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Volume 480: debated on Thursday 16 November 1950

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Waiting List, Thirsk


asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that there are about 500 families on the waiting list for houses in the area of Thirsk Rural District Council; that the allocation of 40 houses to be built during the year to 31st December, 1951, is insufficient to enable the council to carry out the housing programme already projected for that year; and what reply he has made to the request of the council that the allocation be increased to 56.

The answer to the first part of the Question is "Yes." The allocation made takes into account the number of prepared sites likely to be available, and the council have been told that if their progress with site preparation so justifies, an application for an additional allocation will be sympathetically considered, although the council failed to take up their full allocation in 1948 and in 1949.

Does that reply mean, in effect, that they will be allowed to build the 56 houses which they planned for this year?

It means that as they make progress a further allocation will be considered.

Improvement Grants, West Riding


asked the Minister of Health whether the municipal borough council of Todmorden and the urban district councils of Sowerby Bridge, Elland, and Hebden Royd, respectively, have decided to operate Section 20 of the Housing Act, 1949, concerning improvement grants to persons other than local authorities.

All the local authorities named have been prepared to consider applications for improvement grants from private persons under Section 20 of the Housing Act, 1949, but I understand that Hebden Royd Urban District Council have now resolved not to entertain any further applications for the time being.

Brick Prices, Dorset


asked the Minister of Health if he is aware that local authorities in Dorset have to pay higher prices for the delivery of bricks by the British Transport Commission than would be the case if they were able to have them delivered by private hauliers; and since this increases the cost of local housing schemes, whether he will make representations to the Transport Commission to have these prices reduced.

The answer to the first part of the Question is "No, Sir." As regards the second part, if a local authority feel that the British Transport Commission's charges are too high they should take the matter up with the Commission.

Is the Minister aware that in one village the cost of housing has been put up by £392 as a result of these charges?

I believe that the particular scheme about which the hon. Member has complained in correspondence has been passed on to the Commission for investigation.

Emergency Huts


asked the Minister of Health how many huts were erected under Circular 134–44, dated 4th October, 1944; how many have been demolished; and how many are still occupied.

Five thousand three hundred and eighty-nine huts were erected; 1,094 have been demolished, or are in course of demolition; the remainder are still occupied.

In view of the fact that these huts were described as "emergency temporary accommodation," does not the Minister think it undesirable that they should still be in use after five or six years' occupation?

We always regarded many of the huts as emergency huts, and I am anxious to see them demolished as soon as possible.

Rating Of Site Values (Committee)


asked the Minister of Health whether the Erskine-Simes Committee on the Rating of Site Values has yet reported.


asked the Minister of Health whether he has now received the Report of the Departmental Committee on the Rating of Site Values.

Does the Minister recall that when I asked him this Question last May he informed me that the Committee were then considering their draft report? Will he now take steps to expedite the report?

I cannot interfere with the investigations of the Committee. This is an extremely complicated matter, as the Committee is obviously discovering.



asked the Minister of Health what was the number of slum dwellings cleared and the number of permanent new units of accommodation built in the five years to the most convenient date in 1939, and the five years to the most convenient date in 1950, respectively.

As the answer contains a number of figures, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the answer:

5 years ended 31st March, 1939
Unfit houses demolished219,697
Not to be used for human habitiation, or part closed25,575
Houses completed:
Local authorities345,404
Private enterprise1,324,577
5 years ended 31st March, 1950
Number of houses demolished is not known.
Houses completed:
Local authorities446,178
Private enterprise and Housing Associations106,469
Re-built war-destroyed:
Local authorities8,289
Private enterprise30,919
Government Departments8,008

Crown Lands (Small Houses, Rents)


asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware of the hardship imposed on tenants of small houses built on Crown Lans who are not subject to the protection of the Rent Restrictions Acts; and whether he will take steps to give them such protection during the period in which the acute housing shortage continues.

Yes, Sir. This point has been noted for consideration when the Rent Restrictions Acts are reviewed, and meantime I am prepared to authorise the exercise of requisitioning powers by local authorities in appropriate cases to avoid the creation of hardship.

Does not the Minister think that it might be possible to introduce legislation this Session? I do not think he will find it controversial on this small point.

I am happy to hear that an amendment of the Rent Restrictions Acts will not be controversial.

