HL Deb 06 July 1954 vol 188 cc464-6

3 p.m.

Amendments reported (according to Order).

Clause 4:

Exchequer contributions toward expenses of local authorities under ss. 2 and 3 of Act or under s. 17 of principal Act

(2) Subject to the following provisions of this section, the contributions payable by the Secretary of State in respect of any house shall be as follows, that is to say,— (a) in the case of a house purchased by the local authority an annual payment equal to one-half of the annual loan charges referable to the cost of the purchase, payable for each financial year during the whole or part of which the house or any part of the house is used for housing purposes with the approval of the Secretary of State; and

LORD MATHERS moved, in subsection (2) (a), to leave out "one-half" and insert "three-fifths." The noble Lord said: My Lords, my noble friend Lord Greenhill regrets that he is unable to be here to-day, and I am taking the responsibility of moving the Amendments which appear in our joint names. The first one embodies a simple proposition. It is that in respect of certain payments that are to be made, a responsibility, financially, that is to be accepted by the Government, it is desired that the expenses should not be met simply on a fifty-fifty basis but that the Government should take, as they usually do, a greater amount of responsibility. That is the reason for this Amendment. I think it would help to commend the Bill to those who have to bear the responsibility of working it (I am thinking more particularly of the local authorities) if they could see that there was a recognition by Her Majesty's Government that the representations which the local authorities have made in respect of the financial provisions had been given some favourable consideration. I am sure the amount involved is not great. I am certain that the psychological effect of giving effect to these two Amendments—they deal with the same point—would be most beneficial. So at this penultimate appearance of the Bill in your Lordships' House, after a new effort has been made, after there has been full opportunity of considering the position, I do appeal to the Government to say that these Amendments may be given effect to. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 5, line 9, leave out ("one-half") and insert ("three-fifths").—(Lord Mathers.)


My Lords, I should have liked to respond to the reasonableness of the noble Lord, Lord Mathers, who has reduced his odds from three to one to six to four in the hope that I will respond. On the face of it, what he asks seems extremely reasonable if one looks at this particular aspect of the housing subsidies in isolation. But this is part of a wider picture, in which we have tried to balance the subsidies given to local authorities between the amount which is contributed by the taxpayer and the amount which is contributed by the ratepayer. So far as the subsidy for the building of new houses is concerned, the Government have been giving a most generous subsidy, while the subsidy for the clearance of slums is more generous still. As I think I said at an earlier stage of this Bill, those are two aspects of housing on which noble Lords opposite, just as much as I am, are anxious to see action. We look forward to seeing this clearing of slums, this building of new houses, and this patching up of houses in the slums.

The first thing we want the local authority to be able to do is to patch, if they can see a chance of doing it, in order to make conditions more comfortable in the slums for the tenants who have to stay there for a few years longer. But we do not want to lay the emphasis on it too strongly. So we think we had better begin by fixing a proportion of fifty-fifty as between the taxpayer and the ratepayer. I must resist this Amendment, but if it is any comfort to the noble Lord he will notice that we have put into Clause 5 (2) a provision which will enable the ratio to be varied without further legislation—that is to say, the Secretary of State can make an order, if, after further experience, he thinks that the ratio should be varied. I am afraid that it will not go far to meet the noble Lord's request, but nevertheless it is something.

On Question, Amendment negatived.

Clause 5:

Local authorities' contributions

5.—(1) A local authority to whom contributions are payable by the Secretary of State in respect of a house under the last foregoing section shall make for each financial year a contribution of an amount equal to the contributions so payable by the Secretary of State for that year in respect of the house.

LORD MATHERS moved, in subsection (1), after "equal to" to insert "two-thirds of." The noble Lord said: My Lords, this Amendment deals with precisely the same point as the first one. In the circumstances, having allowed the first Amendment to be negatived, I will do the same with this, as I do not wish to take it upon myself to withdraw it. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 6, line 4, after ("to") insert ("two-thirds of").—(Lord Mathers.)

On Question, Amendment negatived.