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Clause 40—(Amendment And Extension Of S 7 Of The Building Materials Housing Act, 1945)

Volume 465: debated on Monday 30 May 1949

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I beg to move, in page 31, line 29, to leave out "eight," and to insert "five."

Clause 40 extends the period which had been determined on in the Building Materials and Housing Act, 1945, limiting the price for which a house may be sold and imposing a penalty on a person who, during four years from the passing of the Act, sells a house at a greater price. Unfortunately it has been found necessary to prolong this period. We agree that it should be prolonged but in the Amendment we suggest that the period of prolongation is unnecessarily pessimistic in the Bill, and that either by that time a greater number of houses will have appeared or there will be a more enlightened Government which will he able to produce houses at a greater rate. The present provisions impose a hardship on anyone who has to move because, instead of selling one house and buying another for approximately the same price, he will have to sell a house which in 1945 and 1946 was held down to a margin of £1,200 and will need to buy a house which in the open market will certainly cost a great deal more, perhaps £2,000 or £4,000, that price reflecting the great scarcity which exists at present.

The Minister refused to give the local authorities discretion to waive the conditions, which we think might easily have been given. Obviously it is a matter which causes hardship in the case of certain individuals, and as the figure in the Amendment seems to us to be a reasonable compromise, I hope the Minister will be able to accept it.

In spite of the conciliatory speech of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, we do not feel that we can accept the Amendment. In fact, it would be agreed, I think, on all sides that an extension for a further period of one year only would be pointless and that we must have a reasonable further period.

We are very conscious that as long as there is a shortage of houses, without this effective control on the selling price, those who have enjoyed the good fortune of being able to get a licence to build at a very reasonable price would be able to obtain a very much wider margin. Two blacks do not make a white, and the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has instanced the case of someone who has to leave his house, for example, and buy another at a higher price in the open market. That particular owner already has had the advantage of the occupation of the house, which he has been able to purchase at a surprisingly low figure in the particular conditions obtaining. Therefore, we do not feel that in that category of case we are imposing any new hardship. The man, is, in fact, having to go into the open market today whereas, apart from the provision of control, he would have had to do that in any case some years ago.

We feel, with regret, that we must continue the operation of this control for a period which in the circumstances we think is reasonable, until we can be assured of a reasonable provision of houses and we can weaken the scarcity demand now existing.

We have had Debates on several other subjects and divided upon them but I do not intend to ask the House to divide on this Amendment. I still think the Minister is being unnecessarily pessimistic. Let him put this provision into the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill and continue it from year to year, which he could do without the necessity of coming forward, as he will have to do if he continues with his present policy, when the number of years has expired and demanding that the matter should still be continued. If, however, he is looking forward to the lightening of his burden and to a position in the cool shades of opposition, I am sure he will agree that the Government which comes in will deal with this, and will deal with it much more successfully. Nevertheless, it is a pity that the Minister is obdurate. We, more in sorrow than in anger, are willing to have the Amendment negatived, but certainly do not wish to withdraw it.

Amendment negatived.

I beg to move, in page 32, line 30, at the end, to insert;

"(6) Proceedings in respect of an offence alleged to have been committed against the said section seven in respect of a house or building may be taken before any justices of the peace having jurisdiction in the area in which the house or building is situate."
We are carrying out here a promise made in Committee to review the position regarding the proceedings that might be taken for an alleged offence under Section 7 of the Building Materials and Housing Act, 1945. Originally, it was reasonably held that the court to adjudicate in such a case should be the court in the area in which the purchase of a house was completed. It has now been suggested that this is not always easy to determine and that it may cause hardship in many ways to individuals moving about the country. We have looked into the position and feel that on balance that claim is probably justified. The Amendment, therefore, enables the case to be heard by the court in the area in which the house is situated, although the completion of the purchase in connection with which the offence is alleged may have taken place elsewhere.

I am delighted that my right hon. Friend has seen fit to accept the Amendment which I moved in Committee. For the reasons explained by the Parliamentary Secretary, its insertion will improve the Bill considerably. It will prevent annoyance to those against whom housing offences are alleged by their not having to search the country for the place where completion was effected.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made; In page 32, line 33, leave out "the last foregoing subsection." and insert "subsection (5) thereof."

In line 36, leave out "and."

In line 37, at end, insert:

(c) with the substitution, in the last foregoing subsection, for the words 'any justices of the peace having jurisdiction in the area.' of the words 'a court of summary jurisdiction constituted in accordance with the provisions of the Summary Jurisdiction and Criminal Justice Act (Northern Ireland), 1935, sitting in and for the petty sessions district.'"—[Mr. Blenkinsop.]