ever be associated with re-establishing one, because I think this is something which introduces hardship, which we have got away from.

Mr. Cole

This is an important matter. I pay due tribute to my hon. Friend's two or three private efforts to introduce a Bill to the House, which eventually became a Government Bill. That is very clearly in my memory. My hon. Friend did all he could to do away with the two-tier effect in land. Does he realise this? I do not want an answer off the cuff, because it may be a little bit of a legal conundrum. If the Amendment is not imported into the Bill, it may be cheaper for a man to demolish his house and sell the piece of land, if it is his house, under the Town and Country Planning Act, 1959, as land for housing purposes, for which he will get housing compensation which will probably be more than the restricted value of the rented house.

Mr. Corfield

I think not. As far as I recollect, there is a ceiling on the value of a house which is not rented equivalent to the value of the land, it that is greater, cleared of building. I will certainly accept my hon. Friend's invitation to think about that question before committing myself across the Floor of the House.

Mr. Hale

Once someone starts to demolish, either he has a tenant, in which case he is liable for action for immense damages, or it cannot be a controlled house.

Mr. Corfield

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I am not sure whether that has any ramifications with regard to the sum of compensation.

Mr. J. Silverman

One point has been overlooked. An important difference in the value is the fact that the Corporation, if it has the right to displace a sitting tenant and does so, has to find him alternative accommodation.

Mr. Cole

At £4 a week.

Mr. Speaker

Interventions upon interventions are intolerable and become more intolerable if they are made from a sitting posture. Do let us get on. We are not in Committee.

Mr. Corfield

I must admit, Mr. Speaker, that I was getting a little confused. I wanted to conclude by saying that I feel strongly that we should not re-establish a two-tier system where the price depends on who happens to buy. I believe this is wrong. Whether or not my hon. Friends accept that argument, I am certain that this is the wrong place to attempt to alter the law of compensation or the code by which it is calculated. I cannot accept that there is this vital difference as an acquiring body or an acquiring authority between a local authority for this purpose or any other public body—the War Office or anybody else acquiring for public housing of one sort or another—and the Housing Corporation which calls upon us to make the Housing Corporation pay some sort of premium on houses which are controlled under the Rent Act. Therefore, I very much hope that the House will not accept the Amendment.

Amendment negatived.

Mr. Graham Page

I beg to move, in page 6, line 5, at the end to insert: (3) Notwithstanding subsection (2) of section 29 (Provisions as to the purchase of condemned houses at site value) and subsection (2) and (3) of section 59 (Compensation at site value for land in a clearance area purchased compulsorily) of the Act of 1957, the rules specified in Part III of the Third Schedule to the Act of 1957 (Rules as to the assessment of compensation where land is purchased otherwise than at site value) and not the provisions of the Act of 1957 as to site value shall apply to the acquisition of land by a local authority under Part V of the Act of 1957 for the purpose of selling it or leasing it to a housing society and to the acquisition of land by the corporation under this section. This is an Amendment of a similar character to the last one, but the arguments are a little different. If a dwelling house which is to be acquired under the Clause by the Corporation is capable of being found to be unfit under Section 4 of the Housing Act, 1957, or happens to be in a clearance area, the Corporation will obtain the property at site value. Under Section 4 of the 1957 Act there are many occasions when a house can be declared to be unfit, although it may have a life of many years and be perfectly habitable. If it is declared unfit and if it happens to be in an area which the Corporation desires to acquire, the Corporation may acquire it merely at site value. The same may apply if the house is in a clearance area.

That may be right for a local authority. It may be right for the local authority to acquire unfit houses, or houses in clearance areas, at mere site value, no matter that those houses may have a fairly substantial life ahead of them. There seems to me to be no justification for extending that benefit to the statutory Housing Corporation which the Bill is creating. The more the number with power to acquire property at site value is multiplied, the more the power to acquire at site value is extended, the more the hardship to the many owners which arises from that is multiplied.

I must justify why I say that there is hardship to owners out of acquisition at site value. I justify it by reference to one type of case which arises. It is where a property is purchased when a clearance order has been made. If it was purchased before 1939 or after 1955, the owner receives, if the local authority acquires it from him—and in future if the Corporation acquires it from him—only the site value. It depends merely on the date on which the owner occupier acquired the property. If it was before 1939 or after 1955, he gets site value. If he happened to purchase between 1939 and 1955, he receives market value.

