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Volume 414: debated on Thursday 25 October 1945

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Rent Control (Report)


asked the Minister of Health what action he proposes to take on the recent Ridley Report on Rent Control.


asked the Minister of Health what action he proposes to take with regard to the recommendations contained in the Report of the Inter-Departmental Committee on Rent Control.

I would refer the hon. Members to the answer given to the hon. Members for Finchley (Captain Crowder) and Swindon (Mr. Reid) on 11th October, of which I am sending them copies.

Is the Minister aware of the fact that a considerable amount of difficulty is created in consequence of the very complicated nature of the Acts in question, that poor persons have considerable difficulty in taking their cases to the Court of Appeal, and that it is really necessary something should be done as speedily as possible in order to put the law on this matter on such a footing that every individual in this country will be able to understand it?

I fully appreciate what my hon. Friend has said, but I cannot agree that this matter should take priority over other legislation which the House is being asked to consider this Session. I am, however, preparing a Bill for submission to the House at an early date to deal with certain outstanding difficulties.

Could the Minister separate the figures for Wales, from those for England in his answer?

If the hon. Member will put that Question down, I shall be pleased to give him an answer.



asked the Minister of Health the number of dwellings in England and Wales, separately, which have been condemned as unfit for human habitation but are still occupied owing to the shortage of housing accommodation; and the number of overcrowded families revealed by the standards of the Housing Act, 1936, for whom no alternative accommodation has been made available by local authorities.

Exact information is not available, but, of the 460,000 houses in England and 19,000 in Wales included in the pre-war slum clearance programmes of local authorities, roughly 93,000 in England and 5,000 in Wales were still in existence and occupied at the 31st March last. At the end of 1938, there were approximately 188,000 families in England and 14,000 in Wales living in overcrowded conditions.

Central Advisory Committee (Order)


asked the Minister of Health the purpose of the Ministry of Health (Central Housing Advisory Committee) (Amendment) Order, 1945 (S.R. & O., 1945, No. 1240).

The purpose of this Order is to provide that all the members of the Committee due to retire in any one year, shall cease to hold office on the same day. This appears to have been the intention of the original Order constituting the Committee, but appointments have, in the past, been made from time to time, at various dates.

Could we have an assurance that the right hon. Gentleman will not use this Order to get rid of members of the Committee with whose political views he may disagree?

The purpose of this Committee is to afford the Ministry of Health advice and information, drawn from a vast variety of people and organisations having special knowledge of housing; and I think the hon. Gentleman will see from recent appointments, that I have not exercised the political discrimination which he fears.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that these Nazi views are the exclusive possession of the hon. Membersopposite?



asked the Minister of Health whether he has considered relieving local authorities from the burden of having to pay for mineral rights when choosing housing sites, where no other sites are available, in or about mining villages.

Such costs are among the many considerations which will have to be borne in mind in settling the terms and conditions of post-war housing subsidy.

Would the Minister reconsider the granting of a supplementary subsidy, because this is a worry to local authorities?

I quite appreciate the point, and, as I have said in my reply, full weight will be given to this matter in considering the subsidies for these areas.

Would tine right hon. Gentleman consult the Ministry of Fuel and Power with a view to erecting pack walls on long wall faces in the mines to prevent subsidies and not sterilise the land for housing?


asked the Minister of Health if he will state the sites desired to be acquired by Government Depatments or local authorities for housing purposes where there is delay in acquisition and the reason there for.

I am afraid that I could not give an estimate of the number of sites for housing purposes which local authorities have under consideration, but have not yet had approved, without a great deal of work which would not, in my opinion, be justified. I am, however, examining the whole question of speed in procedure in relation to housing.

Are we to understand that there is no delay in the acquisition of land by local authorities for building purposes?

There are considerable and protracted negotiations going on, which I hope to speed up by another procedure.

