§ Mr. Arnold Shaw
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will introduce legislation to give local authorities powers to requisition dwellings left empty unreasonably.
§ Mr. Freeson
No. The Government have already, under DOE Circular 70/74, made it possible for local authorities to acquire empty houses. Over 9,000 such dwellings have been bought by negotiations during the past 12 months; compulsory purchase orders have been made on about 100 only. The Housing Act 1974 has strengthened the powers of local authorities to buy property in declared priority neighbourhoods and housing action areas to secure its proper management and use.
I have examined the possibility of introducing requisitioning powers closely on several occasions during the past 12 months, but have concluded that they would not be a more effective way than using other existing powers to bring empty properties into use quickly. Administrative procedures would be necessary to identify appropriate properties, appeals procedures would be needed to protect owners whose properties were empty not unreasonably, and there would be other complexities which did not arise when requisitioning powers were operated during the Second World War and immediate post-war period.
Local authority resources for housing management, both of staff and money, would be best employed on further measures such as those I outlined on 25th February in my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mrs. Jeger). These, taken together with existing powers I have mentioned, should enable local authorities to bring empty and under-used property into effective use.