HL Deb 28 July 1942 vol 124 cc14-5

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, this Bill merely extends existing powers for a further three years. Those powers are summarized in paragraphs (3) and (4) of the Explanatory Memorandum printed with the Bill. The number of cottages approved under the Rural Housing Acts in the last five years are as follows: In 1936–7 the number in England and Wales was 1,821 and in Scotland 2,496. In 1938–9 in England and Wales there were 4,058 cottages improved and in Scotland 2,634. In 1940–41 the respective numbers were 1,066 in England and Wales and 1,096 in Scotland. Reconditioning under the Acts has always been a valuable supplement of the provisions of new houses, and it would be unwise to allow these powers to lapse in war-time when little can be done in the way of new building and therefore reconditioning might be the only solution of urgent cases. The Bill in no way prejudices the future and I beg to move that it be read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Snell).


My Lords, I should like to ask my noble friend whether the Government are satisfied with the progress which has been made under the principal Act. He has stated very clearly the figures of what has been done both in England and Wales and in Scotland and has explained why it is necessary to have an extension of time. It will be interesting, however, if he can tell your Lordships how far the principal Act may be said to have been successful. Of course it has been successful to the extent of the figures mentioned, but I wonder why it has not had even fuller effect than he has stated. I, like many of your Lordships, have been very much interested for many years in this question of the reconditioning of cottage property, and I feel that the noble Lord is fully justified in saying that we have always regarded this reconditioning as very important. It is more important than ever at the present time. But I think it is a little disappointing perhaps that the Act has not worked with greater vitality and vigour. If the noble Lord could state—perhaps not to-day but when the next stage of the Bill is reached—how the Government regard the fortune which has attended efforts made under the Act in past years, I am sure it would be very interesting.


My Lords, the number of houses reconditioned has to be considered in relation to the total number that needed reconditioning, and I have not the figures. I doubt if they exist with regard to the full number of cottages that ought to be improved or reconditioned. But if the noble Marquess asks me to say whether the Government are satisfied, I can only answer that I think that probably they are not. We are none of us wholly satisfied with progress in any particular enterprise. But we have to bear in mind that the difficulty of securing labour for improvement and so on, at the present time, is very exceptional. I will, however, take the opportunity at a later stage of the Bill of expressing the Government's opinion on the point raised by the noble Marquess.


My Lords, in support of what the noble Marquess has said, I may say that I think that if the noble Lord will refer to the results of the surveys which were instituted by the Government quite recently as to the condition of rural houses, he will find abundant support for the misgiving which, I am afraid, was behind the noble Marquess's question. I am sure it will be within the mark to say that there are more hundreds of thousands of houses requiring improvements than there were units of thousands improved.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.