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New Clause—(Duty Of Local Authority To Submit Particulars Of Properties To Be Included In Improvement Proposals)

Volume 467: debated on Wednesday 13 July 1949

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(1) It shall be the duty of every local authority within three months or such other period as the Secretary of State may specify after receipt by them of a notice by the Secretary of State requiring them so to do to prepare and submit to him such particulars as may be specified in the notice of houses and other buildings to be included in improvement proposals under section two of this Act.

(2) A notice given under the last foregoing subsection may relate to the whole or to one or more parts of the local authority's district.

(3) It shall be the duty of a local authority by whom particulars have been submitted in pursuance of a notice given under subsection (1) of this section, to prepare and submit to the Secretary of State, within three months after being required by him so to do, improvement proposals relating to any or all of the houses or buildings specified in the said notice.—[ Mr. Woodburn.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

This Clause refers to the duty of local authorities to submit particulars of properties to be included in improvement proposals. Hon. Members will recall that during the Committee stage my hon. Friends the Members for North Edinburgh (Mr. Willis) and Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) had a new Clause on the Order Paper dealing with this question. I think they have it down now, to be taken later. At that time I pointed out that all the points were covered except this one and promised that on the Report stage we would cover the missing point. This Clause will place a duty on the local authority, when required by the Secretary of State, to submit particulars of properties suitable for improvement and specific proposals for particular properties.

I do not suppose it is intended to invoke the purpose of this Clause on too frequent occasions. We do not want to have local authorities any more overburdened than they are at the moment. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will use this Clause with moderation, and see it does not become a routine matter to ask every month or two for a return of the properties. I suppose we can take it as being certain that the right hon. Gentleman will not do this.

I can give the assurance that this is only being done for the purpose mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for North Edinburgh, and that it will be used with due regard to the plans of the local authority. As it was originally proposed there should have been a comprehensive plan, which I resisted.

I quite realise that this is a surrender by the right hon. Gentleman to his two so-called supporters, the hon. Member for North Edinburgh (Mr. Willis) and the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross), but I hope that, in making this surrender, he will carefully bear in mind the words of advice tendered to him by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Pollok (Commander Galbraith). It would be intolerable if, merely because the right hon. Gentleman has been importuned by his two so-called supporters or followers, local authorities throughout Scotland, large and small, should be overburdened. Indeed, it might be that the larger authorities would be put to much more inconvenience than the smaller authorities in submitting the accurate details and figures which the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to seek under this Clause. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will bear my hon. and gallant Friend's advice carefully in mind. I mentioned large authorities because the hon. Member who temporarily represents one of the five divisions of the Scottish metropolis, the hon. Member for North Edinburgh, will, no doubt, have in mind many of the unsatisfactory buildings which exist, even now under this Socialist Government.

I hope the hon. Member for Kilmarnock will agree that we do not want to see the smaller local authorities in Scotland increasingly overburdened by demands under this Clause. There is no doubt that they are considerably overburdened at present, and I do not wish to be a party unnecessarily to overloading them by an increase in what I might call fussy legislation of this kind. I hope the right hon. Gentleman and all those associated with him in administering the affairs of Scotland will bear in mind the necessity of not increasing the burden on these local authorities, large and small, and I am particularly speaking of the smaller local authorities. While I quite realise that the right hon. Gentleman was more or less bound to do this because of the assurance he gave his supporters in the Committee stage—an assurance about which we have heard such a lot tonight—I hope he will bear in mind the views of this House as a whole and see that no increased burden is placed on local authorities.

I should like to thank my right hon. Friend for having listened to two of his, not so-called, but real supporters, on the Committee stage and having incorporated our suggestion in this Clause. We wanted a little more substance in the Bill, and thought that it was not good enough merely to make the provisions that would allow local authorities to carry on with this work, but should ensure that they recognised that we looked to them to take the responsibility for getting on with it.

In view of what has been said, I would remind the hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. McKie) that this was not merely something advanced by two importunate representatives on these benches but was one of the main recommendations of the MacTaggart Committee. As such, the Secretary of State has been very wise in adopting it and I would give him a word of encouragement in advance by saying that, in view of what he has done, even if our new Clause is called, we do not propose to press it.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.