Mr. T. THOMSON
asked the Minister of Health the number of State-assisted houses which have been erected in each year by private enterprise, by local authorities, and by public utility societies under each of the following Acts: the Housing and Town Planning Act, 1919, the Housing (Additional Powers) Act, 1919, and the Housing, Etc., Act, 1923?
§ Mr. WHEATLEY
The numbers of houses erected with State assistance under the Acts referred to are as follow:
addressed to the representatives of local authorities whom I met at the end of last week, giving the results of the discussions which I had with them. I hope to be able to introduce the Housing Bill at a very early date.
The following is the copy of the letter referred to:
12th May, 1924.
I am directed by the Minister of Health to refer to the Conference on the Government's Housing Proposal at which he received representatives of the local authorities of Great Britain on the 8th and 9th instant.
The Minister understands that the representatives of the local authorities wish to have recorded his views on certain Resolutions framed by them and submitted to him, and he desires me to make the following comments on these Resolutions: 1385W Resolutions (a) and (b) are as follows:
- '(a) That, in carrying out any building programme under the proposed legislation the local authority should retain full power to fix the number of houses which it will build in any period, subject to the limitation of a maximum number by the Minister of Health, and also full power at its discretion to suspend building operations for any reason whatever at any time, and that such suspension should not involve the imposition of any burden upon the rates or other penalty;
- (b) That the autonomy of local authorities with regard to the execution of the proposed new Act should not be less than exists under the Housing, etc., Act, 1923, except in so far as may be specifically agreed by the authorities with the Minister of Health before the proposed Bill is presented to Parliament, and that in the event of any statutory or other committee being appointed in accordance with the proposals contained in the Report of the National House Building Committee, such committee should not be authorised to interfere with or in any way to affect the powers and duties of local authorities.'
The Minister concurs generally in these paragraphs and in particular appreciates fully the importance of leaving unimpaired the autonomy of local authorities under the Housing Act of 1923.
Resolution (c) is as follows:'(c) That a local authority should retain power to use building materials purchased in the cheapest market wherever situate, and to obtain tenders under competitive conditions.'
Local authorities will retain power to use building material purchased in the cheapest market wherever situate and to obtain competitive tenders.
Resolution (d) is as follows:'(d) That the dimensions of houses specified in Section 1 (2) of the Housing, etc., Act, 1923, should be retained for the purposes of the new Act, but that the Ministry in special cases should have the power on representation from any local authority to reduce that standard.'
The Minister notes that it is the view of the representatives of local authorities that the dimensions of houses specified in the Housing Act, 1923, should be retained for the purposes of the new Act and he proposes to adopt this course.
Resolutions (e) and (f) are as follows:'(e) That the fixation of rents should continue generally on the same basis as that laid down for the fixation of rents of houses erected under the provisions of the Housing, Town Planning, etc., Act, 1919, but that if as a result of the limitation of rents under the proposed legislation 1386W it should be found necessary to reduce the rents of houses erected under the 1919 and 1923 schemes, the Government should increase the allowances to local authorities so as to prevent such authorities being placed in a worse position than they now occupy.(f) That the Government be asked to pay two-thirds of the loss incurred on approved expenditure and that in view of the difficulties in rural areas and in small urban districts the amount of the assistance shall be increased.'
The questions of fixation of rents and Government contributions were fully discussed at the Conferences and the following proposals were made by the Minister:
- (i) The Government will propose a subsidy of £9 a house for 40 years for houses to be provided for letting, on the understanding that local authorities will be prepared to provide a further subsidy of £4 10s. a house for 40 years.
- (ii) The aim of the present scheme is to secure rents in each locality equivalent to the rents now prevailing there for working-class houses built before the War.
- (iii) Until these rents can be reached local authorities will charge such rents as will be remunerative after allowance has been made for the total subsidies of £13 10s. a year for 40 years mentioned in (i).
- (iv) If in any district the rents to be aimed at, as described in (ii), can be secured for a smaller total subsidy than £13 10s. for 40 years, the local authority's contribution shall be reduced accordingly until wiped out.
These propositions were accepted unanimously by the representatives present at the Conferences and they promised to recommend them to the bodies by whom they were appointed.
The further Resolution is as follows:'Further Resolved—That local authorities shall be free to seek to obtain such amendments to the Housing Bill, when presented to Parliament, as they may deem desirable,'
The Minister accepted this Resolution.
The Minister undertook to consider further the case of certain local authorities, particularly the agricultural areas, who are in an exceptional position, with a view to securing for them additional assistance, and it was arranged that representatives would be appointed to discuss this matter with him.
At the end of three years from the passing of legislation, the financial arrangements for houses to be erected after that date under the scheme will be reconsidered by the Minister and the local authorities in consultation in the light of the actual experience obtained during that period.
I am, Sir,
Your obedient Servant,
(Signed) W. A. ROBINSON."