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Housing

Volume 640: debated on Tuesday 9 May 1961

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Immigrants

33.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs in view of estimates now being made that immigrants this year may reach 150,000, what special arrangements he is making to provide houses or flats for such a number additional to the present housing programme.

As the great majority of immigrants on arrival do not need family accommodation, I do not think that there is warrant for the assumption that new houses and flats should be built in proportion to the numbers entering the country. So far as families are concerned, it is the practice of local authorities to assist the rehousing of settled immigrants in the ordinary course of their slum clearance and other housing activities, and I am sure that they will continue to do so.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that these immigrants want accommodation somewhere, and that the building trade's present and future programme is fully stretched? Would he tell his right hon. Friends and colleagues that we cannot take 150,000 persons this year on top of our present housing programme?

I do not know the basis of my hon. Friend's estimate of 150,000. I certainly would not be a party to any special building on grounds of race or colour. I think that by far the best thing is for us to maintain a high standard of building.

Landlord And Tenant Act, 1958

34.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs whether he is aware that many of the county court judges in London, the Home Counties and some provincial areas are gravely concerned at the impending expiry of the Landlord and Tenant Act, 1958, on 31st July next when they will no longer have any powers to give protection to tenants of decontrolled premises on hardship grounds; and whether, in view of their especial knowledge of the day to day working of this Act, he will consult with such county court judges as to the desirability of extending the Act for a further period.

Neither my right hon. Friend, the Lord Chancellor nor I have received any representations from county court judges. I do not think that any special action is called for.

Does my right hon. Friend realise that the county court judges do not think it part of their business to initiate legislation? They do not approach the Lord Chancellor or my right hon. Friend—they approach us, so that we can put it to my right hon. Friend. Will he hastily initiate some discussion on these lines because, although the cases of hardship may be limited, those that are hard are very hard, and something must be done to protect these people? We do not propose to stand by while an old gentleman of 86 in my constituency—with a crippled daughter in her sixties—who has been 61 years in the same house, is about to be thrown out. That will not be done without protest.

The number of cases coming to the courts under this Act is, in fact, falling all the time. If there is any question of the owner of the house seeking an extortionate rent the local authority can make a compulsory purchase order. If it is a case of some very old person, such as my hon. and learned Friend has mentioned, who cannot otherwise get accommodation, that is unquestionably the sort of case in which the local authority ought to take special action.

Does the right hon. Gentleman remember that the necessity for this Act arose because he under-estimated the hardships that would be caused by the Rent Act? It would be a great pity to cause further hardship by making a similar under-estimate on this occasion.

Insurance

35.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs what answer he is sending to the Cardiff City Council's proposal that a national scheme of insurance should be set up to cover all risks not normally covered by the ordinary comprehensive householder or personal accident policies.

This suggestion will certainly be considered. But I am not in a position to make a statement.

Would the Minister consider calling in the insurance companies as well as the local authorities for a discussion of how this comprehensive system of insurance might be made really comprehensive, instead of being as it is at the moment?

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will leave this with me for the time being. Statements have been made that the Government are looking at the whole problem in the round now that the winter floods are over. I have not anything further that I can say, but I am quite ready to follow up all suggestions, including that of the hon. Gentleman.

Compulsory Purchase

36.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs whether he is aware that it is now possible for private landlords, in an area to be acquired compulsorily by a local authority for redevelopment, to spend substantial amounts of money on improvement of a house and soon afterwards to claim compensation at market value when the house is demolished; and whether he is considering legislation to prevent this.

It is already provided in paragraph 8 (5) of the Third Schedule to the Housing Act, 1957, that improvements effected after notice is given of a compulsory purchase order, and carried out with a view to increasing compensation, must be ignored in assessing compensation.

38.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs whether it is his policy to confirm compulsory purchase orders made by local authorities on residential property under the Housing Act, 1957, in order to prevent the eviction of a tenant, in circumstances where the rent asked by the landlord is over five times the gross annual value.

I think it would be unwise to take any particular multiple of gross value as the point at which rents of decontrolled properties can be said to be exorbitant. Values of property have risen since 1939, more in some places than in others. Moreover, the other conditions of the tenancy need to be examined as well as the rent demanded. Each case has to be decided on its merits.

Is the Minister aware that he has just refused to confirm a compulsory purchase order in a case in my constituency where the family is being evicted under the Rent Act and where the borough council has asked for a compulsory purchase order and where the rent being asked is more than five times the gross annual value?

This is a case in which the borough council made a compulsory purchase order and partly, at any rate, as a result of that, the rent being asked has been reduced from £400 to £300. That rent, which includes a sum for landlord services, I calculate at four and a half times the gross value.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in the case which I have in mind he has refused to confirm the compulsory purchase order and that the rent being asked is in fact five times the gross annual value? Will he undertake, if that is so, to look at the case again?

We are considering the same case, but the right hon. Gentleman calculates the rent at five times and I am allowing for the fact that, by common consent, the rent includes something for landlord's services.

Development Programmes (Parish Councils)

39.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs whether he will introduce legislation to ensure that rural district councils give advance information to parish councils regarding proposed future housing development programmes in their parishes.

Normally each parish is represented on the rural district council, and I would hardly have thought that special legislation to give effect to my hon. Friend's suggestion was justified.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that development is going on in rural villages where the villagers have had no knowledge of it at all? I know of one village, for example, which consists of a hundred houses and where plans for building another hundred, doubling the size, are well advanced. That will alter the whole character of the village, and it is causing bitter resentment among the villagers. Does that encourage local people to sit on parish councils?

I advise the people in that and other villages to vote at the rural district council elections this week, because every parish has its own representative on the rural district council.