asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works whether, in view of the serious shortage of accommodation in many parts of the country, he will authorise expenditure on damaged property to permit habitation in those cases where this can be shown to be materially more economical than building fresh houses?
The need for providing additional living accommodation is fully appreciated by my Noble Friend and by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health, but there is not available enough labour and materials to permit of unrestricted permission being given for the repair of property damaged by enemy action. Licences for the repair of damaged houses and fiats are issued when there is a demand for increased accommodation in the district provided that the labour and materials required are reasonable in relation to the value of the property, and the number of persons to be accommodated. To accelerate progress, however, a scheme has been evolved, in conjunction with the Ministry of Health and with the co-operation of local authorities and the building industry, by which we hope by November next to bring back into use some 40,000 damaged houses which are not at present habitable.
Are we to understand that, in areas where accommodation is badly needed, the Ministry concerned will give greater latitude to the licensing of materials to render uninhabitable houses habitable for people who want them?
Yes, Sir; our latitude is always conditioned by the amount of labour and materials available, and not by a desire to restrict them.