HC Deb 08 May 1967 vol 746 cc1185-6

Lords Amendment: No. 1, in page 2, line 25, leave out "there is" and insert: at that date, on the information which had by then been made available to the Minister, there was".

9.31 p.m.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Mr. Robert Mellish)

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

This Amendment is a drafting one designed to relate the wording of the retrospective sub-paragraph (c) of subsection (1) more precisely to the qualifying test announced by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government in reply to a Question on 20th December last. In that reply he said that local authorities must have had three things to qualify: first, a large building commitment—that is, 100 or more houses or flats approved, but not started or under construction—at the end of November, 1965; and, secondly, either more than 12½ per cent. slums according to the returns submitted to our Circular No. 11/65; or, thirdly, 10 per cent. or more excess of households over dwellings according to the 1961 census.

The purpose of retrospection, very broadly, is to provide extra financial help for local authorities, which, with an exceptional need for slum clearance or an exceptional shortage of housing, had gone ahead with substantial building programmes under the provisions of the Housing Act, 1961, before the new subsidy arrangements were announced on 25th November, 1965. In determining the qualifying tests, the Minister properly took account of the situation of authorities at 25th November, 1965, on the basis of the best comprehensive and objective information available to him at that time. The Amendment will ensure that Clause 1(3,c) accurately reflects this situation.

Perhaps I may call in aid Lord Brooke of Cumnor. Speaking in the House of Lords when this Amendment was moved by my noble Friend, Lord Kennet, he said that he saw no objection at all to it. I understand that the Amendment was received with great delight in another place, and I am sure that it will be received with equal pleasure in this House.

Mr. H. P. G. Channon (Southend, West)

I thought for an awful moment that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary was about to begin by quoting my noble Friend, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, which would have been grossly out of order. I should have liked him to do so because I wished to do so later, but I am told that I am not able to do so.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman has warned himself.

Mr. Channon

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I will abide by my own warning.

My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kensington, South (Mr. Roots) conclusively showed in Committee that the Government's drafting of this subsection of Clause I was complete mumbo-jumbo. The Amendment made in another place does not, unfortunately, remove the element of mumbo-jumbo, but we find it no more objectionable on this occasion than we did on the last. As the Joint Parliamentary Secretary says, this matter deals with the criterion of local authorities receiving retrospective help under the Bill. I am sure that my hon. Friends and I have no objection to the Amendment, and I hope that my hon. Friends will support it.

Question put and agreed to.