HC Deb 03 November 1950 vol 480 cc7-8W
Mr. Hector Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will now make a statement about his future plans for the licensing of private house building in Scotland.

Mr. McNeil

I have recently reviewed the present arrangements for the control of private house building in Scotland in the light of our experience during the past six months and of the progress being made with the housing programme as a whole. As I said in my statement of 29th March last on this subject, our primary object in existing circumstances must continue to be the provision of houses by local authorities for letting to families with the greatest housing need. Without prejudicing this object I felt justified, in the public interest, in authorising the issue of a limited number of licences for the erection of new houses not only for the priority categories as they then existed, namely, agricultural workers, miners and key workers, but also for.

  1. (a) persons for whom accommodation must be provided in particular areas if essential public services are to be maintained, e.g., doctors, nurses, teachers and transport workers;
  2. (b) persons requiring accommodation for reasons of ill-health, e.g., tuberculosis patients;
  3. (c) persons who undertake to build houses in their spare time.

I have now decided to relax the restrictions still further, consistent with the basic object of dealing first with cases of the most urgent housing need, so as to enable licences to be issued, in addition, to persons living in houses unfit for habitation and to persons living in houses which are overcrowded within the meaning of the Housing (Scotland) Acts.

I have also decided to make a change in the administrative control of private house building. Since 1947 the issue of licences for the erection of private houses in Scotland has been subject to the approval of the central Department. The extension of the priority categories, however, increases the variety of circumstances which have to be considered, and I am satisfied that the time has come when the determination of applications for licences within the approved categories should be left to the local authorities. I am, therefore, giving local authorities advance notice that central control will come to an end when the next allocations of houses are made to them, probably in January, 1951, after which they will be free to use up to one-tenth of their total housing allocation for the authorisation of private houses in their areas within the approved categories, and subject to the approved size and standards. In addition, I will be prepared to consider applications from local authorities for permission to exceed the proportion of one-tenth where I am satisfied that there are special circumstances which justify a higher proportion.

Applications from crofters for authority to build houses with assistance under the Agriculture (Scotland) Act, 1948, will be dealt with outside these general arrangements. Since these applications are submitted to the Department of Agriculture for Scotland in any case for the determination of grant payable under the Act, they will continue to be dealt with centrally so far as the granting of authority to build is concerned.

Apart from the licensing of new houses, as the House is aware, each local authority has been instructed not to exceed an annual financial limit for the licensing of work for the repair and adaptation of houses in its area. As in this way the total capital investment on house repairs and adaptations is adequately controlled, I now propose to tell local authorities that they will be free, within these limits, to issue licences for this type of work costing more than £500 without having to obtain the prior approval of the central Department as at present.