HL Deb 15 April 1946 vol 140 cc781-4

Read 3a (according to Order).

Standard amount of Exchequer contributions for flats, etc., on expensive sites.

(2) Where a house (not being a flat in a block of flats)—

  1. (a) is provided on a site the cost of which as developed (ascertained in accordance with Part I of the First Schedule to this Act) exceeds one thousand five hundred pounds per acre; and
  2. (b) is provided under a scheme of development which makes provision also for the erection of one or more blocks of flats on the same site as the house;
then, if the Minister thinks fit so to direct, the standard amount of the annual Exchequer contribution for that house shall be determined in accordance with the Table contained in Part II of the said First Schedule:

Provided that the Minister shall not give any direction under this subsection in relation to any house unless he is satisfied with respect to the total housing accommodation which has been and is to be provided on the same site as the house, that, satisfactory arrangements could not have been made for providing that accommodation on that site in a single building containing in all its parts the same number of storeys, or in two or more such buildings, unless the number of storeys in that single building, or in each of those two or more buildings, was at least three.

4.30 p.m.

THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR DOMINION AFFAIRS (VISCOUNT ADDISON) moved to leave out the proviso in subsection (2). The noble Lord said: My Lords, as your Lordships will be aware, in our very interesting discussion last week, on an Amendment moved by Lord Balfour of Burleigh, it was suggested that in Clause 4 (2) the Minister's discretion was unduly restricted. In an answer which I gave to the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, I promised to look into the matter, and to see whether any Amendment could be devised which would leave the Minister less fettered. The noble Viscount contended that the desire was that the Minister should not be restricted in the exercise of his discretion by words in the Bill. My right honourable friend and his advisers have given careful consideration to this, and I should like here to say how very much we are indebted to the noble and learned Lord Chancellor for the assistance which he gave us in our conferences. The Minister was very anxious to meet the wishes of this House.

Of course, it is quite understood that where you have these highly expensive sites in crowded areas, it must be necessary, in some cases, to build flats on them. That is accepted by everybody. But, quite clearly, it was felt that, to some extent, the words in the proviso rather fettered the Minister's discretion. I do not think that he felt that really would be so in fact, but he has authorized me to say that, in deference to what was said here, he is prepared to omit the whole proviso. I think that that fully meets the case put by the noble Viscount opposite. I accordingly beg to move the Amendment standing in my name, which will have the effect of omitting the words from line 29 to line 37 inclusive on page 3. In other words, it will omit the whole of the proviso to which exception was taken. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 3, line 28, leave out from ("Schedule") to the end of line 37.—(Viscount Addison.)


My Lords, I am extremely grateful—and I am sure that the whole House is—to the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, and to the noble and learned Lord Chancellor, for the reconsideration which has been given to this matter. What has happened does show how greatly we can improve things here when we act, as the noble Lord has expressed it, as a Council of State in these matters. I think that we have really managed now to get this Bill into exactly the form which we should all wish to see it take. Everybody agrees that where you have a great density of population which must be rehoused in the same place, and it is physically impossible to rehouse them except in flats, then you have to do the rehousing by means of flats. Equally, if the expense of the site is so enormous that the only way of building houses instead of flats would be by giving an utterly disproportionate subsidy or charging wholly excessive rents, then the erection of flats, again, must be the way of rehousing. But this is a general Bill, and the Schedule does apply to everything over £1,500 an acre.

Without expressing an opinion on the legal aspect of the drafting, I would say that it certainly appears open to doubt whether "shall not" does not provide a positive direction. It seems to me that the proviso does constitute a positive direction, and I believe that it would have made it impossible for the Minister of Health, in many cases, to do what he would wish to do, even if he had a predilection in favour of flats. Certainly, the great majority of us here, and of the people in the country also, want to build houses rather than flats where it is not outrageously expensive to do so. We desire to build houses wherever that is a socially and economically sound procedure. There will now be complete discretion in the Minister to approve proposals to that effect which may be made to him by local authorities. May I repeat that I am very much obliged to the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, and to the noble and learned Lord Chancellor for taking a great deal of trouble about this? I think that we have now arrived at a solution which will give very real satisfaction.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 11 [Contributions for certain houses provided by housing associations since 1939]:

LORD HENDERSON: My Lords, I beg to move the first Amendment standing in my name. This is a purely drafting Amendment. It is necessary because only one condition is specified in the preceding paragraph. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 9, line 31, leave out ("conditions") and insert ("condition").—(Lord Henderson.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 22 [Provision of housing accommodation in the Isles of Scilly]:

LORD HENDERSON: My Lords, this is also a drafting Amendment which it is desired to make to bring the provision into line with common form. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 18, line 26, after the second ("to") insert ("the validity of").—(Lord Henderson.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Bill passed, and returned to the Commons.