Possession Order, Spennymoor (Ex-Service Man)


asked the Minister of Health if he is aware that Mr. W. J. Anthony of 2, Ash Grove, Spennymoor, a discharged soldier, has been summoned to appear in court on Tuesday, 23rd October, 1945, by the North-Eastern Housing Association, Newcastle, for possession of this house; and, in view of the shortage of houses in Spennymoor and the difficulty of obtaining any accommodation, will he take steps to see that men who have fought in this war are not put out into the street.

I understand that the Court has made an order granting the North-Eastern Housing Association possession of the house on the 31st December next. Local authorities have been asked to give all possible consideration in the provision of housing to serving and ex-Service men with families who are without separate homes.

Is the Minister aware that this man, a discharged soldier, actually applied for an empty flat and was informed that because they had a baby in the house he could not have the flat?

I will call the attention of the local authority to what my hon. Friend has said.

Financial Policy


asked the Minister of Health, in view of the heavy financial burdens placed on local authorities, when he will be able to declare the Government's financial policy in relation to housing.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the statement I made on the 17th October.

Repairs (Certificates)


asked the Minister of Health if he is aware of the considerable delay in the granting or refusing of applications for certificates of essentiality to carry out repair to houses; and will he take steps, in conjunction with councils, to expedite their decisions.

I am not aware of such delay. If the hon. and gallant Member will let me have details of any case he has in mind I will have it investigated.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that with winter coming on it is essential that these orders and decisions of the local authorities should be made at the first available moment?

But is the Minister not aware that the information given in my question is correct?

If the hon. and gallant Gentleman will send me particulars, I will have them investigated but I cannot accept generalisations which do not give specific instances.

Residential Flats, Westminster (Bbc Extension)


asked the Minister of Health if he is aware that the tenants of approximately 40 small residential flats in Westminster have been given notice to quit, in order to make room for an extension of the B.B.C; and what steps he is taking to prevent this further encroachment on housing accommodation, in view of the shortage.

I am aware of the case, though I am informed by the B.B.C. that they have not arrived at any decision yet in regard to these premises. The new powers I foreshadowed in the Debate last week are designed to prevent encroachment on housing accommodation for office purposes.

When shall we have some definite pronouncement on this subject, which is of tragic importance to the people concerned?



asked the Minister of Health how many permanent, temporary and factory-made houses have been erected to the latest convenient date; and how do these figures compare with the target figure.

The number of temporary houses completed in England and Wales on the 20th October was 4,964. I hope to be able to publish early in the New Year full details of the progress made with the provision of permanent houses. I would refer the hon. and gallant Member to the statement I made in the House on the 17th October in regard to the Government's housing policy.



asked the Minister of Health if he will publish the particulars of contracts for both permanent and temporary houses let by his Ministry and by local authorities showing details of cost in a. form which gives the percentage increase in the case of permanent houses as compared with pre-war figures.

I am considering the form of the progress report which I promised in my statement on 17th October and will certainly take account of the hon. and gallant Member's suggestion.

Cannot the right hon. Gentleman give the figures now of contracts which are already let—not for the future, but what has happened up to now?

I think it would be extremely difficult at the moment because, in the first place, it requires some administrative preparation to get these details out, and I want to present them to the House, when I start, in a form which will be intelligible and fairly permanent.

Requisitioned House, Chiswick (Rent)


asked the Minister of Health if he is aware that the borough council of Brent ford and Chiswick, are continuing to requisition 8, Arlington Park Mansions, Chiswick, at £3 18s. 10d. per annum less than the present permitted rent; and that the homeless tenant put in, by the authority is being charged 20 per cent. more than the rent paid to the landlord; and if he will take steps to end the policy by which local authorities are permitted to pay less than the standard rent to landlords and charge more than the standard rent to tenants.

I am aware that it is contended that the compensation rental is less than the standard rent; and that the occupant is paying more than the former sum. I have recently sent a circular to local authorities on the subject of the charges to be made for requisitioned premises and I will send the hon. and gallant Member a copy.

Do I understand then that the local authority can do what a private landlord dare not do, that is, charge rent to an unfortunate dispossessed person higher than the standard rent? Is that the legal position?