I have investigated scores and scores of cases of this sort, particularly those in streets of similar houses and subject to a clearance order and subject to compulsory purchase orders. In such streets where houses were purchased between 1939 and 1955 and some outside that period, the differences between the compensation given have been in the neighbourhood of 10 to 1. The fortunate person who purchased at the right lime gets £500 for his house. The person who purchased just outside that time gets £50 site value. In some areas it varies between £1,000 and £100 for the plot. I am quoting real figures because I have gone into at least a hundred of these cases. I have found the most devastating hardship caused to small owners who have suffered in this way. The blow is softened at times by the "well maintained" payment, but that is a paltry sum compared with the full market value.

7.30 p.m.

This is not only a question of hardship but a feeling of bitterness. One often knows that one's neighbour is getting 10 times more for no apparent reason and the difference in compensation to similar persons for similar houses in the same street is something which should be abolished and not extended. We are ex tending it under the Bill by giving the Housing Corporation power to acquire property on this basis.

It is unintelligible and incredible to the man who is offered £100 for his house, which is exactly the same sort of house as his neighbour's, although his neighbour is receiving £1,000. One cannot explain the law to that man and try to show that it has all happened because ho purchased his house at such and such a time. This is happening in many cases throughout the country and we are adding to the public bodies which are entitled to commit what I would call statutory robbery.

Why should certain unfortunate owners who happened to buy at the wrong time subsidise this Housing Corporation by giving their property to it at site value? It seems grossly unjust. I agree that the Corporation is carrying out admirable work in endeavouring to house people, but so are other statutory corporations, including those which run nationalised industries or services. Are we to say, because they are doing good work, that the individual owner should subsidise them by giving away his property? That it is a statutory body does not mean that it warrants having these powers. We would not be warranted in extending the occasions when gross injustice can be imposed on home owners. Considering the unfairness that is, and will continue to be, meted out to individuals, the means does not justify the end.

Sir K. Joseph

I am glad, after that philippic, that I have a good answer for my hon. Friend. For some reason—and it is most unlike him—my hon. Friend has misunderstood the powers which are given to the Housing Corporation. He will note from Clause 4(1) that the Part of the Housing Act, 1957, which is invoked is Part V. It is under Parts II and III of that Act that site value acquisition is authorised. Acquisition by compulsory purchase under Part V is at market value. I can, therefore, wholly reassure my hon. Friend that the Bill does not give to the Housing Corporation any power of compulsory acquisition on a site value basis, and I hope, as a result of that assurance, that he will not press the Amendment.

Mr. Graham Page

I am obliged to my right hon. Friend for that explanation, but if a local authority has a house in a clearance area which the Housing Corporation wants, would not the Corporation under this Clause be able to acquire that house from the local authority at site value? It was only in cases where houses could be declared unfit or were already in a clearance area where this would happen. That was what I had in mind.

Sir K. Joseph

It is relatively unlikely that a housing society would be interested in an area that had been cleared for local authority purposes, but if that were to be so I do not see that the mere fact that a piece of land ware passed in due course to a housing society would justify a reopening of the transaction between the local authority and the individual original owner of the site, which might have been years and years before. My hon. Friend is absolutely right to examine the powers of the housing Corporation, but what he is now seeking to do is to reopen the question of the powers of local authorities which are, from the point of view of Parts II and III of the 1957 Act—which authorise site value acquisition—not referred to in the Clause.

Mr. Graham Page

I am delighted with my right hon. Friend's interpretation of the Clause, and I hope that the judges interpret it in the same way. On that basis, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Sir K. Joseph

I beg to move Amendment No. 17, in page 6, line 6, to leave out subsection (3).

I think it would be convenient to the House also to discuss the following Amendments: Amendment No. 18, in line 10, leave out from "(1)" to second "for" in line 11.

Amendment No. 19, in line 19, leave out "subsections (2) and (3)" and insert subsection (2)".

Amendment No. 21, in page 13, line 10, Clause 12, at end insert: local authority means the council of a county borough. London borough or county district or the Common Council of the City of London, and in relation to Scotland means a local authority for the purposes of the Act of 1950. (2) In the case of land which is situated partly in the area of one local authority and partly in the area of another, references in this Part of this Act to the local authority in whose area the land is situated shall be construed as references to each of those local authorities.

