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Housing

Volume 389: debated on Thursday 6 May 1943

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Rents

15.

asked the Minister of Health what response he has had to his appeal to local authorities urging them to take steps to protect the people against the evasions of the Rent Acts; and whether he can give particulars of the number of authorities which are taking effective steps in this matter and with what results?

The response has been most satisfactory. No less than 737 local authorities have asked to be supplied with copies of the poster I had prepared a short time ago drawing attention to the salient features of the Rent Restrictions Acts. Reports I have recently received from local authorities for the period 1st April to 31st December, 1942, indicate that they received 4,028 complaints relating to unfurnished lettings of which 2,505 were proved on inquiry to be unfounded. Of the remaining 1,523 cases, rent reductions were secured in 1,479, or rather more than 97 per cent., the reductions ranging from a few pence to as much as 9s. per week. Twenty-nine prosecutions were undertaken by the authorities, 28 for rent book offences and one for charging a premium. All these prosecutions were successful. As regards furnished lettings, I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer given to my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich (Mr. Holmes) on 22nd April; of which I am sending him a copy.

What action does my right hon. Friend propose to take with those councils, many of which are in rural areas where a good many of these complaints come from, who have not taken any action in response to his appeal?

Perhaps my hon. Friend will give me some information about that. I will certainly make inquiries.

Does the right hon. Gentleman think that 29 prosecutions bear any substantial relation to the number of offences of this kind which are being committed, up and down the country?

Local authorities are very active in this matter and have dealt with over 4,000 complaints, which is a very large number.

How many of these local authorities are located in London?

Will the Minister instruct local authorities to display all round their areas this poster, which is the most useful poster he has ever sent out in his life?

I would not like to accept it in that way, but I will certainly see that the poster is displayed everywhere.

Agricultural Workers

17.

asked the Minister of Health how many houses in the scheme for building 3,000 houses for agricultural workers have been allocated to the county of Durham?

19.

asked the Minister of Health whether full consideration has been given for securing maximum amenities of domestic lighting, space, heating, cooking and hot water supply in the 3,000 cottages being provided for agricultural workers?

Yes, Sir. I would refer my hon. Friend to the statement which I made in the Debate in this House on 4th May, in which I explained that the plans had been drawn up after the fullest and most detailed consideration of all the factors which he mentions.

45.

asked the Prime Minister whether, in connection with the proposed erection of 3,000 cottages for agricultural workers, he will take steps to ensure the co-ordination of the four Departments concerned, namely, the Ministries of Agriculture, Health, Labour and Works, with special reference as regards the Ministry of Works to the adaptation and use of flying squads who could provide the necessary labour, transport and material-in those localities where the work was held up for lack of these?

As regards the first part of the Question, I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister gave him on 18th March last. As regards the last part, all necessary steps will taken, within the limits of existing supplies, to meet the need for labour and materials wherever there is any fear that work might be held up.

Is it not a fact that so many Departments are concerned that there is no one man With power to see the whole matter through? Is not the matter being unnecessarily delayed? Would my right hon. Friend consider appointing Lord Beaverbrook, because he has ability in that direction and it might keep him out of mischief?

Any question with regard to the details should be put to the Minister concerned.

When does the right hon. Gentleman expect that some of these cottages will be erected?

Disabled Ex-Service Men

23.

asked the Minister of Health whether he will ensure that disabled ex-service men are given the same priority for houses by local authorities as is now given to persons bombed out of their homes?

The need for accommodation for persons rendered homeless by enemy action may arise at any time, and local authorities must be in a position to deal with the situation immediately. For this reason it has been considered necessary in certain areas to maintain a reserve of houses, the number of which is under constant review. Subject to this, local authorities endeavour to give consideration in regard to any accommodation which may be available to cases of exceptional hardship among which the men to whom my hon. Friend refers obviously take a high place.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that a number of men who have been discharged from the Army owing to injuries caused by enemy action find that they are put at the bottom of the list when being considered for new houses, and priority is given to people who have been bombed out? Should it not be a question of "First come first served"?

I think people who have been bombed out must have first priority in these cases. A Member of this House called my attention to a particular case in the constituency represented by him only three weeks ago, complaining about certain houses, and within a week those houses were wanted.

Cannot my right hon. Friend give this matter further consideration, because it is most unfair when a man who has had to give up his house on being called up comes back to find that it has been ruined and he has no place to which to go?

I have shown by my answer that I am most sympathetic to these cases, and I know that the local authorities are.

I do not press for a reply to-day, but will the Minister consider whether, instead of providing for the hypothetical eventuality of bombed-out people, it would not be better to use those houses for disabled men and war workers?

The answer to my hon. Friend is that there has been nothing hypothetical about the raids on many towns in this country, and if anything happened in the Chislehurst Division and there was not accommodation for the bombed-out persons, my hon. Friend would be the first to complain.