There have been previous instances where the local authorities have been doing that, and they do not appear to have aroused the indignation of the hon. and gallant Gentleman earlier. He will see, however, from a circular, that I have anticipated his indignation.

Would my right hon. Friend bear this point in mind when he comes to consider any legislation based on the report of the Ridley Committee—whether local authorities should be governed by the Rent Restriction Act or not?

I will certainly do that but I cannot promise that the Bill I shall bring before the House, which will be a comparatively modest Measure, will make provision for these things.

Am I right in understanding that local authorities may charge rents above the standard rents, whereas private individuals may not?

Prefabricated Houses, Lewisham


asked the Minister of Health if he is aware that only 132 prefabricated houses have been delivered and completed for the borough of Lewisham; and whether he can give any estimate when the balance of 1,400 prefabricated houses can be expected.

By 13th October, 148 temporary houses had been completed and handed over to the local authority. A further 103 had been erected and were in the final stages of equipment. Components for further houses have been delivered and work is proceeding in preparing the remainder of the sites for a total of 975 houses. Plans for the balance are in preparation. It is not possible to estimate the date of completion.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that we still have 5,000 families—and I emphasise the word, "families"—who are homeless?

I certainly realise the need for urgency in this matter. The completion of the temporary houses is being hurried up as far as possible but, as I told the House last week, there have been inherent difficulties.

Local Authority Technicians (Release From Forces)


asked the Minister of Health what action he is taking to ensure that local authorities receive adequate technical assistance in carrying forward their housing plans.

All possible steps are being taken to secure the release from the Forces under Class B arrangements, or from employment in Government Departments, of such technical officers of local authorities as are urgently required for housing work. Also, local authorities have been furnished with the names of architects, engineers and surveyors in private practice—both firms and individuals—who are able to give professional assistance on housing work.

Is the Minister aware that, many local authorities are not able to get enough technical assistance, and that he reminded us of this when speaking in the House on 17th October? What further steps has the right hon. Gentleman taken to help the situation?

I took steps before that date, and I am taking steps all the time. The hon. Member will realise that I am as anxious as he is to get these technical officers back to the local authorities. A large number have been released and are being released, and my Department will provide, regionally and centrally, technical assistance to help those local authorities who are behind in the preparation of their plans.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Royal Air Force have civilian architects in their employ whom they refuse to release for housing purposes?

Would the Minister do his utmost to get these men released from the Services when cases are brought to his attention?

I want to make it clear that these are not group releases, but special releases. Lists have been put in, and releases are taking place quickly now.

Local Authorities' Programmes


asked the Minister of Health if he will state, as at the most recent convenient date and with regard to England and Wales, the number of sites approved for permanent local authority houses, in addition to those stated in Cmd. 6686 to have been approved for temporary houses; and the number of such sites that have been acquired.

By 30th September, 1945, local authorities in England and Wales had received approval to the acquisition for permanent houses of sites totalling 67,900 acres, of which 32,200 acres had been acquired. At a average density of 10 houses to the acre, these sites would be sufficient for 679,000 and 322,000 houses respectively.

Is it not clear that whatever the difficulties at the moment shortage of land is not one of them?

I cannot agree that these figures would necessarily give rise to that conclusion, because the acquisition is not uniformly spread. A large number of local authorities possess land far in excess of their immediate housing possibilities, and a large number have no land at all, so I do not think the hon. and gallant Member would be wise in anticipating the Debate on this subject.

Can my right hon Friend say what was paid for these 32,000 acres, if I put a Question on the Order Paper?

Can the Minister indicate what percentage of these sites have been serviced?

Can the Minister divide the figure given to the House today as between the different parts of England and Wales, as was done in the White Paper on Temporary Housing?

Certainly, if the hon. and gallant Member will put down a question I will see what can be done.


asked the Minister of Health if he will state, as at the most recent convenient date and with regard to England and Wales, the number of local authority houses for which plans have been approved; and the number of such houses for which tenders have been approved.