Amendment No. 21A, as an Amendment to my proposed Amendment (page 13, line 10, Clause 12), in line 1, after "means", insert "the Greater London Council".

Amendment No. 78, in page 43, line 12, Clause 40, after "London", insert: or, until such date as the Minister may appoint under section 21(5) of the London Government Act 1963, the Greater London Council".

Amendment No. 180, in page 100, line 33, Clause 95, at end insert: (6) In the case of land which is situated partly in the area of one local authority and partly in the area of another, references in this section to the local authority in whose area the land is situated shall be construed as references to each of those local authorities.

Amendment No. 182, in page 103, line 26, Clause 102, leave out paragraph (a).

Amendment No. 183, in line 29, "after authority'", insert "in section 12".

Amendment 184, in line 32, after "borough", insert: and in the definition of 'local authority' in section 40(1), for the words until such date as the Minister may appoint under section 21(5) of the London Government Act 1963, the Greater London Council.' there shall be substituted the words 'the London County Council'".

All these Amendments turn on the definition of "local authority", and I have, in listing the Amendments which I have suggested it would be convenient to discuss with the one I moved, referred in passing to some Amendments which are in the name of the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington). I hope that it will be convenient to take them together.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington) is not here.

Mr. MacColl

I think that my hon Friend the Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Butler) is interested in those Amendments. I do not think that my hon. Friends would object to them being discussed, on the understanding that, if necessary, we could divide later.

Mr. Speaker

It is without prejudice to any hon. Member's rights when Amendments are taken together. I am somewhat diffident about taking them together in the absence of the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington.

Sir K. Joseph

I am content to deal with the group of Amendments standing in my name. If I deal with those Amendments it will be for other hon. Members to catch your eye in due course, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. MacColl

I do not know whether your difficulty is that of abiding by the rules of the House or whether you require to ascertain the views of my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington, Mr. Speaker. I have discussed this matter with my hon. Friend and I have his authority to say that he would be willing to have the in Amendments discussed n any way convenient to the House.

Mr. Speaker

I was wondering how we would manage to deal with Amendment No. 21 on this basis because we cannot get to the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington) to Amendment 21 until we have something proposed in respect of Amendment No. 21, which that hon. Member could amend. That is creating some difficulty for me technically, and I think we will have to go ahead on the basis of having a wide discussion now on Amendment Nos. 17, 18, 19 and 20, and that is before I get to my difficulty.

Sir K. Joseph

in which case, Mr. Speaker, it may be preferable if T say something about my small group of Amendments which are designed to amend the definition Clause.

Mrs. Butler

On a point of order. Did I understand you to say that we would, at the same time, discuss Amendment No. 20, Mr. Speaker?

Mr. Speaker

I did, but by mistake. I got confused with the numbers. That is a separate and distinct Amendment and I should have said that we will discuss Amendment No. 17, which the Minister originally moved, together with Amendment Nos. 18 and 19.

Sir K. Joseph

My group of Amendments are concerned with altering the definition Clause at the end of Part I so to define "local authority" once and for all. There are a number of consequential Amendments. That is the only explanation I think I need give to the House. It follows, however, that the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington may wish to raise questions about the definition of "local authority" and that is why I thought that it might be convenient to take the other Amendments in his name with this group. The explanation I have given is all that is involved and I do not think I need say more. No other alteration is involved.

Mr. MacColl

I only want to say that I have no objection to moving out subsection (3), provided that it will be possible to discuss the substantial point of my hon. Friend's Amendment, which is that we ought to put the Greater London Council into the Government Amendment. But if the right way of showing my annoyance with the Minister for not having put the Council in the Amendment is that I should oppose leaving out subsection (3) and therefore prevent his moving Amendment No. 21, I suppose that I ought to do that.

Mr. Speaker

Having created some confusion, most unwillingly, I suggest that the right way to do this, and it would be understood as such, would be for the hon. Member eloquently to support the Amendment in the name of his hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington to the Government Amendment 21 when we get there and that with that we should discuss Amendments 78, 183 and 184 which are precisely on that matter.

Mr. MacColl

I am much obliged.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made: In page 6, line 10, leave out from "(1)" to second "for" in line 11.

In line 19, leave out "subsections (2) and (3)" and insert "subsection (2)".—[Mr. Gordon Campbell.]