Building Licences


asked the Minister of Health whether he will permit the builder in Tynemouth, whose name has been supplied to him, who has the labour, the material and the land, to build houses for sale to the appropriate local authority in addition to their permitted quota.

It is for the local authority to decide what arrangements they will make for the building of their houses, and they have given no indication that they wish to enter into the arrangement suggested. The question of an additional allocation does not, therefore, arise.

In view of the fact that the right hon. Gentleman emphasised what has been done in his speech during the housing debate, and the fact that he refused the application submitted by the builder to me without consulting the local authority, will he please reconsider this question?


asked the Minister of Health whether he requires local authorities to supply his Department with a return of the number of licences issued by them for private house building for sale; and whether his Department take steps to ensure that the licence granted is actually taken up by the person to whom it is issued.

Local authorities furnish figures of licences issued, and they are published in the Housing Return. On the second part of the Question, I am sending my hon. Friend a copy of Circular 108–50 issued to local authorities on 6th November.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, in some instances, where a person to whom a licence has been issued finds that he is unable to take it out, it is handed to the builder for his disposal instead of going back to the local authority?


asked the Minister of Health whether he is willing to grant licences, additional to the local authority allocation, to individuals who propose to build their own houses without using any additional labour.


asked the Minister of Health why he insists upon building licences in the case of individuals who are ready and anxious to build their own houses, using no labour beyond that of their own hands and no licensed building materials.

A licence for the erection of a new house by a private person is required under Defence Regulation 56A. All licences issued by local authorities must come out of the total allocations made to them. I know of no scheme under which a concession of the kind desired by the hon. Members could be made which would not be liable to extensive abuse. I am willing to consider any suggestions which the hon. Members may wish to make.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it is reported that a scheme was produced by the British Legion whereby houses were built by members and were in addition to the local authority houses? If that is the case could that be extended to individuals?

The argument arises as to whether these houses could be additional to the housing programme. If they could be made additional then the housing programme could be extended to that extent. We have had these schemes before and they have been very largely abused.

Will the right hon. Gentleman look into the scheme operating in Sweden where a Socialist Government encourages this sort of thing and Socialist councils employ clerks of works to help people who want to build their own houses?

I am willing to consider suggestions whereby houses can be built under supervision, but that is not the Question on the Order Paper.

Bricks, Louth (Supply)


asked the Minister of Health if he is aware that, although the Louth Rural District Council allocated a contract for the building of houses at Tetney in May this year, the contractor has so far been unable to obtain bricks to make a start; and if he will give absolute priority to housing on all brick production.

The necessary bricks have now been obtained. As regards the second part of the Question, general arrangements already exist to deal with any difficulties in supplies that may arise.

Is the Minister aware that the bricks were put on the site three days after I put down my Question? Can he assure me that, as far as North Lincolnshire is concerned, the housing programme will not be held up through a lack of bricks?

If there is any connection between the Question appearing on the Order Paper and delivery of the bricks, it reveals the efficacy of the House of Commons, but in so far as the bricks were not ordered earlier, it reveals the inefficiency of the private enterprise contractor.

Will the right hon. Gentleman say how long the bricks were on order?

I do not know. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] It is not my business to be a shadow for every incompetent building contractor.



asked the Minister of Health what approaches have been made by the City of Newcastle-upon-Tyne to his Department with regard to an increased allocation of houses for the city; and whether he will make a statement.

The answer to the first part of the Question is "None." As regards the second part the allocation for 1951 takes account of the large number of houses in the 1950 allocation which have not been started. The matter will be subject to review in the light of the progress made next year.

Is it correct to say that the Newcastle allocation for housing in 1951 is 1,000, which is the same as for those on the city housing list last year, and that when the council is able to complete round about 1,000 houses in one year, the figure will be reviewed?

I must not tie myself to a figure, but I have said that when they make progress with their allocation a further allocation will be made.

Alcester House, Shaftesbury


asked the Minister of Health when his Department sold Alcester House; and what was the price.

I gave consent on 1st August to the sale of this property by the Dorset County Council. It has not yet been sold.

In that case, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman why his Parliamentary Secretary told me last Monday that it was sold?

Non-Residential Accommodation


asked the Minister of Health if he will examine the regulations and practice whereby living accommodation is transferred into offices and used for other non-residential purposes; and if he will take steps to stop this substantial drain on available residential accommodation.