Plans are often approved before the exact number of houses to be built has been determined and, therefore, I am unable to give the information asked for in the first part of the Question; by 20th October prices had been approved for 11,198 houses in England and Wales.


asked the Minister of Health if he will state, as at the most recent convenient date and with regard to England and Wales, the average, highest and lowest, of the approved tenders for local authority houses per superficial foot; and the average of approved tenders for such houses per superficial foot in 1938.

In the period of four weeks to 20th October, the approved tenders for local authority three-bedroomed non-parlour houses have averaged 20s. 11d. per superficial foot. The average cost per superficial foot in 1938 was 9s. 3¼d. When comparing these figures, allowance has to be made not only for the substantial increase in building costs, but also for the fact that a higher standard of accommodation and amenity is afforded in the houses now being approved. I do not think it would be helpful to state the full range of the approved tenders, as it would not be possible within the limits of the reply to give the reasons which account for variations from the average.

Ministerial Responsibility


asked the Minister of Health if, in view of the delay caused to local authorities and others, by having to deal with a number of Government Departments in connection with housing, he will endeavour to arrange that plans, materials, labour and other cognate matters relating to housing, are all canalised through his Ministry.

I am looking into this with a view to achieving the greatest possible simplification, and I hope to make a statement in the near future.

New Houses


asked the Minister of Health how many new houses, permanent or temporary, will be completed, and how many will be started, between now and the end of this year.

I can give no forecast, as progress must depend on the labour available, and the supply of building materials and equipment, which, again, is a question of labour. At present some 900 temporary house sets are being delivered to places in the United Kingdom each week and from 300–350 houses are being completed weekly. As regards permanent houses, tenders have been approved for 11,000 in England and Wales, but I am not able, at the present time, to say how many of them have actually started.

In view of the high hopes that were raised by the right hon. Gentleman's Party before the Election, may we take it that the Minister is extremely dissatisfied with his reply?

If the hon. and gallant Member asks me whether I am satisfied, the answer, of course, is "I am not."

Repairs (Ex-Servicemen, Employment)


asked the Minister of Labour if he is aware that owners of house property, who carry out the repairs of their property by employing men for the purpose, are being prevented by Labour Exchanges from re-employing their former skilled workmen discharged from the Forces who have a statutory right to such employment; and if he will issue instructions to change this practice.

No, Sir. The only circumstances in which this would arise would be where a man was discharged before the end of the war in Europe and is now engaged on urgent and essential work on which his retention is necessary to avoid grave dislocation. In these circumstances, any reinstatement rights he may have with his old employer would be preserved. I should be glad to look into any case which the hon. and Noble Member may have in mind.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that I know of a case where a man is about to be discharged, and has informed the exchange that he is going to be discharged? He wishes to return to his own employment, and he has been informed that he cannot do so, as it is the policy of the Ministry of Labour to send such men for employment with public authorities and not private employers.

Will the hon. Gentleman issue instructions to the exchanges in the terms of his reply?

I hope that the publicity that will be given to this reply will have the effect desired.

Will the hon. Gentleman ask his right hon. Friend to see that similar instructions are issued regarding applications for releases under Class B, because a number of cases have been brought to our attention in which employers have been refused the release of men who were former employees, under Class B, unless the men are prepared to take up other work.

Applications under Class B, the block release, come from various Departments, and in this case which has been raised to-day, if the application for release under Class B comes not from the employer himself but from the Department to whom the employer has made application it is passed to the Ministry of Labour, and, in turn, to the Service concerned. The employer does not come into it except through the interested Department.

Will the hon. Gentleman look into this, because there is a serious point involved?

Building Industry (Wages And Conditions)


asked the Minister of Labour what steps he is taking to expedite negotiations on wages and conditions in the building industry between representatives of the Employers' Federation and the National Federation of Building Trade Operatives.

The adjustment of wages and working conditions in the building industry is a matter for the well-established machinery of negotiation in that industry, and I see no reason to intervene.