§ 3.25 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the House to be again in Committee read.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Derwent.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [The LORD MERTHYR in the Chair.]
§ Clause 18 [Suspended improvement notices: effect after five years]:
§ LORD SILKIN moved, in subsection (1), to leave out "twelve" and insert "six" [months]. The noble Lord said: In the absence of the noble Lord who is in charge of the Bill in this House, I beg to move Amendment No. 16. The purpose of this Amendment is to deal with the considerable delay which, under various clauses of this Bill, takes place in dealing with the admitted evil of the bad condition of our houses. I have pointed out on a number of occasions that it could take five years before an order became operative and the work was in fact completed. The noble Lord, Lord Hastings, said three years, but I would challenge him on that. At any rate, it could take a very long time, measured in terms of years; and I have tried, by a series of Amendments, to reduce the period of the various steps which have to be taken.
§ One of those Amendments is to Clause 16, which provides a period of twelve months in which steps must be taken after an improvement notice has been served on the person having control of the dwelling. It seems to me that he has twelve months in which he may carry out the work specified in the improvement notice. It may well be, of course, that the works are of an extensive nature, and in such a case twelve months would be a reasonable period; but the clause itself provides for an extension of the time in cases where it is thought that a longer time is justified. The work itself may, however, be of a relatively simple kind, especially since a reduced standard has been made possible under this Bill. It may amount merely to putting in hot and cold water, or to something even simpler than that. I should have thought, therefore, that the right 407 thing would be to provide, in the first instance, a period of six months in which the work should be done, and to extend that period if it should be thought desirable—that is, if the work was of an extensive nature. Alternatively, a longer notice could be given to start with if the work was of an extensive nature. But it seemed to me that, in the simple case, there was no justification for giving the person in control twelve months in which to carry out this work. I hope, therefore, that the Government will take a sympathetic view of this Amendment. It must be their desire that this machinery should be expedited, and that persons having control of property should not have a longer time than is absolutely necessary to dally about the carrying out of the work of this improvement. I hope, therefore, that the Government will be prepared to accept the Amendment. I beg to move.
Page 20, line 28, leave out ("twelve") and insert ("six").—(Lord Silkin.)
§ THE JOINT PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY, MINISTRY OF HOUSING AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT (LORD HASTINGS)
First, I would apologise to the noble Lord opposite that he should have beaten me, as it were, by a short head; but I had not expected the speed at which my noble friend advanced—not to mention the statement which is to follow. This particular Amendment, of course, refers to Clause 18, which deals with the action that may be taken by the local authorities after the five-year period has elapsed and the consent of a tenant to an improvement notice is no longer necessary. It does not refer directly to the completion of works; and I pointed out on a previous occasion that there was a slight difference between this Amendment and the others.
On thinking it over, it seems unnecessary that when, after the end of five years, the local authority wished to serve a final improvement notice they should have to wait for twelve months. Therefore, the Government propose to accept this Amendment on this particular issue, on Clause 18. The local authorities' associations have been consulted about this matter, and three of the four associations are in favour of this reduction in time from twelve to six months. Therefore, 408 I propose to accept this particular Amendment. But I still cannot accept the general inference of the other Amendments which we discussed previously (and I think there are one or two later to this effect), relating to the actual carrying out and completion of works. But the Government accept this particular Amendment.
§ LORD SILKIN
I am grateful to the noble Lord. I am afraid that my speech was directed to a later Amendment. I had forgotten how far we had got last time; I was using the old Amendment sheet. I will not make exactly the same speech when I come to the right Amendment, but I will make something like it. But I am glad the noble Lord has accepted this Amendment. It curtails the period from 5 years to 4½ years; and that is something.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
LORD HASTINGS moved, in subsection (2), to leave out all words after "of the local authority to", and to insert:
offer, or arrange for some other authority or person to offer, suitable alternative accommodation to the tenant, so as to afford to the tenant a reasonable opportunity of taking up that alternative accommodation.
§ The noble Lord said: This Amendment is designed to meet criticism in another place, where this matter was discussed at considerable length. It refers to the duty of the local authority to find accommodation for a tenant who had hitherto refused to have improvement carried out and now, after five years, is no longer in a position to do so. It was not made perfectly clear that the local authority were actually under a definite obligation to find him accommodation. It stated merely that the authority must give the tenant reasonable opportunity of finding accommodation. After considerable discussion another Amendment was introduced, and that again was withdrawn for further consideration, the criticism being that the obligation of the local authority was not only not put explicitly but was restricted to local authority accommodation. We think that we have now found an Amendment which will satisfy all these criticisms. It makes it clear that the local authority's duty is either to offer accommodation themselves of to make arrangements for some other person or body—for example, a housing association—to offer it. The phrase 409 "afford a reasonable opportunity" is, however, retained as a qualification, because this would prevent the local authority from not giving sufficient notice to the tenant. I hope that this Amendment will meet with the wishes of the Committee here and the criticisms expressed in another place. I beg to move.
Page 20, line 46, leave out from ("to") to end of line 48 and insert the said new words.—(Lord Hastings.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ House resumed.