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Housing

Volume 645: debated on Tuesday 25 July 1961

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Housing Loans (Interest Rates)

22.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs what additional help he will give local authorities to offset the latest increase in interest rates on public works loans for housing purposes and on loans to house buyers affected by the rise in interest rates.

It is not Government policy to insulate housing from the market cost of borrowing.

That is no help at all. Is not this the fourth increase in a series? Is the Minister aware that, because of the resultant high rents, many people living in tragic housing conditions are having to refuse council houses and, indeed, in certain cities even with Tent rebate schemes the top fifteen or twenty with priority on the list are having to forgo their chances of a house.

Certainly no one in the borough which I represent, where there is an effective differential rent scheme, ever has to refuse accommodation offered because the rent is too high.

Subsidies

23.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs if he will list the fifty local authorities with the largest populations which, under the Housing Bill, are likely to receive an annual subsidy of £8 instead of the present £22 per house, and the fifty largest to receive £24 instead of £22.

As the rate of subsidy payable will depend in the first instance upon the state of a local authority's housing revenue account at the end of March, 1962, I have not at present sufficient information to make reliable forecasts about individual local authorities; their own treasurers are best qualified to advise them what rate they are likely to receive initially.

Yes, but the Minister surely must have prepared such figures when telling us in Committee that the increases would balance the cuts. Is the Minister aware that this list would show that Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle, with terrible housing situations, are to have their subsidies slashed, while Bournemouth will benefit? How can the right hon. Gentleman defend such a gross injustice?

This has been fully debated. If Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle do not qualify in the first instance for more than £8 subsidy, that is because the test shows that they have considerable potential financial resources which they could mobilise by charging more realistic rents.

The matter has been debated a good deal, but the Minister has never answered this point. When preparing the Bill, he must have had some idea about the answer to my hon. Friend's Question. Why cannot we have the information as to which authorities he thinks will gain and which will lose so that we may judge the matter in the light of the facts?

During debates on the Bill I gave a broad indication—and I stick to it—that half the local authorities will qualify initially for the £24 and half for the £8. But that is a very different matter from that raised by this Question, which asks me to specify one hundred particular authorities. That I could not do.

Slum Clearance, Birmingham

29.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs what progress has been made with slum clearance in Birmingham since his visit to the city in mid-March.

Since my visit, I have confirmed thirty-one Birmingham slum clearance orders, comprising more than 1,000 houses. I understand that in the same period the corporation has demolished some 700 unfit houses and reconditioned a further 650.

What have you done about it since on 21st March—[Horn. MEMBERS: "Order."]

I am sorry, Mr. Speaker. I will put myself in order. What has the Minister done since he visited Small Heath in the middle of a by-election—for the purpose of ensuring that I did not come here—when he said that he had seen property in Birmingham such as he did not know existed, and that he thought that that sort of thing

"had come down years ago. It appals one that children should be playing around them. They have got to come down."
Since the sight which he saw at Small Heath appalled him—and I agree with that feeling—may I ask the right hon. Gentleman what emergency action he has taken since he returned to Westminster the next day to help Birmingham to get rid of its slums? Can he give us a guarantee that no reduction in slum clearance will be proposed later this afternoon?

I saw the property to which I was referring, not on that occasion, but on an earlier visit to Birmingham, in company with the Birmingham Corporation. Since then I have been giving the Birmingham Corporation all the help that I can, some of which is set out in the Answer to the hon. Gentleman's Question. I hope that Birmingham will press on with slum clearance.

Leasehold System, Wales

30 and 31.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs (1) what reply he has sent to the protests concerning hardship caused by the operation of the leasehold system in South Wales; and whether he will make a statement;

(2) what steps he has taken to collect evidence regarding hardship caused by the operation of the present leasehold laws in Wales; and whether he will make a statement.

All protests or evidence sent in have been acknowledged, and my right hon. and learned friend the Lord Chancellor and I are having them examined to see whether they do demonstrate hardship. He has been making inquiries through the solicitors' profession also. As I said in the House on 12th July, if hon. Members have any evidence of a specific character which seems to them to prove hardship, I am very ready to consider it.

is the Minister aware that there has been a storm of indignation following his statement that there was no evidence of hardship caused by the leasehold system in Wales? Can he indicate how long it will be before he and the Attorney-General are able to reach a conclusion on the evidence, which I know that they have received, of grievous hardship being caused in Wales by the operation of the leasehold system?

Since the debate, I have received only twenty-one communications. What I am trying to discover is cases of actual hardship. In the debate, the hon. Member quoted the case of a man who, he alleged, was suffering hardship because his rent had been increased from 1s. to 11 s. 7d. a week, which did not seem to me to be evidence of hardship.

I can provide the right hon. Gentleman with many more than twenty-one cases of extreme hardship, and I will gladly do so today if he is willing to see me. Is he aware that all his hon. Friends who represent constituencies in South Wales say in public that they also support leasehold enfranchisement and that he stands alone, disowned by the Welsh Conservative Party, on this matter?

I have stood alone before. My concern here is to get at facts. To use phrases like "a storm of indignation" does not help unless people produce actual cases of hardship following from the action of ground landlords.

Is the Minister saying that, even though there is no hardship —of course, it can be demonstrated that there is—the system is fair as between landlord and tenant? If so, he will be disowned by everyone in Wales.

I am saying that up to the present the Government see no cause for amending the Landlord and Tenant Act, 1954, which considerably improved the position of the occupying lessee. However, if hon. Members have further evidence to submit to me, I, together with my right hon. and learned Friend, will be glad to examine it.

On a point of order. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the Minister's reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible moment.