§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE JOINT PARARY UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (LORD CROFT)
My Lords, perhaps I may be permitted to explain, very briefly, the need for this new Bill. Local authorities were told in September last not to let any technical points of law stand in the way of first-aid repairs, and they were assured that the Minister of Health would ask Parliament to regularise any reasonable action they might take. The reason was that war experience 733 showed that the provisions of the Housing (Emergency Powers) Act, 1939, were too lightly drawn, in that the execution of first-aid repairs hinged on the satisfaction of certain conditions and was related to temporary work expedient to avoid damage to health. Strictly interpreted this would have meant no repairs to empty houses or, again, it would have been a bar to the replacing of slates or tiles or roofs.
The primary purpose of the new Rill is to implement the pledge given to regularise action taken by local authorities. It is a small Bill but of importance to local authorities. It involves only minor Amendments of a technical nature. In the first place it seeks to widen the powers of local authorities to enable them to carry out at once not merely temporary repairs immediately necessary to avoid danger to health but any urgent repairs expedient either for avoiding danger to health or preventing deterioration of the building. This would mean that they would be empowered to carry out measures necessary to make the house structurally safe, proof against wind and rain and reasonably habitable having regard to the emergency conditions. In the second place it aims at cutting down delay in carrying out more permanent repairs once this course has, been decided upon. For the rest, it deals with a number of minor points on which difficulty has been experienced in practice. The provisions are retrospective to the 1st of September, 1939. Any of your Lordships who may have lost a roof or two in the present war will know the comforting feeling it gives to be back in bed once more with a roof over your head, and will, I am sure, desire to see the possibility of that experience extended widely to every class of the community throughout the country.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Croft.)
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.