I beg to move, in page 5, line 45, after "executed," to insert "for clearing the site and."
This Amendment raises a very small point. I shall be quite satisfied if a statement can be made to the effect that the position is covered, but if not, I shall be glad if the Amendment can be inserted.
I previously raised the question of where the site has been cleared by someone who is not the owner. When I walked down Victoria Street this morning I passed a number of Pioneers shovelling bricks into a lorry. I was glad to see they were using spades to-day as yesterday they were doing it by hand. If members of His Majesty's Army clear the site, the owner is better off than if he had to clear it himself. Where it is considered necessary in the public interest, a lot of this site clearing has been done at public expense. In Victoria Street it has been necessary to do this, but in cases where property—
If the Amendment goes into the Bill, the cost of clearing the site becomes a charge which the War Damage Commission has to pay, and therefore, I presume, later on the War Office will have a claim against the War Damage Commission, or may have, because the site has been cleared at somebody else's expense. I am trying to find out whether, where the expense is a public charge, it is to be different from the case of the owner who has to clear his own site, because that is likely to create a serious situation. This point must be cleared up, otherwise there will be great difficulty as between owners of property. The matter is one of real substance. The amount at stake in some cases will be as much as £2,000 or £3,000.
There is a point that I wish to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to consider relating to payments in respect of temporary work. In a large number of cases temporary works are carried out by local authorities. They have a statutory obligation in certain cases to execute temporary work upon houses in order to enable occupants to get back into them as quickly as possible. The local authorities are unable to recoup themselves for the cost of carrying out temporary work. Under Clause 6 that right cannot be claimed unless there is a payment to be made in respect of cost of works or value. If no payment is made in respect of these things the local authority will not be able to recoup itself for expense thus incurred. This is of great importance to local authorities, who have proceeded hitherto upon a special enactment which gives them the right to recover from the owner of property, by means of a charge on property, the cost of carrying out the works. The charge is limited, and it is still further limited by preventing any charge being paid which does not exceed £5 in value. I know in the case of a certain council that in respect of some 10,000 houses, the great majority will fall under the £5 limit, but the local authority will be entirely deprived of the right it has hitherto had to recoup the expense. I submit to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that it is extremely unfair to take away in this connection the statutory rights already given to the local authority.
I am going into the question of small claimants. I have already discussed it with the municipal corporations and they have made further representations, and this is one of the matters which I shall take into account.