asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government if he is aware of the large number of houses which have been untenanted for long periods; and if he will make these more readily available to those in need of them either by speeding up the present compulsory purchase procedure or by seeking to permit rates to be levied on them.
If my hon. Friend has any evidence to suggest that this is a serious problem in particular areas I should be glad if he would send it to me. My right hon. Friend has recently taken measures to reduce the time spent by the Department in dealing with compulsory purchase orders, but interested parties must, of course, have the opportunity to put their views. The levying of rates on empty property is being considered by the Government as part of its examination of the rating system.
Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware how galling it is for people to see desperately needed houses being kept empty often for a long period? There were, for example, 498 in Salford alone on 31st March and, according to the Lord Mayor of Birmingham, £1 million worth of property in that city. Would my hon. Friend, therefore, give these two suggestions further consideration?
As I said to my hon. Friend, we are considering this. It is not a question of dismissing it, but in looking at the figures one must have some regard to the percentages because some degree of vacancy is necessary if we are to have some mobility in rented properties.
Will not the delay in the appointment of rent committees and rent officers add to these difficulties?