§ 8. Mr. William Hamilton
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what new steps he now intends to take to prevent profiteering in the sale of houses which have been improved with governmental financed grants.
§ Mr. Hamilton
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that that is simply not good enough? Is he further aware that there was considerable dismay and anger at his own cynical and inhuman comments on this problem a week or two ago, when he said that this was part of the price 1520 we had to pay for improving our older houses? Does he realise that it need not be part of the price if the Government were prepared to take firm action against property speculators?
§ Mr. Amery
The hon. Gentleman will remember that before the Housing Act, 1969, there were restrictive conditions—for example, a proportion of grant had to be repaid if a house was resold for owner-occupation within a period of three years. Lord Greenwood, very rightly in my view—[Hon. Members: "No."]—decided that this was a restrictive operation and it was removed in the 1969 Act. I do not want to see anything done that would restrict or slow down——
§ Mr. Crosland
Everyone wants to see the improvement programme being a success, but the Minister's reply is appallingly complacent. Is he aware that the process described by my hon. Friend is now becoming a national scandal? Is he not aware that the effect of this process, although it was not of course the intention of investment grants, is to remove increasing amounts of housing from the reach of low-income families and convert them into better-off property for better-off people? I suggest that there is now a case for exerting some sort of control over the use to which improvement grants are put.
§ Mr. Amery
The right hon. Gentleman is off-beam here. No controlled or regulated tenancy can be the subject of an eviction order. It is only where a property happens to fall vacant, where a landlord or owner gets vacant possesion, that this situation can arise. It does not occur on a large scale and there have been a great many misrepresentations in the Press about this. I saw, for instance, an article which claimed that a developer had paid £100,000 to buy 100 houses, had received £100,000 in grants and had sold them for £240,000. The implication was that the man made £140,000 profit. He could not have got £100,000 grant without paying £100,000 himself.
§ Mr. Stallard
Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that his replies to these questions in this exchange show complete ignorance of what is happening? Would he not accept that the operation of the improvement grants has resulted in taking hundreds if not thousands of properties out of the rented sector and out of the controlled sector as well? Is he not aware that there are many other ways of getting rid of regulated and controlled tenants, and which are used through legal processes? Will the right hon. Gentleman now have a look at this and take a serious interest in it? It does not matter to me or to my constituents whose fault all this is, but it is a fact that all this is happening and we want something done about it.