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Clause 1—(Removal Of References To The Working Classes From Certain Provisions Of The Housing Act, 1936)

Volume 465: debated on Monday 30 May 1949

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I beg to move, in page 2, line 30, at the end, to insert:

(d) remove the limitation confining to houses for the working classes the class of houses for the purposes of the construction, improvement or purchase of which money may be lent by the Public Works Loan Commissioners under section ninety-two of the principal Act.
As the position stands, the Public Works Loan Board, under Section 92 of the Housing Act, 1936, has power to make direct loans to certain bodies and persons for the construction, improvement, or purchase of houses for the working classes. This Amendment is to carry out the promise my right hon. Friend made to extend the powers of the Board to enable them to make direct loans for general housing.

We think that this Amendment is a reasonable one and do not therefore propose to offer any objections.

As I see it, this Amendment is consistent with the provisions of the Bill, which in the first instance raises the amount from £1,500 to £5,000 and therefore brings within its orbit houses that cannot be classed as working-class. The point I wish to put is this. If the Public Works Loan Commissioners are to be able to lend money over an increased range to private individuals, it occurs to me that this position may arise. The Loan Commissioners lend money at the rate of 3 per cent. to local authorities who then lend the money out to the prospective house owner at the rate of 3¼ per cent., charging only ¼ per cent. for administration. What safeguard is there, where money is advanced to private individuals, or to a company, or to a finance house, that the persons concerned do not lend the money above 3¼ per cent.? It might well be the case that the Loan Commissioners may be lending money to a bank or finance corporation who in their turn may be lending the money to people desiring to buy their houses, not at 3¼ per cent. but at 4 per cent., which is the amount charged by building societies or banks.

This does' not affect the principle of the law as it stands. All this does is to extend the range of property upon which the Public Works Loan Board can lend money. The dangers that my hon. Friend apprehends have existed—if at all—so long as the powers exist. There is no difference in degree but only in range. I doubt whether statutorily the Public Works Loan Board can lend money to some one who can then in their turn lend it. I think they have to lend it to the ultimate recipient.

When the right hon. Gentleman says that he is extending the range, I take it that he is extending the limit of £1,500; otherwise it is a very tight limit indeed if the amount is still £1,500. I should have hoped that along with this extension he would have been able to raise the figure to that which he has used in the Bill, namely, £5,000. I wonder if the right hon. Gentleman will look into that?

There appears to be some doubt on the question I put. Will my right hon. Friend therefore look into it between now and the remaining stages of the Bill?

Certainly I will look at it, but I should be surprised to find that what my hon. Friend apprehends is statutorily possible.

Amendment agreed to.