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Requisitioned Houses

Volume 530: debated on Tuesday 13 July 1954

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asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government how many properties are still held under requisition by his Department; if he will order a new investigation into the circumstances of each case; and if he will direct that prior consideration be given to the original owner, or owners, whenever a sale is contemplated.

On 31st December, 1953, my Department still held for housing purposes approximately 69,400 premises, accommodating about 100,000 families, which had either been requisitioned or taken by agreement with the owners. The present rate of release is about 10,000 properties a year. My Department holds no other properties on requisition. My right hon. Friend has no power to sell requisitioned properties. On derequisition they are returned to their owners.

While thanking my hon. Friend for that answer, may I ask whether he does not agree that this is a large figure for nearly 10 years after the war? Will my hon. Friend bear that in mind?

My right hon. Friend is trying to carry out the recommendations of the working party on requisitioned properties, and I think that the House agrees with those recommendations.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that the attitude taken up by his Ministry over the question of de-requisitioning houses has caused a great grievance in the large cities where thousands of people are still on the housing registers? In Birmingham today there are heaps of houses which have been derequisitioned and empty for six months, awaiting not occupation by the owners, but sale to the highest bidder, and this while 60,000 people are on the housing list. Why not requisition such properties?

I cannot agree that hardship has been caused. Every case has been brought to the attention of my right hon. Friend or myself and adequate notice has been given that derequisitioning ought to take place. Local authorities have the power to acquire or to take over such properties on lease, and, therefore, the question of removing a tenant does not really arise.

33 and 34.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government (1) on what date he instructed the Southport Town Council. Lancashire to serve notices on tenants in requisitioned property; and what instructions he gave regarding rehousing the displaced tenants;

(2) if he is aware that his instruction to Southport Town Council, Lancashire, to serve notices to quit on 23 families living in requisitioned houses will mean that these tenants will be made homeless, as no instruction to rehouse has been made; and if he will notify the town council not to evict those families until suitable alternative accommodation has been offered them.

My right hon. Friend has not instructed the council to serve notices to quit. The council were advised in October, 1952, that all requisitioned properties should be released by 10th December, 1953. As the council had failed to comply, my right hon. Friend issued a direction to the town clerk on 20th May, 1954, that the properties still held on requisition should be released not later than 31st August next.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that on two occasions last year I put supplementary questions to him, the first on 30th June and the second on 21st July, in reply to which I and other people considered that he gave a definite promise that there would be no request made by the Ministry to de-requisition properties unless the local authority could give an assurance that the people in them would be rehoused before the properties were derequisitioned? Is the hon. Gentleman further aware that the town clerk of Southport sent out a letter on 18th June last in which he stated:

"…request you to take immediate steps to find alternative accommodation, and if you fail to vacate the premises"—

That is just like hon. Members opposite. The letter goes on:

"I shall reluctantly be compelled"—

It is unfair to other hon. Members who have Questions on the Order Paper to waste time.

Is it not infra dig, Mr. Speaker, for an hon. Member of this House to ask a Question relating to another hon. Member's constituency? [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] The hon. Lady is asking a Question relating to the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Southport (Mr. Fleetwood-Hesketh).

I am not a judge of what is infra dig. I am only concerned with the rules of order, and the Question was in order. The hon. Lady has been a long time asking her Question, and I hope that she will now be quick.

I would have been much shorter had they not howled from the other side. I was reading a quotation from the letter. Mr. Speaker, would you ask these people to keep as quiet as we do when others are speaking?

I hope the House will keep quiet and will let the hon. Lady ask her question.

I am waiting to do so, and intend to do so whatever happens. [Interruption.] I am not in the least worried whether I am thrown out or not, but I am asking this question—so let us have it straight to begin with. The letter says:

"…If you fail to vacate the premises I shall reluctantly be compelled to take appropriate steps to have you evicted from the premises."
Will the Minister say if this is within the terms of the letter which he sent to Southport? Will he please hold this matter up in view of the fact that a number of families—one with eight children—are to be put on the streets next Monday unless he does something about it?

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. Can I say this with reference [Interruption.]—

I was challenged about asking a question concerning another hon. Member's constituency. I hold in my hand a letter from the representative of that constituency saying that he can do nothing whatever about it.

It was a rather long and somewhat interrupted supplementary, of which the hon. Lady did not give me notice. I therefore do not think I can reply in detail, but I would say this. There are two questions at issue. The first is that of the family in the premises to be vacated. The hon. Lady in her original Question asked why the Ministry said that the tenant had to quit. 'The answer is that the Ministry did not say that but that the council would have to derequisition the premises and gave 12 months' notice of the derequisition. If the council wished to acquire the premises either by compulsory purchase or by taking a voluntary lease, it was up to it so to do. That was its responsibility as the housing authority. As my right hon. Friend is in touch with the local authority, which has to the end of August, I think that there is plenty of time for the matter to be settled.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that as the Member for this constituency I have been in constant touch with the Minister for nearly three weeks on this matter—and he has done his best to help me? Is my hon. Friend also aware that in consequence of the Minister's last letter to me I have again been in touch with the council which is doing all in its power actively to pursue certain alternative courses which the Minister suggested in order to reach a happy solution to this difficult problem.


asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether he will issue a further circular to local authorities urging them to restore requisitioned properties to their previous owners; and whether he can give an estimate of the number of properties held on requisition by local authorities at the present time.

My right hon. Friend sent local authorities a circular on this subject generally at the end of last year. Properties are now being released at the rate of about 10,000 a year. The process obviously takes time, and he does not think it necessary to send a further circular at the moment. The answer to the last part of the Question is about 69,000.