I am satisfied that Defence Regulation 68CA is effectively used to contend the diversion of housing accommodation to other purposes.

Old Persons' Dwellings


asked the Minister of Health how many old persons dwellings are under construction; and how many have been completed in the post-war housing programme.

No separate record is kept of housing accommodation provided specifically for old persons.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that many houses are inhabited by one old person living alone and that the houses become a burden to such old people, who would be glad to move to a smaller house? Will he use his powers of persuasion with local authorities to build a fair proportion of special old persons' dwellings, and thus set free a number of family-size dwellings with the use of comparatively small quantities of material?

If my hon. Friend will look at HANSARD he will see that last week I gave an answer about the number of houses of this type which have been constructed. Also, last year I issued a circular to local authorities calling attention to the facts which the Opposition have only just now discovered.

In view of this remarkable appearance of a Daniel come to judgment, will the Minister have another look at his figures and, in particular, the very low percentage of the small houses which he gives as against the much larger percentage for the larger houses?

If the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will consult his friends who serve on the Central Housing Advisory Committee, he will discover that this matter has been before us for some time and that the local authorities have been urged to give special attention to it.

In view of the Minister's well-known power of invective in matters in which he is interested, will he apply some of it to the speeding up of this desirable reform?

We have speeded it up, and the number of houses in this class is rapidly rising.

Dwelling-Houses (Valuation)


asked the Minister of Health what progress he has made towards implementing the central valuation provisions of the Local Government Act, 1948, as regards dwelling-houses.

Following the transfer on 1st February this year of the work of rating valuation to valuation officers of Inland Revenue, an effective start has been made with the task of measuring dwelling-houses for the purpose of the new valuation lists to come into force in 1952 or 1953. I have issued the statements of hypothetical 1938 costs of construction which had to be prepared for each rating area, and copies are obtainable at the offices of rating authorities. The statements of 1938 site costs are being prepared and will be issued when they are ready.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the statements to which he has referred allow two modern houses of exactly the same size and not very different construction to be given 1938 hypothetical building costs of anything from £600 to £1,200? Will he say how, in those circumstances, we can have uniformity of valuation?

If the hon. Gentleman will put that question on the Order Paper, I will try to give him an answer.



asked the Minister of Health to what degree the City of Nottingham has succeeded in completing its allocation of house building for the last 12 months.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply on housing allocations given to the hon. Member for Southend, East (Mr. McAdden), on 9th November, of which I am sending him a copy. As stated in that reply, information as to local progress is available in the published Housing Returns.

Local Authorities (Retrospective Payments)


asked the Minister of Health whether he will take steps to stop the growing tendency for Government grants, wages awards and other settlements to be made retrospective for long periods, as such action makes accurate estimating and rate-raising by local authorities impossible.

If the hon. Member will let me know the particular instances he has in mind, I will have them looked into.

Will the right hon. Gentleman remember that, apart from the convenience to local authorities, there is an old saying, "Bis dat qui cito dat," which, I am told by technical advisers, is relevant to this problem?

Perhaps the hon. Member will take me aside afterwards and translate that. It is always undesirable for wage negotiations to last so long that retrospective demands accumulate.

Power Station, Battersea


asked the Minister of Health what report the chief alkali inspector made on the pollution of the atmosphere by gases from the British Electricity Authority's generation station at Battersea after his last visit.

The report pointed out certain shortcomings, which I understand have since been rectified.

United Nations (International Force)


asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the new situation arising from the fact that the United Nations organisation is now engaged in military operations and is contemplating setting up an international force to put down aggression and save peace by military means, His Majesty's Government will consider limiting the British quota of that international force to men volunteering to serve under the flag of the United Nations.

No, Sir. The relevant clause of the resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 3rd November, to which I presume my hon. Friend refers, recommends each member state to maintain within its national armed forces elements so trained, organised and equipped that they could be made available promptly in response to a recommendation of the General Assembly or the Security Council. I do not consider that a limitation of the composition of such elements to volunteers would be either practicable or desirable.

Is not my right hon. Friend aware that some of the countries attached to the United Nations have already accepted the principles set forth in my Question? Will he reconsider the matter?

Does not the Prime Minister agree that the number of volunteers for Korea was negligible, and will he consider limiting our foreign commitments to those who are prepared to join up?